GRE scores on resumes ignite debate
After students take the Graduate Record Examination, there comes the question of whether or not to put the score on a resume.
Last April, Educational Testing Services’ market researchers surveyed 317 human resources directors at companies of varying sizes. About 25 percent reported requiring, recommending or accepting GRE scores when evaluating candidates. Nearly 40 percent of businesses with 10,000 or more employees considered their applicants’ GRE scores, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
GRE scores are intended to be used for entry into graduate schools and programs. Much like other standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, the GRE consists of various sections (verbal, qualitative, analytical writing and experimental) that are combined to generate a cumulative score.
This number sends a message about a student’s overall skill set, but some are challenging whether or not this test is a fair representation of an applicant’s ability to perform in a given career.
“The career counselors here are unsupportive of [students’ including GRE scores on a resume]. It just doesn’t make sense,” wrote Susan L. Miller-Pinhey, the marketing and special events manager of UA Career Services, in an email. “An employer has the ability to evaluate a lot of other entries on a student’s resume (i.e. previous work experience, internships, skills, etc.) without having to look at the scores of tests that were not designed to indicate work ability or experience.”
Ian Goldstein majored in mathematics and political science at Macalester College in Minnesota before earning his masters in statistics at the UA. He included his GRE scores when applying to graduate schools, but never for a job position. In fact, he said he has never heard of anyone using GRE scores on a job application. For his career in mathematics, he said he did not see how this particular test could have benefitted him or his chances of employment.
“The thing about the GRE is if you were applying for a specialist position, it hardly has any content knowledge,” Goldstein said. “And for me, the math on the GRE is stuff I was done with my freshman year of college, and so it doesn’t really help with a job where they’d want to see upper-level coursework. It is not a very good barometer for the types of jobs I am looking at.”
Goldstein does not include test scores on his resume, but instead emphasizes his other accomplishments. The goal is to create a well-rounded representation of one’s skill and ability, he said.
“I don’t have a very high opinion of standardized tests because I don’t actually think they show very much to an employer,” he said. “I think including your coursework and your extracurricular
activities paints a much better picture than a test score.”
Patricia MacCorquodale, a dean at the UA Honors College, said she doesn’t see a major problem with including GRE scores on resumes but acknowledged that issues could arise as testing systems change over time.
“I think if you had a job that was related to one particular subtest and you had taken that subtest, then it might show that you had knowledge of that one particular area,” MacCorquodale said. “The problem with it would be that many people aren’t aware of the scoring of the GRE so it would be hard for them to know what a particular score represents. I think it might be subject to a lot of interpretation problems.”
MacCorquodale said she hasn’t seen GRE scores on the resume of anyone that she has written letters of recommendation for this year. This isn’t surprising because she said she expects that employers would use other factors to determine their opinion of the job candidate.
“There are some people that are brilliant that aren’t very good test takers. No single measure is very good at telling you very much about individuals,” MacCorquodale added. “In standardized tests in particular, there seem to be lots of things that can go on that affect student’s performance.”
Heath Vescovi, a graduate student in public administration, does not include GRE scores on his resume.
“I said that I had taken the GRE and I could provide the score on request but I didn’t volunteer them,” Vescovi said. “It seems a little presumptuous, to me at least, to put your scores, if they’re good, on your resume, because it’s not something that is usually asked for so I think it is almost like showing off.”
The impressions these test scores give to employers are not always complete, he added.
“All standardized tests have their problems, but for the most part it is a relatively accurate assumption of a student,” Vescovi said. “But people’s motivations and situations also change all the time. Personally, I have been much more focused in the last year than I was for my very first semester of graduate college and that has nothing to do with scores whatsoever.”
Miller-Pinhey added that it’s important for companies to take into consideration the relation, or lack thereof, between the scores and the offered position.
“The GRE is a tool for getting into grad school … not a testament to what a student can or will do
on the job. The question is, [does] the employer know the significance of those numbers without an explanation?” she asked. “And wouldn’t reference to actual positions have more leverage than test scores to show what an individual can actually do in a given position, rather than how they test?”