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Comparison of Expected With Actual Field of Graduate Study: An Analysis of GRE Survey Data

Grandy, Jerilee E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
GREB-87-02P (1990), RR-90-17
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Background Educational Planning Enrollment Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Graduate Record Examinations Board Graduate Study Majors (Students) Student Characteristics Surveys


This study analyzed data from a survey conducted by Nettles (1987). The sample consisted of 2,136 examinees who took the GRE during 1986-87. The purpose of this project was to determine how well the intended field-of-study item in the GRE background questionnaire can be relied upon as an indicator of what examinees will actually study in graduate school at the beginning of the next academic year. Major findings were as follows: 1. Fifty-six percent of all examinees in the sample became enrolled in graduate or professional school in the fall of 1987. The percentages varied somewhat across intended fields of study. Of those planning to study education, for example, 71% became enrolled in graduate school; of those planning to study computer science, only 49% became enrolled. 2. Enrollment rates did not differ significantly between Black, Hispanic, and predominantly White examinees, nor did it differ between male and female examinees. 3. Subsequent enrollment status was correlated very slightly with college grades but not with test scores. 4. Of those examinees who became enrolled in graduate or professional school and who specified a definite intended field of study, 72% were enrolled in exactly the same field of study they had indicated on the background questionnaire. Another 10% were enrolled in a specialty field within the same department. In total, 82% could be said to have enrolled in the same general field of study. 5. Stepwise regressions suggested that examinees with low GRE scores, particularly quantitative scores, were somewhat ore likely to change field than examinees with high scores. With other variables held constant, females were slightly more likely to change field than were males. The strengths of the predictions, however, were extremely small, with multiple correlations of only 0.2. 6. The study concluded that test scores, grades, and known demographic variables in the GRE files are not strongly enough associated with changes in field of study to be useful as predictors of enrollment or of change in field of study. 7. The study concluded that the intended-field-of-study item in the background questionnaire is a useful and reasonably valid indicator of actual field of graduate study.

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