Friday, January 15, 2010

* Genuflecting to Vatican West: Princeton

Grad students react to new GRE

By Baobao Zhang
Staff Reporter
Published Friday, January 15, 2010

Unless they crack the books a little earlier than planned, Yalies hoping to go to graduate school in the next few years may face a very different entrance exam.
The Educational Testing Services announced that beginning in the fall of 2011, the GRE, a standardized test required for admission to many arts and sciences graduate schools in the U.S., will feature a different grading scale, 30 to 45 minutes of added time and a new option allowing test-takers to move between questions within sections of the test. While a majority of the 10 Yale graduate students interviewed who have taken...

#1 By Genuflecting to Princeton, the new Vatican 5:15a.m. on January 15, 2010

Princeton speaks ex cathedra and the world genuflects?

Who made Princeton (ETS)the Vicar of God?

The idolatrous worship of standardized tests is a dehumanizing influence in our society, blindly accepted by the masses.

"...changes in standardized tests like the GRE generally lead to lower scores for a few years"

Does anyone see the blatant unfairness here?

So for a few years people's futures and careers wills be decided by
whether or not they know the "ropes" of the new tests (how to "take", "maximize" or outwit them).


#2 By Yale 08 9:52a.m. on January 15, 2010

Has the GRE spokesman cited in this article ever seen the current GRE test? First of all, if you "memorize formulas," that in and of itself isn't going to get you too far on a test that requires students to apply mathematical concepts, frequently in less-often-seen ways. Second, last I checked there are (800 - 200) / 10 + 1 = 61 possible scores a test taker may receive under the current GRE scoring method; by contrast, under the proposed alternative, there would only be 170 - 130 + 1 = 41 possible scores. Seriously, which of these two schemes is more likely to produce the most well-specified assessment of competency? Hopefully ETS will brief its spokespeople better next time to explain to them that the number of points between score levels has nothing to do with how precise a test score is; what matters is the size of those increments relative to the range of possible scores.

#3 By anonymous 10:43a.m. on January 15, 2010

I think the decline in grades might actually mean those who use test prep companies won't do as well because they can't prepare as well for a test that isn't as well know so, in a sense, it might lower the playing field.

They will almost definitely not change the distribution substantially.

#4 By grad 1:10p.m. on January 15, 2010

I disagree with #2's comment about applying mathematical concepts "in less-often-seen ways". Maybe that is true in the subject test, but the general test has nothing sophisticated at all.

Compare that with the Chinese students who can't speak English but get high verbal scores. The also pass Yale's SPEAK test before they are allowed to teach.

The GRE general test is nearly all common sense and basic literacy. Any Yale undergraduate should easily hit the 95th percentile or higher in every category in freshman year.

#5 By another grad 1:51p.m. on January 15, 2010

When I took the adaptive computer-based GRE general exam a few years ago it was just a speed test. The questions were easy but you could see how the answers were constructed to trap careless thinkers. A high score means only that you can do simple things quickly and reliably. That's how it always is with standardized tests. They don't test anything except how well you do on them.

#6 By * All Made of Ticky-tacky... 7:36p.m. on January 15, 2010

Except for the comment "They don't test anything except how well you do on them", these posts about the new GRE's are frightening for their bloodless, statistical analyses.

They betray an apathetic acceptance of standardized tests by standardized students on their way to becoming standardized citizens.

It seems like a nightmare of cookie-cutter education come true ---the death of the liberal arts and the triumph of Betty Crocker curricula:

Just add ingredients, mix, stir to rubric specifications and bake in a charter school for four years at a benchmark of 350 degrees and you get a perfectly shaped human being capable of taking standardized tests forever--even at Yale.

Pardon me while I vomit.


#7 By Y'09 10:55a.m. on January 16, 2010

PK, I think you're being unfair. (Oh, sorry, I'll wait while you finish purging yourself. Done? Great, I'll continue.)

If a student wants to go to graduate school, and graduate school requires the GRE, the student must care about doing well on the GRE, at least to some extent. Would you argue that the very desire to go to graduate school of any kind is characteristic of people on their way to becoming "standardized citizens"? That seems extreme and, frankly, silly.

