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Screenshot - 12012015 - 10:22:42 PM

The above is from an article in Nature, A test that fails. Two stories first. One of my good friends who went to grad school at MIT got a good ribbing from his roommates because he was the only one who didn’t get a perfect score on the math portion of the GRE. Luckily for him, he was a chemist, so they let him into the program. It is a truth universally acknowledged among the quantitatively ept that the quantitative GRE is just way too easy, and is compressed at the top scale and does not allow for differentiation of the good from the great. That is, there are a wide range of competencies which are bracketed among those who score a “perfect” 800 on the quantitative GRE. And there are many people in fields like physics who score 800; the average score on quantitative reasoning for those who intend to study physics in graduate school (not those who get accepted!) is in the 740s. Second, a friend of mine was complaining about the lack of underrepresented minorities in the biological sciences at my graduate school. To her surprise and irritation I just pointed out that all the underrepresented minorities within the range of GRE scores that our program takes would be going to Stanford or Berkeley. There weren’t enough of them that we’d be competitive. Data like the above is just not well known.

Another point is that the article above is very anti-GRE. They claim that the GRE score is not very predictive of ultimate outcome. One of my professors pointed to a study at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) where they tracked future successes (e.g., tenured position in academia x years out), and correlated them with GPA and GRE. Neither were very strong predictors. Rather, their Ph.D. research productivity was highly predictive. This isn’t that surprising, because GPA and GRE are just proxies to get at whether one can be a productive researcher, and being productive in graduate school is probably the best guide as to whether you’ll be productive later. But, one thing I want to point out is that UCSF is a very selective school. The range of GRE scores in particular is likely to be narrow, because they’re going to simply not even look at applicants with low scores. Whenever people point out that MCAT or GRE is poorly correlated with professional outcomes, remember that you’ve already compressed the distribution toward the higher end. If schools allowed a much wider range of applicants in, then these aptitude tests would be much more predictive.

Screenshot - 12012015 - 11:12:23 PM In fact, the reality is that there is variation in outcomes according to general intelligence among graduate students. As I stated above, the maximum score of the GRE, especially the quantitative reasoning section, is too low to get at that. But Camilla Benbow’s group has been tracking mathematically precocious children for decades. As the data to the left shows, the smartest-of-the-smart are more likely to become scientists, and much more likely to attain tenure. The cut-off was scoring in the top 1% of their age group on the mathematical SAT test, a 390 score. You can see how much better those very rare students who score 700 or more at age 13 are doing later in life.

Finally, obviously these tests are very robust and predictive, but they’re population statistics. There are people who do not do well on the GRE who do well in academia, and vice versa. But, the reality is that these tests are not useless, and just how “not useless” they are will become more obvious if no one made recourse to them.

Addendum: My physicist friends always enjoy a chuckle whenever I honestly state that physicists are smarter than biologists, as I am a biologist. There are rare cases, such as Ed Witten, of people entering physics from other fields, but in general it’s the physicists who are the imperialists. And that’s because they’re smart, able to decompose general problems rapidly and decisively. In contrast, biologists are somewhat narrow in their focus, and plodding in their reasoning. These are generalizations, but I think they’re roughly correct (I had a friend at a prominent non-profit who was irritated with how difficult it was to find Ph.D. biologists who were flexible thinkers in interviews). And standardized tests bear out my generalization (though honestly, it is a pleasure talking to physicists and mathematicians about out of topic fields compared to biologists partly because they’re so mentally acute; you don’t need GRE stats to get this).

But, another implication of this logic is that some minority groups are also not too bright. If you don’t think these tests are accurately reflecting real intellectual skills that groups have though you don’t have to go there. And my experience is that this is a common belief, including among physicists. But then I suppose they shouldn’t get so full of themselves about their GRE scores in relation to biologists?

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Academia, GRE, Psychometrics 
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  1. Do departments really care more about the quantitative score than verbal?

    I’ve always assumed if anything the verbal score would have more weight. It’s not compressed at the high end and 800 is impressive, at least to me. I’ve only known one grad student (math) who got 800 verbal and he was something else.

