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Content and Construct Validity

Content and construct validity are two of the types of validity that support the GRE® Program.

  • Construct validity means the test measures the skills/abilities that should be measured.
  • Content validity means the test measures appropriate content.

ETS gathers information from graduate and professional school programs, including business and law schools, about the skills that they consider essential for success in their programs.

Verbal Reasoning Section

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE® General Test measures skills that faculty have identified through surveys as important for graduate-level success. The capabilities that are assessed include:

  • the ability to understand text (such as the ability to understand the meanings of sentences, to summarize a text or to distinguish major points from irrelevant points in a passage); and
  • the ability to interpret discourse (such as the ability to draw conclusions, to infer missing information or to identify assumptions).

Quantitative Reasoning Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE General Test measures skills that are consistent with those outlined in the Mathematical Association of America's Quantitative Reasoning for College Graduates: A Complement to the Standards are based on feedback from faculty surveys. The skills that are assessed in the GRE quantitative measure include:

  • reading and understanding quantitative information
  • interpreting and analyzing quantitative information, including drawing inferences from data
  • using mathematical methods to solve quantitative problems

Analytical Writing Section

Interviews with graduate-level faculty, surveys of graduate-level faculty, and the work of the GRE Writing Test Committee have consistently identified critical thinking and writing skills as important for success in graduate programs.

The two tasks that comprise the Analytical Writing section (evaluating an issue and evaluating an argument) are both considered essential in many fields of graduate study. Thus, the structure of the test can be shown to have content validity because the test assesses skills identified by the graduate community as essential for success in many fields of graduate-level work.

Other types of validity evidence, such as construct validity, are documented in a variety of studies. In particular, large validity studies were conducted during the development of the Analytical Writing section, such as:

These studies contain evidence of the psychometric quality of the Analytical Writing section. Additional studies focus on particular aspects of validity, such as a comparison of the usefulness of the Analytical Writing section with that of the personal statement. That research has shown that the Analytical Writing score is correlated with academic writing more highly than is the personal statement.