On March 23, 2020, in an unprecedented move, taken to mitigate disruption caused by COVID 19, global testing body Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced that students can take GRE exam from their homes. This was a significant development since GRE is accepted by top global universities and B-schools like Harvard, Chicago and MIT. A few weeks later, on April 14, GMAC too announced that it will offer GMAT Online exam. Since then, education assessment industry has undergone a lot of expansion, and some churn.
While being a global giant, ETS has been slow to expand in India, even as India is world’s largest management education ‘market’ with 3000+ MBA programs and 400,000 MBA students studying. Realizing the importance, ETS is now expanding its presence and investing in India. MBAUniverse.com interviewed ETS Spokesperson Dr Alberto Acereda, AVP for Global Higher Education, on the side-lines of 12th INDIAN MANAGEMENT CONCLAVE, where Dr Acereda was an invited Speaker. In this interaction, Dr Acereda shared how assessments industry is growing after 2020, and how top B-schools of the world, and increasingly in India, are accepting GRE scores. Edited Excepts follow:
Q: ETS is a prominent organization in global assessment and testing. How does ETS views India…
A: Yes, ETS has a proud and rich legacy and we are proud of it. ETS was founded in 1947 and is the world's largest private non-profit educational testing and assessment organization. Worldwide, GRE scores are accepted in more than 1,300 business schools around the globe and that includes Harvard University, University of Chicago, MIT and other top universities for their MBA and many other programmes. GRE brings on the table a more diverse cohort of students who can access their programmes.
In addition, our solutions go beyond graduate admission. ETS helps business schools and students, and faculty and administrators move across the student life cycle. Our vision for ETS is to support the learners through their entire lifecycle and not just for college admissions.
Coming to India, ETS is very committed to higher education in India. Leading Indian B-schools like ISB, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Kolkata and SPJIMR are already using GRE scores. And the number is only growing…We have many more initiatives planned in coming months.
Q: Let’s rewind a bit. Covid in 2022 has reset every industry virtually. What has been the impact of it on Testing & Assessment industry?
A: That’s a good question. Back in March 2020, when we started closing physical centres around the globe, ETS, even as the largest non-profit organization for assessment in the world, innovated and was the first to introduce a solution in the form of, at home testing, so that the students could continue their educational pursuits without interruption. Others followed us later, but we are very proud to have been the organization to lead the way and address the COVID challenges head on.
So, expansion of online testing has been a big trend since 2020. One of the fall outs of Covid was that some institutions said they do not require assessments for admissions. That is dangerous from my perspective, and I think we are starting to see a return as they realise that admissions tests are important part of their admissions processes.
Q: Coming back to India, what are the steps taken to increase your presence in India?
A: We believe that India is a very important country for us, and it has always been important for us. But COVID really pushed us to accelerate our global focus which includes our efforts in India. We see India as the top growth market for ETS and for the GRE.
We know that the popularity of the GRE has not dropped despite COVID. In fact, we continue to see growth in India. The launch of at home testing during the pandemic contributed to this growth. In India, from 2019-2020 we saw an increase in the number of GRE test takers of 3.1%, from 2021-2022, our volume increased to 68% so we have seen tremendous growth.
With this growth in the number of GRE test takers in India, we have also seen an increase in the number of Indian institutions who are now accepting the GRE for admission.
Q: Can you share more numbers here…
A: Yes, we currently have 99 Indian institutions accepting GRE score for admission and we are looking to continue to expand this acceptance to exceed that of our competitors and reach more than 150 by the fall of 2023.
We are happy that GRE scores are also accepted by many top graduate and business programmes in India that also include IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode and IIM Udaipur. In addition, there are many other top B-schools like SPJIMR and IMT Ghaziabad who accept GRE.
Q: So how is the response to your recent initiatives from Indian B-schools?
A: The response has been very good. The GRE is based on decades of science and research from ETS. What we have been doing in India is aiming to understand what the needs of students are, what are the needs of faculty members and how can we provide an admission test like the GRE that can help programmes to have other alternatives than that of our competitors.
GRE’s acceptance is only increasing in India. We have also established a business school advisory council in India with important senior leaders helping us navigate the course.
Q: Can you give us some specific numbers of accepting colleges/institutions today, and where they were, say 24 months back.
A: Today, nearly 100 Indian institutions currently accept GRE scores for admission, and we expect to get to about 150 by the fall of 2023. We expect that this acceptance will continue to grow given the value institutions in India are seeing with the GRE General Test. While the bulk of this growth has come in the last 12-18 months, we are very pleased with the traction that we are seeing, especially with top ranked b-schools in the country.
Q: How does ETS plan to manage impersonation and other integrity related issues that arise from At-home exam?
A: Security and integrity in exam is of paramount importance to ETS. We are constantly improving our processes and procedures to make our exam system very robust. We have to really evolve our methods as some people try to game the system. We are investing tens of millions of dollars each year in security infrastructure.
ETS is a market leader in the development of security measures. We are often the first to apply new security technologies in our assessment programmes including the GRE. We have our Chief Security Officer, Wallace Dalrymple, whose sole focus is on test security at ETS and he is supported by a team with decades of combined experience in test security.
We have and will continue to invalidate scores that we have identified as earned unfairly, it is important that we do right for our test takers and institutions and maintain the integrity of our tests and the scores, they produce.
Q: The importance of Emotional Quotient and Soft Skills is only increasing... One of the criticisms of GRE, and other similar exams, is that they don’t assess EQ, and judge only IQ. How is ETS addressing this area?
A: Yes. Personal skills are as important as traditional Intelligence or IQ. After several years of research in this area, ETS has developed a new assessment called Personal Skills and Qualities (PSQ). This measures essential personal skills like perseverance, leadership, curiosity, responsibility and self-discipline. This is based on our research at ETS on what we call non-cognitive skills or you call it Soft-skills.
We are currently piloting PSQ with about 20 business schools. PSQ can be used not just of assessment during admissions, but also during the program journey.
Q: Finally, what lies head for ETS…
A: We are celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2022. We are proud of our rich legacy. Going forward, ETS wants to position itself as a Partner to Business Schools across the Student Life Cycle. We want to move from 20th Century kind of admission support organization to 21st Century inclusive open helping partnership to help individuals and programmes to be successful.
In a complex and ever evolving world, Lifelong learning is a reality and ETS wants to be a Partner to Education Institutions, and Students, in their journey.