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GRE Concordance a little off?


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I think the concordance between the old GRE and the new GRE is somewhat suspect. Though this is probably a moot point by now, I was curious if anyone else had such a suspicion. I was going to take the GRE in 2011 and I was deciding between the old and new one. The timing was really bad because I was out of the country and I'd only have 2 or 3 days to take the old one. I went with the new one because it seemed easier somehow (I don't know why). I really wish I had taken the old one: on old practice tests, and in the GRE Big Book, my verbal scores were always well into the 99th percentile: 760, 800, 800, 790, 750, 770, 790, 800. All of these are converted to a 170 in today's scoring system (except the 750 would be 169). On test day, they gave me the estimate of 750-800 (they hadn't yet calibrated the scoring), which corresponded to my old GRE performances so I thought that was appropriate. I ended up getting a 168. Now this is of course by no means a bad score. But it frustrated me because I always, consistently, had gotten 750+ in old GRE tests, and it seemed as though I had just missed one or two questions. A 168 corresponds to 720-730, which is in fact somewhat below average at the most elite verbally oriented graduate programs. It seems to me that 40 questions doesn't give you enough room to make fine, precise distinctions. (The old paper GRE had 76 Verbal questions: that seems much better.) It's easy to make a simple mistake, or even to disagree with the way in which the question and answer are worded (for example, the "choose separately and select all that apply" questions can be highly deceptive). I often avoid a correct answer choice because I think the grammar or diction of the correct answer choice are incorrect. It seems to me that it's no longer really a test of verbal ability, but a test of "trickiness-catching." Do you know the tricky little ways the test makers write questions? There's only 40 questions, so if you get "tricked" more than once your score can go down very quickly. 

The math concordance is even stranger: on test day they gave me an estimate of 730-800. This was fine with me, too, as I was usually 720-750 Q in practice tests (I had gotten an 800 Math SAT in high school, but had since forgotten most of it and was just relying on memory). That became a 158! I'm sorry but 158/170 looks way worse than 730/800, and I think they should have been more transparent about the difference, as I would have studied more since that 12 point loss may have cost me a university-wide fellowship nomination. 

It seems that in order to establish the concordance, ETS simply mapped the latest percentiles of the 130-170 system onto the old percentiles. But I think the tests are somewhat incompatible. The Verbal tests you on reading a seriously 100 to 150 word paragraph and throws tricky questions at you to make you think you didn't understand a simple paragraph. The old GRE tested long-acquired, deep lexical knowledge of English and passages of more complexity and with less of a reliance on chicanery. 

I wonder if anyone else longs for the old system (in which I looked much better: a 730-800Q and 750-800V [range: 1480-1600] is much better than a 158Q and a 168V. I am going to retake to raise the Q as I may apply to another graduate program. I also don't understand how someone who graduated summa cum laude from a top  university (top 3) and is in a top humanities graduate program can get questions "wrong" on the basis of 150 word paragraphs about the mating patterns of beetles. I hate this test so much! Bring back the old one!





Edited by twerenowtodie
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