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A Study of the Long-Term Stability of GRE General Test Scores

Wilson, Kenneth M.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
GREB-86-18R, RR-88-39
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Test Reliability Test Retest Reliability


In 1985, GRE Program policy of cautioning users about accepting GRE scores five or more years old was replaced by a policy not to report such scores because of the possibility that older test scores may not adequately represent the current capabilities of the applicants who present them. The present study was undertaken to obtain empirical evidence pertinent to an evaluation of these policies. The study employed data from GRE files for more than 15,000 repeating examinees (U.S. citizens only) tested most recently during the 1985-86 testing year, including 3,614 "long-term" repeaters?with test-retest intervals of five or more years. Based on trends in test-retest correlations across the time-interval samples, there was a relatively high level of stability in the rank ordering of verbal and quantitative test scores over periods of 10 or more years. Test-retest coefficients of approximately .86 were found in each time-interval category. However, there were average increases in test performance. Long term repeaters registered average gains of 40 points on the verbal measure and 17 points on the quantitative test. Study findings suggest that during the 5 to 10 or more years that elapsed between their entry into the GRE population (at an average age of about 26 years) and their re-entry (at an average age of about 32 years), the long-term repeaters, on the average, experienced real growth in verbal ability and, to a lesser extent, in quantitative ability. The study findings clearly support the GRE Program policy not to report scores five or more years old. Although only General Test scores were examined in this study, by inference the policy implications are even more applicable to older Subject Test scores?growth or decline in subject-matter achievement is likely to be sharper.

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