skip to main content skip to footer

Background Characteristics and Future Plans of High-Scoring GRE General Test Examinees GRE

Pennock-Roman, Maria
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Background, Educational Planning, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Graduate Study, High Achievement, Test Takers


(123pp.) The purpose of this study was to describe the background characteristics and future plans of average and above average Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test takers in the various racial/ethnic groups. In this report, the characteristics included percentage of females, undergraduate college major and grades, intended field of graduate study, graduate degree objective, year of receipt of baccalaureate degree, location of high school, family socioeconomic background, citizenship status, and language spoken in the home. The distribution of these characteristics is given in tables for students classified according to level of GRE Verbal (GRE-V), GRE Quantitative (GRE-Q), or GRE Analytic (GRE-A) scores in intervals of 50 points beginning with scores of 500-549 until 750-800. It was found that high parental socioeconomic indicators were associated with higher GRE scores, but a substantial proportion (17%) of the high-scoring students came from homes where fathers had less than a high school education. This figure was particularly large for the Mexican American group (36%). The distribution of parental income showed that, for all groups, there was a sizable percentage who would be unable to afford graduate school without financial aid. Most examinees with very high GRE-Q scores tended to take the GRE soon after they had graduated from college, but the opposite tended to be true for very high GRE-V scorers in the non-Hispanic White group. This pattern is discussed in light of choice of major (humanities versus science) and the availability of financial aid for graduate study in various fields. One surprising finding was that the pattern of choice of major for racial/ethnic groups in the high- scoring levels was substantially different from that in the overall GRE population. Holding GRE-Q level constant, high-scoring non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic American, and Asian American students were more likely to major in engineering and computer science than were non-Hispanic White test takers.

Read More