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Effects of Disclosing Essay Topics for a New GRE Writing Test

Powers, Donald E.; Fowles, Mary E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
GREB-93-26aR, RR-96-26
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Essay Tests Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Graduate Record Examinations Board Performance Factors Test Disclosure Test Validity Writing Evaluation


To determine the effects on test performance and test validity of releasing GRE essay topics before an examination, some 300 prospective graduate students each wrote two essays, one on a previously unseen topic and one on a topic that was made available about two weeks before the test. Although for each of the four essay topics studied, performance was slightly better when a topic had been disclosed, analyses did not reveal any statistically significant effect of disclosure on test performance. Nor was there any detectable effect of disclosure on the meaning of test scores, as reflected in the relationship of test performance to several independent indicators of writing skill. Limitations of the study are discussed in terms of its generalizability to a high-stakes testing situation and the extent to which it addressed both the positive and the negative effects of disclosure.

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