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Education

GRE Computer Science Exam Canceled For '02 228

An anonymous reader writes "This may be a bit dated, but the Educational Testing Service has canceled the Computer Science GRE exam for November due to the fact that students were sharing and posting exam questions. One has to wonder about the immediate effect this will have on grad school admittance, as well as the long term changes that will likely occur to the tests as a result."
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GRE Computer Science Exam Canceled For '02

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  • sharing? (Score:3, Funny)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @06:22AM (#4366067) Homepage
    that's what I call peer2peer education!
  • Does anyone know how much the scores count towards admissions? I'm sure there are some number-oriented schools out there, but I would assume they're also taking a good look at your academic achievements and personal statement, as well as your general GRE scores.

    Derek
    • by Anonymous Coward
      First, scores may be used at the low end as a first sort method. People who score below a certain cut off might be eliminated from further consideration. This is often done to limit the number of applications that must be examined.

      Second, scores may be used at the high end to get considered for fellowships and other academic awards.

      Most schools do not use the scores alone, but consider the whole package. Still, scores and GPA are used most everywhere in the initial sorting of applicants. If you are on the admissions committee of a CS department, and there are 3 of you, and there are 300 applications for 20 spots, you are going to want to winnow the pile in *some* way.

      Keep in mind that standardized test scores do an ok job of predicting success in school at the high end, but do a very poor job of predicting failure in school at the low end.

      "Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself." John Dewey
      • by pagansage ( 142636 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @08:02AM (#4366376)
        First, scores may be used at the low end as a first sort method. People who score below a certain cut off might be eliminated from further consideration. This is often done to limit the number of applications that must be examined.

        This is not always true. In fact, I would say that this is far from the truth when it comes to the GREs. Being in Grad schol myself at a large state school I have a friend whose research advisor happens to also be the graduate advisor for the largest department on campus. This department recieves MANY applications from Asia and the GRE scores are a joke. Almost all of the applicants have a 99% percentile on ALL three sections of the general exam. And yet when they come here they can barely speak english.

        My friend was asked by her advisor which applicant she would pick out of the scores and she pointed to the individual with the low score. She said that he probably earned that score. Most schools know about the score inflation caused by Asia and take that into heavy consideration.

        If your going to apply to graduate school, especially for the sciences, then GRE scores should be the last of your worries. The best thing you can do is take as many classes in your field as possible. Get involved in some type of research: REUs, ERULF, etc. And when you apply show that all you want to do is research, research, research. Make sure you pick out a field (doesn't matter what really) within your discipline and show that you have some interest and knowledge in that section.
        • > This department recieves MANY applications from Asia and the GRE scores are a joke. Almost all of the applicants have a 99% percentile on ALL three sections of the general exam. And yet when they come here they can barely speak english.

          And go easy on the sweeping generalizations. Maybe you are unaware that English is a first language in some of the countries from asia.

          I did my undergrad from a well-known premier technology institute in the South Asian subcontinent and every EE and CS grad I knew there really earned his/her GRE score. Most of them were truly brilliant, had a firm command of English and I couldn't possibly imagining any of them cheating for a few extra points. They were ethical and proud brainiacs. Or perhaps I was lucky to have moved in such good company. I wouldn't deny that there were also other lesser mortals who cheated using all these cheap tactics as discovered by the ETS. But you be careful before making any sweeping generalizations.

          • As a person who has gone through GRE exams, applied to universities in the US & completed my Masters, I can definitely tell that most people do work very hard for their GRE exams (ofcourse everybody uses sample tests including Kaplans, Barrons, you name it) GRE is a written exam and the education system in India and China are more oriented towards examinations, whereas the US system is oriented more towards projects for a course (be it a grad or undergrad). As a result, there is no wonder that people from India and China do well on GRE EXAMINATIONS. Also, the GRE is no different from a MCSE or a SUN certification. There are thousands and thousands of sites on the web to find sample examinations and questions that have appeared (or something close) in previous examinations. Does this mean that SUN OR MCSE have stopped their exams?? NO. In that aspect, GRE is a simple exam. Secondly, instead of adapting to the 'tech' world ideas, the GRE just cancelled their exam to fix their problem. As a side note, there are people who take the GRE (especially the CS test) who go to the exam just to memorize the questions and start their own question bank. Why? Because CS questions tend to repeat themselves more than anything else. Why? bcos whoever sets up these examinations are not doing their job well. The one good thing is that this shows how the internet has established itself in these countries. Earlier, these question banks used to be just paper copies, now they are posted on the net.
    • Most schools do not require the GRE computer science test. I am currently in a graduate CS program and did not take the computer science GRE, only the general test.

      Of course, taking the test can only help your application, unless you make a terrible mess of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The GRE Computer Science exam counts more than one would think. If you ever want to get into a good (read top 10) Ph.D. program you need to place yourself in the 85 percentile. This, of course, is no easy task. The test is comprehensive of all major areas of computer science.

      Many overseas master's students take this exam to try to place themselves in a good U.S. program. (which is understandable) I don't think all of them were cheating. It was probably only a few, but ETS needs to be able make sure that all students have a fair chance.

