Starting this fall, test-takers won't need a No. 2 pencil to complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which is required for graduate-school admission.
Through a contract with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), about 100 Sylvan Technology Centers will offer the test by computer.
"We hope to be the precursor of a major shift toward computerized testing," says Douglas Becker, president of Sylvan Learning Systems. "You can come in virtually every day or every other day to the Sylvan Technology Center, take the test, and receive an instant score report on your performance."
The GRE, which is taken by more than 300,000 people every year, will still be offered with pencil and paper five times a year. But the computerized test will be administered three times a week at the Sylvan locations.
While the paper-and-pencil test costs $45 and requires a six- to eight-week wait for scores, taking the GRE on a computer will cost $90 and provide a score report on the spot.
"The worst part about a test is waiting to see what you got on it," says Barbara Palermo, owner of a Sylvan Technology Center in Woburn, Mass. "So I imagine this is going to be appealing to people who want instant results."
At the Woburn center, five students at a time can take the exam in a computer lab that automatically transmits the answers to the ETS.
Eventually, the ETS plans to administer the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is taken by 1.6 million college-bound students, by computer.
The Federal Aviation Administration has also licensed Sylvan to give pilot exams.