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Think the GRE is useless? Think again.

TheFez

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blog-0887305001360562318.gifMost people who think that the GRE is stupid and useless also have low GRE scores.

Like it or not you need good GRE (or GMAT)scores to get into a good program, because like it or not, people with good GRE scores tend (I say tend) to have natural academic abilities far beyond those of mortal men. The GRE is designed to be hard to do really well on (read 85%-90%+) without intuition, insight and reasoning skills - not just grade school math and vocabulary skills.

For the not-so-lucky end of the gene pool, there's another reason the GRE is useful to ad comms. Because you can do well on the GRE by working hard to prepare for it. So, low GRE scores mean either 1) you are not naturally gifted or 2) you didn't work hard enough at passing it and might not work hard enough in grad school. (What,you think comps don't require the same level of dedication?)

So you say "I worked really, really hard and I still got a 130Q". You might want to lower your sights(and your sites), head for the chat room, and complain about how useless the GRE is.



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On 8/20/2017 at 7:07 PM, Ultrapeaches said:

The verbal section tests whether or not you're a native english speaker

This is exactly what I was thinking when I started studying for the GRE!

But it turned out that some of my American friends performed worse on the test than I did. In my opinion, this shows that the verbal section is, at least to a large degree, not based on skills you have acquired over the years but solely on memorized short-term knowledge. Most of the vocabulary seems to be almost equally unknown to international and American test takers. Consequently, the GRE can only measure an applicant's ability to memorize (rather random) stuff, but fails to accurately indicate language/reading skills. I prepared really well and scored in the 92th percentile. I would argue tho that this is a reflection of the hard work I put in and not so much of my ability to use the English language.  

So after having gone through the whole GRE experience as a non-native speaker, I have to disagree with you. Obviously this is my subjective view and other people might have completely different stories to tell. 

 

 

 

 

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On 2/11/2013 at 6:56 PM, kdavid said:

I disagree with the "natural ability" comment. However, I agree that a hard-working person who takes a practice test and discovers their score is low will naturally work hard at improving their score.

 

If I was an administrator for a top-tier, highly competitive program, and it came down to hiring two applicants whose applications were identical aside from GRE scores, choosing the one whose GRE scores were higher would be a no-brainer.

 

While having high scores may not help an applicant, low scores would surely hurt them.

Right, it's a non-brainer that the person with the higher GRE would get in, which is why we need to get rid of the GRE to remove the temptation to make a choice based upon GREs. It would force professors to have a much more holistic reason. I'll give a good example. I am learning Latin right now, but because I was applying to phd programs, I had to not study Latin for four months to prep for the GRE, which in turn tells the  committees nothing about my success in their program. My proficiency in Latin would be a much more holistic reason to accept me than my unrelated GRE scores. At the very least, the GRE delayed my long term goals of proficiency in Latin.

By getting rid of the  GRE, new better standards would be used by committees to make their selections.

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Same here like @spicyramen, high scores on the GRE but they are useless. They don’t adequately measure how a student will do in a graduate program. All graduate programs are different and using an exam that attempts to standardize their applicants is trivial.

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People who think GRE scores are useless don't understand the point of standardized tests.

People who think GRE scores are paramount don't understand the point of standardized tests.

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Scored 90/73/93 percentiles. All I did to prep was take the practice exams. Didn't even bother to memorize any vocabulary (STEM background). Its useless. 

Had a classmate who only utilized standardized testing techniques they had learned for the SATs in high school. Didn't even bother doing any practice exams whatsoever. They got 99% Verbal with 90 and 90 on the other exams.

The only thing the GRE shows is how well you can take the GRE. I'm glad that there's a movement to drop GRE scores from the application packet.

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The point of a GRE, like the MCAT or SAT, is to be used as a standardized admissions criteria with the goal of selecting the most productive and successful students for a program. In both of these studies, the GRE fails to do that or is minimal at best. I encourage all of you to read these two published articles.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5226333/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5226343/

Edited by strugglebus2k17

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On 11/15/2017 at 8:06 PM, Parent Trap said:

A combined 300 score is a standard cutoff for many universities, and it is usually a graduate college policy.

I got in to all three schools I applied and got in even with my lackluster quant scores, albeit only one school offered me funding. Though I think the other two didn't offer me funding because I missed the consideration for funding deadline. 

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Professors often encourage students to get as high of a GRE score because it can make up for weaknesses in an application. Additionally it is cautioned/advised that a really high quantitative score is required for graduate programs in many STEM disciplines. Many of my professors have expressed that as a strong engineering student, that the GRE quantitative section should be easy and should require ~1 month of preparation. This is a sentiment which is common among many in the STEM disciplines.

Unfortunately, this has not been my experienced. I have never had a knack for standardized examinations. However, give me an exam in a tough EE or Math class as a final and I can easily score among the highest. This is due to the challenge I face with my anxiety and difficult time constraints. Although, I scored generally well in  all sections of the GRE, my quantitative score was below the average for engineering students.

