Warning - Office of Testing Integrity and Achievable Techniques

Hello,

I recently took the GRE at a Prometric Test Center. After waiting 15 days for my results to appear on my ETS account, I began to suspect something was wrong with my test scores. I called ETS’s support services phone number to get more information - I was told that I would have to contact ETS’s Office of Testing Integrity…

Have you seen this behavior from ETS before? Is it possible that this is due to the analytical writing techniques proposed by this program or maybe the use of the “park screen” technique suggested on the blog (GRE Snacks 8 - How to get a real break on the GRE | Achievable Test Prep)?

Any suggestions for smartly moving forward with situations like this?

Thanks.

2 Likes

Hi @Matt1, thanks for posting about this - I can imagine how stressful this situation must be.

To the best of our knowledge, everything we teach is completely allowed within the ETS official rules.

I’ll discuss with our GRE experts and I’ll see if we can give you any tips on moving forward. Please also keep us updated if there is any news on your side.

Hi @Matt1. Orion here to answer your question.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the strategies I recommend are against the rules. That said, you certainly won’t find any official encouragement to, for example, use the park screen or fabricate evidence. So some of them exist in a kind of grey zone: they’re not in the rules, but they’re also not against the rules.

For instance, with respect to the writing section, this page states multiple times that the test “does not assess specific content knowledge.” This is also reiterated in many different ways in the documents validating the test. So that would be my defense if anyone called foul. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to “tempt fate.” Though the graders are instructed not to mark down for even obviously incorrect common knowledge (you always could have simply “misremembered” it), people are people. If the fabrication is flagrant or provocative, it might get flagged. In which case, the essay would go in front of a second human grader. This isn’t necessarily a problem – though it does slow things down.

Same goes for the park screen. This is literally built into the structure of the test. So I don’t see how it could be problematic. You could have just been waiting for the test to progress, like every other page. I recommend students spend two to three minutes there, and I’ve never received feedback from a student that this was an issue. However, if a student were to spend fifteen minutes on each screen – significantly extending the duration of the entire test – it might get flagged as a non-standard administration.

There are many, many reasons why a test might get flagged (i.e., writing during untimed portions, leaving the room too many times, disruptive behavior, accessing your phone, significant score improvement, etc.). And some of these reasons might not even have to do with you (i.e., security issues at the testing center). We might need to wait to hear back from ETS as to the specific issue. Please keep me informed. Hang in there!

1 Like

Just wanted to provide a quick update:

I’ve emailed the Office of Testing Integrity (TSReturns@ets.org) a few times and have found them to be unresponsive (exceeding their 5 business day response expectation as stated in their auto-reply).

I’ve also tried calling their phone line a few times but was met with exceptionally long hold times (in excess of 50 min, with an automatic disconnect). As a working professional, these calls are extremely inconvenient and costly to even attempt.

So in summary, although I have attempted to contact the Office of Testing Integrity for more information on several occasions, they have not gotten back to me even once — Very frustrating, especially considering that most graduate school application due dates have now come and gone.

1 Like

Thanks for the update. That sounds incredibly frustrating… you would think that they’d recognize the impact this has and help you promptly resolve whatever the issue might be.

My advice is to do your best to stay positive, continue to reach out to them when you can, and hopefully, they will work through their backlog and follow up with you soon.

Update - ETS released my test scores.

One of their test security managers sent me a memo stating:

"ETS received notification from the test center supervisor which stated that you failed to follow directions by taking an unscheduled break.

Your scores will be reported. However, please be advised that this type of behavior will not be tolerated
and that repeated violations may result in score cancellation and/or your exclusion from future testing."

So in summary, my scores were withheld for validation due to using the park screen technique and my exam was flagged by the test center supervisor. It is interesting that they call this an “unscheduled break”. It’s also interesting that the test center supervisor never gave me a warning of any kind. It might be worth revising your park screen content to let folks be aware that this can happen and to use it cautiously.

Thank you.

2 Likes

Hi Matt, thanks for following up.

I am really happy to hear that your scores will be reported, and I’m so sorry for all the worry that this has caused you while the ETS was sorting it out.

We’ve discussed it again for this time this morning. It feels like it is definitely in a grey area: not technically against the rules, which is why they backed down, but not clearly allowed behavior either, which is why the test center supervisor flagged it.

We’re going to err on the side of caution and recommend that people don’t use the park screen technique, as we want to avoid the possibility of this creating a similar situation in the future.

Thanks again for letting us know.