A perennial question of graduate school applicants is how much influence GRE scores have on admissions. Unlike the role of LSAT or MCAT scores, which are not only of critical importance for their respective programs' admissions but also operate in a somewhat quantifiable and predictable manner in the admissions process, the role of GRE scores is more difficult to pin down. In fact, the importance and use of the GRE varies dramatically from school to school, department to department, and even person to person. If there has been a change in the admissions committee for a particular graduate program, it is a safe bet that there has been at least some concurrent shift in emphasis for the GRE.
An article in Science highlights a recent UNC study that, along with two other studies from Vanderbilt and UCSF, strongly suggests minimal to nonexistent correlation between GRE scores (and indeed to some extent undergraduate GPA) with outcomes in biomedical graduate programs—publications, quality of research, career prospects—a finding which leads to the obvious question for prospective graduate students (in biomed specialties at least): why require the GRE at all, and how can it be used for admission if it has little predictive value? In this article, I will attempt to address this question from two vantage points:
- What merit or utility, if any, does the GRE retain in the admissions process for these and similar programs?
- As a purely pragmatic consideration, will a good GRE score make a difference, or would an average score be good enough?