&Cartridge; physics 14, s104

Statistical analysis suggests that among the metrics used for admission to U.S. graduate programs in physics, grade point average has the strongest correlation with indicators of academic achievement.

William W. Potter / stock.adobe.com

When universities select students for their doctoral programs, they often do so using quantitative metrics. However, recent research suggests that some widely used metrics are unreliable predictors of academic success and disproportionately disadvantage women and underrepresented minorities. Mike Verostek of the University of Rochester, New York, and colleagues have now used statistical analysis methods to compare two metrics used in the United States and Canada – the grade point average (GPA) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). [1] . They find that only grade point average correlates well with a number of indicators of graduate performance.

Undergraduate GPA is determined by non-standardized tests compiled by individual schools. The GRE was introduced 85 years ago to provide a standardized indicator for assessing certain analytical skills and for the physics GRE of specific knowledge in this field. Recently, however, schools have increasingly stopped using the GRE. These decisions are based on studies like this one recently by some of Verostek’s colleagues, which suggest the tests are unreliable predictors of a person’s future success in graduate school.

In their analysis, Verostek and his colleagues compare how well the GPA and GRE scores of undergraduate programs correlate with a wider range of “success” indicators than those considered in previous studies. They find that the Bachelor GPA compared to the GRE scores stronger with the two Ph.D. Graduation and graduation GPA. The researchers say their results reinforce the thesis that the GPA is a more useful and fairer metric than the GRE for the Bachelor’s degree, but they also advocate a more holistic admissions process that takes into account factors that no metric can possibly quantify (see comment: Equal approvals in the time of COVID-19).

– Matteo Rini

Matteo Rini is the editor of Physics.


  1. M. Verostek et al., “Analyzing Admission Metrics as Predictors of Graduate GPA and Whether Graduate GPA Ph.D. conveyed. Completion,” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res.17th, 020115 (2021).

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