      Yes, I have taken this exam.
      Yes, I got my a** kicked by it.
      Yes, I got into a good Master's Program.
      Yes, I got a job!
      Go ME!
    • I know that some California state universities required 50th percentile or better in the computer science exam. This was a basic admission requirement for the Master's computer science program.
  • by matrim99 ( 123693 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @06:30AM (#4366085) Homepage
    Well, they at least passed the first question:
    1) Can you use a computer well enough to share information?
  • Seems silly - (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @06:35AM (#4366103)
    If the sharers are so savvy, they can no doubt move this info anywhere they want - why only cancel the local tests? Seems everyone who wants this stuff will have it in short order.

    Unless the tests have regional forms in addition to the other multiple forms, this is either useless or a symbolic slap on the wrist.
    • MAYBE (this is just an assumption) the method they chose involved the answered being shared in their native languages. I mean really, how many Americans can speak Chinese?
      • Let alone read it. You can't necessarily speak Chinese if you can read it, and vice versa... or any language that uses Kanji or Kanji-like characters, for that matter.

        That said, the GRE is a general test. I think it was alluded to that non-native english speakers do worse because of the language barrier, thus have to take the subject-specific GRE exam. It would follow, then, that there would be more of a need for this in non english-speaking locales.
  • by back_pages ( 600753 ) <back_pages@nOspam.cox.net> on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @06:44AM (#4366125) Journal
    I am applying to grad school for Computer Science this spring, and it turns out that many schools only require the subject test (what this news it about) if you are an international student or if you did poorly on the general test and want to show that you have potential in your area.

    I'm sure not all schools use this approach, but many do. Maybe we'll see fewer international students coming in this year. That will certainly be a loss, but like I said, I'm applying and I really don't mind a temporary loss of competition. ;)

    • Re:Not a tragedy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by corian ( 34925 )
      like I said, I'm applying and I really don't mind a temporary loss of competition

      That's a good point. Presumably, the people taking the test who sharing information are applying to graduate school themselves. I'd assume they'd also have a fairly good idea of how competitive the admissions process can be these days. How do they benefit by helping other random internet surfers improve their scores? Wouldn't that just dilute the value of the original taker's score in the applicant pool?

      Sounds a bit like shooting ones self in the foot to me.
    • Especially if you read the article, it states that the real problem was in China and India; as a result there will be no CS GRE in those countries this academic year. So not only will students from those countries face the generally tougher requirements that international students face when applying to US schools, but for this year they won't have the advantage of a GRE score which shows that they know what's what.

      So no, it's not a tragedy because it doesn't affect students coming from the US, only those dirty foreigners.
      • So no, it's not a tragedy because it doesn't affect students coming from the US, only those dirty foreigners.

        Two points:

        1. There are plenty of good schools for CS outside the US. People can apply to schools in their own country. Who said 'foreigner' meant "Not from the US"? If somebody doesn't have a good school in their country they'll have to wait a year which is not such a big deal.

        2. I know it's a popular stereotype to portray people from the US as 'anti' anything that's not from the US, however the US is hardly the place to go if you're looking for an example population that hates foreigners. How many countries in the EU have recently had an election with popular candidates running on an anti-immigraton platform?

        Selfishness is human nature, and you'll find selfish people in any country. Don't be so quick to label an entire countries worth of people because of what this one guy said.
  • First, I'ld like to point out that the ETS tests have relative scores, so you don't nessasarially need to get all questions correct to get a "perfect" score, just subtantially more right than 99.5% (a guess) of the people taking the test. So the people who were cheating on these tests really had an effect on the scores of the tallented people who didn't nessasarially have access to the answers.

    Second, it takes a fairly large amount of time to figure out how difficult/fair questions are for these tests. That is what the experimental section of the exams are used for. They corrolate your actuall score with how you did on each question in an experimental section and via statistics then determine how difficult that question actually was. Because this process takes time (even after you have written the question), a question needs to have an apprecable lifetime for the tests to continue to be fair and the scores to remain comperable from one exam to the next. In these respects they are different than the questions on a licensing test (which should test your practical ablities anyway) since aptatude tests require relative scores which don't drift from year to year, and licensing exams should determine how quickly you can diagnose/fix a problem or create a solution for a particular challenge.

  • Could someone in the US please tell me what a "GRE" exam is? Do you have to take one of these there before going into Computer Science or something? I am about to graduate with my BCS and I have never heard of this thing.

    • Re:GRE? (Score:2, Informative)

      by forsetti ( 158019 )
      "Graduate Record Examinations"
      Entrance exam to graduate school (for your Master's Degree).
    • Re:GRE? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @07:01AM (#4366158)
      GRE stands for Graduate Record Exam. Its the graduate equivalent of the SAT (another test taken to get into university). The GRE is broken usually into 2 parts. A general exam similar to the SAT ( MCAT, GMAT, LSAT etc etc ) that is supposed to test general knowledge and aptitude. Then there is the course or area specific portion which tests your knowledge of the area of study to which you are applying. eg: Comp. Sci. specific.