    It’d be interesting if anyone has a similar chart for verbal. My impression is verbal is more significant than quantitative for academic success.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    if it's a quantitative science, which now includes lots of biology, they care a lot about the quant. i've been told that in some programs they don't pay much attention to verbal and writing score, though obviously they should since writing is a thing u do in science ;-)
    , @RCB
    A quantitative evo bio professor once told me that he pays much more attention to the verbal score than the quant score, precisely for that reason.
  2. @Bryan Bell
    Do departments really care more about the quantitative score than verbal?

    I've always assumed if anything the verbal score would have more weight. It's not compressed at the high end and 800 is impressive, at least to me. I've only known one grad student (math) who got 800 verbal and he was something else.

    It'd be interesting if anyone has a similar chart for verbal. My impression is verbal is more significant than quantitative for academic success.

    if it’s a quantitative science, which now includes lots of biology, they care a lot about the quant. i’ve been told that in some programs they don’t pay much attention to verbal and writing score, though obviously they should since writing is a thing u do in science 😉

  3. A friend in grad school from IIT in India told me that he and his friends completed the math GRE in half the allotted time, and were shocked at how easy it was. Among this group, he was the only one not to get triple 800s (getting “only” a 790 in Verbal). This was back when there was a third analytical test, which was similar to the LSAT.

    My personal view is that what the analytical test captures is more important and predictive for doing scientific research than the math test, because it evaluates your ability to think logically, when all the information you need is right in front of you.

    • Replies: @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

  4. Razib,

    How much credence, if any, do you give to the supposition that because of the broad scale push for diversity in higher ed in the US, that certain minorities are being set up for academic difficulty in that they are being forced into a sort of Peter Principle situation?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    don't know. don't see it yet in the sciences that i know of. fields like "ethnic studies" were and always are jokes. contrast:

    person 1: "what do you do?"
    person 2: "i'm a professor of physics/ethnic studies"
  5. I find this interesting. I was accepted at some pretty good grad schools (in the sciences — but obviously one of the “lesser” sciences) with far lower than an 800 in the math GRE. I don’t recall ever being asked about my GRE scores, or extensively discussing them with classmates or professors (except for one acquaintance — a native English speaker — who went to a top-five graduate program in the hard sciences with a verbal GRE score in the 500s)

    What seemed far more important in terms of admissions was the reputation of the undergraduate institution (i.e., has this institution previously produced candidates that have gone on to do well in our graduate program) and the candidate’s undergraduate research experience.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I don’t recall ever being asked about my GRE scores, or extensively discussing them with classmates or professors

    often today they are just useful as cut offs. once you are beyond a threshold it might not be a big issue. e.g., econ program won't even look at ppl with GRE score below 700, and all competitive applicants are > 750. for biology is it certainly lower.
  6. There’s more to imperialism than smarts. Mathematicians are pretty smart, but aren’t into colonization. Partly it’s that the physics job market is tighter, but it was already true 50 years ago.

  7. @Bryan Bell
    Do departments really care more about the quantitative score than verbal?

    I've always assumed if anything the verbal score would have more weight. It's not compressed at the high end and 800 is impressive, at least to me. I've only known one grad student (math) who got 800 verbal and he was something else.

    It'd be interesting if anyone has a similar chart for verbal. My impression is verbal is more significant than quantitative for academic success.

    A quantitative evo bio professor once told me that he pays much more attention to the verbal score than the quant score, precisely for that reason.

  8. More break down of GRE distribution by intended field of study, here: https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table4.pdf

    I had half expected to see that the majors that scored well on quantitative reasoning would also score well on verbal reasoning – i.e. that engineers were just plain smarter than humanities majors, etc. But that’s not exactly the case. Humanities majors do score better on the verbal than engineers and physical scientists.

    More intuitive patterns arise. E.g., among social scientists, the most quantitative are indeed the economists. And the best verbal reasoners are the philosophers.

