Graduate admissions testing changes due to coronavirus pandemic

Celine Bellegarda/Staff

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Because of the coronavirus pandemic, administrators of the MCAT, GRE, LSAT and GMAT — entry exams for medical, graduate, law and business schools, respectively — have had to reassess how to proctor exams remotely.

The GRE, LSAT and GMAT have all started switching to at-home formats of the tests. Both the GRE and the GMAT are offering at-home tests through mid-June, while the LSAT is offering one at-home test at the end of May, according to Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep. The MCAT is in the process of adding new testing dates, according to its website.

Thomas added that students who want to go to graduate, law, medical or business school are worried about how these new test-taking options will affect their admissions. 

“These students should not feel disadvantaged to take alternative tests,” Thomas said.

Some tests, including the LSAT and GMAT, have restructured their exams to be conducive to online formats, according to Thomas. They have reduced the length of their exams: The LSAT shortened from five sections to three sections, and the GMAT removed its essay portion

The GRE, however, is “identical in content, format, length, scoring and pricing,” according to Alberto Acereda, executive director of global higher education at Educational Testing Service, which oversees the GRE. There will be multiple security measures in place for students taking the test, including human proctoring and artificial intelligence.

Geoffrey Basye, spokesperson for the Graduate Management Admission Council, which oversees the GMAT, said in an email that the GMAT’s online exam will be a “short-term solution” due to the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He added that there are some testing centers, in accordance with local government measures, currently open for students who want to take the exam in person.

“If test centers in a specific location are open and a candidate feels safe accessing a test center facility, they are encouraged to do so in accordance with local directives,” Basye said in an email.

According to Thomas, the MCAT has yet to make plans on an alternative testing style. Karen Mitchell, senior director of admissions testing service for the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, said in an email that the AAMC is working to “modify” MCAT operations.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that campus graduate programs will “be mindful of COVID-19 effects” when considering admissions for next year. She added that the GRE is already optional for some campus graduate programs.

Thomas added that if the at-home formats show success in the first few examinations, increased flexibility for online tests in the future might be possible. He noted that accessibility to testing is always evolving.

“If this goes well and it is a preferred test-taking experience by students, and schools report a reliability of scores, it wouldn’t surprise me if online tests became a more regular feature in the future,” Thomas said.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.