September PGRE today

mikeh
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Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2015 1:57 pm

September PGRE today

Postby mikeh » Sat Sep 19, 2015 2:01 pm

I just took the PGRE for the first time today, and it seemed a lot easier than most of the practice tests I took in preparation, even the official practice exams from ETS. Does anyone know how much the scaling factor could be affected?

Cosmos1
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Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:52 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby Cosmos1 » Sat Sep 19, 2015 4:14 pm

Yes, this test was a piece of cake compared to all of the released exams. I'm guessing a 990 will be a raw score of at least 90, as the 2001 exam had a 990 at 85.

cwr
Posts: 35
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:41 am

Re: September PGRE today

Postby cwr » Sat Sep 19, 2015 4:43 pm

Yeah, I'll be interested to see what the scale ends up being.

The most recent released exam is definitely much easier than the others, and this exam felt easier than that.

rsfadia
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Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2015 10:45 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby rsfadia » Sat Sep 19, 2015 10:59 pm

Yeah, it was considerably easier than any of the practice exams. I answered 90 out of 100, where with the practice exams I would attempt only 60 to 70. Either I was being reckless, or they were that much easier.

Does anyone else feel disappointed by this level of difficulty? Perhaps my logic is wrong, but I feel like an easy exam puts a small threshold on getting a large score, thus crowding up the right half of the percentile. Those who studied a lot (and I am not saying I was one of those people) do not have an opportunity to demonstrate their extended knowledge with tests like these. Thoughts?

cwr
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Re: September PGRE today

Postby cwr » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:26 pm

Yeah, it was considerably easier than any of the practice exams. I answered 90 out of 100, where with the practice exams I would attempt only 60 to 70. Either I was being reckless, or they were that much easier.


I think it's safe to say you weren't being (that) reckless. I finished much earlier than normal, and the questions were definitely at a lower level of depth than previous released exams.

And I agree about the degree of difficulty. The only questions that I didn't answer were ones for which I just didn't know the topic in question, rather than on past exams where you'll get "oh, I know this but I forget how to solve it!" on some tougher problems.

It also makes me scared as to exactly how the scaled scores will turn out.

someguy
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Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:29 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby someguy » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:32 pm

I also took this test today. Thought it was extremely easy as well (save for the usual questions where I just didn't know the topic). Really scared about the scores lol....

metapuff
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Joined: Sat Aug 22, 2015 11:28 am

Re: September PGRE today

Postby metapuff » Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:08 am

Yeah, definitely much easier than the practice exams. The first ~20 questions in particular -- I almost felt insulted that we were being given such easy questions! This is not good, though... I'm the kind of person who is prone to make lots of dumb mistakes on simple problems. And a 990 working out to be a raw score of ~90 wouldn't surprise me. What gives, ETS?

slowdweller
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Re: September PGRE today

Postby slowdweller » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:41 am

Where did you guys take your exams? I took mine outside the US and thought it was quite difficult, and also a bit different. Many of the "usual" problems weren't asked and instead there were lots of non-trivial questions on topics I didn't know. I have a feeling they always give internationals the difficult versions for some reason :? .

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby TakeruK » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:57 am

rsfadia wrote:Yeah, it was considerably easier than any of the practice exams. I answered 90 out of 100, where with the practice exams I would attempt only 60 to 70. Either I was being reckless, or they were that much easier.

Does anyone else feel disappointed by this level of difficulty? Perhaps my logic is wrong, but I feel like an easy exam puts a small threshold on getting a large score, thus crowding up the right half of the percentile. Those who studied a lot (and I am not saying I was one of those people) do not have an opportunity to demonstrate their extended knowledge with tests like these. Thoughts?


Are you serious?? I have two responses: First, every year, people say this about the test. They said it about my exam too but the distribution ended up being pretty regular.

Second, no one cares if a 990 means the top 93rd percentile or the top 98th percentile. It is true that "crowding" the upper end of the distribution means that it's not possible to distinguish between the 94th percentile and the 99th percentile but when will this ever matter?

I can think of one reason way where something unfair might happen:

Two candidates are exactly tied in every way, however Person A would have been in the 98th percentile and Person B would have been in the 94th percentile had the test been harder. Since the test was "easy", they are both placed in the 93rd percentile (because 7% of test takers scored 990). So, the school could not distinguish between A and B.

However, in reality, at this level, both A and B would be admitted. Even the top schools do not have cutoffs that are at the 990 scaled score level!! The difference does not matter here.

In every other case, there is no need to distinguish between the PGRE performance of A and B. There is no way that a school that would originally picked B would somehow change their mind if they knew that if the test was harder, A would have scored higher. The PGRE score plays only one role in the whole process and there are a lot of other factors that are a lot more important than the PGRE score. I don't think 93rd vs 99th percentile gives you any advantage in the process!

someguy
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Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:29 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby someguy » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:58 am

slowdweller wrote:Where did you guys take your exams? I took mine outside the US and thought it was quite difficult, and also a bit different. Many of the "usual" problems weren't asked and instead there were lots of non-trivial questions on topics I didn't know. I have a feeling they always give internationals the difficult versions for some reason :? .
Yeah, I took it in the US.

I think the reason for them giving different tests is b/c of time zones.

