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Test Takers' Judgments About GRE Writing Test Prompts

Powers, Donald E.; Fowles, Mary E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
GREB-94-13R, RR-98-36
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Difficulty Level Essay Tests Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Minority Students Test Takers


This study gathered the judgments of various GRE test takers about a total of 78 essay prompts that were being considered for possible use in a GRE writing test. The objective was to determine the kinds of prompts and topics on which examinees feel they can write strong essays, as well as those that they perceive as more difficult. The study identified several features that underlie examinee assessments of essay prompts. Some of the study participants also wrote essays on a small subset of the prompts, and their opinions of the prompts were compared to the scores that GRE readers assigned to their essays. This comparison revealed only a weak and inconsistent relationship between writers' judgments about the prompts and their performance. The first set of data for this study was collected with the cooperation from 15 colleges and universities with significant numbers of minority students. Data collection was then extended to include a representative sample of GRE examinees. The report discusses the implications of the findings for the development of the GRE writing test and for advising GRE examinees on how to approach the test.

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