The Limitations, Problems, and Criticisms of the GRE

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test used to assess graduate school applicants’ knowledge of Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. It is used for admission by numerous colleges and universities, including business and law schools as a basis for graduate school grades. Some universities set a cutoff score: a total GRE score or section-specific score such as verbal score, quantitative score, and writing score. If the set score is not met, the admissions committee deliberates whether an applicant should be accepted or not. Along with the GRE are other requirements that can help reach admission decisions. However, this graduate school entry exam is not perfect. It has its flaws. This article discusses the biases, limitations, and problems with the GRE.

What are the pros and cons of the GRE General Test?

Presented below are the advantages and disadvantages of using the GRE for graduate school:

The pros and cons of the GRE General Test

Pros

Cons

Scores are recognized by alumni and business schools.

The exam and prep program are a little pricey.

Having the option of approaching the test in the way that one is most comfortable.

Research shows that there is a cultural and racial bias.

Scores are useful for a long period of time.

Prep courses and prep books are on the expensive side, and some of the good ones may cause an examiner thousands of dollars.

Having the option of which school/s to send the scores to

 

The GRE test is just like any other standardized test with its own advantages and disadvantages. In the table above, these pros and cons are presented. Its advantages focus on its use and function, while its disadvantages are the fees, test bias, and prep costs.

Read More: GRE Test Structure

What is the problem with the GRE General Test?

One of the main problems with the GRE is its ability to predict graduate school performance, particularly the first-year grades. Several critics have cited that its predictive validity is actually weak. Also, the GRE fails to cover areas like a student’s intellect, creativity, and perseverance to finish a program. Lastly, it fails to measure the critical skills to scholarly and professional competence, including critical thinking skills[1].

What are the biases in the GRE General Test?

Nothing. According to Educational Testing Service (ETS), there are no biases in the GRE. Performance differences between examinees from various ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic statuses do not imply bias. Rather, it can be due to various factors, including skills, interests, course-taking patterns, knowledge, and others, resulting in unequal opportunity. Also, the organization claims that score differences are not only seen on the GRE but all standardized tests. [2]

What are the limitations of the GRE General Test in predicting success in graduate school?

The limitations found in the GRE in a research study are who will successfully finish doctoral programs, who will pass the qualifying exam, who will have a shorter time during defense, who will deliver more conference presentations, who will publish more research papers, and who will receive an individual or fellowship grant. Because of these results, experts suggest minimizing the use of GRE average scores as a measure of predicting graduate school success. The GRE may only be used, as it claims, to predict the graduate first-year grade-point average. [4]

Does the GRE General Test actually predict success in graduate school?

No, the GRE does not predict success in graduate school. The main purpose of the GRE is to evaluate applicants’ suitability for graduate school and not their success. Therefore, the GRE is a poor predictor of grad school success. [7]

Do minorities and poorer students perform worse on the GRE?

Yes, minorities and poorer students perform worse on the GRE. Despite the statements made by Educational Testing Service (ETS) on ensuring that the test is free of cultural and racial bias, research shows that the graduate school entry exam seems to favor privileged, white, and wealthy students. Research results showed that white test takers scored higher on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The vice president of Global Education at Educational Testing Service (ETS), Mr. David Payne, explained why it seems to be that way. He explained that students who, on average, obtain a better educational experience are those who are privileged compared to those who come from areas with less access to resources. Hence, also obtained a better academic performance and grades in graduate school as predicted by the GRE. [3]

Is the GRE General Test culturally and racially biased?

No, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE is not culturally and racially biased. The organization puts a lot of effort into ensuring that the GRE is free of cultural and racial bias. However, despite all the efforts, there are still discrepancies in performance among the underrepresented minority groups. That is why Educational Testing Service (ETS) strongly advises institutions to review an applicant’s GRE along with other admission criteria or requirements. This way, every applicant is evaluated in a fair manner. [2]

Read More: GRE Tips for Non-Native English Speakers

Is the GRE reliable?

Yes, the GRE is reliable. Two of its test sections, the GRE verbal reasoning and GRE quantitative reasoning, have a reliability index of at least.90. For reference, a reliability index indicates the measurement error in a test. The index can range from 0 to 1, with 1 being the highest. Therefore, the GRE’s reliability is pretty high. It is safe to say that the GRE consistently predicts graduate student success in the graduate study. [5]

Is the GRE valid?

Minimal predictive validity is found in the GRE. This means that GRE scores must not be used to interpret one’s readiness to do well or poorly in graduate school. Well, to be fair, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has clearly stated that several other factors must be considered in graduate student applications other than the GRE. It includes tests of critical thinking, tests of abstract thinking, other graduate admissions tests, letters of recommendation, undergraduate grade or the grade point average (GPA), and more. All of these requirements affect the admissions decisions. [6]

Is the GRE General Test being phased out?

No, the GRE is not being phased out. However, some universities have stopped requiring applicants to have a GRE score due to the COVID pandemic and the test’s failure in particular aspects.

Do GRE General Test scores matter?

Yes, GRE scores are extremely important, especially when applying to graduate school. Since this is a part of the requirements, it will affect the admissions committee’s decision on whether to accept an applicant or not.

Read More: GRE Score Requirement

Why are some universities dropping the GRE General Test as a requirement?

Some of the reasons why some universities stopped requiring the test include the low correlation between the scores on the GRE and graduate student success. Some research also shows that the examination underrepresents some minority, cultural, and racial groups, which universities dislike. [8]

Read More: Complete List of Schools Accepting the GRE

References:

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/the-problem-with-the-gre/471633/

[2] https://www.ets.org/gre/institutions/admissions/using_scores/underrepresented/

[3] https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/06/26/gre-optional-grad-schools

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312298207_The_Limitations_of_the_GRE_in_Predicting_Success_in_Biomedical_Graduate_School

[5] https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_reliability_sem.pdf

[6] https://psychology.unl.edu/psichi/GRE_Reliabilty_Validity.pdf

[7] https://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1071921

[8] https://www.science.org/content/article/wave-graduate-programs-drop-gre-application-requirement