GRE, Most Reliable Test Which Keeps Getting Updated: Alberto Acereda

Alberto Acereda, Associate Vice President - Global Higher Education, Educational Testing Service, on the growing popularity of GRE across disciplines and in various geographies

GRE as a score is getting traction globally and across disciplines. In India, several B-Schools, including IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore (Bengaluru) and Kolkata, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research and SBI, and in the case of law schools, NALSAR have started to accept GRE as score for admission to their MBA and law programmes respectively. Nearly 100 Indian universities now accept the GRE score. Alberto Acereda, Associate Vice President of Global Higher Education at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey described the reason for the widespread acceptance, in an interview to BW Education. Excerpts:

What is the reason for the widespread use of GRE as a test score? Why is it becoming acceptable in disciplines like management and law?

The Graduate Record Examination evaluates the readiness that an individual has to join a Grad school. It was meant for most disciplines, but professional schools like law and management had other assessments, like LSAT and GMAT. 

The reason for interest of business and law schools to use the GRE, is because they understand that the GRE provides the opportunity to bring more diversity into those programmes. And we are seeing a traction in acceptance in India and also other international markets. 

Different professional courses have different requirements. For example, a law school provides admission on the basis of an admission test, aligned to the needs of that course. So how are those unique needs taken care of in the GRE?

There is the GRE general test, but there are also GRE subject tests which are specific to a discipline. Many times, institutes use that subject test as well, along with GRE general test. But at the end of the day, verbal reasoning and analytical writing constitute the core and can be used for law school or business school too. We have 100 American Bar Association accredited law schools in the US accepting the GRE. And we have 1,300 business schools around the world accepting it. 

As GRE spreads to other countries and geographical regions, there would be income variations and diversity in education systems and differing comfort levels with English. As you are spreading, how are you taking all these diversities into account?

Yes, there are different needs of different global communities. But the thing that makes the GRE strong is that it addresses the key components of graduate readiness. That includes verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. So you know how to read, write and do mathematics – the basic things that we teach our children. And the foundational research for GRE indicates that it provides you assurance of success in the first year of a programme. 

What are your plans for India?

We already have a robust presence here. We have an India office and a team. We are expanding to different parts of India and making it better. We are also looking at partnerships that ETS can have with private and public stakeholders in higher education. 

There are about a hundred institutes that are accepting GRE scores in India currently. We plan to expand that. We are focussing on business schools, and we started ETS Business School Advisory Council in India which is a group of about 15 B-School leaders. We work with the directors and deans, get inputs from them regarding the needs of the institute. 

How do you ensure smooth process of test taking and also, what was your experience during Covid?

Covid changed everything. From the way you look at education to the way you take tests, everything changed. Some institutes put a hold on their admission cycle. We were the first company globally to promote ETS at home solutions for TOEFL and GRE. I think we were successful. We are tackling any kinds of situations that are endangering the security of our test.

At the same time, we are ensuring that as we move forward, we continue to provide the best user experience possible. In India too, we are focussing on helping students understand the process.

In terms of the structure of the exam, what have been the major shifts? And any plan for further change?

In 2011 we revised GRE and we have not changed the test since then. It’s a computer-based adaptive test and is successful. However, from research perspective, ETS continues to work on changes that can be implemented as we move forward. As of now we have an initiative that my team is leading to rethink as to how this assessment could be more relevant for future learners and institutions. We are also thinking of coming up with new tools and solutions around non-Cognitive skills. And we are working with some organisations to come up with new innovative approaches to certify through micro-credentials so that students don’t just get a score but also evaluation in terms of knowledge and skills.  

How does GRE differentiate itself from other scores?

I will refrain from commenting about other tests. What I can tell you is, GRE is the most reliable test which keeps getting updated. We have the data and the science behind it. Business schools are using the GRE because they see value in it. We are providing more diverse set of students to them. Similarly, the American Bar Association has accepted the GRE due to its reliability.

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