Nav: Home

Completing physics Ph.D. does not stem from scoring high on GRE

January 23, 2019

Scores on graduate school admissions exams like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) do not predict successful completion of Ph.D.'s in physics, a new study shows. The data call into question the effectiveness of typical admissions criteria for physics Ph.D. programs, which often require GRE test scores from applicants. GRE scores have large performance gaps based on race, gender and citizenship, driven by factors like stereotype threat, test anxiety and unequal access to expensive coaching or resources. However, studies suggest that up to 40% of U.S. physics programs use cutoff GRE scores in practice - a selection strategy that hinders the growth of diversity and equity in physics, which is already the least diverse of all sciences. To prevent the misuse of metrics that reflect inequality across various demographics, it is critical to evaluate the validity of these metrics. Casey Miller and colleagues conducted a statistical analysis of a sample of roughly one in eight students (3,962 students in total) who entered physics Ph.D. programs of various rankings from 2000 to 2010. Modelling Ph.D. completion as a function of the student's undergraduate grade point average (GPA), GRE scores, citizenship, race and ethnicity, and program ranking, the researchers found that across all correlation models, GRE Physics Subject Test Scores, gender and citizenship all had no bearing on Ph.D. completion. Undergraduate GPA was the only and most robust numerical predictor of Ph.D. completion. Probability of completing the Ph.D. changed by less than 10 percentage points for physics major students scoring in the 10th versus 90th percentile of U.S. GRE test takers. Based on their results, the authors advocate for a more holistic approach to graduate admission that incorporate factors like research experience in addition to academic standing to select for the next generation of research physicists.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Physics Articles:

Challenges and opportunities for women in physics
Women in the United States hold fewer than 25% of bachelor's degrees, 20% of doctoral degrees and 19% of faculty positions in physics.
Indeterminist physics for an open world
Classical physics is characterized by the equations describing the world.
Leptons help in tracking new physics
Electrons with 'colleagues' -- other leptons - are one of many products of collisions observed in the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider.
Has physics ever been deterministic?
Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the University of Geneva, have proposed a new interpretation of classical physics without real numbers.
Twisted physics
A new study in the journal Nature shows that superconductivity in bilayer graphene can be turned on or off with a small voltage change, increasing its usefulness for electronic devices.
Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.
2D topological physics from shaking a 1D wire
Published in Physical Review X, this new study propose a realistic scheme to observe a 'cold-atomic quantum Hall effect.'
Helping physics teachers who don't know physics
A shortage of high school physics teachers has led to teachers with little-to-no training taking over physics classrooms, reports show.
Physics at the edge
In 2005, condensed matter physicists Charles Kane and Eugene Mele considered the fate of graphene at low temperatures.
Using physics to print living tissue
3D printers can be used to make a variety of useful objects by building up a shape, layer by layer.
More Physics News and Physics Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Processing The Pandemic
Between the pandemic and America's reckoning with racism and police brutality, many of us are anxious, angry, and depressed. This hour, TED Fellow and writer Laurel Braitman helps us process it all.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Invisible Allies
As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they've come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe's biggest foe. This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.