GRE Kerfuffle

Something went wrong with the GRE test in october.

Here is the official word from ETS

The GRE test administered in China, on Oct 23rd, was an old test.

GRE is offering free retakes next week or reimbursment.

This will seriously mess up grad school applicants from China, and not at a good time, with a lot of universities worried about funding and overcommittment on grad students recruitment (although I should note that some universities are taking opportunity and ramping up recruitment, for now, or deciding to gamble and plan on the funding situation improving).

So… is this a minor nuisance, or a tipping point?

Do we believe ETS that this is accidental and restricted to China, given past history?

In an ideal world this might force admissions committees to reduce their reliance on crappy standardized tests (yes, I took the GRE, and yes I did very well on it, which is why I think it is a bad test – both general and subject).

The GRE tests measure something, and it correlates in some ways with grad school progress, but it is almost certainly an indirect marker, and it should be noted that, for example, European post-graduate admissions does not use standardiized testing for admission and seems to do just fine.
‘course the US university system is more heterogeneous than most…

Other issue is whether this will affect recruitment of foreign grads: both the supply, if admission information is incomplete, and demand, if universities discount application information due to mistrust.
I don’t know which way it will go, but, in particular, in China one could see a turn inward – the Chinese research universities are now as good as any, and have strong PhD programs with high demand for their own undergrads – the pipeline to the US in particular might taper off, and this might be the tipping point.
Or not.

I have also heard anecdotal reports, again, that raw scores on the subject exam seem skewed translated to percentiles compared to previous exams.
I don’t know if this is small number statistics combined with reporting bias, or secular change in the exam, or randim fluctuation, but I have been worried that the physics exam is skewing with time – there will be enough hard numbers in a couple of months to check this – ETS insists that the percentile distributions are stable.
Last I checked.

Anyway, good luck with applications and admissions.