Entrance Exams For Grad, Law Schools To Change By This Fall

Dan Fletcher and Dan Fletcher

By Dan FletcherThe Daily Northwestern

The Graduate Record Examination and the Law School Admission Test will change in the next year. The GRE will become more than 90 minutes longer, and both exams will focus more on analytical skills.

The GRE, a standard admission exam for graduate schools, will change in September. Currently, students taking the exam use a computerized system that adapts questions based on students’ answers in previous sections of the tests. No two students’ tests are the same.

In September, everyone will take the same test. It will cover the same concepts as the current exam, but each section will be revised. More than 500,000 people take the test annually.

In addition, the length of the test will increase, from two and a half hours to more than four hours, and the scoring scale will be altered.

The changes were planned for October 2006, but the Educational Testing Service delayed the new test in order to study the revisions further and coordinate with testing sites.

Dawn Piacentino, a GRE board member at ETS, said she doesn’t think the added length will burden students, because they will have several breaks during the examination.

“Some question types require more time to complete,” she said. “There are reading comprehension questions on the exam, which take a little longer to work through, and the added time is necessary for students to perform to the best of their abilities.”

She said the changes were made after ETS consulted with graduate school deans, who said they felt changes needed to be made to the GRE to make it less about memorization and more about skills.

“We’ve been out talking with graduate schools about the new test, and the response has been positive,” Piacentino said.

Susan Kaplan, director of MBA programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, recommended that students thinking about graduate school take the older version of the GRE before the test changes, even if graduation is a few years away.

“We recommend if you have time to prepare, take it before it changes,” Kaplan said.

The GRE will be offered fewer times each year, and test dates will be scheduled based on demand.

Jillian Foley, a Weinberg sophomore, said she could see the benefit of taking the test early.

“If I could take a shorter test, and it still doesn’t cover overly specific things I need to know and study for, I would consider taking it early,” Foley said.

The changes for the LSAT – announced in October – are smaller in scope. Beginning in June, one longer passage in the reading comprehension section will be broken into two separate readings. Students will be asked questions comparing the two.

“Comparative reading is a skill used in law schools,” said Wendy Margolis of the Law School Admission Council. “A lot of students have been made unnecessarily nervous by test prep companies. This is not a huge change – just a variant on something that’s already on the test.”

Margolis said the LSAT does not change often in order to minimize the effects on both law schools and students.

Eric Yeh, a Weinberg junior thinking about applying to law school, said he heard reading comprehension questions have become harder recently on the LSAT.

“I’m nervous in the sense that adding another reading comprehension question type makes the test that much more difficult, not that it was ever an easy test to begin with,” Yeh said.

NU’s Graduate School requires the GRE for admission; the Law School requires the LSAT. Potential students at the Kellogg School of Business take the Graduate Management Admissions Test.

Reach Dan Fletcher at [email protected]