Irreparable Harm? GRE's Real Policy on Test Item Reuse

University Testing

Though it was one of the major plaintiffs challenging the disclosure provisions of New York's Truth-in-Testing law, the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Board has recently published a huge book filled with previously-administered test items. The GRE Big Book: Practicing to Take the General Test, which sells for $30, includes reprints of more than two dozen exams including 5000 items administered between 1984 and 1994.


Contrary to their claim in the New York case that published items are rendered useless, an introduction to the GRE Big Book admits, "The scored portion of the test you take may include questions that are modified versions of published questions. Some modifications are substantial; others are less apparent." The GRE Board also acknowledges that it is "currently investigating the feasibility of re-using questions . . . in exactly the same form as they appear in this book."


Truth-in-Testing advocates have long argued that, if the pool of disclosed items is sufficiently large, students will gain no particular advantage from trying to memorize them. The GRE Big Book provides strong evidence for this point.