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ETS Decision Shocks GRE Examinees
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The US-based Educational Testing Service's (ETS) sudden decision to suspend the computer-based Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test and reintroduce paper-based versions in China from October 1 has caused concern among Chinese examinees and international testing and training schools.

The action came in response to security breaches in China -- including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan -- as well as in the Republic of Korea (ROK), said a press release issued by ETS on Tuesday local time.

ETS said an investigation uncovered a number of Chinese and Korean websites offering questions from live versions of the computer-based GRE General Test. The websites included both questions and answers illegally obtained by previous test takers who memorized and reconstructed questions to share them with other test takers.

``It is really a sudden shock to me!'' cried Ma Zhanying, a post-graduate student at Peking University who has registered for the GRE in November.

Ma complained there was no signal at all before ETS' decision. The usual practice has been for ETS to inform examinees six months before big changes. For example, that was the policy followed when computerized exams replaced written exams.

Some examinees expressed their support for ETS' decision, in the interest of fairness. They said the websites were clearly wrong because examinees signed agreements before the tests that they would not share any of the questions.

But some others are of the opposite opinion on this decision which affects all Chinese examinees.

A net surfer on sina.com said it makes the test inconvenient again for Chinese examinees. They can no longer register for the GRE at any time but have to swarm to the mere two test opportunities each year.

Some 46,000 people took the GRE in China last year (including 700 in Hong Kong and 5,000 in Taiwan), according to ETS statistics.

``It is an insult to all the Chinese examinees,'' said the net surfer. ``Why should hundreds of thousands of students take responsibility for the shortcomings of the computer-based GRE version?''

Jijing -- a classic preparation material for the computerized GRE -- appeared in October 1999, when the computerized exams replaced written ones. It is a question bank gathered by test takers through memorization. It was once the recipe for some Chinese examinees to get high scores with relatively little preparation; a reasonable preparation time of half a year fell to less than two months.

A vocabulary book also cut the amount of words to be learned for the GRE in half, compared with the former GRE vocabulary published by the Beijing-based New Oriental School, China's most famous international testing training centre.

``Paper-based examination is fairer and can better reflect examinees' real standards,'' said Qian Yongqiang, vice-dean of the school.

Qian said he believes most Chinese students have laid a solid foundation in preparing for the GRE and have not relied on jijing and trickery.

Wang Haibo, director of the school's international testing department, said Thursday that the change in version will not have any impact on New Oriental's training courses.

(China Daily August 9, 2002)

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