Percentile Dropped?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
yoyostein
Posts: 36
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:14 am

Percentile Dropped?

Postby yoyostein » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:35 am

Hi,

I recently rechecked my Math Subject GRE score (took in April 2012), and found that the percentile score dropped by 2% (!?)

Is this normal?

I was not intending to use the score anyway (intending to retake), but I suppose people at the 81-82% percentile would be severely affected as their percentile would drop below the 80% needed for some admission requirements?

On the other hand, is it possible for the percentile score to increase?

This sounds quite worrying -- if the percentile drops 2% in half a year, even people with 90% may end up with below 80% after 3 years..

quinquenion
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:34 pm

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby quinquenion » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:10 pm

Percentiles are always computed against the previous year's batch of test-takers. As people get better at taking the exam (more prep materials come out, etc.), percentiles will drop. Theoretically, if people get worse at taking the exam, percentiles will increase, but I've never heard of that happening. Scaled scores (the 3 digit number), on the other hand, will not change.

I've posted several other related posts here and here.

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby ReneMagritte » Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:02 am

My score has been re-adjusted too. I did the MGRE last November (just to get it out of the way; applying this autumn) and was initially put in the 86th percentile, but it's now dropped to the 85th.

Are people sure the percentiles are only adjusted once a year? If not I was thinking of submitting my scores to institutions before the October test date, even though I won't have applications in by then, in order to preserve my percentile score. Is anyone else thinking of doing this?


As an aside, this thing is only going to get worse with the new "ScoreSelect" system, as more and more people are going to take the test multiple times and score higher. (Example: http://www.mathematicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=935.) For this reason I think the "ScoreSelect" system is unfair: it effectively penalizes those people who are too busy doing "proper" stuff, like projects with faculty or advanced reading, rather than studying for an arbirtrary and ultimately trivial (in terms of the material) standardized test. Such a person is going to look the same on paper as a person who spent that time studying for the GRE 3 times over before erasing the history of it - and I don't think that's really right. Of course this is exactly what ETS are aiming for: they knew as soon as they introduced "ScoreSelect" that the number of test takers and hence their revenue would increase.

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby Legendre » Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:29 am

Sigh...my GRE General test percentiles dropped by 1% for both Quant and Verbal. My Verbal used to be 90% and now its 89%. :cry:

ReneMagritte wrote:For this reason I think the "ScoreSelect" system is unfair: it effectively penalizes those people who are too busy doing "proper" stuff, like projects with faculty or advanced reading, rather than studying for an arbirtrary and ultimately trivial (in terms of the material) standardized test. Such a person is going to look the same on paper as a person who spent that time studying for the GRE 3 times over before erasing the history of it - and I don't think that's really right. Of course this is exactly what ETS are aiming for: they knew as soon as they introduced "ScoreSelect" that the number of test takers and hence their revenue would increase.


I think standardized tests, in general, are unfair and penalize people who are busy doing proper stuff. Both the general and subject tests take months of preparation. I actually had to turn down a research project at a top tier university because I wanted to spend 2 months clearing the general test and reading up the subject test.

But of course, one can always say those who did research instead of studying for the tests have more research experience on their CV in exchange for possibly worse test scores.

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby ReneMagritte » Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:29 am

You have to show some personal restraint too, though. While I agree that standarized tests are not nice, one's attitude can make them much worse. In particular, I find that on this website (having been browsing for about a year) that people put too much of an emphasis on the GREs and not enough on genuinely developing as a mathematician, which is what we're all supposedly aiming at?

And, with no personal offence intended at all, I think sacrificing a research experience at a top university to study for the general GRE test (which is very close to irrelevent) was a poor decision. I only say that because people read this site and are influenced by it, and I think everyone should calm down a little about the GREs and not let them get in the way of more important things.

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby ReneMagritte » Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:46 am

Just an addendum to my question about how often the percentiles are updated. On the bottom of the scores page on the GRE website there's a note:

Percentile Rank (% Below)

The percentile ranks in this report indicate the percentage of examinees who scored below your score. Note that these percentile ranks may be different from those that applied when the scores were originally reported to you if the scores were earned prior to July 2012. This reflects annual updating of these data to permit admissions officers to compare scores, whenever earned, with those for a recent reference group.


"annual updating of these data" answers the question!

Topoltergeist
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:18 pm

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby Topoltergeist » Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:31 am

ReneMagritte wrote: As an aside, [one's percentile score dropping over time] is only going to get worse with the new "ScoreSelect" system, as more and more people are going to take the test multiple times and score higher.


I don't think Score Select itself will make people take the test more often. The GRE, and the math subject test in particular, is a horrible, painful, and evil invention of mankind. For me, knowing that my earlier scores will be erased would not induce me to repeat the experience: If I did well then I would send all my scores. If I did poorly (or mediocre and was applying to a top program) then I would retake the test, Score Select or not.

If two students get the same MGRE score, the admin committee has better ways of evaluating the students than by looking at how many times each of them took the exam.

