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I graduated from the University of Michigan with Psychology and Communication Studies degree. I am planning to apply to Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) master's degree and Information Science master's degree.

For those of who do not know, HCI is an interdisciplinary field, combining mainly computer science, cognitive psychology, and design.

I have two GRE scores and I have trouble deciding which one to send for my application.

Score 1: Verbal: 158 (78%) / Quantitative: 165 (91%) / Writing: 4.0 (58%)

Score 2: Verbal: 162 (89%) / Quantitative: 161 (81%) / Writing: 4.5 (78%)

The second set of scores has higher verbal and writing values, but the first has a higher quantitative value. Which should I send?

  • 2
    I have no idea why this question was closed. This is a question related to applications to graduate school, which is clearly on-topic. – aeismail Jan 24 '14 at 8:11
  • @hciapplicant, I've tried to make the question more broadly applicable. I hope you don't mind. – David Ketcheson Jan 24 '14 at 9:51
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    Be sure to read the application instructions carefully. It's possible that they want you to send all your scores. – Nate Eldredge Jan 24 '14 at 13:50
  • @DavidKetcheson I don't mind at all. Thank you for your thoughtful response. – hciapplicant Jan 24 '14 at 18:16
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First I will say that in some departments, GRE scores are a very important component of your application. For instance, I work in a department where each year we get applicants from hundreds of different universities in 70 or more different countries. Comparing GPAs between all the different educational systems is very difficult (we do it, but place relatively less weight on it due to uncertainties). Meanwhile, the GRE is a single standard. Also, whereas some departments in the USA can rely primarily on GRE subject tests, it's quite rare for international students to take those. The bottom line: good GRE scores will never get you admitted by themselves. But in some places at least, poor GRE scores will eliminate you.

Now, as to whether the verbal/writing or quantitative scores matter more, I think this depends heavily on the field. If you were applying to a math/science/engineering program, the quantitative score would be by far most important. It's generally thought that good writing can be taught to you later (and technical writing is different from the persuasive writing the GRE tests you on, anyway).

I assume that if you were applying to an English or fine arts program, the verbal/writing scores would be more important. The fields you're applying to are somewhere in between, and I don't know them well enough to say for certain.

[Edit: see @shion's answer for the opinion of someone who knows more about your particular field.]

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I doubt it really matters which of these scores you send, for two reasons:

  1. I don't think GRE general test scores are particularly important in the first place. How they are used may vary between institutions or fields, but in my experience admissions committees do not pay any attention to them. Maybe there are other committees that do pay attention, but I'd be surprised if anyone relies on them as a major component of the evaluation process. [EDIT: As David Ketcheson's answer demonstrates, there's more diversity in how these scores are used than I had realized.]

  2. Small, random fluctuations are normal if you take the exam several times. This is widely known among people on admissions committees, and it's reinforced by seeing the applications that include multiple scores. This means no sensible admissions committee member will attach great importance to small distinctions.

So I believe you are overthinking this, and either set of scores will be fine.

  • Is it possible to send both? – Jonathan Landrum Jan 24 '14 at 14:19
  • ETS will send both if you'd like, and that could also be a reasonable option. – Anonymous Mathematician Jan 24 '14 at 14:45
  • I understand I could send both of the scores if I wish, but I noticed that you can only list one score in the application form. If I choose to send both, should I just list the most recent one and send both scores anyway? Thank you! – hciapplicant Jan 24 '14 at 18:21
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In my department (HCI/Information Science), the popular notion is that having a very good score on your GRE will not get you in but having a poor score (relative to the rest of the applicant pool) can keep you out.

This is especially true for PhD applications and somewhat true for MS applications. For the latter, the pure numbers (GRE/GPA) matter more while for the former, your statement of purpose, research experience and letters of recommendation are what tips the balance in your favor.

In sum, generally for most HCI/IS programs, all parts of the GRE matter equally.

Logistically, it also does not matter which score you send because ETS will send all your GRE scores in the last 5 years i.e. admissions committees will see everything.

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    Thank you for your comment. ETS has recently revised their system and now students can only choose whichever score they wish to send. Admission committees are no longer be able to see all of the test scores unless I send all of them. – hciapplicant Jan 24 '14 at 18:18
  • Ah. Thanks for the information. I did not know that. Even this year I remember seeing multiple new scores from new applicants. – Shion Jan 24 '14 at 19:16
  • I think it was August 2013 when they changed the policy, but I am not certain. I checked again and found out that you can actually send multiple scores if you wish. – hciapplicant Jan 24 '14 at 19:34
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Score 2 Writing: 4.5 (78%) is significantly better than Score 1 Writing: 4.0 (58%). This is one of the indicators that you may have better chance to succeed. Your presentation skills will be very much needed in graduate school.

Score 1 Quantitative: 165 (91%) is better than Score 2 Quantitative: 161 (81%) but not that much. They are both fine. If the graduate school program you are applying to concentrates heavily on math/stats, Score 1 looks better.

I just learned info from the comment the OP made, the student has the option to send single score or multiple scores. (This is why I like this site so much. We exchange info.)

My suggestion is, send Score 2 if applying to a design oriented HCI program (your presentation skills will be important in this case). Send Score 1 if the graduate school program is math/stats oriented. Send both scores if you are not sure.

Also, please note that not all schools require GRE. Good Luck !

  • @hciapplicant I updated my answer based on one of your comments. – scaaahu Jan 26 '14 at 3:54
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I want to supplement Anonymous Mathematician's answer.

I would lean towards the second set of scores. Writing skills are often overlooked in academia, but since you will be writing a (hopefully great) thesis, I would put the most emphasis on the writing.

Your other scores are basically the same.

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In my heavily quantitative social science program, I have heard some professors saying that GRE quant score is a good predictor for 1st year GPA of grad students. I do not know how seriously they consider GRE math score into admissions, but I am sure they give it more of a passing notice. That said, I think both your scores look fine and they do not really differ much. If I can, I would just send both.

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