    • Replies: @Bryan Bell
    Fascinating not what I expected. Thanks for digging up the data.
  9. @iffen
    Razib,

    How much credence, if any, do you give to the supposition that because of the broad scale push for diversity in higher ed in the US, that certain minorities are being set up for academic difficulty in that they are being forced into a sort of Peter Principle situation?

    don’t know. don’t see it yet in the sciences that i know of. fields like “ethnic studies” were and always are jokes. contrast:

    person 1: “what do you do?”
    person 2: “i’m a professor of physics/ethnic studies”

    • Replies: @iffen
    Bubba’s Aircraft Maintenance & Lawnmower Repair

    I think ethnic studies can be defended as history and sociology. I can’t justify one for every 2 and 4 year institution, maybe 4 or 5 for the entire US.
  10. @Joe Q.
    I find this interesting. I was accepted at some pretty good grad schools (in the sciences -- but obviously one of the "lesser" sciences) with far lower than an 800 in the math GRE. I don't recall ever being asked about my GRE scores, or extensively discussing them with classmates or professors (except for one acquaintance -- a native English speaker -- who went to a top-five graduate program in the hard sciences with a verbal GRE score in the 500s)

    What seemed far more important in terms of admissions was the reputation of the undergraduate institution (i.e., has this institution previously produced candidates that have gone on to do well in our graduate program) and the candidate's undergraduate research experience.

    I don’t recall ever being asked about my GRE scores, or extensively discussing them with classmates or professors

    often today they are just useful as cut offs. once you are beyond a threshold it might not be a big issue. e.g., econ program won’t even look at ppl with GRE score below 700, and all competitive applicants are > 750. for biology is it certainly lower.

  11. I agree about the restriction of range issue in your GRE/UCSF discussion. Another aspect which does not get as much attention is how heavily selected the lower GRE admittees are likely to be. Presumably someone who is admitted with a low GRE score has other positive attributes. Some of these are likely to correlate positively with later performance (e.g. high grades and strong recommendations) while others are not (e.g. AA) with some others being unclear to me (e.g. personal influence/connections could be argued either way IMO). This also depends on how later performance is measured–at this point AA status probably does correlate positively with chance of getting tenure, but not chance of receiving a Nobel prize.

  12. @Razib Khan
    don't know. don't see it yet in the sciences that i know of. fields like "ethnic studies" were and always are jokes. contrast:

    person 1: "what do you do?"
    person 2: "i'm a professor of physics/ethnic studies"

    Bubba’s Aircraft Maintenance & Lawnmower Repair

    I think ethnic studies can be defended as history and sociology. I can’t justify one for every 2 and 4 year institution, maybe 4 or 5 for the entire US.

  13. @Jim W
    A friend in grad school from IIT in India told me that he and his friends completed the math GRE in half the allotted time, and were shocked at how easy it was. Among this group, he was the only one not to get triple 800s (getting "only" a 790 in Verbal). This was back when there was a third analytical test, which was similar to the LSAT.

    My personal view is that what the analytical test captures is more important and predictive for doing scientific research than the math test, because it evaluates your ability to think logically, when all the information you need is right in front of you.

    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I’m not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I’ve seen would put it at roughly 0.1% — one in a thousand. Given that it’s a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I’d project). Yet all of this guy’s friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    • Replies: @Sam Shama
    I don't think you know what you are talking about. any IIT alumni board, kanpur, kharagpur, bombay, delhi; just go there and ask what people have scored. the scoring system has changed, but in the '90s as i recall, getting less than 2250 was shameful. there were plenty that got 2350+ and more than a few that had perfect scores. the maths part was a joke.
    , @Jim W
    Well, I assume it was a small group of friends (2-4 people?) he was talking about, which makes it not so unlikely. I've actually met lots of people who reported perfect scores on individual SAT and GRE tests, and a few with perfect across the board scores (I suppose they could all be lying though), and lots of people who got perfect on quantitative.

    Remember, you're talking about 0.1% of general population, but once you're in an elite graduate school it will be a much higher percentage.

    My experience with test-retest reliability was that I got virtually identical PSAT and SAT scores and also for PGRE and GRE. The other day I heard an interesting way to estimate IQ from SAT: just remove the zeros from the verbal and quantitative and add them. Seems like a reasonable approximation.
    , @rec1man
    I saw a report of GRE scores for IIT

    The average math score was 760

    The average Analytical Reasoning score was 670

    I will try to dig up the report

    The report compared GRE scores for undergraduates in IIT, Cal-Tech and MIT
    in Math and Analytical Reasoning, and all 3 universities scored very similarly
    , @Anonymous

    Given that it’s a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice
     
    I received an 800 GRE verbal score in the 2000s, and your expectation was true in my case. The bulk of my preparation was going through the three (maybe 5?) tests included on a GRE practice CD-ROM, where I get 750+ but no perfect scores.

