Indian students among top scorers for TOEFL, GRE

Sumit Bhattacharjee
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Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of ETS Walt MacDonald tells that Indian students figure in the high performing scale

Walt Macdonald
Walt Macdonald

The Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of US-based Educational Testing Services (ETS) Walt MacDonald tells that India is not only among the top five countries in the world to take both TOEFL and GRE but the students also figure in the high performing scale. He is here to give away the TOEFL-2011 scholarship awards and in an exclusive chat with The Hindu Education Plus he speaks about ETS plans for India.

What are the examinations being conducted by ETS in India?

The TOEFL, GRE, and the SAT are offered in India.

Why are the scholarships being given today- is India a potential market for GRE and TOEFL? And to what extent will the scholarship benefit the students?

The 2011 TOEFL Scholarship Program is aligned with ETS's mission of promoting equity and excellence in education. The TOEFL Scholarship Program aims to assist Indian students in meeting their educational aspirations of studying abroad. We are very pleased to be able to offer the TOEFL Scholarship Program again this year in India.

How do Indians compare against students from other countries in performance on the GRE Test and in TOEFL?

Typically, Indian students do well on the TOEFL. In the case of TOEFL- Indian students click at an average of 23 on a scale of 30 for each of the four components which are: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. And that is pretty impressive. The GRE programme does not release data on country-specific performance.

Annually how many students take the GRE general test and TOEFL? How many from India? How has the trend been?

In the case of GRE about 6,75,000 people from 230 countries/regions test annually, and India is the third largest testing country for the GRE General Test. The United States and China are the first and second. From 2009 to 2010 we have moved with a double digit growth.

As for TOEFL, India is one among the top five countries. From 2009 to 2010, there was over a 4 per cent increase in the number of TOEFL test takers in India. To date, more than 25 million students have taken the TOEFL test.

Over the next 3-4 years, some applicants will apply with their scores from the old pattern where as others will apply with the scores in the new pattern. How will the universities compare them?

Universities will accept scores from both versions of the test, as all GRE scores are valid for 5 years. ETS has made it easier for universities to understand how they compare.

In November, a newly-designed score report will be introduced when score reporting begins for the GRE revised General Test. For individuals who took the GRE General Test prior to August 1, 2011, the score report will include their Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores on the 200 – 800 scale, in 10-point increments, as well as estimated Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores on the new 130 – 170 score scale, in one-point increments. In addition, concordance information will be available on the GRE website at this time.

The interest in foreign education has now spread into Tier-III cities as well. Is there any plan to increase the number of testing locations both for GRE and TOEFL?

The GRE revised General Test is offered in computer-based format at test centres in these nine cities across India and at this time there are no plans to add new test centres. In the case of TOEFL there are over 40 centres spread across the nation.

Is GRE getting closer to GMAT as GRE scores are now also being accepted for MBA admissions as well?

The GRE General Test and the GRE revised General Test measure the skills business schools value: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing.

As the most widely accepted graduate-level admissions test you can take, the GRE General Test has helped test takers get into thousands of graduate and business school programs all over the world. Today, about 600 business schools around the world accept GRE General Test scores for MBA admission, including seven of the top 10 global MBA programmes.

Why was the GRE exam pattern changed? A little brief on the changes?

Launching in August 2011, the GRE revised General Test represents the largest change to the test in the program's 60-year history and offers many benefits to students and institutions. A friendlier test-taking experience, new questions that emphasise real-world scenarios and new test design features are just some of the changes students can expect. For institutions, the GRE revised General Test will provide an even better measure of the skills necessary for success in today's demanding graduate and business programs.

The GRE revised General Test will be more test-taker friendly.

The GRE revised General Test will include new types of questions and new design features making it a friendlier test-taking experience. Featuring advanced technology that lets test takers move back and forth, edit or change answers, and skip and return to questions, all within a section, candidates will now have the freedom to use more of their own test-taking strategies and style. There are also new answer formats such as highlighting a sentence in a passage, selecting multiple correct answer choices and entering numeric answers in a box rather than selecting from a list.

Will the test questions will be different for the revised format?

Questions in the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections now more closely reflect the kind of thinking you'll do in today's demanding graduate and business school programs.

New types of questions in the Verbal Reasoning section better measure your ability to understand what you've read and how you apply your reasoning skills.

Plus, antonyms and analogies are no longer on the test, so there aren't questions that test vocabulary out of context. New types of questions in the Quantitative Reasoning section put more emphasis on data interpretation and real-life scenarios — plus, you'll have an on-screen calculator.

The Analytical Writing section is not changing dramatically. However, you'll need to provide more focused responses based on the tasks presented, so you can more accurately demonstrate your skill in directly responding to that task.

You will still write two essays, one where you evaluate a logical argument, and the other where you express your views on a critical issue.

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE revised General Test will be scored on a scale from 130–170.

The new score scale will make it easier for schools to compare your scores with the scores of other candidates. Test takers can save 50 per cent on the fee for the GRE revised General Test if they take the test in August or September 2011.

Though ETS mentions that GRE score is valid for 5 years, many universities insist on scores which are less than 3 years old? Are you taking any steps to address this concern?

The GRE Board has developed Score Use Guidelines that summarize the considerations for appropriate use of GRE test scores. It is at the discretion of the university to determine how to incorporate these guidelines into the university's admissions practices.

Are there any colleges in India that accept GRE score either for engineering or MBA? If not what steps are you taking to introduce GRE- as in some institutes like ISB in Hyderabad GMAT is accepted?

Yes there are schools that accept GRE scores for admission for details visit: or .

There is an argument that GRE is not culture neutral. Testing the candidates' knowledge of English is the function of the TOEFL exam. Is there any proposal to decrease the English component and increase the logic component?

The GRE revised General Test measures the skills needed for success at the graduate-level in programmes taught in English. The TOEFL test measures the ability of nonnative English speakers to use and understand the English language as it is heard, spoken, read and written in the university classroom.

The writing section of the TOEFL and the GRE Analytical Writing section are very different.

The Writing section of the TOEFL is not designed to measure higher levels of thinking and analytical writing, but focuses instead on command of English vocabulary, grammar, spelling and syntax. Therefore, scores on the two tests are not at all comparable.

In the case of ID proof, passport is the only ID that you ask for GRE examination. Is there an alternate?

ETS's ID requirements are an important security measure so we have carefully considered which forms would be most appropriate. Currently all test-takers in India must present a valid passport with name, photograph and signature as the primary ID document. There are no exceptions to this policy.

In the case of the GRE exam- if a student writes the examination twice- the best of the two scores or the latest is considered- kindly throw some light on this issue?

Individual schools vary in terms of which scores they use. We report all scores from the last 5 years.

In the case of TOEFL –there were reported cases of malpractices by centres such as impostors writing examinations and prompting taking place- how would you like to address this issue?

As part of ETS's ongoing, worldwide monitoring of test centre operations, we are intensifying our review efforts of TOEFL test administrations in India. These audits typically include reviewing adherence of test centre staff to our guidelines, observing testing sessions and confirming security procedures to assure fairness and score validity worldwide.

If it is deemed that a centre does not meet our testing standards, it will be closed. These regular audits, and ETS thorough test security measures, have enabled more than 25 million talented students to accomplish their dreams of attending the universities of their choice.

Sumit Bhattacharjee



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