Thursday, December 07, 2006

GREs and Graduate Admissions

A colleague writes me to ask:
How is the GRE weighed with respect to the other application materials? [One of my students has] taken the GREs twice and isn't happy with her scores. She's concerned that she won't be accepted into any graduate school if she doesn't fall within the 60th percentile.
I was on the grad admissions committee last year, which is why she writes me, but it was only one year. My impulse, in a program that's not supremely selective, is that while we have a recommended cut-off, a strong application will supersede weak scores. That said, and this is probably not a popular thing to say, scores and the quality of the rest of the application were often (though not always) fairly congruent.

Those of you at different types of grad programs: How do test scores weigh into your admissions processes?


Dr. Crazy said...

Are we talking about the subject test or the general? If we're talking about the subject test, I can only speak from my experience, having scored CRAPPILY on it, and yet having gotten into good PhD programs. I don't remember what my percentile score was, but it was LOW. (Probably close to the 60 of this student.) I think the fact that I scored very high on the verbal and analytical (back in olden times when there was the analytical) made some difference, but I think what really got me in was the writing sample and personal statement. If we're talking about 60th percentile on the GRE overall, I suppose that's different, but as I don't have a school with a PhD program, I can't really speak to that.

collin said...

I've been on our program's grad admissions committee for 4 years now. The only thing we use the GRE for, and then only occasionally, is to nominate really strong candidates for university fellowships, and they have to be strong overall to be nominated. A particularly low score might raise eyebrows among some members, but for the most part, we ignore the scores.

And I'd agree wholeheartedly that a strong application overall will offset scores of any kind. A good writing sample is by far the best indicator of success for us...

I've known a couple of people who were exceptions to the score/quality congruence, friends who just couldn't do well on standardized tests, so that's had an influence on how seriously I take them...