    I also recall practicing pen and paper long arithmetic a little, that skill having grown slow since middle school.
    , @namae nanka
    The veracity would depend on which IIT and stream they were from. Your rank decides that and it's not that far-fetched that the top-rankers from these institutes would whoop the GRE which is way easier than the exam they took after the 12th grade. See this for instance,

    https://www.quora.com/Why-do-top-American-universities-admit-graduate-students-on-the-basis-of-an-examination-that-is-as-easy-as-the-GRE

    I can surely see them getting 1600(maths+verbal and a search brings up Indians from other regional universities getting M+V perfect scores too) but the writing portion seems a bit of a stretch though I haven't looked into it.
  14. @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about. any IIT alumni board, kanpur, kharagpur, bombay, delhi; just go there and ask what people have scored. the scoring system has changed, but in the ’90s as i recall, getting less than 2250 was shameful. there were plenty that got 2350+ and more than a few that had perfect scores. the maths part was a joke.

  15. @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    Well, I assume it was a small group of friends (2-4 people?) he was talking about, which makes it not so unlikely. I’ve actually met lots of people who reported perfect scores on individual SAT and GRE tests, and a few with perfect across the board scores (I suppose they could all be lying though), and lots of people who got perfect on quantitative.

    Remember, you’re talking about 0.1% of general population, but once you’re in an elite graduate school it will be a much higher percentage.

    My experience with test-retest reliability was that I got virtually identical PSAT and SAT scores and also for PGRE and GRE. The other day I heard an interesting way to estimate IQ from SAT: just remove the zeros from the verbal and quantitative and add them. Seems like a reasonable approximation.

  16. @RCB
    More break down of GRE distribution by intended field of study, here: https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table4.pdf

    I had half expected to see that the majors that scored well on quantitative reasoning would also score well on verbal reasoning - i.e. that engineers were just plain smarter than humanities majors, etc. But that's not exactly the case. Humanities majors do score better on the verbal than engineers and physical scientists.

    More intuitive patterns arise. E.g., among social scientists, the most quantitative are indeed the economists. And the best verbal reasoners are the philosophers.

    Fascinating not what I expected. Thanks for digging up the data.

  17. I’d think a lot of this would just be based off training, no? I know at my university (Toronto) life science students had a very different stream of math courses from physical science students.

    Your comments re: the GRE, GPA and research productivity are interesting. Do you have it handy? It seems to make the US focus on course-based masters rather than research-based masters rather strange.

  18. Some harsh perspective in that graph. I didn’t study five minutes for the quant section, but I guess I still could’ve been competitive for a biology program!

    #13 above is probably correct that verbal scores fluctuate a lot at the upper end, past 700, because after that point, the words they throw at you are so arcane—not in any deck of GRE study cards in existence, and not amenable to Latin or Greek derivational deduction—that it’s luck of the draw whether or not you’ve happened across them in your education. Words like “plangent” and “ascoliasm.” I took the GRE twice, got 780 Verbal first time, 720 the second time.

  19. The GRE scoring system was changed a few years ago. Maybe 2012? When I took it in 2013, it was the new version. A perfect score (170) is now harder to get on the math section, about 1% instead of 8% of test takers get it. A perfect score on the verbal section is now easier (an old 760 would now be perfect), although it is still harder than the math section.

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I am…shocked…at the low quant scores in the life sciences. HBD issues aside, how is this considered acceptable?

    I took the GRE on two separate occasions, five years apart, for admittance into an MA and Ph.d program in the humanities, respectively. I scored an 800 both times on the QR section (not so for the verbal/writing sections, unfortunately, not that it mattered). The “math” GRE is not hard – in fact it is far easier than its SAT counterpart, in my opinion. I assumed my experience was typical, but evidently not. No wonder Greg Cochran has managed to carve a niche for himself in evolutionary biology.