TakeruK wrote:Are you serious?? I have two responses: First, every year, people say this about the test. They said it about my exam too but the distribution ended up being pretty regular.
Well that's somewhat reassuring lol. When did you take yours, and by regular, do you mean the distribution ended up being roughly like the '01/'08 exams?

Cosmos1
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Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:52 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby Cosmos1 » Sun Sep 20, 2015 1:32 pm

Actually, I think an easy exam would benefit those who normally are in the lower percentiles. If a very difficult exam was given, the less-prepared people wouldn't be able to answer all of the questions, while the well-prepared people would be able to answer most if not all of the questions. If the exam was very easy, the well-prepared people would still answer all of the questions, but the less-prepared people would be able to answer many more questions than before. So, I think by having an easier test, it allows the test takers to get through all of the questions, thus benefiting those people who normally can't get through them all.

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby TakeruK » Sun Sep 20, 2015 7:58 pm

someguy wrote:Well that's somewhat reassuring lol. When did you take yours, and by regular, do you mean the distribution ended up being roughly like the '01/'08 exams?


I took my exam in November 2011 and although many people also said it felt easier than the 2008 exam (I didn't think so though), the distribution ended up being close to the 2008 exam, if I recall correctly (there's no way to know for sure, but based on people comparing # of correct answers with their posted scaled score, I remember they matched up to the 2008 booklet pretty well.

Cosmos1 wrote:Actually, I think an easy exam would benefit those who normally are in the lower percentiles. If a very difficult exam was given, the less-prepared people wouldn't be able to answer all of the questions, while the well-prepared people would be able to answer most if not all of the questions. If the exam was very easy, the well-prepared people would still answer all of the questions, but the less-prepared people would be able to answer many more questions than before. So, I think by having an easier test, it allows the test takers to get through all of the questions, thus benefiting those people who normally can't get through them all.


I agree and I don't think it's a bad thing. The purpose of the PGRE is to provide information to admissions committee on candidates' physics knowledge for the purpose of admission decisions. So, benefiting the people who normally can't get through all of the questions at the expense of the lack of ability to distinguish between the upper ~5th percentile is a neutral thing, in my opinion. This is because there is no additional useful information provided to the admission committees if candidates in the upper 5% are distinguished!

cwr
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Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:41 am

Re: September PGRE today

Postby cwr » Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:52 pm

I took my exam in November 2011 and although many people also said it felt easier than the 2008 exam (I didn't think so though), the distribution ended up being close to the 2008 exam, if I recall correctly (there's no way to know for sure, but based on people comparing # of correct answers with their posted scaled score, I remember they matched up to the 2008 booklet pretty well.


If something similar ends up happening this time, I'd be quite happy with that. I scored favorably on the 2008 exam, and I felt much better about this one (even getting questions correct that I remembered because I missed them on earlier released exams, including 2008).

Does ETS post our number of correct answers and scaled score, or did people just know what sort of range they were in for number of correct answers (referring to your comment about comparing number of correct answers to scaled score above)?

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: September PGRE today

Postby TakeruK » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:56 am

cwr wrote:Does ETS post our number of correct answers and scaled score, or did people just know what sort of range they were in for number of correct answers (referring to your comment about comparing number of correct answers to scaled score above)?


Nope. When I first took the PGRE, in 2009, our personal score reports showed # of questions attempted, # correct, # incorrect, raw score, scaled score and percentile (however, the school's report only showed scaled score and percentile). However, in 2011, our personal reports only showed the scaled score and percentile.

So, everything everyone is posting (back in 2011 and also now) is based on their own impressions and guesses only. People who posted their scores generally counted the # of questions they answered and guessimated how many they got correct.

Of course, this is not precise at all but that's part of my point too. If you do search through posts on the days after every PGRE, you'll see people repeatedly saying the same thing: that the test was too easy and they all give various guesses on the # of questions they answered right. But this is just a subjective opinion that is probably not very reliable.

I do have some actual data though. I don't think the score distributions have changed very much over the last ~7 years. Here is the link to the 2008 score booklet: https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/practice_book_physics.pdf. Go to page 91 for the table of scaled score vs. percentile. This is for test takers between 2007 and 2010.

Now here is the table for the most current 3 years (2011-2014): https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table2.pdf. I think the two tables are consistent with each other. It is true that these are scaled scores, not raw scores; however, my point is that for the last 7 years, about 5% to 6% of test takers have scored 990 and about 14% to 15% of test takers scored above 900 and about 27% to 29% of test takers scored above 800 etc. This is not surprising because this is how the scaled scores are designed to work!

Even if the test difficulty is changing a bit and even if the raw scores are changing, I don't think there has been that much effect on "crowding up the upper percentiles" because these fractions have remained steady.

cwr
Posts: 35
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:41 am

Re: September PGRE today

Postby cwr » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:23 pm

If you do search through posts on the days after every PGRE, you'll see people repeatedly saying the same thing: that the test was too easy and they all give various guesses on the # of questions they answered right.


That's really encouraging, actually. Thanks!

My worry about the scaled scores -- since they stay roughly the same in terms of percentiles -- was that the raw score needed for a given scaled score would be much higher on this exam than previous ones (the 2008, specifically). But if everyone is always coming on here saying the same thing (i.e. that it was too easy) and the scores still come out similar to the 2008, then I feel a bit better.

It very well could be that it felt easy because, having learned from the 2008 and the other previous exams, I had a lot of the questions before.




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