July 17, 2006

Is There Also A Mauvais Curve?

So, I just got back from doing the GREs, and they were quite GREuelling. Heh.

Actually, mostly they just served to further solidify my innate suspicions about the ability of standardised testing to meaningfully measure anything with any degree of reliability. See, throughout my week or so of GRE studying (including four full length practice exams), I was consistently scoring around 700 on the verbal section (percentile: ~97) and majorly wigging out on the quantitative section (typically scoring about 600 or a little under; percentile ~37 to ~72).

(The curve for quantitative is skewed heavily to the left because, roughly speaking, all engineers go to grad school, and all engineers get perfect scores on the quantitative section; that's why my percentile rank varies so much, even with relatively little variation in scaled score.)

But, today, when I actually sat down and did the real GRE test (and perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I just used the phrase "majorly wigging out"), my verbal score dropped to 650 (percentile ~91)— which I know is still very good, but it's annoying that my lowest score is the one being sent to all the English programs I'm applying to. Quantitative, on the other hand, I bizarrely aced, getting a whopping 790 (percentile ~90)— an increase, I might add, of about 1.3 standard deviations. Now, I ask you, what is the utility of a test that can vary so wildly from sitting to sitting? Admissions committees may as well invite you into their office for a rousing game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

So, in conclusion, standardised testing is a giant crock, and, obviously, I have a 3.95 GPA.


At 18/7/06 13:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is There Also a Mauvais curve?":

Mauvais...Bon... bon curve? Nah.

curve...grade curve...Great curve, opposite of mauvais curve? Hmmm...


At 18/7/06 19:37, Blogger Andrew said...

A Mauvais Curve as opposed to a Bell Curve, non? Though I suppose if you wanted to be really finicky you could argue that it should be 'Mauvaise'. (And, yes, I realise that 'mauvais' and 'belle' are not perfect antonyms, either, but 'Laid Curve' suggests something entirely.)


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