Really GRE Psychology Subject Exam scores? Really?
November 7, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Are these really the average scores for the Psych GRE? 577 at Master's level and 633 at the doctoral level.

I'm taking the psych subject exam on Saturday and I came across this statement, "The average score on Psychology subject test is 577 at Master's level and 633 at Doctoral level." These seem soooo low. I pulled this from Wikipedia which pulled this from the Psi Chi website. Everywhere I've read is that 650 is the minimum score that might get you into a decent program, however 700 is really what you should be shooting for.

I'm going for a masters. I scored 610 on my first practice exam without any real psychology experience or test preparation. I'm assuming I should do pretty well after putting in some study time.

These stats are making me fell pretty good but I just am having trouble believing them. I suppose there are a ton of shoddy and easy to enter programs and their grads out there pulling down the scores. Am I misunderstanding something?

What do you guys think or have found from experience?
posted by Che boludo! to Education (9 answers total)
The average score might be well below the score that would get you into any program. Think of it this way, on a test scored 0 to 100, we're kind of used to 65 or 70 being a "passing" score. In this case, it may be that you need a 90 to get into a program. 90 would be "passing".
posted by vitabellosi at 3:15 PM on November 7, 2012

Are those the average scores of all test takers, or just the ones admitted to programs?
posted by dfriedman at 3:16 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm afraid I can only offer my experience. I am research staff in the psych department of a top-ten school (overall, not necessarily in psych). I sometimes see applications of potential Ph.D. students. I don't think our program requires the subject GRE, but a lot of people take it for other programs. I've never seen someone get interviewed with a score lower than 90th percentile. Maybe higher, like 95th. (According to the Wikipedia article, 760 is 95th.)

Schools that you're applying to often have stats on their grad admissions pages.
posted by supercres at 3:17 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of people take GREs and never apply to grad school because their low scores suggest they'd have trouble getting into a good program. Source: my years as a university administrator.

So, yeah, study as much as is practicable for you. The fact that poorly prepared people's low scores drag the average down doesn't really affect the fact that the better your score, the better your chances to get into a good program.

I got a fellowship at a large state university based primarily on my GRE scores. My husband's GRE scores played a big part in his getting an NSF fellowship. It is hugely worth it to do your absolute best on this exam.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:17 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

GRE score distribution by intended program is on pages 29-31 of this document. It would appear the mean scores for intended psych programs are 152 Verbal and 148 Quant on the new scale.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 3:20 PM on November 7, 2012

Most of the programs I applied to did not care about the GRE psychology subject exam. Some of them didn't require it, others didn't didn't think they were all that important even if they requested them. I certainly didn't put a lot of time into studying for it even though I did ell enough.
posted by Silvertree at 5:23 PM on November 7, 2012

dfriedman - it's not really clear. I assume it means those accepted.
posted by Che boludo! at 5:29 PM on November 7, 2012

I only had one school I applied to that required the psych subject GRE for the application. I prepped by re-reading my intro psych textbook in the weeks preceding it and scored a 790. My lowest scoring section was the social psych part, which, incidentally, is what my Ph.D. is in.

I imagine the total pool of test takers includes those applying to a range of programs, not just competitive clinical psych Ph.D. programs, but those who apply to much less competitive professional schools of psychology for Psy.D.s and terminal masters programs. Those applying to the less competitive programs likely pull down that average.
posted by Fuego at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2012

This is how all standardized admissions tests work. I haven't taken the GRE, but having taken the LSAT, I know that the LSAT raw scores are converted into scaled scores to adjust for the difficulty of the particular test that you wrote. Your scaled score is then reported against a percentile rank, taking into account LSAT exam scores for the past few years or so. A 50 percentile rank means that you did better than half the people who wrote the LSAT in recent years. In very simplified terms, we could call that an average score. To get into any law school worth attending, you would struggle with anything less than a percentile rank in the low to mid 90's, so you'd have to do better than at least 90-95% of other test takers. Simply doing better than average means squat for most graduate level admissions tests. The more competitive the program, the higher the school will raise the bar. Otherwise the schools would get swamped by mediocre applications.

Also consider that the distribution for test scores will most likely be a bell curve. If you're in the middle of the pack, improving your raw score by 10 or 20 points might only bring you up by one percentile rank. Even if your score seemed to improve greatly in terms of absolute numbers, there were still lots and lots of people did just as well or better. But if you're at the very high scoring end of the range, improving your raw score by even one point might bring you up several more percentile ranks, because at that level there are very few scores higher than yours. The difference between 610 and 700 may not seem great, but it could be huge when you look at it in terms of the distribution and percentile ranking.
posted by keep it under cover at 8:19 PM on April 1, 2013

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