    • Replies: @gcochran
    Back when I took the GRE, the math and verbal each went up to 900. And it was in cuneiform, of course.
  21. @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    I saw a report of GRE scores for IIT

    The average math score was 760

    The average Analytical Reasoning score was 670

    I will try to dig up the report

    The report compared GRE scores for undergraduates in IIT, Cal-Tech and MIT
    in Math and Analytical Reasoning, and all 3 universities scored very similarly

  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    Given that it’s a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice

    I received an 800 GRE verbal score in the 2000s, and your expectation was true in my case. The bulk of my preparation was going through the three (maybe 5?) tests included on a GRE practice CD-ROM, where I get 750+ but no perfect scores.

    I also recall practicing pen and paper long arithmetic a little, that skill having grown slow since middle school.

  23. http://www.iitk.ac.in/new/data/Finance_Officer_Office/1.pdf

    GRE scores

    MIT-Math = 760
    MIT-Analytical = 698

    Stanford-Math = 762
    Stanford – Analytical = 686

    UC-Berkeley Math = 756
    UC-Berkeley Analytical = 688

    IIT-India Math = 760
    IIT-India Analytical = 690

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Psst, self-preening arrogance of STEM majors aside, Verbal ability is more g-loaded than Quantitative ability and always has been. Spearman himself noted that. It’s also an open secret among standardized test prep tutors that it’s much easier to train students to improve their scores on the Quantitative portions of tests like the SAT and GMAT than it is for the Verbal portions. Quantitative scores are much more amenable to improvement through hard work and preparation. And that’s without even factoring the quality of primary and secondary education one has received throughout one’s life, which is bound to have some effect on one’s preparedness. (The logical takeaway from this is that groups who underperform on the Quantitative section, and to a lesser extent the Verbal section, are not necessarily demonstrating their true potential, so you probably could’ve omitted your snide remarks about some minorities “not being too bright.”)

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    And that’s without even factoring the quality of primary and secondary education one has received throughout one’s life, which is bound to have some effect on one’s preparedness. (The logical takeaway from this is that groups who underperform on the Quantitative section, and to a lesser extent the Verbal section, are not necessarily demonstrating their true potential, so you probably could’ve omitted your snide remarks about some minorities “not being too bright.”)

    shut your fucking mouth.

    1) test prep isn't as great as you think it is (though i've heard the same stuff)

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/the-sat-test-prep-income-and-race.html

    2) high income blacks score the same as low income whites on the SAT

    http://www.jbhe.com/latest/index012209_p.html

    $200,000+ blacks mean 981
    less than $20,000 whites mean 978

    , @namae nanka
    Verbal is more of a fundamental skill so it influencing tests of other subjects is a given and thus more likely to reflect a general factor. But I'm not sure about your assertions.

    As for test prep not influencing SAT-V scores as much, SAT-V scores cratered during the 60s by 50-60 points. So it's not like the verbal portion is a way better predictor than quant. section.

    As for minorities, blacks use more test prep than whites from comparable social backgrounds yet get way lower scores. Also see,

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/applying-occams-razor-vs-asserting-occams-racist/
  25. @Anonymous
    Psst, self-preening arrogance of STEM majors aside, Verbal ability is more g-loaded than Quantitative ability and always has been. Spearman himself noted that. It's also an open secret among standardized test prep tutors that it's much easier to train students to improve their scores on the Quantitative portions of tests like the SAT and GMAT than it is for the Verbal portions. Quantitative scores are much more amenable to improvement through hard work and preparation. And that's without even factoring the quality of primary and secondary education one has received throughout one's life, which is bound to have some effect on one's preparedness. (The logical takeaway from this is that groups who underperform on the Quantitative section, and to a lesser extent the Verbal section, are not necessarily demonstrating their true potential, so you probably could've omitted your snide remarks about some minorities "not being too bright.")

    And that’s without even factoring the quality of primary and secondary education one has received throughout one’s life, which is bound to have some effect on one’s preparedness. (The logical takeaway from this is that groups who underperform on the Quantitative section, and to a lesser extent the Verbal section, are not necessarily demonstrating their true potential, so you probably could’ve omitted your snide remarks about some minorities “not being too bright.”)

    shut your fucking mouth.

    1) test prep isn’t as great as you think it is (though i’ve heard the same stuff)

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/the-sat-test-prep-income-and-race.html

    2) high income blacks score the same as low income whites on the SAT

    http://www.jbhe.com/latest/index012209_p.html

    $200,000+ blacks mean 981
    less than $20,000 whites mean 978

  26. @candid_observer
    And you believe your friend when he reports this?