      These are very popular or fairly popular at least in the US
    • Re:GRE? (Score:3, Informative)

      Could someone in the US please tell me what a "GRE" exam is?

      The Graduate Record Exam is a standardized test administered by the non-profit (yeah, right) College Board (same people who do the SATs). It's usually a required test for anyone wishing to gain admittance to graduate school. In addition to the general test, which tests language skills, basic math, and analytical skills, they also offer a wide range of subject tests. Some schools just require the general, some require both the general and subject tests. The cost for the general test when I took it was a whopping $90 or so. It's a grueling test that will ruin your day. Takes about 3-4 hours. The best part is that it's on computer and you get your scores instantly.
      • ...same people who do the SATs

        Which of course leads us to the question, what is an SAT?

        Al.
      • It's a grueling test that will ruin your day. Takes about 3-4 hours. The best part is that it's on computer and you get your scores instantly.

        That way it can ruin your night as well...

        GMD

    • The GRE, General Ripoff Exams, is a test that many graduate programs require as part of their entrance applications. The subject exams are sometimes hijacked by specialists in certain areas of the relevant fields which means that only a small portion of people do well on them. For example, one year the biology exam might be overly weighted toward plant biology which means that all of the zoology students get screwed.

      A lot of people ignore the subject exams and concentrate on the general exams which are a better indicator of a students aptitude (IMHO). The main reason to require the exams is tradition and laziness. This is why the testing service will be in business for a very long time.

      • I always thought it was to compensate, to provide an additional factor for weighing admissions. After all, a 4.0 GPA (or in my case, much lower) at Podunk U. really won't impress too many people without a measuring stick against other schools. The GRE gives us Podunkers a chance to demonstrate that our abilities can be on par with those at the uppercrust schools.

        For me, standardized testing has been a Godsend, because I always perform at a much higher level on them (app. 2.5 GPA HS, but 30 ACT) and I receive opportunities (and unfortunately, expectations) that I wouldn't otherwise.
  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @06:56AM (#4366148) Homepage
    ... the point of GREs. Undergraduate entrance exams make sense; they verify that you have the prerequisite knowledge to take (pretty standard) undergraduate courses.

    At the graduate level, however, you're supposed to be doing research. How do you define what knowledge is prerequisite for doing research in computer science? You can't -- all you can do is interview the students, get a feel for what sort of projects they are interested in, and decide if those projects sound as though they would be worth a degree.

    Maybe things are different in the US of A, but I don't think I would personally want to study at any institution which would admit me on the basis of how well I did on an exam.
    • by rknop ( 240417 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @07:05AM (#4366170) Homepage

      At the graduate level, however, you're supposed to be doing research. How do you define what knowledge is prerequisite for doing research in computer science? You can't -- all you can do is interview the students, get a feel for what sort of projects they are interested in, and decide if those projects sound as though they would be worth a degree.

      Things probably are different in the USA. I should disclaim that I'm in Physics&Astronomy, rather than Computer Science, but I suspect many of the same things apply.

      A student who goes to grad school knows that he wants to get into research, and, yes, that's what grad school is all about. However, it's the rare student who really knows exactly what he wants to do when he goes to grad school. Many will have some idea as to what field they want to go into-- e.g., in Physics, they may know if they're interested in astro, nuclear, particle, condensed matter, or something else-- and a few students will know what profoessor or project they want to work with, but it's the rare student that knows beyond that.

      Part of the purpose of grad school is so that students can learn, in an apprenticeship sort of mode, how to go about doing research. As such, judging them on the ideas for projects they have isn't really fair. Yes, it would increase the quality of grad students, as only the very top ones would ever get in. However, undergraduate education does very little to prepare students for that sort of thing, as that is part of the purpose of graduate education.

      On to the GRE's. In Physics, there *is* a core set of knowledge that "any" Physics graduate student ought to have. Indeed, most schools have core courses (or core exams) which the students must take beyond that, to get the basics of the field, before they can be admitted to candidacy (at which point, yes, it is based partly on their presentation of what they will do for their research, and thereafter mostly all they are doing is working on their research). This admission to candidacy will typically come after the student's second year of graduate school. The GRE's give some vague indication (up to the general utility of standardized test, which is a whole different debate) of how well prepared a student is to survive those first two years of graduate classes.

      -Rob

      • A student who goes to grad school knows that he wants to get into research, and, yes, that's what grad school is all about.

        This is not always true. For instance, my wife is studying to be a Clinical Psychologist, and to become a practicing Psychologist, you need to have your Ph.D. (though sometimes a Master's will work too). While it's true that you have to do research to get your Ph.D., a "Clinical Psychology" program exists to train Clinical Psychologists. "Clinical" specifically means you work with people to help them, not to do research.

        That said, my wife did have to take the GRE as part of the application process.
    • At the graduate school I went to (SUNY at Stony Brook), they didn't care about your GRE in their subject, becuase they could teach you that. They cared about the Math and English, because they didn't want to teach you that.
    • by astroboy ( 1125 ) <ljdursi@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @08:04AM (#4366390) Homepage
      The GRE -- or a standardized test in general -- is a useful tool. It gives you a few very broad results for lots of people in a way that's known to be uniformly assessed, at the expense of a certain arbitrariness.

