Effects of Self-Study of Test Familiarization Materials for the Analytical Section of the GRE Aptitude Test

Powers, Donald E.; Swinton, Spencer S.
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Aptitude tests coaching instructional materials logical thinking performance factors test wiseness


An experimental study was conducted to (a) provide further information on the possible differential susceptibility to special preparation of three GRE analytical item types, (b) determine whether candidates' self-study of test familiarization materials might result in analytical ability score improvements comparable to those resulting from formal instructional intervention, and (c) ascertain which components of the special preparation were most effective. To provide this information various sets of test preparation materials (practice tests, explanations of answers to practice questions, and suggested strategies for approaching each analytical item type) were mailed to random samples of GRE candidates approximately four to five weeks before the test date. Candidates' use of each set of materials was manipulated by encouraging random samples of candidates to study the materials. Comparisons of the subsequent GRE scores of the various groups of candidates (a) confirmed the susceptibility to special preparation of two of the analytical item types (analysis of explanations and logical diagrams), (b) suggested little susceptibility for either of the two subtypes of the third item type (analytical reasoning), (c) provided strong evidence that candidates can undertake effective self-preparation for "coachable" item types like the ones studied here, (d) pointed to some components of test preparation (e.g., extra test practice) as more effective than others, and (e) strongly suggested that, even more than the particular kind of preparation undertaken, being engaged in some preparation is necessary for successful performance on these item types.

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