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Number of students taking GRE increases

Ellyn Michalak | Monday, October 13, 2008

According to Council of Graduate Studies, enrollment in graduate school has increased three percent annually over the past 10 years, leading to a spike in the number of seniors taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

“The increase in doctorates awarded, particularly in key fields, is a necessary step in producing the highly qualified workforce required to enhance U.S. competitiveness,” said Debra W. Stewart, CGS President in a 2008 press release. “While the increased representation of minority students is another encouraging sign, we must continue to expand the domestic pipeline to ensure that America has the talent pool it will need in the 21st century global economy.”

Admissions departments use GRE Scores to determine admission into a graduate program. The test scores supplement an application.

The test consists of three parts – verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections are scored on a 200-800 point scale and the analytical writing section is scored on a 0-6 point scale. Scores are valid for five years from the time the student takes the test.

Research also shows students under the age of 23 score earn a higher average score than any other age group.

“What we are suggesting is that students consider taking the GRE if they do know what they want to do after graduation. We have information that shows that individuals under the age of 23 tend to do better because they are in the middle of using academic skills that they would use in graduate school and on the GRE,” Dawn Piacentino, associate director in the GRE program at Education Testing Services (ETS), a non-profit research and standardized testing organization, said.

People under the age of 23 earned an average score of 484 on the verbal portion of the test and 587 on the quantitative part on the test, ETS data showed. The scores dropped noticeably for people in the 23-25 year old age group. In 2006, the 23-25 year old group scored an average of 477 on the verbal section and 556 on the quantitative section.

“What we see is generally individuals that are under the age of 23 do better than older student and the differences are significant on the quantitative measure” Piacentino said.

The quantitative section measures a student’s abilities in arithmetic, algebra, geometry probability and statistics.

“The GRE does not have college level math on it, so you can think that the younger a person is, the closer they are to their high school courses,” Piacentino said. “As people get farther away from high school, they will need to do a review to refresh their skills.”

Research done by the council of Graduate Studies showed there were a total of 1,698,445 graduate students enrolled in the United States in 2007. In addition to the three percent annual increase in graduate enrollment over the last 10 years, the data conducted by Council of Graduate Studies showed there was a four percent yearly enrollment increase among women and a five percent yearly enrollment increase among international students.

“There is published data that shows that the higher degree that you have the more money you make,” Piacentino said.

Senior Elizabeth Nye took the GRE in order to gain a master’s degree in education through ACE. She also plans on using the scores in a few years to earn a master’s degree in psychology.

“I took the GRE because I am planning on pursuing a graduate degree in psychology eventually down the road,” she said. “I also am interested in doing ACE I like that it’s a combined program where you can provide service to children and get a masters in education. I am hoping to combine my degrees in education and psychology in order to develop programs for our educational programs.”

Because ETS encourages students to take the GRE, they offer free preparation for all who register to take the test.

“The GRE makes available free test prep material for everyone who registers for the general test because we think its important that a person be prepared and know what kind of questions are on the test. Being prepared and understanding what they are going to be tested on is very important,” Piacentino said.