GRE scores:your opinion

William R. Pearson wrp at
Fri Feb 4 19:17:43 EST 1994

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.  Either there is
>remarkably compelling empirical evidence, of which I am unaware despite
>some study of this issue, of the GRE as a good predictor of true long-term
>academic success, or a big mistake is perpetuated through institutional 
>inertia and bureaucratic laziness.  

	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

 ... stuff about fighter pilots deleted.

>... 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.

You have been fortunate in not having to council students who did not
do very well on their GRE's and had great difficulty in completing
their first year 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.

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

GRE's are good predictors of the ability to pass the first year
courses.  They may not be good predictors of ultimate scientific
accomplishment, but if you can't get through the first year, prospects
are dim.  It is not clear whether their is any measure - papers
published, grants funded, tenure status, you name it - that is a
useful predictor of ultimate scientific contribution.

Bill Pearson

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