    When I read stories like this, my first thought is that the person telling them is simply lying, or repeating a lie told to him.

    I'm not aware of any reliable report as to how many people achieve an 800 on the verbal portion of the GRE, but a reasonable projection from the reliably reported figures I've seen would put it at roughly 0.1% -- one in a thousand. Given that it's a verbal test, one would expect that a very high proportion of those who get 800 would not get it if they were to take it twice (this is even true of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT, which a significantly higher proportion of students achieve). What that means is that there are vanishingly small numbers of students who would reliably get 800 on the GRE verbal (well less than 1 in 10,000, I'd project). Yet all of this guy's friends not only got 800 on the GRE verbal, but also on the quantitative and the analytical?

    I always wonder why people would believe exceedingly improbable stories like this, rather than the vastly more probable explanation: that one is being told a lie. Liars abound, and, to be perfectly frank, they abound and abound in the Indian culture.

    The veracity would depend on which IIT and stream they were from. Your rank decides that and it’s not that far-fetched that the top-rankers from these institutes would whoop the GRE which is way easier than the exam they took after the 12th grade. See this for instance,

    https://www.quora.com/Why-do-top-American-universities-admit-graduate-students-on-the-basis-of-an-examination-that-is-as-easy-as-the-GRE

    I can surely see them getting 1600(maths+verbal and a search brings up Indians from other regional universities getting M+V perfect scores too) but the writing portion seems a bit of a stretch though I haven’t looked into it.

  27. @Anonymous
    Psst, self-preening arrogance of STEM majors aside, Verbal ability is more g-loaded than Quantitative ability and always has been. Spearman himself noted that. It's also an open secret among standardized test prep tutors that it's much easier to train students to improve their scores on the Quantitative portions of tests like the SAT and GMAT than it is for the Verbal portions. Quantitative scores are much more amenable to improvement through hard work and preparation. And that's without even factoring the quality of primary and secondary education one has received throughout one's life, which is bound to have some effect on one's preparedness. (The logical takeaway from this is that groups who underperform on the Quantitative section, and to a lesser extent the Verbal section, are not necessarily demonstrating their true potential, so you probably could've omitted your snide remarks about some minorities "not being too bright.")

    Verbal is more of a fundamental skill so it influencing tests of other subjects is a given and thus more likely to reflect a general factor. But I’m not sure about your assertions.

    As for test prep not influencing SAT-V scores as much, SAT-V scores cratered during the 60s by 50-60 points. So it’s not like the verbal portion is a way better predictor than quant. section.

    As for minorities, blacks use more test prep than whites from comparable social backgrounds yet get way lower scores. Also see,

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/applying-occams-razor-vs-asserting-occams-racist/

  28. I’ve long wondered whether the depressed verbal scores have to do with 28% of test-takers being non-US citizens, and a good portion of those non-native english speakers.

    The GRE Snapshot shows an inversion of test results between foreign and domestic test takers: 156 QR and 146 VR for non-US groups vs. 150 QR and 153 VR for US (pg 6 of https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/snapshot.pdf).

    Bring back the analytical reasoning section, I’d say, to address the too-easy QR and the native speaker-biased VR.

  29. My thinking on this mathematics ability and how general it is (somewhat guided by what I remember from looking at psychometrics) is that verbal is probably a better measure of g as it measures very well if a person thinks like others, yet generally faster, more efficiently and with higher capacity of memory (which seems much like what g ought to be). We all live immersed in language and communication, and focus on language and communication relative to other skills does not differ very sharply for many of us (although there are some with certain kinds of autism, and other “neurodiversity” who may live in less verbal worlds).

    While mathematics is a more unusual, more corner case sort of thinking, where the average person has much less experience and which has a higher number of other factors involved in ability: Is this person someone with a slightly kooky ability to focus on abstracted problems?Have they got crystallized knowledge of particular mathematics techniques derived from this focus and approach plus reinforcing experiences? Can they visualize abstract spaces and rotations very well? These have a bearing on mathematical ability and are probably fairly sensitive to training, compared to verbal ability (which in general may be more “if you have an efficient brain, you’ll pick it up; if you don’t, you just won’t”). There seem to me to probably be many more people who underperform the general function of their brain on math due to difficulty focusing or caring about it, than underperform their verbal ability.

