GRE scores:your opinion

Mark D. Garfinkel garfinkl at
Fri Feb 4 22:14:48 EST 1994

In article <94Feb4.132100edt.324 at>
steeg at ("Evan W. Steeg") writes:

>Having spent some time in and around
>some very good graduate departments (Computer Science and Biochemistry
>at Cornell, Computer Science at Toronto), I have encountered very few
>students who did not do exceedingly well on GREs (and SATs, etc.).
>I have likewise known very few who had any real intellectual difficulty
>with the standard first- and second-year graduate courses.  However,
>I have known *many* who ran into serious trouble when asked to do
>original research, and many who eventually dropped out of graduate
>school for essentially this reason.

You point out, without drawing special attention to the fact, that
success in "standard first- and second-year graduate courses" is
not a predictor of success in original research either.

So why do we bother offering graduate courses? 

My own take on the subject is that a high GPA in a coherent set of
undergraduate courses for the major, coupled with high GRE scores
(including the subject test), ought to ensure that the student
has achieved minimal mastery of the facts of his/her discipline.

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. And *that* is what the graduate education ought
to be about.

(From the perspective of a new assistant professor, whose own Ph.D.
program had *no* formal coursework requirements)
Mark D. Garfinkel (e-mail: garfinkl at
My views are my own, which is why they're copyright 1994

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