Changes are in store for the Graduate Record Examination. Beginning in fall 2011, the Educational Testing Service will begin scoring the test on a 130-170 point scale, with score increments of one point. The new system will replace the current 200-800 scale with score increments of 10 points.  (The writing test will keep its 1-6 scale.)

David Payne, an ETS spokesman, said the scoring change was designed to discourage graduate programs from viewing 10-point increments as representing big differences among applicants. Payne pointed out that students who score a few points higher than others do not necessary have significantly different abilities.

The other major change will affect students who take the computer-based GRE. They will have the option of moving around between questions in each section instead of providing a final answer before receiving the next question. These and other changes to content and format will make the exam “much friendlier” to test takers and will represent “the very best” option for graduate programs, Payne said.

But Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, questions whether graduate schools even need the GRE at all. Given that graduate programs admit from “a much smaller universe” (of colleges) than do undergraduate programs (with many more high schools), “the argument that you need testing” to compare candidates “is weaker,” Schaeffer told Inside Higher Ed.