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Effects of Preexamination Disclosure of Essay Prompts for the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment GRE

Powers, Donald E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Writing Assessment, Writing Prompts, Prompt Prepublication, Test Preparation, Test Validity


This study examined how the practice of prepublishing prompts used on the writing section of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test impacts test-preparation behavior, test performance, test validity, and examinee perceptions of the value of prompt prepublication. Researchers imposed modest experimental control over how participants used the prompts to prepare for an upcoming test. The strategy test takers reported using most frequently was simply to "think generally about the potential topics." Slightly fewer than half of study participants wrote sample essays to prepare for the test, and very few (4%) admitted to memorizing essays that could be recalled during testing. Results provided no indication that participants benefited from encountering a prompt for which they had prepared. The vast majority of study participants, however, thought that making the GRE essay prompts available ahead of time is a good testing policy.

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