      With personal interviews, you get a lot more discretion in the interviewing, and you can get a lot more depth of information, so things are a little less arbitrary -- but then you get the biases of the interviewers; someone who one interviewer might think is brilliant, another might dismiss as a hack. So you get deeper, more nuanced information, but less uniform and differently arbitrary.

      Don't forget that in the US, most students coming into Ph.D. programs are coming straight out of undergraduate, so there is a real question of making sure everyone has the same background, and the students aren't launched immediately into research the way they might be in a system where you do a Master's first. Also, in a field like CS, you have people coming in from Math, CS, Physics, or Engineering background, so a `level laying field'-test is a useful tool.

      The GRE provides four numbers -- a score on a subject test, and scores on three general tests -- logic problems, basic mathematics, and english skills. All of those can be useful pieces of information -- a bright person who can't read or write is unlikely to be a good TA or, for that matter, work well in groups where reports need to be written often. A person who knows tonnes about their subject but can't solve simple logic problems is unlikely to be a really creative researcher, etc.

      When you have 500 people applying to your department, and you can only accept 20 or so students, you need a quick way of pruning the list to 50-100 or so, who you can then start looking at in more detail. For that, you need a broad, uniform measure, which is exactly what the GRE provides.

      I don't know any department that bases its acceptances solely on the basis of the highest GRE scores, and those who did probably deserve the students they get. (A Yale and Cornell study [cornell.edu] found that GRE scores corellated well with the students coursework grades, but poorly with overall sucess as a grad student). But it is a useful piece of information, and helps sorting through huge pools of applicants. Like any standardized test, the problems come when people take the tests too seriously, usually by assuming that the tests measure something that the test doesn't even claim to test for.

    • Undergraduate entrance exams make sense; they verify that you have the prerequisite knowledge to take (pretty standard) undergraduate courses.

      On the contrary, undergraduate entrance exams do not make sense because (okay, I'm only talking about the SAT here - limited experience), because they are so easy that all you need to do is be a good "test taker" and you can own them. Being a good test taker basically means approaching every question with the attitude that you can get the right answer because one of the choices is right and you've been exposed to the information needed to find it at some point in the past (by 9th grade, 10th grade at the latest). Little actual thinking and knowledge are required to get any question on the SAT correct.

      As a result, anyone can do well on an undergraduate entrance exam, not necessarily people who are either smart or a good student. GREs are a little different in that the material is "hard", but they're still multiple guess. The requirement of having a hard multiple choice problem means that most problems have to fall into one of a few patterns of "ways you can make a multiple choice question hard." So again, good test takers can own the tests. Except this time, the amount of knowledge required is higher, indicating that the taker may have had to learn something as an undergrad. This means the test does a better job of measuring if the taker is a good student: a person who can readily learn what they do not already know (and work hard). Remember, "smart" people are not necessarily what a school desires. Graduate schools are a little more keen to this and therefore don't require the GRE or subject GREs as often as they require SATs/ACTs.

    • The GRE's main use is to get rid of the people who want to stay in college forever.
    • The idea is to have a uniform way of comparing students from different schools. Any two schools have different curricula, different grading standards, etc. so a standardized test allows the graduate program to determine if your background includes proficiency in the areas they expect. Very few schools, if any, admit solely (or even primarily) on the basis of exam score; much more weight is given, for example, to your personal statement where you describe your research interests. The test score just gives them another way of judging if you're sufficiently prepared to succeed in their graduate program.
  • I completed an MS in computer science and the schools I applied to preferred I take the general GRE as opposed to the subject specific test because its a better overall measure of a candidate... How many of you had to specifcally take a subject test?

  • Yeah (Score:1, Troll)

    by Konster ( 252488 )
    Cheating in the East is an accepted method of scholastic advancement. Hell, it's an accepted method of superficial scholastic advancement within most circles, provided your parents have the financial wherewithal to fund such personal extravagances.

    To think that GRE exams are being salted by massive P2P software is a bit misleading. The abusers of the system have been abusing systems for thousands of years; to think that this is a new phenomenon is foolish. That they would use P2P programs is to be expected, and that they would hide behind lies and grand mistruths is to be anticipated.

    Ban them from the universities and kick them out of the country. If they are not in the country, ban then from ever entering.
  • "If we continue to offer this test in these countries where our investigation has revealed students immediately post test questions on the Internet, it will threaten the usefulness of the test both for U.S. graduate admission officers and students worldwide," said Carole Beere, chair of the GRE Board.

    Even before students started sharing test questions on the internet, standardized tests only test memorization. It does is terrible job of measuring intelligence and critical analysis. Why in the world people believe SAT and GRE are useful is beyond me. Sure the system has been that way for a long time and everyone knows it's broken, but no one is willing to fix it. People with money to send their kids to test prep schools are the ones who benefit from standardized tests.

