Philosophy Students' GRE Scores (Defending Philosophy 3)

Philosophy Students' GRE Scores (Defending Philosophy 3) November 9, 2011

In order to take a step towards vindicating the practical value of concentrating on philosophy as an undergraduate student, below are charts on GRE scores, sorted by the subjects students are expecting to study in graduate school (their “Intended Graduate Major”)*. They demonstrate, through quantitative means, that philosophy really does enhance critical thinking and communication skills—or, at least, that legitimately good thinkers are often drawn to philosophy as undergraduates.

gre1

gre2

gre3

Thanks to Kylie, who led me to Stephen Law who led me to Razib Khan, who graphed the raw data which can be found here.

Your Thoughts?

*Corrected from my inaccurate original interpretation that the scores represented the students’ undergraduate majors.

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  • Vivian Li

    In agreement with SAWells, these data do not prove causation at all. It could very well be the case that those students who are exemplary in verbal and logical reasoning self-select into undergraduate Philosophy programs. In fact, it could even be the case that undergrad Philosophy programs make these bright students “dumber” than what they could have been had they majored in, say, a hard science. We cannot extrapolate causation from correlation. And no, evidence of such correlation is certainly not a “step” towards proving anything at all; the correlation is certainly enlightening, but in no way does this imply anything about the supposed “benefits” of choosing to major in undergraduate Philosophy.

    Another issue I have is that “intended graduate majors” can attract students from a wide array of undergraduate disciplines — not necessarily from the same one — and this is especially the case in the Humanities where it is relatively easier to jump from one discipline to another without too much bridging of background information required. How can we be sure that a good portion of the GRE scores for intended Philosophy graduate programs aren’t from undergraduate English or History students, for instance?

  • Vivian Li

    In agreement with SAWells, these data do not prove causation at all. It could very well be the case that those students who are exemplary in verbal and logical reasoning self-select into undergraduate Philosophy programs. In fact, it could even be the case that undergrad Philosophy programs make these bright students “dumber” than what they could have been had they majored in, say, a hard science. We cannot extrapolate causation from correlation. And no, evidence of such correlation is certainly not a “step” towards proving anything at all; the correlation is certainly enlightening, but in no way does this imply anything about the supposed “benefits” of choosing to major in undergraduate Philosophy.

    Another issue I have is that “intended graduate majors” can attract students from a wide array of undergraduate disciplines — not necessarily from the same one — and this is especially the case in the Humanities where it is relatively easier to jump from one discipline to another without too much bridging of background information required. How can we be sure that a good portion of the GRE scores for intended Philosophy graduate programs aren’t from undergraduate English or History students, for instance?