GRE not an accurate gauge of students’ creativity and perseverance

By Sehar Siddiqui

The ACT, SAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, OAT, and DAT are all terms we’ve heard at different levels of our schooling.

As a junior in college, these post-high school standardized tests are coming up as a topic of conversation more often than not. As one of many students planning on going straight into professional school, these tests are becoming more relevant.

Graduate schools vary in how much emphasis they place on standardized tests. With some schools, it’s just a formality, some may just look at one section and others might consider it an extremely important factor for admission.

One of these tests, the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, tests analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning on its General Test. The Subject Tests examine more narrow fields, such as for biology, chemistry or psychology. 

But there is hardly anything in those testing fields that would gauge or reveal students’creativity, perseverance, hard work, team work or leadership abilities, which are equally essential skill sets to have in graduate school.

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Although the critical thinking skills measured on the test are important, an individual’s success in life and in his or her career relies on so much more.

It should be more important to base someone’s potential for success on his or her aptitude to perform real world applications, such as leadership opportunities, internships or volunteering experiences, too.

Since graduate school is more specialized, if admissions must use some kind of test to decide who is accepted, it would make more sense to cater the exams to concepts and applications that are field-specific, such as what the Subject Tests aim to do.

They test specific skills required in specific fields, perhaps creating a more accurate gauge of students’true possible success in their field of interest.

But there are only seven Subject Tests, which isn’t a significant amount considering how many paths an individual may pursue. 

And although the MCAT, OAT and DAT are still standardized tests that overlook many skills that contribute to success, at least to some extent they test a person’s abilities in their related field.

These tests only serve to rank students against each other on a very narrow category of test items.

So, if an individual’s score on the GRE is supposed to predict their level of success in various fields, then it doesn’t make sense for the results of one test to be applied to the potential of success in multiple areas. Such a narrow skill set cannot be applied to the wide range of experiences a student will have and face in graduate school. 

Standardized testing’s results are skewed in that they don’t show qualities that really contribute to a student doing well in college: endurance, hard work, perseverance, etc. They also aren’t always a great predictor of success, as people’s achievement in graduate school isn’t always reflected by a low or high score.

Even if somebody is great at verbal reasoning, the timed version of it on a test could stress them out and prevent them from performing well on the test. The same logic can be applied to the other topics presented in standardized tests as well.

It is understandable that some kind of test must be used to ease the admission process, however the subject tests of the GRE could be expanded more topics that cover more fields. Additionally, these kinds of tests should include sections to test creativity and even a section that gives a hypothetical situation and asks the student to design a research method to solve it.

If these tests can be altered to test abilities more meaningful than just basic skills, they should be able to better predict success in graduate school.

Sehar is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Nimatod.