GRE scores:your opinion

William R. Pearson wrp at
Wed Feb 2 14:03:42 EST 1994

In article <1994Feb1.163144.8270 at>,
 <degroote at TIGGER.STCLOUD.MSUS.EDU> wrote:
>The question is frequent and the facts are few, so why not ask the pundits.
>What role do GRE scores play in admission to your grad program?
>I.E. on a scale of 1-5 (not important-very important).
>Is there a ranking with the three categories; one more important than other?
>Is there a need to take an area test for your program?
>How many students improve their scores the second-time around?

>An example for consideration (purely theoretical)
>         student         student
>Verbal    550              370
>Quant     710              740
>Analy     680              750
>        -------         --------
>sum      1940             1860
>Undergraduate training in Cell and Molecular Biology applying for grad program
>in these areas.  

	I serve on an graduate admissions committee.  I would say that
if your quantitative is in the 85th percentile or better and verbal at
75th or better, you are going to gt a lot of offers.  710/550 is a
pretty good quant score with an adequate verbal; 740 is a fine quant
but 370 suggests the person cannot write a candidacy proposal, thesis,
research papers, or give a coherent journal club.  The 710/550 student
should expect several offers; the 740/370 student will get some
offers, but probably later in the admissions period.  We also look at
grades.  If the 710/550 student has a B- average, we are less
interested, since he/she is clearly capable of A work but was perhaps
not well motivated.  Likewise, if the 740/370 student has an A average
(including non-science courses), we think he/she is a hard worker.

	In our program, we have found that we can predict pretty
accurately from the quant how well a student will do in our first year
courses.  The verbal is less informative; many students with good
verbals still can't write, but students with very poor verbal scores
clearly have even greater difficulty.

	Retaking the exam doesn't help that much.  We get to see all
the scores and they don't change much unless you had a really really
bad day.  We have had some students with excellent grade points from
good schools with terrible GRE's. Sometimes after they get here, it is
clear that the GRE's were not accurate.

	In general, in today's market for graduate students it is a
seller's (graduate student's) market.  There are many fewer strong
applicants than slots, so graduate admissions committee's bend over
backwards to recruit people that they think have the faintest chance
of succeeding.  As a result, more students are flunking out after
their first year, because they could not keep up with the initial

Bill Pearson
Dept. of Biochemistry
U. of Virginia

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