Many colleges and universities in the United States intend to abandon GRE and take home exams or become the last straw
2020 can be described as a difficult year for Chinese students who want to study in the United States, and the turbulent visa issue needs to be resolved urgently. And students who want to apply for graduate programs in American colleges and universities have to face another problem: In view of the impact of the epidemic, the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE, Graduate Record Examinations) in mainland China have been clearly cancelled until the end of June. Whether it can be restarted in July and August is not yet known. Although as early as March this year, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) opened the GRE at-home test mode, but the mode has not yet been opened to mainland China.
Recently, a review article published in the journal “Science” collected feedback from test takers, reported on the problems of the GRE at-home test, and pointed out that the American colleges and universities are constantly changing their views on GRE-maybe this is for the students. Saying it is good news.
Taking the GRE at home does more harm than good?
The GRE test is an important entrance test for many universities in the United States, especially for science and engineering projects. As the new crown epidemic rages across the United States, standardized testing centers have closed one after another, and GRE has moved to an online test mode. The test organizer, ETS, announced in May this year: “We have completely revised the test model so that (aspiring future graduate students) can take the test safely at home.”
This message has raised concerns about the fairness of online exams. Obviously, this test method is not conducive to candidates from rural and low-income backgrounds. “If I were preparing to take the GRE, it would be extremely difficult for me to meet the online test standards,” said Emily Levesque, an assistant professor from the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle.
In early June, Levisk described the online test requirements announced by ETS on his Twitter, and detailed a so-called “list of technical obstacles to the test.” First of all, candidates must have a computer (desktop computer or notebook) with a webcam (the official website requires a 360-degree rotating camera), “tablets and smartphones are not allowed”. At the same time, candidates need to have a private room in their home, and the Internet connection is stable and smooth. Therefore, libraries and other public places are also excluded. Levesk said: “We knew when we took online classes this spring that not all students have computers in their homes.”
The most important thing is that if candidates want to take notes, they must prepare a whiteboard and sit on a standard test chair. The chair must not be “soft and thick”, and no one will enter during the long 4-hour test. Exam room. Alberto Acereda, the executive director of ETS’s Higher Education Department, wrote in a statement that these rules are “extremely necessary to ensure that exams at home are the same as at exam centers. Sex and integrity.”
Candidate Natasha Hodges experienced the challenges of the GRE test at home firsthand. After her GER on-site exam appointment was cancelled, she signed up for the home exam in June. But she was unable to install the invigilation software required for the exam on her Apple laptop. “No matter how many people I talk to about this issue, no matter how many phone calls I make, how many emails I write, no one will explain to me, or even care about (my problem).”
Other candidates also reported their problems on the day of the exam. An anonymous candidate living in the Philippines recounted her “nightmarish” exam process. She encountered technical problems such as internet connection, which caused her exams to start 90 minutes late. She said: “When I finally started the formal exam, my whole person was not good.” Another candidate, Mardi Mollico, said that her exam process went smoothly, but the proctoring experience kept her “Tense nerves and anxiety.” She originally thought that she could see the invigilator on the screen, but when she started the exam, she realized nervously that the teacher could see her, but she couldn’t see the teacher. She recalled: “He kept calling me sweetheart during the exam, which…obviously made me feel like I was being watched condescendingly…”
When colleges and universities take action, “Exit GRE” (GRExit) is in progress
For some colleges and departments, especially those schools that have long questioned the significance of the GRE test, the cumbersome requirements of the test at home have become a turning point for the school to change its decision-making. Levesk’s department decided not to require GRE scores for the time being when accepting applications. “This is just because of the question of whether we can take the test. If we require GRE scores this year, it will put an extra heavy burden on the students who we want to encourage to apply.”
Some other schools have decided to abandon GRE completely. Chrissy Wiederwohl, Assistant Secretary of Graduate Affairs from Texas A&M University, said: “We have been thinking about it for a long time and have always wanted to abolish GRE.” And the school’s Department of Marine Geography In early June, the vote was passed and GRE scores were no longer required: “The new crown epidemic just pushed us to take this step.”
In recent years, more and more graduate programs in the United States have given up GRE scores, and the faculties where Levesk and Widhall belonged have also become one of them. According to a survey conducted by the Career section of “Science”, in 2018 alone, 44% of the top biology graduate programs in the United States no longer need to provide GRE scores in their application requirements. This campaign is called the “GRExit” campaign (GRExit). This is because more and more people are worried that GRE scores cannot predict whether students will succeed in the graduate stage, and that they rely on GRE scores in admission decisions, which is not conducive to the underrepresented groups of applicants (underrepresented groups).
The direction of graduate programs in the top 50 universities in the United States that do not require GRE scores in 2018丨Source: Science AAAS
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine made it clear on the college’s official website last year that high GRE scores do not prove students’ potential for graduate studies. At the same time, several graduate programs in the medical school have cancelled the requirements for GRE scores when applying. As a result, in 2018 alone, the number of applicants for the school’s cellular and molecular medicine program increased by 62%. 
Delia Shelton is a black psychologist at the University of Tennessee at Kesville. She said that when she applied to graduate school, it was difficult to take the GRE exam. Not to mention the high cost of examinations, she had to drive two hours to the examination center. Her grades prevented her from applying for graduate programs with specified thresholds. Fortunately, she has worked hard on her own and has excellent academic performance. She won an important scholarship from the National Institutes of Health and an assistant professor position at her university. In early June, she and her colleagues voted for the abolition of the admission requirement for GRE scores. She said: “GRE scores don’t tell you how your students will perform in graduate school.”
Of course, there are other people who oppose this, and they think that the GRE score evaluation has its own meaning. Acereda emphasized that grades should be considered as part of the comprehensive review process, and schools should also look at recommendation letters, student essays and other application materials. Maurice Taylor is the vice chair of the Academic Outreach and Student Engagement Department at Morgan State University and a member of the ETS Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Advisory Committee. Different learning experiences. Therefore, GRE is a standardized way to assess the amount of knowledge of future graduate students.
But there is another question: who has the opportunity to take the exam first? Johua Hall, director of the Biology and Biomedical Project Catalogue Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said: “The socio-economic limitations of standardized testing… are indeed well documented. I think this time at home The exam has exacerbated its unfairness.” He has a list of “Exit GRE” actions, and more than 300 life science research projects have been listed among them. Hall estimates that since the beginning of the epidemic, 15 other projects have contacted him, requesting to be added to the withdrawal list.
Acerida also admitted: “In some cases, due to differences in hardware conditions, some candidates find it difficult to use our at-home test system.” But he added that so far, more than 1,000 test centers have been reopened. . “After the epidemic, test centers around the world have opened one after another. Candidates will have more choices as to where to take the test.”
However, some candidates just gave up this year. Hodgs said that after failing to solve the technical problems and giving up the exam, she was unexpectedly happy to find that many of the microbiology doctoral programs she wanted to apply for had already excluded GRE scores from the admission requirements. “The final result proved that I don’t have to struggle with GRE anymore.”
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