    Not that anyone cares, but standardized tests were originally created to level the playing field for college admission. I forget who created it (saw a special on discovery), but the original intent was to make it so a smart poor kid could get into college. In practice, that is far from reality. Most of the kids who score well on standardized tests get the results because of test prep schools. People who are brilliant don't count, since they don't need to study in the first place. Children of those who make less than 50K have a harder time, since they can't afford it. I fail to see how paying for a test prep school, which use old tests for practice is different from kids posting the questions for free. Well, except that it negates the need to pay 2K for GRE prep class.

  • And domestic kids should be given a shot.

    Sorry. After being rejected from a whole slew of grad schools for CS, this is just the way I feel.

    Select honest people (albeit with lower grades.)
    • In my experience (I was born here, my parents are from Taiwan), Americans are just not as interested in graduate school. Asians seem to value higher degrees (especially Ph.D.'s) much more than Americans.

      To be honest, unless you're interested in academia and research, there isn't much reason to get a CS Ph.D. From a job/financial standpoint, you might as well start working straight from college.

      Heck, when I was in college it seemed like a lot of the CS majors were just there for the job prospects. Those aren't the type of people who go to grad school. You have to have a real passion for the subject to want to slog through N years of grad school. Or you have to really want the letters after your name. Otherwise it ain't worth it.
    • "Select honest people" is a great mandate.

      You might feel that would mean curtailing intake of foreign grad students. You'll have to explain that position very very well. The two statements are completely unrelated.

      You'll also have to explain why US universities should be beholden to US citizens. US universities should work to become the best universities that they can.

      After you show that, you'll have to prove that admitting fantastic foreign students does not improve the quality of education for the American students.

      • You'll also have to explain why US universities should be beholden to US citizens. US universities should work to become the best universities that they can.

        I agree with most of your points, but this one is pretty simple. In the case of private universities, the answer is that they shouldn't. In the case of government funded universities, they should serve the interests of the citizens that government represents and acquires those funds from.

    • So "domestic" == "honest", and "foreign" == "dishonest"? What, do you work for the Bush Administration or something?
    • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @11:57AM (#4367913) Homepage
      I'm shocked that such a blatantly racist statement can get modded up on this board.

      I'm sorry you were rejected from a whole slew of grad schools. I'm sorry your abilities, your knowledge and your intelligence were deemed inferior to a whole bunch of people inspite of the natural advantage you held as far as the language and accessibility of technology is concerned.

      I'm sorry, universities are not run as a charity system. Most scholarships are paid for by industrial sponsors who want to see research results from their money.

      I went to grad school at a top-10 school for CS. There is a whole slew of scholarships and opportunities that are available for US citizens and residents which are just not there for foreign students. As a result, many US students were admitted over much better international students. The few foreign students that were there were the cream of the class - and outdid most of the local students in terms of what they achieved for their professors and for the prestige of the university.
    • Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Convergence ( 64135 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @12:29PM (#4368145) Homepage Journal
      Deal..

      I applied for grad schools about 2.5 years ago, and got 5 rejection letters...

      Did I hate 'abroad students'? No.. I did research and grad classes for 2 years, and tried again, last winter, and had a choice between two top shcools, in a much tougher year for grad schools.. I still got 3 rejection letters, but I got in.

      Another thing, if you're applying to top schools, try setting your sights a little lower. There are enough spectacular faculty that *any* top-40 school will have them.

      Finally, remember, a lot of the application process is chance and brownian motion. If a faculty member is interested in your particular skills&background, spectacular, if that member isn't on the admissions committee this year, better luck next year.
    • Re:They are (Score:3, Informative)

      by elflord ( 9269 )
      When I was applying to grad schools, I lost count of the number of things that "required US citizenship" (in particular, financial support). Most of the decent schools accept mostly American students, and only a small number of overseas students (who are usually much stronger). Some of the weaker universities accept a lot of foreign students.

      As for selecting honest people, that's a noble sentiment, but it's difficult to determine honesty on an application, and it's not practical to interview all candidates.

      • Most of the decent schools accept mostly American students, and only a small number of overseas students (who are usually much stronger). Some of the weaker universities accept a lot of foreign students.
        At MIT, at very substantial portion of the grad students are from other countries. Three of the four other people in my research group are international students. I'd imagine that international students are common in technical and engineering disciplines at most universities (this was the case at my undergrad university, UCSB).

        Incidentally, MIT requires neither the GRE General Exam nor the Computer Science Subject Test of applicants to their CS grad program.

  • In my AP English class, it sure seemed like we took a different AP English test every week to prepare. That class was pretty annoying, but I got a 5. That teacher knew how to get people to get 5's on those tests.
  • Next think you know..

    programmers will be sharing code

    Smacks of communism to me :-)
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @07:12AM (#4366187) Homepage
    Considering it's a Computer Science exam, I propose that whoever hacked in to get the questions in the first place should get an automatic 100.

    P.S.
    Yes, I read the article. I took comedic licence with the facts. (I didn't like them, so I ignored them.)

    -
  • According to the ETS, significant numbers of questions from the GRE Computer Science Subject Test have been illegally revealed to test takers in recent months despite students signing an agreement they would not share questions from the test.

