Typical physics Ph.D. admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion

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Science Advances  23 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaat7550
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat7550


This study aims to understand the effectiveness of typical admissions criteria in identifying students who will complete the Physics Ph.D. Multivariate statistical analysis of roughly one in eight physics Ph.D. students from 2000 to 2010 indicates that the traditional admissions metrics of undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Quantitative, Verbal, and Physics Subject Tests do not predict completion as effectively admissions committees presume. Significant associations with completion were found for undergraduate GPA in all models and for GRE Quantitative in two of four studied models; GRE Physics and GRE Verbal were not significant in any model. It is notable that completion changed by less than 10% for U.S. physics major test takers scoring in the 10th versus 90th percentile on the Quantitative test. Aside from these limitations in predicting Ph.D. completion overall, overreliance on GRE scores in admissions processes also selects against underrepresented groups.

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