GRE scores:your opinion

Andrew Cockburn afc at
Mon Feb 7 08:56:08 EST 1994

In article <94Feb4.132100edt.324 at>, steeg at ("Evan W. Steeg") writes:
>   This common-sense assessment is in accord with my (admittedly limited
> and "anecdotal") observations.  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.
>   Perhaps the kind of "success" for which GREs are such a good predictor
> is not the most important kind of success in postgraduate science
> training?
>   Just $0.02 worth, from a student's point of view.
>     Evan
> -- 
> Evan W. Steeg (416) 978-5182              steeg at 
> Dept of Computer Science                  steeg at 
> University of Toronto,           
> Toronto, Canada M5S 1A4         

The reason that most of your fellow students in good departments seem to
have little problem with either GREs or academic classwork is that the
selecting committee eliminated those that would have problems, in part 
by selecting students with high GREs.  The typical applicant to such
departments would have a great deal of difficulty with the course work.

In my experience, whenever we lower our standards to let in a marginally
qualified applicant, that person will almost always fail to become a 
productive researcher.  Raw number crunching ability (which is more or
less what the quantititative part of the GRE measures) is a necessary
but not sufficient condition for success in science.

Your argument is rather like saying that because not every 7 foot (215 cm)
tall person does not become a basketball star, professional basketball
teams should not preferentially hire 7 foot tall players.

Andrew Cockburn

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