GRE scores:your opinion

Mark D. Garfinkel garfinkl at
Fri Feb 4 23:15:24 EST 1994

In article <CKq65J.9JJ at murdoch.acc.Virginia.EDU>
wrp at (William R. Pearson) writes:

>In article <94Feb4.132100edt.324 at>,
>Evan W. Steeg <steeg at> wrote:
>>  Frankly, it continues to amaze me how much weight is given to the
>>results of the GRE and similar standardized tests. [...]

>        When a life sciences department accepts a graduate student,
>they make a one year, approximately $25,000, commitment to that student.
>The question of course is, on what criterion should that commitment be

Most departments *imply* that the support is a multi-year commitment
contingent upon "satisfactory progress." In the 6+ years a biological
sciences Ph.D. now seems to take in the US, that's a whole lot of
money... not quite what it takes to train a fighter pilot, but not
chump-change either.

[big deletion]

>>However, I have known *many* who ran into serious trouble when asked
>>to do original research [...]

>>Perhaps the kind of "success" for which GREs are such a good predictor
>>is not the most important kind of success in postgraduate science

Yes, exactly. In my other post I said that "Whether that student has
what it takes to do original research, and all that that entails, is
best left to the direct experience of doing research." I should have
added, therefore, an *explicit* statement that early involvement in
research is a *very good thing* for the undergraduate aspiring to a
doctoral program. It gives the student a valuable & enjoyable
experience beyond the textbook learning, the grad admissions
committee some tangible evidence of commitment & motivation, and
it gives both some measure of the student's aptitude for research.

Mark D. Garfinkel (e-mail: garfinkl at
My views are my own, which is why they're copyright 1994

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