Does GRE Really Test What it Claims to Test?

Just like thousands of other Psychology students out there aspiring to go to graduate school, I signed up for the General Record Examinations last summer, not really knowing what to expect. I devoted much of my summer doing practice questions, memorizing vocabulary, and hoping that my painful SAT training experiences would be of help. Surprisingly it was.

General Record Examinations is a computerized, standardized test that hopeful graduate and business school applicants take during their undergraduate careers. It consists of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

As I spent much of my upper high school years preparing for the similar-sounding SATs, I couldn’t help but compare the two. They both have three corresponding sections. Other than the GRE writing section being longer and slightly more demanding of one’s critical thinking skills, I found the two exams to be nearly identical.

Standardized examinations aim to test students’ general aptitude to predict future success, and this is more or less reflected by the questions on the GRE Questions are very broad and generally test on critical thinking, and analytical aspects. However, it perplexed me how definitively one could prepare for it, much as how I prepared for the SATs. There are specialized classes and tutoring to help students familiarize with the format, content, typical trick questions, and frequent essay prompts of the exam. Simply doing practice questions and sample exams repetitively almost surely and drastically improves one’s performance on the exam. There are various academic organizations out there that put on specialized tutoring classes or even “boot camps” that claim to guarantee performance-boosts on standardized tests. Does that not defy the purpose of a aptitude test? If in the end, top scores are simply determined by accessibility and financial capability to these prep-courses, are these potentially life-changing tests not just benefiting the already-advantaged even further?!