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Differences in Graduate School Attainment Patterns Across Academic Programs and Demographic Groups

Zwick, Rebecca J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS GRE Board Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Student Characteristics, Doctoral Degrees, Graduate Study, Demography, Academic Achievement, Graduate Record Examinations Board


The graduate careers of nearly 5,000 Ph.D.-seeking students from 11 departments in each of three major universities were investigated, with a special focus on minority students. Minorities and women were found to be under-represented in graduate school and to have generally lower candidacy and graduation rates than their White and male counterparts. In two of the three schools, foreign students had higher candidacy and graduation rates than did White Americans. Also in two of the three schools, the percentage of foreign students increased substantially in recent years. A more general finding was that the candidacy and graduation rates in the eight years following matriculation were higher in quantitatively oriented departments than in the humanities and social sciences. In general, undergraduate grades and Graduate Record Examinations scores had only a minimal association with the attainment of candidacy and graduation. Among these academically select students, nonacademic factors may play a crucial role in determining who ultimately attains the doctoral degree.

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