Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We need proof!

So, as many people in their 20's do, I'm taking the GRE. I knew I would have to talk to someone about the kind of accommodations I would need. So me and my aide called their disability office and explained my situation and what I would require. Before we could finish, the lady rattled off a list of forms I had to fill out. She told me I could not use my aide to write my answers on the test. Instead, the GRE would provide me with a "reader" and a "writer"(yes, that's two separate people). These people would be total strangers and not know how to read my board. She also explained that I need my doctor to define my disability and reccommend her accommodations. My doctor is GREAT but she has no clue what kinds of considerations I need in my daily life, let alone in a testing situation. I felt like I was not "qualified" to say what I needed. And after filling out all this paperwork, there is still no guarantee that I will be approved for the accommodations.

Now I am pretty confident I will get all the accommodations I need (because I don't take no for an answer) but what about the people that are not as stubborn as me or who don't have the time to fight it? Do they just get low scores and deal with the inconveniences? I have a friend who wanted to go to graduate school but the GRE people were so difficult to work with he said forget it. Bureaucracy can really be a pain in the neck.

14 comments:

  1. Wow - I can understand that they'd want to make sure that people who would want to be duplicitous can't have the opportunity, but having people who are totally new to reading your board (and needlessly having two of them) seems like overkill. Are they going to provide you all with enough time to make sure that everything works well?

    Well, eventually they will, because you're tenacious, but I agree - I hate to think of how this would work for someone who's less aggressive in asserting her needs. Forget low scores, it seems like it could be patently impossible for some folks if they just accept the accommodations as offered.

    When you get all the logistics squared away, good luck on the test itself!

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  2. The GRE people are horrible to work with in terms of access, horrible!

    Good luck, you will do great.

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  3. The great thing about bureaucracies is that they are predictable. Fill out your forms, get in their face, and they will jump as high as you tell them to. I know you'll have no problem on your tests.

    I was dismissed from law school my first year. I appealed and won. We may not have a lot in common, but I know you are at least as tenacious as I am. Hopefully you get "readers" and "writers" who accommodate you a bit better than I do.

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  4. LOL, Alice, I didn't read your comment before I posted mine. "Tenacious" seems to be the secret word today. Well done.

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  5. Oh, Eva--my daughter came home with severe laryngitis yesterday and could not talk at all. She immediately made herself a paper communication board with "I have laryngitis" so that she could point to that and answers to common questions and questions of her own (yes/no, maybe, so-so; who, what, why, etc.).

    She wrote out longer answers on subsequent pages. She got the idea from your blog/videos. Very efficient--I don't see others with laryngitis do more than write notes.

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  6. Just a thought: maybe the accommodation to counter-propose is the one they suggest but with the "writer" given time in the days before the exam to work with you to learn how to read your board. (From your previous descriptions, it sounds like someone could become proficient with a few hours' practice -- it's not something, like learning sign language, that takes years?)

    The obvious concern with allowing test-takers to bring in aides with whom they have pre-existing relationships (and who would in many cases be the test takers' employees) is collusion, because there's no easy way for the proctors to verify whether it was the test-taker or the aide who came up with the answer. Having a "neutral" writer who is vetted by the testing company reduces this concern.

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  7. Recently, there was a case of the LSATs failing to accomodate a blind test-taker. I can't remember all the details, but I think there was a court challenge that may still be ongoing. There was a lot of criticism in the legal press of the refusal to provide reasonable accomodations.

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  8. Steven, I believe yesterday there was also a case of a blind person not being given accommodations to vote in the UK.

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  9. Depending on your grad program they may not even require your scores. I am completing my Ph.D. and found out that while they cannot state that they do not require the scores many programs will tell you they don't need them if you ask. Contact the programs you are interested in and ask about their 'real' policy.

    As someone who didn't need accommodations I still found the GRE testing and policies to be absurd and Kafkaesque.

    I took the GRE even when I didn't need to because I refused to back down from a challenge. So, my advice: Give them hell!

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  10. Your experience really shows the limits of the whole idea of "standardized" doesn't it? How can non-standard people be assessed by a standardized test? Just think about the millions of ways people can be too varied to be assessed by a bureacratic instrument -- too poor, too black, too non-traditional. Thanks for your blog!

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  11. Wow, good luck. Your persistance will certainly be tested - I found the GRE people very trying to deal with. I didn't need accommodations, but when I first started the test, I thought there might be a technical problem with the computer terminal I was assigned. I asked the supervisor for assistance and she told me point blank that I would need to take it up with ETS after I wrote it. It turned out okay, fortunately, but geez, it was scary. The whole process was dehumanizing and the test-takers were treated all like parts on an assembly line. Only one man would even make eye contact with me, everyone else just talked at me and looked through me.

    Good luck, again! The test itself is a pain, but don't worry too much if you feel like you're failing as you're writing it - everyone I know who did well felt that way! Contacting the programs you're interested in is a great idea, because some places use the scores to screen applicants and other places only use them as tie-breakers if everything else is equal between candidates, so the importance of the scores relative to everything else can vary.

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  12. Hi, I'm catching up on your blog after a few months so I don't know if this advice is still helpful. When I was applying to grad schools, the GRE people refused to give me accommodations for the writing section and I ended up getting the lowest possible score.

    When I sent in my applications, I included a note to the admissions committee explaining the situation. Most schools only required the scores because administrators want them for rankings, but GREs do not count for admission. The rest of the schools were willing to ignore or downplay the GRE scores once I explained it to them.

    If you only have one or two schools you want to apply to, it might be easier to get the GRE requirement waived than to get accommodations from GRE.

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