Sunday, March 27, 2011

Philosophy Graduate Student's GREs

An interesting article from about the high scores of philosophy students. It predicts the [unposted] GRE scores of several philosophy programs. The article focus' on the standard deviation in the GRE scores of philosophy majors. Its almost appalling how well we do. Also an interesting insight into why they might be so high.

For a comparison, the average GRE for the total test-taking population is a 465 verbal (117 SD), 584 quantitative (149 SD), and 1049 total. The average GRE score for the philosophy undergraduate test-taking population is a 590 verbal, 638 quantitative, and 1228 total.

Let’s use the differences in standard deviation to gain a better idea of how much smarter the graduate students are from the undergraduates.  Philosophy undergraduates are roughly 1.07 standard deviations above the verbal mean, and .36 standard deviations above the quantitative mean.  Averaging them together yields that the undergraduates are roughly .72 standard deviations above the general test-taking mean.
The average [graduate philosophy student's GRE score] yields that they tested 1.58 standard deviations from the mean. 
[The author ran some predictive algorithms to asses schools which do not state their average GREs]

Here are some predicted average GRE scores for the graduate students at the following departments (with their standard deviations from the total test-taking population):
(15th) City University of New York Graduate Center: 724 verbal (2.21 SD), 758 quantitative (1.17 SD), and 1482 total (1.69 SD).
(10th) University of California-Berkeley: 735 verbal (2.31 SD), 766 quantitative (1.22 SD), 1501 total (1.77 SD).
(5th) University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: 746 verbal (2.4 SD), 774 quantitative (1.28 SD), 1520 total (1.84 SD).
(3rd) Princeton University: 750 verbal (2.44 SD), 777 quantitative (1.3 SD), 1527 total (1.87 SD).
(1st) New York University: 754 verbal (2.47 SD), 780 quantitative (1.32 SD), 1534 total (1.9 SD)

These predictions are probably on the conservative side; If these average GRE scores approximate the real ones, then all I can say is “WOW!”  You might be wondering why the student quality is so high; the reason is that the job market for professional philosophers is abysmal, which forces graduate departments to have minimal funding for graduate students, which forces the departments to accept the best of best, which forces an acceptance rate that is roughly 3%-5% for the top-ten departments.  I highly doubt that the best physics departments in the United States have acceptance rates this small.


  1. Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. I'm doing practice GRE in . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

  2. First of all, where did you get the data of the grad schools and their GRE scores? Those departments don't release such information AFAIK. I don't know what you mean by "predicted average GRE scores". Predicted from what?

    You said:

    "I highly doubt that the best physics departments in the United States have acceptance rates this small."

    That's probably the case since physics departments get much more funding and are able to accept far more grad students and thus are less selective. Caltech may be the most demanding physics department in the country and require high GREs to get in. But when one looks at their average GRE and undergrad GPA, they are dwarfed by admitted students from top philosophy programs. Average GRE V = 600 and Q=780 for Caltech but for Texas at Austin's PhD philosophy program, it is over 1480 combined.

    Caltech admitted I believe around 12% of their applicants but top philosophy departments only admit around 4%.

  3. Thanks for the information on caltech's physics program and Texas' philosophy program.

    How the GRE's were predicted:
    I actually found this information in another article. The majority of this post was just copied from there. The link in this post will take you to the full article.

    Basically what the author did is correlated the philosophical gourmet rankings with the schools who did released the GRE scores of accepted students. He then made this information into a graph and plotted out the slope. Then by using this equation he predicted the GRE scores which were not announced. Granted it is a somewhat flawed method and assumes a constant slope, but it might be helpful to some students. Here is a bit from the article which was not posted which explains the method.

    "I’ve thrown out the Texas score to do separate regressions on the verbal and quantitative scores against the ranking. The verbal y-value is 756.62348459 and the slope is -2.151887773; the quantitative y-value is 782.06927607 and the slope is -1.6279853. I stick with the simpler values of 756.62, -2.15, 782.07, and -1.63. We find the corresponding equations to be Verbal = 756.62 – 2.15(Rank), and Quantitative = 782.07 – 1.63(Rank). These equations predict a 713.62 average verbal score, and a 749.47 average quantitative score for Texas, which adds to a 1463 total average (with rounding). This is seven points off from the 1470 reported total. You might not think the equations’ predictive power is very accurate—they seem to be on the conservative side—but the conservativeness shall work well for my purposes; it’s better to be conservative for my following prediction"

  4. That's not a prediction, that wild speculation.

  5. I agree it is seriously problematic methodologically but I figured it could be of interest to some students during the application process.

    Students: Keep in mind that GRE scores are generally one of the least important aspects of your application for graduate school in philosophy.

    More On GRE and Applications:

  6. thanks for sharing information really it is very useful

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