    It is extremely naive to assume that students will keep their mouths shut after taking an exam. Of course they'll talk, discuss solutions and see how well they did compared to others.

    I took the CS "AGRE" (as it was called then) in the 80s, and after we came out of the exam, we were discussing the questions and were able to reconstruct the entire exam (including the multiple choices) in a manner of minutes. An astute listener who was scheduled to take the exam months later could easily have obtained the list of 80 questions that we had. Of course, not all of them would have been repeated; but some might have.

    • You think they might have done this? I'm positive of it. I'll bet there's a concerted effort to cull these questions and answers and proliferate them to whatever group the students are associated with.

      When I was an undergrad, I found that many cliques of students had access to past exams, answer keys, teacher's manuals, etc.

      Pissed me off till no end that these bastards had an unfair advantage over me.
  • I'm sure it all started harmless enough. Need to test the aptitude of incomming students. Devise test. Make the test a prerequisite to apply for admittance. Next thing you know an entire industry forms to meet the demand. Prep tests, gouge sheets, seminars, etc.

    What a phenominal load of crap. Lazy admissions departments would just rather plug numbers into a computer than actually learn about potential students. Standardized testing is a self-fulfilling prophesy - skim off the top ten percent for the top ten percent of schools. Of course its gonna look like a success. But then again, a hundred years ago it was all about advancing the knowledge of humanity. Now it's just a hole in a punchcard. What a horrible waste of resources. To think, there is probable some kid out there willing to work his ass off to push the knowledge envelope, but he'll never get the chance because Podunk Community College doesn't have decent research facilities and Ivy University won't even look at somone without a high score on the monkey test.

    • Lazy admissions departments would just rather plug numbers into a computer than actually learn about potential students.

      Give them a way to do so, and they might. But even if you drag student the thousands of miles it would take many of them to reach you for an interview, how much does that really tell you? Test numbers are somewhat reliable ways to pull the best students out of the mix.

      skim off the top ten percent for the top ten percent of schools [...] Podunk Community College doesn't have decent research facilities

      Right. I went to Podunk High School and scored very well on the SAT. I've taken a look at the GRE study guides - looks like the exact same type of test. You don't need research facilities; you need a brain. And Podunk Community has a library and Podunk State (right across the street) certainly does.

      But then again, a hundred years ago it was all about advancing the knowledge of humanity.

      A hundred years ago? "Hey, we got mail from Podunk!" "You mean that place that just became a state? I hear they actually let women vote. Barbarians." "They sent an application. Some miner who probably can't speak a word of Latin thinks he can join Ivy. What arrogance." And the application got trashed.
  • Regardless of your feelings about this particular case, does it seem to you like people, especially in America, are less ethical than they have been in previous generations or is that just "greatest generation" nostalgia? I'm pretty sure there is a lot more cheating now than there used to be even twenty years ago, leading to business practices like those seen at Tyco and Enron.
  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zzz ( 90782 )
    My quantum mechanics teacher has a very good solution to this. He had a file with 100 problems. An exam was a random draw of 3 of those. You could get all problems, plus all completely elaboreated answers from him if you asked for it. If you could memorize the correct answers to those 100 questions, you knew what was required for the subject...
    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @08:27AM (#4366574) Journal
      My quantum mechanics teacher has a very good solution to this. He had a file with 100 problems. An exam was a random draw of 3 of those.

      Yeah, I had the same teacher, and it was tougher than just that.

      The three questions were actually superpositions of the 100, so you wouldn't know what they were until you observed them on the test ;)
      • The three questions were actually superpositions of the 100, so you wouldn't know what they were until you observed them on the test ;)

        Yeah, and every time you re-read the problem, it would change on you!

        GMD

  • by trix_e ( 202696 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @08:03AM (#4366380)
    "unlike prior years, there will be no April 2003 Computer Science Test administration, worldwide"

    So in years past, they *have* given an April 2003 Computer Scienct Test?
  • affecting admissions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flwombat ( 190748 )
    I have to admit I'm a little freaked out about this. Most of the grad schools I have been looking at applying to say that the subject GRE is not required, but strongly recommended, especially if you are applying to a PhD program like I am. If it's strongly recommended, then I'm damn well going to do it.

    On the other hand, my test date is Dec. 14 (the Nov. test was cancelled, and there are no other test dates between now and then). Admissions applications for one of the schools I'm interested in is Dec 15th. So I sort of have to hope that a lot of other people are in the same boat, so that my already meager chances aren't flattened by this mess.

    • I would expect that people in charge of selecting students for grad school programs are aware of the situation and will consider it when determining eligibility. While taking this test may be strongly recommended, there are many other factors which will weigh more heavily on their decision.
  • Missing the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blackcoot ( 124938 )

    Okay, so it sucks to be an honest person trying to take the exam in China or India; hopefully there'll be enough upset people that they'll go let the jerks who did break their agreements with ETS (which you have to sign before you're even allowed into the testing site) know just how unhappy they are. For the rest of us, I'm glad to see that ETS is enforcing their agreement; it means that when I start applying to PhD programs, the admissions committees will not be comparing my ability to do well on the GRE with other peoples' abilities to cheat their way to the top.