Also, your tirade against the "cookie-cutter education" engendered by standardized tests is illogical in this context. Perhaps it's a problem in middle and high schools, but the idea that Yale professors would "teach to the GRE" is absolutely laughable, not to mention impossible. It's true that the material on the GRE has very little to do with anything we learn at a school like Yale - that's why students must study separately for these exams. The exams do not reflect the breadth of focus, depth of analysis, and emphasis on critical reasoning of a liberal arts education.

For the record, I took the GRE this fall, and I agree that standardized tests measure little besides ability to take standardized tests. However, as long as graduate programs still require them, students - especially those at elite colleges - will strive to do well on them. If you want to criticize the test-taking culture in this country, start from the top down. If you want to criticize the ethos of Yale undergraduates, at least pick a relevant topic and construct a decent argument.

#8 By * Standardized Murder of the Soul 4:19p.m. on January 16, 2010


Hyperbolic? Yes. Unfair? No. Yale isn't "teaching to the GRE's", but it is being populated by a generation of students who accept standardized testing as a way of academic life.

Russian education used to be criticized for separating children into camps of potential talent and non-talent at an early age--Super-tracking if you will.

Standardized testing does the same thing.

It was fascinating to hear Tim Burton , movie director (Edward Scissorhands, etc) whose watercolors are now a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art, lament on a recent Charlie Rose interview, that while ALL children know how to draw, schools may kill that talent for many students by a certain age (puberty?).

That is the LEAST damage which education does to the human spirit, with its incessant evaluations, assessments, labels, grading and reward/punishments.

I shudder to think of the automatons who successfully rise through the ranks of such systems to become the elites at places like Yale.

What else besides "drawing" have they had crushed out of their sprits by the time they have tread the competetive mill to arrive in New Haven?

When you have children you will know of what I speak, as you watch the joy, spontaneity and spirit squeezed out of them like toothpaste out of a tube year after competetive school year.

John Dewey, Paul Goodman, Howard Gardner, Bart Giamatti, where art thou?

PS: I have written in my blog about the deadening impact of education on the human soul and the modern world's "athleticization of life" (Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top") as Yale President Giamatti warned.

However either you or another poster persuaded me a week or so ago on my Bloom post, that it is crass and vulgar to advertise my blog in these posts so I am omitting its name and url.

If you are interested I'm sure you can find it somehow.

In the meantime, go study for success instead of for joy. It will make the next 50 years easier for you.

#9 By @#4 1:25a.m. on January 18, 2010

The GRE verbal is by far the hardest part of the test. Scoring in the 95th percentile of verbal is very difficult. When you get in the 700 range, the CAT mechanism of the GRE begins throwing you complex reading comprehension questions, sometimes 7-8 in a row. The strategy is simply to turn your brain to goo. The diff. btwn a correct and incorrect answer is often so ludicrously small that it becomes almost subjective. The vocab is extremely high and of course, mostly useless.
The whole test is a miserable joke that does a poor job of assessing actual ability at the graduate level.

#10 By Yale '08 1:30a.m. on January 18, 2010

The GREs are awful, pathetic tests. It's absurd and humiliating that graduate students still need to take these antiquated and moronic tests. OK, I understand the need to cull an applicant pool filled with tens of thousands of undergrads who have little to show in their lives except potential (thus far). But to assess graduate students in the same way is ridiculous. What PhD writes a research paper in 30-45 minutes based on an extremely selective (and often asinine) question?! What PhD uses the selective and obscure vocab. selected for the GRE instead of the technical jargon of their chosen field?
Is this country still that obsessed with robotic and brainless thinking to have to subject its talented graduate applicants to this nightmare testing process?

#11 By YDS Standing Against the GRE's 2:29p.m. on January 18, 2010

Just for the record: some academic entities do rebel.
After I graduated from YDS (1980) there was a debate among faculty about whether or not to require the GRE for admisssion.
To their everlasting credit and honor, the Divinity faculty agreed that ONE major divinity school had to STAND AGAINST the trend of evaluating human beings on the basis of test scores, and they decided NOT to require the GRE for admission.
That principled stand may since have been reversed with the increasing trend toward valoriziing conservative theology
evident in recent years at YDS.
But there was a shining moment in its history, when the country's oldest and most distinguished divinity school rejected the notion of requiring the GRE's as screening process in evaluating human beings.

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