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The Future Grad Students

November 14, 2013

Test-takers who took the GRE in 2012-13 were more likely to be a bit younger and a bit more science-oriented than those who took the exam the year before. And in the quantitative portion of the exam, in particular, foreign talent appears to be outpacing American.

These are some of the findings in the latest “Snapshot” of GRE test-takers, released today by the Educational Testing Service.

While not everyone who takes the GRE applies to graduate school, and not every graduate program requires the GRE, the statistics provide numerous hints on the population that will be enrolling or seeking to enroll in graduate school – both in master’s and doctoral programs.

In 2012-13, likely a result of the continued tough job market for new college graduates, the percentage of GRE test-takers who are 18-22 years old increased to 37 percent, from 34 percent the year before.

Another notable shift was that those who identified a degree in natural sciences as their intended field of study was up to 32 percent, from 27 percent the year before. The next most popular fields were engineering and social sciences (at 13 percent each), and humanities and education (at 6 percent each). Note: 25 percent were either in “other” fields or had not yet decided.

As is the case with most standardized testing, the GRE total scores for the year reveal significant gaps by race and ethnicity among American test-takers.

Average GRE Scores by Race and Ethnicity, U.S. Citizens

Group

Verbal

Quantitative

Writing

American Indian

150.9

147.4

3.6

Asian

152.9

153.8

3.8

Black

146.7

143.3

3.3

Mexican

149.9

146.8

3.6

Puerto Rican

149.4

146.3

3.4

Other Hispanic

150.5

147.4

3.6

White

154.1

150.7

3.9

The GRE report demonstrates the continued importance of the foreign student population to American graduate education. Non-U.S. citizens represent about one-third of all GRE test-takers.

In key ways, the data show differences between the American and non-American population – and particularly the population from Asia, which accounts for the countries sending the most students to American graduate programs. For example, 58 percent of GRE test-takers in the United States are women, and 62 percent of test-takers in Asia are men.

The GRE analysis also includes average scores by test-takers' home countries. The data show many countries outpacing the United States, especially in the quantitative category. But the data should be viewed with some caution. In many parts of the world, it would only be the absolute top students who would aspire to come to the United States for graduate education, while the American cohort includes students with a range of academic records. Nonetheless, the figures illustrate why, in certain fields, foreign talent has become so crucial to graduate programs.

The figures show numerous countries besting the U.S. significantly in the quantitative category that may be key for science and technology programs. The U.S. average is 149.9, far below the averages for China (163.4), Taiwan (160.4) and many other countries. The United States does better, compared to most other counties, in the verbal and writing sections, not surprising given that those growing up in an English-language educational system would be at an advantage. But this advantage doesn't hold for all countries. Germany tops the U.S. in two GRE categories -- and ties in writing. And when it comes to countries where students would have been educated in English, the U.S. isn't necessarily superior. Canada and Britain have averages well above the U.S. in all three GRE categories.

While ETS released data from many countries not included below, the table that follows includes all of the countries in which at least 1,000 people took the GRE in 2012-13

GRE Average Scores by Country

Country Number of Test Takers Verbal Quantitative Writing
Bangladesh 1,664 145.7 155.8 2.9
Brazil 1,430 149.8 151.3 3.0
Britain 1,559 157.2 153.1 4.3
Canada 5,510 156.0 153.8 4.2
China 42,357 146.6 163.4 2.9
Colombia 1,294 148.6 150.2 3.0
France 1,269 153.7 156.9 3.4
Germany 1,555 153.6 155.9 3.8
Ghana 1,225 145.9 146.8 3.1
India 56,782 144.7 154.3 2.9
Iran 6,326 142.4 157.4 2.9
Japan 1,374 145.1 156.6 3.0
Korea (South) 4,870 148.3 158.8 3.1
Mexico 2,499 148.9 149.1 3.1
Nepal 1,556 145.5 154.8 3.0
Nigeria 2,932 146.8 147.6 3.1
Pakistan 1,955 148.7 153.5 3.4
Russia 1,101 148.3 155.7 3.1
Saudi Arabia 4,288 137.8 142.4 2.1
Taiwan 2,742 145.3 160.4 2.8
Turkey 2,713 144.5 158.5 2.9
United States 337,782 152.9 149.9 3.8

 

 

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