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does a good gre score predict success in grad schoolHistorically, graduate schools in the United States (and increasingly around the world) have relied heavily on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for selecting students. More recently, however, the weight of standardized tests including the GRE has varied among schools and programs. Indeed, we’ve pointed out in a previous article on GRE percentile rankings that a “good” GRE score is dependent on the school’s requirements. Nonetheless, the results of your GRE can greatly influence your chances of getting admitted into the graduate school of your choice. The question is, how good of a predictor is the GRE of your ultimate success in grad school once admitted?

The Yay’s and Nay’s of GRE Correlation

There have been several claims that there is a weak correlation between one’s GRE scores and success in graduate school. Science Magazine points to arguments that standardized tests are outdated and don’t evaluate students properly. In particular, the article mentions that high scores did not result in gaining recognition, awards, or publication deals. This is especially true in scientific fields where these achievements are considered milestones.

Conversely, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the creator of the test, recently released an overview of studies indicating that high GRE scores do in fact reflect strong academic performance by law students. This has prompted law schools including Harvard University and Columbia University to announce that GRE results will be accepted in place of LSAT scores for admission. According to ETS, the GRE provides reliable information that is vital when deciding on whether to accept a student into law school.

In truth, the correlation between GRE scores and graduate school performance is hard to measure. The American Association of Physicists in Medicine indicates that certain sections of the GRE predicted excellent academic performance in medical physics. The analytical writing portion of the exam reflects the student’s ability to articulate and defend a point, an invaluable research skill. It also tests one’s ability to assess the validity of an argument as well as the subject’s command of the English language.

In addition, Maryville University compiled statistics on the increase in post-graduate admissions. The university found that the most popular degrees are:

  • Business (24% of all master’s degrees conferred in the U.S.)
  • Education (14%)
  • Healthcare (120% increase in enrollment from 2005 to 2015)
  • Computer and Information Science (1,900% increase from 1971 to 2015)

These courses require a wide range of knowledge, and the GRE helps determine whether the candidate can perform well in the program. In addition to analytical writing, the GRE features questions that focus on verbal reasoning (reading comprehension; vocabulary usage; how well one handles heavy academic texts) and quantitative reasoning (mathematical reasoning; problem solving skills).

The Relevance of the GRE for You

It’s clear that no standardized test can predict graduate school success with 100% accuracy. The GRE cannot measure a potential student’s drive, creativity, or professional competence. As such, there will always be students who dominate the GRE and yet struggle in the classroom, and others who get an average GRE score and yet graduate top of their class. Those are exceptions to the rule, however. Over the years, the GRE has helped schools decide whether an applicant possesses the intellectual ability required to cope with highly stressful situations. Moreover, the results of each section based on their relevance to the field of study is a relatively reliable mode of predicting success.

The GRE is here to stay. Whether you think it’s a useful gauge of your academic abilities or not, it’s incumbent upon you to get the best score possible as long as the GRE is an important part of the application process. You have to play the game, as they say. If you’re serious about conquering the GRE, check out Dominate Test Prep’s industry-leading GRE prep courses and online GRE practice tests. Then once you’re admitted with a great score, you can get to work to prove GRE success does in fact translate to a stellar graduate school career!

This article was written exclusively for Dominate the GRE by K. Snyder