Tuesday, February 13, 2001
In an Effort to Raise Scores, ETS Will Give Away GRE Test-Prep Software
By JENNIFER JACOBSON
The Educational Testing Service announced on Monday that starting in September it will give free test-preparation materials to anyone who registers for the Graduate Record Examination. Some critics have pressured testing companies to make test-prep materials more widely available, to try to raise the scores of minority and low-income students.
"From the student perspective, it levels the playing field," said Thomas R. Rochon, executive director of the G.R.E. Program.
"We don't know if everyone who's going to get it will use it, but it's great software. It will draw them in."
Test-takers registering for the computerized G.R.E. General Test or Writing Assessment will receive a free CD-ROM of the company's POWERPREP 2.0 software, which originally sold for $45. The software features two timed "computer adaptive"
General Tests, practice material for the Writing Assessment, hundreds of real G.R.E. practice questions, and test-taking tips.
Test-prep materials for each "subject test" include one practice test, test-taking strategies, and an answer key and score-conversion table.
Mr. Rochon said E.T.S. eliminated the fee to make the materials more accessible and because some found their price "prohibitive." The company, he said, began discussing the idea after the Graduate Management Admission Council, which owns the G.M.A.T., began giving away its test-prep materials last September.
Mr. Rochon said the move would help improve the scores of some test-takers, so that "differences in scores are more likely to reflect differences in ability than differences in preparation."
Robert A. Schaeffer, public-education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a longtime critic of
E.T.S., called the plan a step in the right direction but said it proves that the test is coachable, something E.T.S. has repeatedly denied.
"We've always maintained that test-takers should become familiar with the types of questions on the test," Mr. Rochon said.
"There is a distinction between coaching and familiarization. What we're offering is an easy chance at test familiarization to all test-takers."
Although giving away the materials will cost E.T.S. $1-million a year, Mr. Rochon said "the substantive benefits far outweigh the financial disadvantage." And it will also "significantly increase the participation of test-takers who see the test-preparation program," he said. Last year, E.T.S sold 30,000 of its prep guides although more than 400,000 people took the $99 G.R.E.
General Test, Mr. Rochon said.
Copyright © 2001 by The Chronicle of Higher Education