Grad Students React to New GRE: Yale Daily News

Yale Daily News

Here’s an article from Yale University’s daily periodical, Yale Daily News, entitled “Grad Students React to the New GRE.”  The article is basically a summary of various different viewpoints on the new GRE.

The most interesting part about the article for me is actually the comments.  There are only thirteen comments as of this writing, but boy are they contentious.

Here’s one perspective (edited for formatting):

Except for the comment “They don’t test anything except how well you do on them”, these posts about the new GRE’s are frightening for their bloodless, statistical analyses.  They betray an apathetic acceptance of standardized tests by standardized students on their way to becoming standardized citizens.  It seems like a nightmare of cookie-cutter education come true —the death of the liberal arts and the triumph of Betty Crocker curricula: just add ingredients, mix, stir to rubric specifications and bake in a charter school for four years at a benchmark of 350 degrees and you get a perfectly shaped human being capable of taking standardized tests forever–even at Yale.  Pardon me while I vomit.
PK M.Div.’80

Posted by * All Made of Ticky-tacky… on January 15, 2010 at 7:36 p.m

And part of a response to it:

If a student wants to go to graduate school, and graduate school requires the GRE, the student must care about doing well on the GRE, at least to some extent. Would you argue that the very desire to go to graduate school of any kind is characteristic of people on their way to becoming “standardized citizens”? That seems extreme and, frankly, silly.

Posted by Y’09 on January 16, 2010 at 10:55 a.m.

I, too, have somewhat ambivalent feelings toward standardized tests like the GRE, but while I sympathize with certain aspects of PK’s perspective, I agree more strongly with Y’09.  Regardless of your personal feelings toward the GRE, the fact of the matter is that graduate schools require the GRE — for that reason alone, you should care about doing well on it.

The idea that the use of the GRE indicates a standardization of curricula is, as Y’09 aptly puts it, silly.  The GRE isn’t supposed to be, and has never claimed to be, in any way, a reflection of graduate curricula.  The purpose of standardized testing is to provide a normalizing factor to account for the inevitable variations across the spectrum of applicants.  Other factors like GPA, recommendation letters, and work/research experience vary widely — a 4.0 GPA at one school may correlate to a 3.0 at another, for instance.  The GRE provides a baseline context from which to evaluate the rest of the application.

Of course, no standardized test is perfectly normalizing.  Creating a single test that eliminates all factors outside of general intelligence is probably an impossible task.  But still, universities have to try, so the GRE is what it is: a tool to help you get into graduate school.  Study hard for it, play the game, utilize it to your advantage, and then move on to what’s really important.