The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is required for admission to many graduate schools around the country. The computerized test includes verbal, quantitative and analytical writing sections. The test was designed to predict success in graduate school.
The research, however, does not support the idea that a high GRE score will predict graduate school success.
Sternberg & Williams (1997) conducted a study to investigate how well GRE scores predicted graduate students’ success. Forty psychology faculty members at Yale were asked to rate graduate students’ abilities on five scales: analytical, creative, practical, research and teaching. The researchers also looked at first- and second-year student’s grade point averages, and overall evaluations of dissertations made by independent, outside raters.
Sternberg & Williams found GRE scores were only modest predictors of first year grades but not second year grades. When looking further at the GRE subtests, they found only the analytical test score successfully predicted more consequential evaluations of student performance. But this was true for men only.
According to data from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the test’s manufacturer, the GRE is a weak predictor of first year graduate school grades (Fairtest.org, 2007). A study conducted by Morrison, T. & Morrison, M. (1995) found an even weaker relationship between test scores and grades — GRE scores predicted a mere 6 percent of the variation in grades.
Many schools have minimal GRE requirements. If applicants do not meet these requirements they will not be admitted to graduate school, even if they had excellent undergraduate grades, an impressive resume and stellar recommendations.
Some colleges receive hundreds of applications each semester. It becomes a daunting task to conduct hundreds of interviews or review hundreds of applications. Many of the applicants have high grade point averages, and equally impressive letters of recommendation, thus making it practical to turn to the only other quantitative source of information — the GRE — that administrators have (Williams, 1997).
But if that quantitative source doesn’t really predict or have much of an association with what people think it does — graduate school academic performance — is it really a valid source of information to turn to?
Cornell Science News (1997). Study of Graduate Record Exam shows it does little to predict graduate school success. http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Aug97/GRE.study.ssl.html [accessed Dec. 5, 2010]
Enright, M. K. & Gitorner, D. (1989). Toward a description of successful graduate students. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Fairtest.org (2007). Examining the GRE: Myths, Misuses, and Alternatives [accessed Dec. 5, 2010]
Milner, M., McNeil, J. & King, S.W. (1984). The GRE: A Question of Validity in Predicting Performance in Professional Schools of Social Work. Educational and Psychological Measurement, vol. 44, pp. 945-950.
Morrison, T. & Morrison, M. (1995). A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Predictive Validity of the Quantitative and Verbal Components of the Graduate Record Examination with Graduate Grade Point Averages Representing the Criterion of Graduate Success. Educational and Psychological Measurement, v. 55 (no. 2) pp. 309-316.
Sternberg, R. & Williams, W. (1997). Does the Graduate Record Examination Predict Meaningful Success in the Graduate Training of Psychologists? American Psychologist, v. 52 (no. 6), pp. 630-641.
Williams, W. (1997). Reliance on Test Scores Is a Conspiracy of Lethary. The Chronicle of Higher Education.