Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

GREs, master’s in education, and a comment

An earlier post about GRE scores for education students suggested that students heading toward graduate study in education look about the same GRE-wise as students in other disciplines on the verbal part of the test, but compare somewhat less favorably on the quantitative part of the test. A commenter suggests a more nuanced view, which is the topic of today’s post.

(Aside on comments: The way my software works comments originating on social media don’t post, although I sometimes get to see them. I don’t know whose poke inspired today’s nuancing, but it pointed to this interesting commentary.)

The suggestion was that when looking at GRE scores, one really ought to separate elementary school teachers from secondary high school teachers. I suspect the underlying argument is that grade school teachers don’t need to know as much mathematics as do teachers at higher levels. In any event, here are the score distributions done separately.


Elementary school teachers look about like the general population of test takers on the verbal part of the test, but compare less well on the quant score.  Secondary school teachers perform at the general test taker level on the quant score, and do better than the general set of test takers on the verbal part.

When looking at GRE scores, remember that the universe of test takers is already pretty academically select…they’re all people who are at least thinking of going to grad school. That means it’s hard to say whether we think people aiming for master’s degrees in education should look above average/average/exactly what?, when compared to other test takers.

At the same time, understand that the quant part of the test is not testing high level math skills. In fact, the questions stop before the upper end of high school math. The ETS description reads in part

The content in these areas includes high school mathematics and statistics at a level that is generally no higher than a second course in algebra; it does not include trigonometry, calculus or other higher-level mathematics.

If you think that students getting master’s in education have (as a group) too low a level of academic ability, then it makes some sense to ask for higher GRE scores as part of a generic screen for academic talent. But it probably does not make sense to take GRE scores of education students as evidence about the current education students’ academic ability. It’s too hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons.


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