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Exploring GRE and TOEFL Score Profiles of International Students Intending to Pursue a Graduate Degree in the United States GRE TOEFL STEM FMM

Roohr, Katrina Crotts; Olivera-Aguilar, Margarita; Bochenek, Jennifer; Belur, Vinetha
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
International Students, Graduate School, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Confucian Asia, China, India, Finite Mixture Modeling (FMM), Test-Taker Performance, Score Profile, Parent Education, Gender, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)


The United States continues to be a top destination for international students pursuing an advanced degree. Some information about the characteristics of international students applying to graduate programs in the United States is available, but little is known about how these characteristics are related to test-taker performance on graduate admissions tests and how performance may be related to graduate program characteristics. The purpose of this study was to investigate different patterns of performance of international test takers from four cultural regions and two large countries (China and India) on both the GRE test and the TOEFL test and the relationship with demographic and graduate program characteristics. Using finite mixture modeling, we investigated the most common score profiles using GRE and TOEFL for international students intending to pursue a graduate program within the United States; evaluated the demographic and college-level factors related to the profiles; and evaluated whether the profiles were differentially associated with gender, intended field of study, and intended degree level. Results showed the following broad patterns of results: (a) Most countries and cultural regions, except for the Middle East, had three or four latent profiles representing low, medium, and high scores on the GRE and TOEFL sections; (b) two high-performing profiles were found in Confucian Asia, one with higher GRE Quantitative Reasoning scores and the other with higher scores on GRE Verbal and TOEFL; (c) regardless of profile, test takers from China performed highest on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section as compared to other GRE and TOEFL section scores; (d) in general, there was a relationship with students in the lower performing profiles taking the TOEFL and GRE multiple times; (e) regardless of country or cultural region, men were represented more than women overall and across most of the profiles; and (f) test takers showed a preference for science-, technology-, engineering-, and mathematics-based fields and master’s degrees, but this varied across country and cultural region. Implications for future research are discussed.

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