Do test scores matter?

Think back to when you first applied for admission into college. What stressed you out the most? The number of essays you had to write? Whether or not your teachers could write you a great letter of recommendation? How were you going to pay for it? Most likely it was your test scores.

Do test scores really matter?

One school in Massachusetts doesn’t think so. Hampshire College has decided to stop accepting SAT/ACT scores and the results have been astounding. They found that:

  • “Our yield, the percentage of students who accepted our invitation to enroll, rose in a single year from 18% to 26%, an amazing turnaround.
  • The quantity of applications went down, but the quality went up, likely because we made it harder to apply, asking for more essays. Our applicants collectively were more motivated, mature, disciplined and consistent in their high school years than past applicants.
  • Class diversity increased to 31% students of color, the most diverse in our history, up from 21% two years ago.
  • The percentage of students who are the first-generation from their family to attend college rose from 10% to 18% in this year’s class.”

Read the full story from the Independent in the UK here.

Let’s expand on this from the graduate perspective. Does the GRE matter when applying to grad school? Did you take the GRE when you applied to grad school? I did and had to drive 6 hours to do so. At the time there was no option to take the GRE in Houghton, MI. My friends and I drove 6 hours to Madison, WI to take the test.

On their website, the Princeton Review tries to “debunk” common myths about the GRE. They state:

MYTH #1: GRE scores are not as important as your personal statement and your relationships with faculty members at prospective schools.

FACT: While the weight placed on your GRE score in relation to other factors (undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, relevant experience in your chosen field, etc.) will vary from program to program, poor GREs can seriously hurt your chances of admission. In addition, GRE scores are an important factor when it comes to awarding teaching and research assistantships and merit–based financial aid.

In light of the first article, do you think this is an accurate description? Does a poor GRE score really matter so much if your future advisor really wants to hire you?

Let us know your thoughts about these two articles in the comments.

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One thought on “Do test scores matter?

  1. Great Post! I spent some time working for a tutoring company where a significant amount of my time was spent preparing high schoolers for ACT and SAT tests. I have come to the conclusion that these types of tests only illustrate how good a student is at taking these types of tests (sometime even that one specific test). The company I worked for like to brag that they could raise a students ACT or SAT score by so many points, I don’t know if that is true or not but if it is it wasn’t because we were helping them understand the material. Very little of the (nearly script-like) test prep was concept review, it was mostly practice test and testing strategies. If success is determined by test taking strategies as opposed to actual mastery of the material then I think it is a bad test.

    As for the GRE, what exactly is it meant to communicate to a prospective graduate school about an engineering student. I think it might be good for a liberal arts applicant but If you have taken it you know it certainly isn’t proving that you have the necessary math basis to be an engineering grad student. So basically if you don’t ace the really simple math you just look bad. Many graduate students don’t do well on the verbal portion (which is probably due to the fact that communication skills are often neglected in engineering undergrad) so many graduate programs have a low required score for the verbal for engineers. I guess is you really hit it out of the park then that is a good but if not then….. what ever.

    Standardized acceptance tests are used to eliminate large numbers of applicants that is all. Too bad that they are often eliminating people who couldn’t afford to take them more than once, or pay for expensive test prep. I am not a fan of standardized acceptance tests.

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