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby Legendre » Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:46 am

ReneMagritte wrote:And, with no personal offence intended at all, I think sacrificing a research experience at a top university to study for the general GRE test (which is very close to irrelevent) was a poor decision.


Not just the general test, but the mathematics subject test as well.

What choice do I have? They're both compulsory for the application, and having a bad score would penalize my application.

Its damn if you do (since GRE scores are rather insignificant) and damn if you don't (since they're compulsory).

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby ReneMagritte » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:20 pm

Topoltergeist wrote:I don't think Score Select itself will make people take the test more often. The GRE, and the math subject test in particular, is a horrible, painful, and evil invention of mankind. For me, knowing that my earlier scores will be erased would not induce me to repeat the experience: If I did well then I would send all my scores. If I did poorly (or mediocre and was applying to a top program) then I would retake the test, Score Select or not.


I'd have the same outlook as you, but this thread shows that there are people who are taking it multiple times just because of ScoreSelect.

Legendre wrote:Not just the general test, but the mathematics subject test as well.

What choice do I have? They're both compulsory for the application, and having a bad score would penalize my application.

Its damn if you do (since GRE scores are rather insignificant) and damn if you don't (since they're compulsory).


But you don't have to turn down a research experience just to do the GREs; in fact, it seems most people going into the applications process have research experiences from the times they were studying for the GREs. Myself, I spent about 2 weeks studying for the General test full-time during the end of the summer break after an REU. (I didn't do poorly either; got in the 97 percentiles on both Verbal and Quant - not that they actually matter.) I started studying for the Subject test when term started - I did 5 weeks study in all, at nighttime in the library after classes, and managed to get over the "magic 80" percentile. I really don't see why you need to turn down whole research experiences just to study for these two tests.



EDIT: As per what I was saying about the (in)significance of the GRES, this page on Harvard Math says "Most selective math departments do not put too much weight on the differences between good and great scores".

764527
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2011 10:12 pm

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby 764527 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:47 pm

Sorry to hijack the thread, but I have a related question:

I know that taking the test nowadays is more difficult than taking the practice tests because the scaled score necessary to achieve a certain percentile rank has been increasing, but have scaled scores stayed relatively constant? That is, if I have been scoring 700-ish on 9768 and 0568, should I expect to get 700-ish on the real thing? Or has the difficulty of questions gone up also?

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby Legendre » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:42 am

ReneMagritte wrote:But you don't have to turn down a research experience just to do the GREs; in fact, it seems most people going into the applications process have research experiences from the times they were studying for the GREs. Myself, I spent about 2 weeks studying for the General test full-time during the end of the summer break after an REU. (I didn't do poorly either; got in the 97 percentiles on both Verbal and Quant - not that they actually matter.) I started studying for the Subject test when term started - I did 5 weeks study in all, at nighttime in the library after classes, and managed to get over the "magic 80" percentile. I really don't see why you need to turn down whole research experiences just to study for these two tests.


I spent about 3 weeks studying the General test as a priority but not full time. Then spent 4 weeks going through the syllabus of the subject test, also as a priority. (also took extra classes, and learned programming etc) If I took up the research internship, I would be expected to relocate and report to work everyday, and I would want to put in my 100% into it. I don't think I would have made it.

I don't think its right to say "person X did it in this amount of time, and so everyone can" because circumstances vary between people (and some people are just not good at timed tests). Also, by definition, 80% of subject test takers will not be able to get over the "magic 80" percentile. And 97% of general test takers will not score above 97%.
Last edited by Legendre on Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby Legendre » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:45 am

764527 wrote:Sorry to hijack the thread, but I have a related question:

I know that taking the test nowadays is more difficult than taking the practice tests because the scaled score necessary to achieve a certain percentile rank has been increasing, but have scaled scores stayed relatively constant? That is, if I have been scoring 700-ish on 9768 and 0568, should I expect to get 700-ish on the real thing? Or has the difficulty of questions gone up also?


1. IMHO difficulty of the questions has gone up over time. Based on my past experience taking the test, and people who took it recently.

2. Based on just the practice tests, it would appear that you need a much lower score to achieve the same percentile for the tougher 0568 paper. Perhaps the difficulty of the particular test is taken into account?

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Percentile Dropped?

Postby ReneMagritte » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:11 am

Legendre wrote:I spent about 3 weeks studying the General test as a priority but not full time. Then spent 4 weeks going through the syllabus of the subject test, also as a priority. (also took extra classes, and learned programming) If I took up the research internship, I would be expected to relocate and report to work everyday, and I would want to put in my 100% into it. I don't think I would have made it.


Fair enough! Initially, by the sounds of it, I thought you had taken the whole summer to prepare for the GREs exclusively, which I realize now isn't the case! I just really don't think the GREs are worth taking too many sacrifices.

As for what 764527 asked...
Legendre wrote:1. IMHO difficulty of the questions has gone up over time. Based on my past experience taking the test, and people who took it recently.

I think I agree with Legendre here. I found the publically available official GRE tests easier than the practice tests in the recent books and the real test itself.




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