    More importantly, were you on an admissions board, would you want candidates who have shown flagrant disregard for non-disclosure agreements (which is a large part of the contract you sign with ETS as a test taker)? Do you want people who have shown themselves to be unethical, especially with recently exposed cases of scientific fraud, entering your professional societies and being associated with your programs? The answer should be no. It doesn't matter if the people involved in the cheating consider it to be wrong. It doesn't matter whether or not, within their cultures, what we in the western world consider to be cheating is perfectly fine. The fact remains that when you apply to a school in America, you will be held to American standards; the same is true for any other country.

  • There has been other cheating on the GRE uncovered this summer. AP had a story [ucsd.edu] on how there were Korean and Chinese GRE cheat databases.

    I'm sure that it's pretty common especially given the insane scores of some people on the exams. I've seen a lot of CS grad school applications where the scores do not match the person who shows up. I mean there are some seriously stupid people who have 99% on EVERY section of the GRE. Most often, you'd see someone with a 99% on the English portion of the test who'd show up and have an obviously low command of spoken and written English. Typically this was most obvious in Chinese students -- too bad because this is probably one of those "one bad apple" problems.

    Of course I disagree with the whole idea of the CS portion of the exam. I mean I remember some stuff on there was just bizarre. Karnaugh maps and crap like that -- who cares?
    • mean there are some seriously stupid people who have 99% on EVERY section of the GRE.

      Nonsense. I had perfect scores on the Quantitative and Analytical sections and that only qualifies for a 98%ile.

      If the general math standards weren't so pathetic in the US, maybe the Quantitative section wouldn't be the joke it is right now.
  • Someone please explain this to me:

    The GRE CS Subject test is (with the exception of this year) offered in April, November and December. Most applications for graduate programs are due in December (or Jan.1 at the latest). I was just starting to prepare for all of this in April, and was shocked to find that there were NO dates for the CS test (which is required or 'strongly recommended' by all the schools to which I'm applying) until November. Since it's a paper-based test, results take 4-6 weeks or so to get through to the schools. Which means that even taking the test in November, there's a chance that your school of choice won't get your CS scores by Dec. 15, a popular application deadline.

    WHY? Why on EARTH would the test be offered in December and not, say, July or August? Is it just done that way to make life more frustrating for grad school applicants?

    And now, on top of this, the november test is canceled. Thankfully, all the schools to which I'm applying said they're going to happily take late scores this year due to the cancellation, and that it won't affect my application process, but I must say it's driving me nuts that I'll still be worrying about and studying for the CS exam in the final weeks of the application process, when I'd rather be speaking with professors, gathering recommendation letters, and working on my statement of purpose. Instead, I'll still be making sure I've got the ins and outs of compiler design and plenty of other areas of CS that I don't ever plan to really study in depth fresh in my mind, and I won't even know what my scores are before I send in the application.

    Oh, well. That's enough crankiness for one morning.

    -Dan.
  • Ever since testing switched to computer-based, there have been easier and easier ways to cheat devised. I took the GRE on paper 5 years ago, and they were just starting to roll out CBT for it (the GMAT was already at 50% computer-administered or so.) It was a seven-hour ordeal (general and Chemistry subject test) conducted in a secure auditorium. And unless a proctor snuck Kaplan TestPrep a copy of the test booklet or some student with a photographic memory barfed out the questions after the test, there was no way the test could be leaked.

    Flash forward to now, where all the testing is outsourced to Prometric and other companies, who further outsource it to Mom 'N' Pop's MCSE Training School. Who's keeping them honest? The questions are downloaded right to their server; what's to stop them from selling them to whoever wants them?

    The number one thing that killed the MCSE as a valid credential was the braindumpers who had access to the exam questions, or who could take the exams over and over again under the "old" retake policy. And given that Transcender makes tons of money selling practice tests, I'm sure they sent in a few test takers of their own. The same could be said for Kaplan.

    Add this to the fact that many MCSE cheat schools have been busted for taking the exams for students, giving them help, etc. Makes you wonder how much is being leaked...

    Granted, the general section of the GRE is an aptitude test. The only possible advantage you could have is access to the reading passages beforehand, or knowing what the logic questions looked like. But buying a test prep book gives you a general idea of what you see. However, the subject test is quite another story. That thing was a bear, and I was a good chemistry student. Several hours of random trivia questions, some in subjects we'd never even covered. There, access to the material beforehand would be a cheater's dream come true.

  • by dwallach ( 153573 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @11:49AM (#4367857) Homepage
    I'm an assistant professor at Rice University, in the CS department, and I've been part of the committee that admits grad students. Since there seem to be a lot of questions here, I'll try to answer them as best I can.

    Admissions to a research program, like ours, is based on a bunch of different things. A good way to think of it is that your statement of purpose and your letters of recommendation are the things that build your case and everything else is an opportunity for you to shoot yourself in the foot.

    First, on behalf of every professor inundated with e-mails, let me say that there's no benefit, whatsoever, in mass e-mailing every professor on the planet to see if they're interested in you. However, if you have a particular research interest that matches a particular professor (say, security of peer-to-peer systems or of mobile code systems, in my case), then do send that one professor a personal e-mail.