The GRE, like most standardized exams is a measure of how well you can take the exam, not about how much you know.  Without the time constraint, I was able do most problems on GRE practice exams from Manhattan Review, Magoosh, and ETS. Unfortunately this could not translate under the time constraint and pressure for me. My point is that if you are in a STEM field and expected to score upwards of 165 in the quantitative section for competitive programs, do not feel bad if you are unable to achieve your scoring goal. This exam does not define your mathematical ability, sometimes such exams require a lot of preparation in order to get efficient and fast. Sometimes we are unable to devote time to this preparation, and sometimes such exams are simply just not our forte. Any school unwilling to not see past a lower GRE score, despite a strong holistic applicant is not a school you many want to pursue.Try to obtain as high of a score as you can, and know that this is just one aspect of your application. With a below average quant score for an Electrical Engineering applicant, I was still admitted to many strong, competitive programs. All of our brains function differently, and many of us differ from the status quo of finding the quantitative section easy. This does not mean our mathematical skillset is less, or there is a problem with ourselves! Try your best, work hard, and you shall attain your goals!

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On 9/29/2017 at 10:46 AM, Nico Corr said:

I personally think that their should be a subject specific test administered by each program to determine admittance, e.g a poli sci exam for poli sci programs, organic chemistry for organic chemistry programs etc.  

Keep in mind that there are GRE subject tests, and at least in my discipline (Literature), people have qualms with those too. The GRE Subject Test for literature looks at whether or not you have a passing knowledge of anything you might have encountered in an undergraduate survey. Graduate school looks at whether you have the potential to learn a TON about one tiny specific bit of literature. So even having a more pointed standardized test would encounter the same issues that standardized tests are wont to do.

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I also believe the GRE does not reflect someone's intelligence, just how well they do on standardized tests. I scored very high myself (168V, 164Q, 5.0 AW) because I am a natural test taker with no test anxiety. I studied for the quant section because my math was rusty but didn't study for the verbal. I think someone who struggles at testing and must work hard to overcome it is more impressive and demonstrates far more diligence, problem-solving, and mental growth than someone like me who is competent but lazy. 

I will argue, though, that the GRE actually does have a little bit  of relevance to a grad program, since there are tests in grad school. Being good at tests isn't relevant to someone's academic abilities or future career, but it does show admissions committees that the student will be able to test well in the program, which obviously has an effect on grades. GPA is definitely a more important determiner, but the combination of a high GPA and GRE can make a committee more sure of the student's success.

Personally I'd be a little bummed if the GRE was done away with, since it helped me quite a bit, but it would help so many more people if it was abolished. It would be nice if it was optional, like something extra to put on a CV if the scores are high enough.

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I am one of those people that got mediocre scores on the GRE, and therefore, think it is useless. Of course getting uneventful scores makes me biased, but I don't think the GRE is all that useful. It can maybe show that students are good at answering certain questions in a short amount of time, which could then show how well said students work under pressure. However, the questions the GRE asks are not questions most, if any, masters and doctoral students will actually face/strive to answer in their programs and/or the real world. Also, yeah, you can study all you want for the GRE, but there is only so much preparation you can do to solve the world's problems. You won't be able to solve those problems nearly as easily because there is no study guide for them. That's why creative and critical thinking is so important. The GRE doesn't really address, maybe through the essays, but not much else. Additionally, I do have test anxiety, but my test anxiety somehow gets even worse when a standardized test is placed in front of me. I graduated with a 4.0 undergrad GPA, but yet I always seem to get average scores on these tests. I do believe that maybe there should be some standardized way to evaluate students, but I don't think the GRE or SAT or ACT or whatever is really the way to go. At least the GRE has subject tests. Also, I believe standardized tests were not created to benefit students or admission offices, but rather for yet another company trying to make money. That's why there are so many classes, books, studying tips, etc. that we have to pay for. But this is just my opinion, and the GRE is still deemed important in the eyes of most programs, so I guess we have to conform to it, right?

Edited by Moods

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On 10/12/2018 at 1:27 PM, Moods said:

I am one of those people that got mediocre scores on the GRE, and therefore, think it is useless. Of course getting uneventful scores makes me biased, but I don't think the GRE is all that useful. It can maybe show that students are good at answering certain questions in a short amount of time, which could then show how well said students work under pressure. However, the questions the GRE asks are not questions most, if any, masters and doctoral students will actually face/strive to answer in their programs and/or the real world. Also, yeah, you can study all you want for the GRE, but there is only so much preparation you can do to solve the world's problems. You won't be able to solve those problems nearly as easily because there is no study guide for them. That's why creative and critical thinking is so important. The GRE doesn't really address, maybe through the essays, but not much else. Additionally, I do have test anxiety, but my test anxiety somehow gets even worse when a standardized test is placed in front of me. I graduated with a 4.0 undergrad GPA, but yet I always seem to get average scores on these tests. I do believe that maybe there should be some standardized way to evaluate students, but I don't think the GRE or SAT or ACT or whatever is really the way to go. At least the GRE has subject tests. Also, I believe standardized tests were not created to benefit students or admission offices, but rather for yet another company trying to make money. That's why there are so many classes, books, studying tips, etc. that we have to pay for. But this is just my opinion, and the GRE is still deemed important in the eyes of most programs, so I guess we have to conform to it, right?

I love this post so much. I dread standardized tests as well because it's what makes it look like I'm bad at math. The truth is, I feel like I'm actually pretty good at quantitative reasoning and was actually in charge of a lot of data analysis for one of my professors. I also can learn quantitative skills quite well. But in a timed environment with questions that are designed to trick you... I'm going to be mediocre every time. I hated the GRE because I was strong in every other way and yet this one test that's controlled by this one company has given me a weakness...

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