On March 23, in an unprecedented move taken to mitigate disruption caused by COVID 19, global testing body ETS announced that students can take GRE exam from the comforts of their homes. GRE is accepted by top global universities like Harvard, Chicago and MIT for their Masters, MBA and other programs. Soon after, on April 14, GMAC too announced that it will offer GMAT Online exam. Since Exams are considered as sacrosanct where in-person supervision is necessary, the news left many purists wondering if this was a right step. Also, will students take the option or wait out the storm?
But, within a few weeks of launch, the acceptance of At-Home tests began to come by. Both ETS and GMAC reported that thousands of students have registered for this option in April 2020. Spurred by this success, Universities and Education Testing bodies around the world, including AIMA in India, have started implementing their own versions.
To understand details of this important trend, MBAUniverse.com reached out to ETS top leadership in US with a flurry of questions. Accepting our request, ETS Spokesperson Alberto Acereda patiently responded to our extended questionnaire. Acereda is the Executive Director of Higher Education in the Global Education Division at ETS in Princeton, NJ, USA. Prior to joining ETS in 2012, he worked for almost 20 years in several universities in the United States, both as a research professor and as an administrator. In this interaction, Acereda shares some remarkable trends. India has embraced this change in a big way. India test takers represent the second highest population of test takers taking the test at home, outpaced only by the United States! Acereda also shared details on the growing acceptance of GRE in management education with all Top B-schools of the world accepting GRE scores. Edited Excepts follow.
Q: Let us start with GRE at-home, announced on March 23. What leads to this unprecedented move…? What has been the response? What are the learnings?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for higher education, and ETS felt it was imperative to create a solution that would be beneficial to students and institutions to maintain continuity until normal testing resumes. The GRE General Test at home provides students with a safe, convenient and flexible option for testing from the comfort of home, enabling them to meet critical application deadlines, while institutions can continue to assess students with a tool that serves as a critical part of the holistic admissions process and enables them to make fair and informed admissions decisions.
The response to the solution thus far has been overwhelmingly positive – students and institutions appreciate that ETS was able to bring a solution that meets their needs in a matter of weeks, while offering a test that is completely identical in content, format, on-screen experience, scoring and pricing to the usual testing experience. At ETS, we have learned how agile we can be during such unexpected and unique circumstances and are proud to offer a solution that is benefiting students and institutions worldwide.
Q: Is this a temporary offering, or is likely to remain even after COVID 19 related disruption is over?
A: At this time, the at-home solution is available until normal testing activities have resumed. Currently, test dates for the GRE General Test at home are available through June 30, 2020. While ETS will continue to assess the situation to determine if test dates will be added beyond this date, test takers who are interested in registering for the GRE General Test at home are encouraged to act quickly to take advantage of this opportunity and secure their timeslot.
Q: Can you please explain briefly how “Human Proctored” GRE works?
A: ETS has partnered with ProctorU, the leading proctoring solution for online testing, for the live, human remote proctoring that is utilized for the GRE General Test at home. These proctors work with test takers to complete a comprehensive security check, which includes reviewing identification documents and conducting a test-environment scan prior to beginning the test. From there, proctors monitor test takers throughout the entire test session.
Q: You kept the price of At-home GRE exam same as offline exam, which GMAT has a lower cost for its home test. What was the reason to keep price at par?
A: The GRE General Test at home solution offers students exactly the same testing experience – content, format, on-screen experience and scoring – to the usual test-taking experience, just delivered from the comfort of home. The price strikes a balance between the costs to administer the test – in this case, utilizing a combination of best-in-class security measures such as live human proctors and artificial intelligence technology (e.g., gaze tracking and facial recognition) – and our commitment to keeping prices as low as possible, which reflects our mission as a non-profit in providing opportunities while advancing the quality and equity of education for learners worldwide. It was a priority for ETS to maintain consistency and continuity between in-person testing and testing from home – for example, maintaining all test sections and keeping test features the same – which therefore extends to the price as well.
Q: We understand that you are offering this in India as well. How is the response?
