GRE unreliable predictor for graduate school acceptance

by Caitlin Donovan – Staff Writer – cadonova@unca.edu

The Graduate Record Examination administered by the Educational Testing Services is a waste of money and time when one considers what little it contributes in determining the preparedness of applicants for graduate school.

The first thing to note when considering the GRE is unlike college, graduate school is subject specific. Graduate school applicants are expected to have a clear idea of what they are studying and what career they are working toward. Someone aiming for a writing degree will not find themselves taking a mathematics course.

Yet, he or she must shell out something between $150 to $210 to take a test that includes mathematics.

It is also important to consider someone with a bachelor’s degree in English would possibly be in a situation where they would not have taken a subject like math for several years.

This was incredibly apparent when surveying the GRE Prep class held at UNC Asheville.

In the class focused on mathematics, when all the students were questioned about when they had last taken math, more than half responded their last class had been three or more years ago. These students were forced to take an expensive class in addition to other expensive college classes simply because they had majored in a subject other than math and had not been exposed to math in quite some time.

On top of that, the GRE Prep classes at UNCA cost $375. This does not include $100 worth of books the student will never use again. Overall, a student ends up paying about $525 to take one test. The GRE will not quiz on all math.

The conditions in which the students take the test also leaves much to be desired.

“The atmosphere at the GRE testing center reminded me of a prison,” said Sara Russell, a mathematics student at UNCA who took the GRE to get into a graduate program at UNC Chapel Hill. “We had to leave jackets and personal items in a locker, are scanned with a wand before entering the test taking room and are videotaped the whole time. Taking a test for approximately 4 hours is draining to say the least.”

One would think students are forced to take this draining test because the GRE is an invaluable tool in determining academic aptitude.

One would also think there must be something the GRE is able to determine that the grades a student received in college do not reveal to the admissions officers. But that does not appear to be the case.

 

Academic guides like the Princeton Review have flatly stated the GRE is more a measure of how well one takes standardized tests than a measure of actual academic aptitude. Moreover, the same guide stated the GRE was not even written by professors or graduate school admissions officers, but by employees of the ETS.

The ETS itself has been heavily criticized for its failure to address cheating and fraud, as well as the fact it conducts itself more like a competitive business than a nonprofit organization. Even Winton H. Manning, the senior vice president of the ETS, admitted the company has become more of a commercial institution and stated he was disappointed with how the company had strayed from education and public service.

According to the organization America    ns for Educational Testing Reform, the “nonprofit” has a profit of $7 million and the CEO of the organization, Kurt Landgraf, earns 256 percent of the industry average. The fact the ETS also sells test preparation materials is fairly biased since that gives an advantage to wealthier students.

Another thing to consider is a meta-analysis of the GRE. Conducted by Nathan R. Kuncel in 2001, the analysis showed the correlation between high GRE scores and success in graduate school is relatively low. The correlation between high GRE scores and a high graduate GPA is less than 30 percent.

Russell agrees with this assessment.

“I found the GRE and most standardized tests in general do not display a student’s knowledge or growth very well,” Russell said. “It is a snapshot of one day, which is affected by many variables.

Often there is so much pressure to perform well the student feels stressed and panicked so the test does not reflect the true abilities of a student.”

It seems like the only reason the GRE exists is so the ETS can make a profit.

If graduate schools would just be willing to dispense with the GRE as an admissions requirement, the worst thing that would happen is students would be admitted on the basis of their actual scholastic aptitude rather than how well they can memorize a set of rules and fill in some blanks.

3 thoughts on “GRE unreliable predictor for graduate school acceptance

  • September 5, 2013 at 5:12 am
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    Yes, the test has some flaws but although you mean well, your solution is not a solution.

    The GRE is supposed to act like the SATs in that it gives students of different backgrounds an (supposedly) equal chance to enter the grad school of their choice. It is an exam that allows cross comparisons.

    GPAs are not the same for all schools and also do not have equal meaning for all schools. For example, there is a vast difference between a 3.5 from Caltech and a 3.5 from UAlbany. And even perfect GPAs do not equate (a 4.0 GPA from DeVry might not be detailed enough of a student’s ability).

    Also what if one chooses to go to a grad school for an area completely unrelated to their major? A GPA at that point means very little. For example a math major who has only taken few English courses chooses to pursue an English masters.

    Not to mention, suppose a student did not have a remarkable GPA. The GRE could thus be a redeemer.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2017 at 3:30 am
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    Hey nice post. I hope it’s ok that I shared this on my Facebook, if not,
    no problem just tell me and I’ll delete it. Regardless keep up the great work.

    Reply

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