Does GRE scores really predict graduate school success?

There have been numerous studies investigating the correlation between GRE scores and graduate school success. Despite of many studies presented, the correlation is still uncertain. The results show a range of correlation, little predictive validity to strong correlation, depending on the study.

The Educational Testing Service states that there is only a moderate correlation between GRE scores and first-year graduate GPA average. One of the reasons for this weak correlation is that there are many critical skills associated with scholarly and professional success that is not currently measured with GRE. In addition, the results are complicated by the criterion that is used to measure academic success in graduate school. Some schools use first-year graduate GPA, final GPA or percentage of students completed program. Studies often compare GRE scores with GPAs of those who completed the program. However, this comparison does not include any information regarding the students who weren’t admitted in the first place and the students who drop out along the way. Therefore, based on the information gathered, the test scores are not a reliable method to deny admission solely with. Moreover, there is variability present in the predictive validity of GRE scores between disciplines. GRE is composed of three different tests: analytic, verbal and quantitative. Different disciplines require different level of specific skills; therefore the predictive validity tends to improve when a particular test is matched with the specific discipline. For example, verbal score tend to predict success in disciplines that are descriptive in nature and quantitative score predicting for symbol-oriented disciplines. Therefore even though subject tests are rarely required for admission, they tend to be a better predictor of success.

We are still not quite sure about high GRE score predicting graduate school success. Thus, GRE scores should only be a part of all things that should be considered for admission, along with multiple sources of information such as: GPA, letter of recommendation, personal statement etc. In addition, rather than using the composite GRE score to make a judgment about an applicant, choosing a score of a test that suits the discipline in interest is more of a suitable way to assess.


Orlando, J. (2005). The reliability of GRE scores in predicting graduate school success. Ubiquity, 2005 (June). Retrieved from


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