    Those other factors that play a part in math are “noise” if you’re looking for a person’s general level of intelligence (simply a more efficient and effective brain).

    But they should be useful in a lot of disciplines. So it’s a tricky thing here: If mathematics is descriptively and demographically a relatively “particular” kind of intelligence (in terms of being particularly enhanced in people with unusual cognitive profiles for human being) yet is “generally” applicable to nature (in a way verbal ability may not be), is it well described as general or specific?

  30. Test preps for quantitative don’t seem to effective to me, as the maths are heavily sequential and reliant on well-built mathematical bases; students who get continued, quality training are much better off than students with spotty math education who are taught to cram over a few months to a year.

    So for comments pointing out blacks use more prep courses, it means little.

    I think the larger culprit is not some vile financial conspiracy by imperialist whites to keep minorities down; it’s just cultural. Look at the successful demographics — Asians, Jewish Whites– and you notice the heavy cultural emphasis on academic achievement, especially on the better compensated sciences (physical sciences, medicine). I may not be from an African American background, but I am from a Hispanic White background from upper Middle Class settings, and I can say culturally Latin American culture does not place the same value on academic success/curiosity in the “hard” sciences.

    I also want to point out that for the conversation, we are speaking specifically of African Americans; that is, the culture of American blacks. The culture is not the same as that from other blacks in different countries.

    Nigerian twins winning math records. Common point when reading into them is the culture in which they were raised at home and the value and support it placed for academics.

    http://milwaukeecourieronline.com/index.php/2012/05/03/prodigy-is-youngest-to-receive-masters-degree-from-oxford/

    It’s also important to know the contribution of having parents who are professional and college educated, especially in the sciences. Having parents with Master’s, MD’s, or PhD’s is quite a leg up. They can get the child in order much less clumsily, they know the scholarship application processes, the kind of discipline required to excel in science, and as usual in life they have the connections for potential mentors/shadowing.

  31. Getting 2400(3×800) GRE is not so difficult to achieve if you study for it.

    I heard that GRE got easier after the mid 90’s, and after the mid-2000’s the format was completely changed so that even comparing with old results became meaningless.

    I got perfect scores from the GRE taken in the early 90’s and I studied for it.
    No prep course or anything like that but the real GRE’s from previous years helped a lot.
    I was a hard core math major on an elite “mathlete” track so verbal scores mattered absolutely none. It was a kind of jest. “What if a math bum like me obtains perfect GRE scores?”

    What happened? nothing. Some professors found it amusing but it is not like I would win a million dollars. And in the end I did not even need GRE.

    After screwing up Putnam Exam I became so thoroughly despondent I did not even apply to graduate schools. In May I went to a top ranking professor and told him I did not apply to any graduate school and he went “I am really really really disappointed; you are so irresponsible”.

    He told me to write down my grades, only math courses and put me in the graduate program of the same school. GRE? Not even mentioned.
    No Harvard or Princeton but my U. was one of top five schools at least in math. I don’t think GRE matters much in top graduate schools, especially verbal.

    You guys have totally wrong ideas about graduate admission in elite universities.
    If you made a Putnam fellow(I didn’t, of course) or wrote a very promising research paper, you are IN. It does not matter what your GRE scores are.

    Of course I also got 990 in Math advanced. It was a pretty boring test and a lot of people get perfect scores there.

  32. @Anonymous
    I am...shocked...at the low quant scores in the life sciences. HBD issues aside, how is this considered acceptable?

    I took the GRE on two separate occasions, five years apart, for admittance into an MA and Ph.d program in the humanities, respectively. I scored an 800 both times on the QR section (not so for the verbal/writing sections, unfortunately, not that it mattered). The "math" GRE is not hard - in fact it is far easier than its SAT counterpart, in my opinion. I assumed my experience was typical, but evidently not. No wonder Greg Cochran has managed to carve a niche for himself in evolutionary biology.

    Back when I took the GRE, the math and verbal each went up to 900. And it was in cuneiform, of course.

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