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What Does the GRE Measure?


The GRE is an aptitude test. Like all aptitude tests, it must choose a medium in which to measure intellectual ability. The GRE has chosen math and English.


Okay, the GRE is an aptitude test. The question is—does it measure aptitude for graduate school? The GRE’s ability to predict performance in school is as poor as the SAT's. This is to be expected since the tests are written by the same company (ETS) and are similar. The GRE’s verbal section, however, is significantly harder (more big words), and, surprisingly, the GRE’s math section is slightly easier.


No test can measure all aspects of intelligence. Thus any admission test, no matter how well written, is inherently inadequate. Nevertheless, some form of admission testing is necessary. It would be unfair to base acceptance to graduate school solely on grades; they can be misleading. For instance, would it be fair to admit a student with an A average earned in easy classes over a student with a B average earned in difficult classes? A school’s reputation is too broad a measure to use as admission criteria: many students seek out easy classes and generous instructors, in hopes of inflating their GPA. Furthermore, a system that would monitor the academic standards of every class would be cost prohibitive and stifling. So until a better system is proposed, the admission test is here to stay.

Click to Download GRE Exam Guide from ETS


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