There is a lot of stress that surrounds an impending test day. It’s not surprising, then, that so many students often wonder why this test matters so much in the first place. From a practical standpoint, it may not be particularly relevant. It does matter, and there’s really no getting around it. However, this asking this question can help you refocus why you’re spending so much time studying for and worrying about this test. So, let’s ask and answer it. Why is your GRE score so important?
It’s a Comparison Tool
Much like how colleges use the SAT and ACT in admissions, grad schools use the GRE as a standardized measure for admissions. Why? It’s likely the only across-the-board numerical indicator that graduate schools have when comparing applicants. Admissions officers have no way of really knowing how one major in one college stacks up in difficulty to the same major in another college. A 4.0 GPA from one school may compare differently to a 4.0 GPA from another. Sure, they’ll be able to hazard a guess, but it’s not an exact science.
A Level Playing Field
The GRE more or less tests the same content. So, everyone has roughly the same potential to achieve a given score. This make the GRE the single most important number on your application. It’s even more important than your undergraduate GPA. In fact, some schools weigh your GRE several times more than your undergraduate GPA. This means that a test of only a few hours can outweigh four years of college.
A Perfect Predictor
What you may not know is that the GRE is often an accurate predictor of first-year graduate school performance. Essentially, if you do well on the GRE, you’re telling schools that you’ll do well during your first and arguably most difficult year.
The Bottom Line
Use this information to your advantage. Think of it this way, even if your GPA is below the median for the school of your choice, you can significantly improve your chances with your GRE score. Thoroughly prepare and score in a high percentile. If your GPA is well above the median for your dream school, you can stand out with a high score. Make sure everything else in your application is also well taken care of. No matter which category you fall into, play the GRE to your advantage.