By Alex Halverson
Schoolwork and growing pressures of grades are common gripes among students, but students fresh off an undergraduate degree are finding an even more frustrating obstacle.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a $205 test many universities require for admission into master’s programs.
Much like the SATs or ACTs most universities require for admission into undergraduate programs, the GRE is a standardized test measuring student’s skills in knowledge they’ve learned over 17-plus years of education.
Alternatives to the GRE are available, but are more specific aptitude tests offered by specific programs, such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business students.
One student who took the GMAT was Jacob Bonner, a business management graduate in the accelerated Master of Business Administration program.
“I would say it’s at least a little bit unnecessary,” Bonner said. “It’s expensive, a lot of people will put in hundreds of hours of study time for this one exam.”
Standardized tests are the subject of much debate around the country, particularly regarding the usefulness of tests to measure aptitude. Despite meeting the need to measure knowledge, standardized testing is criticized for using unnecessary amounts of resources and instructional times, according to an article by the Harvard Political Review “The Case Against Standardized Testing.”
A 2013 report by the American Federation of Teachers found some teachers in North Carolina high schools were losing 20 percent of instructional time to test preparation.
“It’s an exam that’s on math, reading and analytical skills, so it’s not really something you’ll be using in the workforce,” Bonner said.
Another student found the test unnecessary, not because of what it measured, but because of how weighted it was in her application.
“It’s expensive, a lot of people will put in hundreds of hours of study time for this one exam.”
Molly Whipple is a student in Western’s speech-language pathology graduate program who had to take the GRE.
“I understand why they do it, to compare to a huge population of people,” Whipple said. “I didn’t do so hot, but I still got in. I had a really good GPA, I’m outgoing, I know a lot of the people in the program, I know the professors really well.”
Certain aspects of what is measured on the exam can still be useful, as the exam aims to measure general knowledge.
“I understand how it can look at your critical thinking skills and obviously your vocabulary,” Whipple said.
In universities however, test preparation is a responsibility students have to take upon themselves. Test preparation aides such as Kaplan, an online resource with GRE preparatory classes students can take, have prices reaching $999.
Because of the already tight schedule students have, Whipple found the Kaplan GRE test prep to be both useful and a heavy workload compared to the exam itself.
“A lot of the things I was studying weren’t on the test,” Whipple said. “I studied the vocabulary so much, but none of the terms I studied were on the exam, so that was frustrating.”
While no changes to the admission process is in sight, students have alternative ideas to make the test more applicable to careers.
“I think a better approach would be a formal interview process, as opposed to a test,” Bonner said. “If you have the grades for an undergrad program, you’ve proved you can handle yourself in a high-intensity environment.”
Changing the application process may not be the answer, but decreasing the pressure placed on GRE scores might be, students say.
“There are other ways you can set yourself apart, just in your application in general. I know going into staff member’s offices, and asking them questions and telling them you’re really interested in the program, you know, putting a face to the application, is what matters most,” Whipple said.