A: Like in many locations around the world, test takers in India have shown significant interest in taking advantage of this limited-time opportunity, and to date, tens of thousands of students have registered for the test worldwide, which only continues to grow.
Q: Moving beyond this topic, GRE has become much widely accepted in B-schools in last few years. What are the reasons for your growing acceptance in management education?
A: The GRE General Test provides B-schools with a pipeline of qualified students to help them expand their desired demographic and build diverse student bodies. Further, GRE helps support the growth and expansion of master’s and specialized programs.
The GRE General Test provides valid measures of critical thinking skills that indicate graduate readiness through its Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections. B-schools recognize that these skills, which have long been important in the graduate admissions space for a variety of master’s and specialized master’s programs, are critically important for MBA programs, and provide admissions representatives with a strong indicator of an applicants’ abilities to be successful in their programs and beyond.
Q: How top 50 B-schools in US, as ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, accept GRE? Also, which leading European B-schools accept GRE?
A: Every business school listed in the top 50 of Bloomberg Businessweek’s U.S. B-School Rankings for 2019-20 accepts GRE scores for MBA admissions.
All the top European B-schools also accept GRE scores.
Q: How many of Top 20 B-schools in India, as ranked by MBAUniverse.com, accept GRE?
A: 18 out of 20 top business schools in India accept GRE scores for various graduate degree programs. We are continually looking to increase our acceptability at B-schools in India, similar to how we’ve done so in other markets as shown by the thousands of B-schools that accept GRE scores in top-ranked MBA programs according to The Financial Times, U.S. News & World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek.
Q: Can you please share some statistics on GRE Test Takers from India for last few year.
A: Regarding the GRE General Test at home solution, India test takers represent the second highest population of test takers taking the test at home, outpaced only by the United States.
From GRE test takers between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, we can say that:
- India, with 72,855 test takers, ranks third in the total number of citizens who took the test, behind the United States (295,826) and China (74,569).
- India (56%) had a substantially higher percentage of test takers between the ages of 18 and 22 than the United States (45%) but was less than China’s (71%).
- At 64% male to 36% female, male (42,428) test takers India out pace female (24,132) test takers whereas in China the ratio is more even at 51% male and 49% female. The opposite is the case in the United States with a predominately female (63%) vs male (37%) test taker cohort.
- Indian test takers’ mean Quantitative Reasoning scores (155.6) outpace test takers the United States (150.3) while trailing behind China (164.7). Mean Verbal Reasoning scores for both India (145.5) and China (148.8) as slightly outpaced by test takers in the US (152.6).
Q: Are more Indians taking GRE to apply for International B-schools?
A: Yes. The percentage of test takers in India with an intended graduate major in Business increased slightly. While the percentage of test takers with an intended graduate major in Engineering decreased. The percentages of test takers with intended graduate majors in Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Arts, and Education were largely stable.
Q: What about the geographical preference of India test-takers taking GRE?
Q: Based on last 5 years data, we can say that Indian students preferred to study in the United States. When considering non-U.S. regions of the world, test takers in India preferred Canada, Western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand.
Q: Going forward, what plans do you have for India in near future?
A: India is and always has been an important market for ETS and the GRE Program. We strongly believe that the GRE General Test has a place in the important discussions taking place about business school admissions for both students and institutions. To this end, we are exploring different options and venues in India and other countries, as we look to expand our mission to advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research and related services for all learners worldwide.
Q: Finally, what trends do you see in Management Education in the post COVID 19 Era?
A: No one knows for certain what the state of graduate and business schools will look like post-pandemic. What we do know is that it is critical for ETS to be nimble and flexible to support the specific needs of the graduate community, especially for B-schools. This is why in just six weeks, ETS wholly changed our delivery model for the GRE General Test by offering the option to test at home while still maintaining the integrity of the test. Our goal always has been to put test takers and institutions first, and offering this at-home solution allows for prospective B-school students to continue their educational journeys without disruption due to COVID-19. We plan to continue working closely with institutions to ensure that what we are providing is what they need – we have and always will be a partner to bring the solutions necessary for the B-school community.
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