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Matt Weiner

I'll have to think more about this. One thing that I didn't make clear is that I think the GREs have a unique bad characteristic--they cost money. I don't think we should be requiring a transfer of money from aspiring grad students to ETS--and, if they're getting good advice (and aren't standardized-test geeks), Princeton Review. So that's one reason I single it out.

Another important question is not whether the GRE by itself is predictive, but whether the GRE is predictive when combined with everything else in the admissions process. It may be that GREs have positive correlation with philosophical ability but that this can also be screened off by considering the rest of the student's dossier--say, grades.

Also, I'm not sure I accept this:

A, but not B, is sufficiently confident in her philosophical abilities to submit a paper she has written but not gone over thoroughly with her professors. Such confidence is at least as likely as not to be a good thing in grad school, but it is the death knell for admissions.

I think that in philosophy it's important to know that you should get other people's opinions on your arguments. Also, there's just no way to avoid the fact that people who get good advice on applying will do better. That doesn't mean we should add more arbitrary factors!


Maybe the way to put my suggestion is this: to the extent that philosophical potential is significantly underdetermined by objective application criteria, grad selection is made on the basis of philosophically arbitrary criteria. But if so, then the selection process doesn't as it were become more arbitrary just because the final determination is made on the basis of arbitrary criterion 1 (say, advisor quality) rather than the equally arbitrary criterion 2 (say, GRE scores).

Now I don't really know the extent to which philosophical ability is underdetermined by objective criteria. But I do think it is plausible that there are more (possibly far more) basically philosophically equal candidates for admission at any level in the "hierarchy" than there are spots to be filled. And I can't really see why it is better, at least not significantly better, to select on the basis of advisor quality (or whatever other character you want to plug in here) than on the basis of test-geekiness.

Incidentally, it is conceivable that the GREs actually help counterbalance socioeconomic factors. I've heard that the GREs are very good predictors of parental socioeconomic status. But it is possible that the GREs are less biased in favor of the the economically advantaged than other components of the admissions package. After all, public education requires all those standardized benchmark tests! It would be interesting to see whether or not MIT and Cornell, by dropping the GRE, actually favor socioeconomically advantaged applicants. [I want to make clear that I'm not accusing anybody of anything. Just speculating about a possible unforseen result of certain admissions policies.]

Matt Weiner

I guess I think of it as follows: To the extent that philosophical potential is undetermined (a great one, possibly), the criteria that are used will incorporate a certain degree of arbitrariness. But that doesn't mean that we have to choose between arbitrary criterion 1 and equally arbitrary criterion 2; maybe one is more arbitrary than the other.

One thing about GREs, as opposed to writing samples and grades in philosophy courses, is that it's possible to do well on the GREs with no philosophical ability at all. The other criteria at least require you to have studied some philosophy.

But GREs may well provide a needed corrective. It is worrying if reputation/quality of school influences too many of the other criteria. Maybe the best solution is to have as many schools use as many different formulae as possible!

endometrial oblation

The nurse will then take some vital measurements like heart rate and blood pressure as well as a ask you about your current physical state.

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