    So, then, what makes for a good statement of purpose or good letters of recommendation? I always look for evidence that you've got technical interests beyond what you've done in class. I also look for evidence that you didn't just go to "how to get into grad school" school and follow their instructions blindly. Some of these letters just stink like they came from an insert-your-name-here template. Don't tell me "I have lots of energy!" Describe all the work that your energy has produced. Likewise, in many countries, it's customary for the student to write letters of recommendation on behalf of their advisors, who just sign them. Make your advisors write personal letters.

    So, what value are the GRE scores? For the General GRE exam, there's some minimal value if the applicant is from the U.S. or Europe, but absolutely zero value if the applicant is from India or China. I don't know what they do over there, but every student seems to ace the exams, probably because they study so hard for them. The exams, thus, aren't measuring anything more than rote ability.

    The CS subject test used to actually be useful and a strong score there would catch my attention (and a weak score was a huge red flag). Now, without that, we'll probably end up looking more at transcripts.

    Still, let me emphasize, the best way to impress somebody like me is not with good grades or test scores, it's with research and technical experience beyond your class assignments. If you've worked with a professor on a research project, or if your code has found its way into the Linux kernel, that will get my attention (and I'll go look at the source to make sure you're telling the truth).

    Obligatory plug: I'm looking for good security-minded students with strong backgrounds in systems and/or programming languages. If that's you, contact me [rice.edu].

    • > I don't know what they do over there, but
      > every student seems to ace the exams, probably
      > because they study so hard for them. The
      > exams, thus, aren't measuring anything more
      > than rote ability.

      You're a very upbeat guy, Dan! I mean, optimistic. I'll tell you how it works -- they cheat.

      I live in Taiwan and have a sister-in-law who is studying to take the GRE. The advantage in Asia (India?? -- I think this is a Rumor!) is that they have "Teachers" that take the GRE test every few months on the computer. While they are taking the test, they memorize in their heads each question. Once they're done they come back out and teach 2 month long classes for big $$$ to the students.

      I don't know what the history is as far as what cancellation came first, but the GRE people have cancelled the Computer-based General test for the express purpose of reducing continuing cheating that happens in Asia.

      Everything in Asia is now written and its going to stay that way for a long time. This is why previously any GRE scores coming from Asia has zero value!
  • Maybe this will force admissions officers to actually evaluate candidates, instead of relying on a standardized test administered by a "non-profit" that taxes graduate applicants all over the world to the tune of $100 each.
  • I took the CS GRE in April of 2001. I got back my results, which were decent (low 90s, percentile-wise) but I thought I could do better. When I eventually didn't get into the grad schools I wanted, I figured I'd take it again, giving the bloodsuckers at ETS another ~$150. I admit that this probably wasn't necessary, but oh well.

    So I took the exam again April of 2002 and noticed that one of the questions had two correct answers. In fact, it was the only programming question on the exam and it was pretty trivial.

    The test was on a Saturday. So I get ready to send a letter to ETS on Monday, when I find scores in my mailbox. "Man, a 2-day turnaround? When did they become efficient?" I thought. It turns out they were revised scores from the April 2001 test, which they had graded wrong. My score jumped to upper 90s without my doing anything. "Don't worry, we'll send new reports to all schools you sent your scores to", they said. Great, a lot of good that does me in April.

    I sent in the letter, they admitted the question had two correct answers and wouldn't be scored, and I eventually got back scores, which were exactly the same as the revised 2001 results.

    So, moral of the story -- don't take the test twice. Just take it once and assume that something will go wrong that's not your fault.
  • Yeah yeah, we all know that testing sucks and is usually a poor indicator of anything real. However, the alternatives are not very pleasent either.

    The best way to assess somebody would be to work with them in a long-term project, but that is not practical on a mass scale.

    The best we can do without breaking the bank is a combination of interview, references, and testing. This is just what most colleges use.

    If you have a magic solution, then lets hear it.

    It is one of those things that are easy to gripe about, but hard to solve in practice and/or on a long-term scale. World hunger also fits that bill, BTW.
  • by ProfMoriarty ( 518631 ) on Tuesday October 01, 2002 @11:01PM (#4371624) Journal
    This is a very interesting story, with many interesting thoughts.

    Please note, that I have never even seen these tests, nor know anyone who has ... but I'll still pipe in :)

    Instead of keeping the questions and answers "secret" ... create something like the amateur radio community has ... a large question pool (which is published), with a very limited number of questions actually asked.

    The reasoning behind it, is for the sake of easily administering tests. Everybody knows the questions involved, and what you need to study is the theory behind it, not the answers ...

    Now for something like this, you would have to have a HUGE question pool for each section, just to make sure that nobody knows WHICH question will be asked ... just make sure that you know the theory behind the question.

    Obviously, you'll run into problems with programmable calculators being brought in, so a way to fix that would be to supply calculators (if necessary) that have all of the capabilities required.

    Anyway ... just my thoughts on the process ...

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