Patterns in international GRE scores

Why writing up my earlier post I stumbled onto to some interesting GRE data for applicants for various countries. I transcribed the results for all nations with sample sizes greater than 500. What you see above is a plot which shows mean quantitative and verbal scores on the GRE by nations.

The correlation in this set of countries between subtests of the GRE are as so:

Quant & verbal = 0.33

Verbal & writing = 0.84

Quant & writing = 0.21

Basically, the writing score and verbal score seem to reflect the lack of English fluency in many nations.

Many of these results are not too surprising if you’ve ever seen graduate school applications in the sciences (I have). Applicants from the United States tend to have lower quantitative and higher verbal scores. This is what you see here. It’s rather unfair since the test is administered in English, and that’s the native language of the United States. No surprise the United Kingdom and Canada score high on verbal reasoning. Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand didn’t have enough test takers to make the cut, but they all do as well as the United Kingdom. Singapore has an elite group which uses English as the medium of instruction in school.

I didn’t include standard deviation information, even though it’s in there. India has a pretty high standard deviation on quantitative reasoning, at 9.1. In contrast, China only has a standard deviation of 5.2 for quantitative reasoning. More than twice as many Indians as Chinese take the GRE.

Finally, I want to observe Saudi Arabia, as opposed to Iran. Both countries have about 5,000 people taking the GRE every year. About 2.5 times as many people live in Iran as opposed to Saudi Arabia. But the results for Saudi Arabia are dismal, while Iranian students perform rather well on the quantitative portion of the GRE.* This is not surprising to me, having seen applications from Saudi and Iranian students.

Saudi Arabia wants to move beyond being purely a resource-driven economy. These sorts of results show why many people are skeptical: in the generations since the oil-boom began the Saudi state has not cultivated and matured the human capital of its population. To get a better sense, here are the scores with N’s of MENA nations and a few others:

Country N Quantitative
Saudi 4462 141.6
Libya 113 146.2
Iraq 148 146.6
Oman 98 146.9
UAE 238 147.2
Qatar 85 147.3
Kuwait 386 147.8
Algeria 86 149.5
Yemen 68 149.9
Bahrain 55 150.9
Ethiopia 353 151.3
Jordan 472 152.1
Egypt 1044 153.2
Morocco 191 153.7
Tunisia 128 154.1
Georgia 71 154.2
Lebanon 691 154.7
Armenia 84 154.9
Azerbaijan 125 155.1
Eritrea 223 155.2
Israel 344 156.8
Iran 5319 157.3
Turkey 2370 158.9

 The “natural break” is between the Saudis and everyone else. In recent years Saudis indigenized their non-essential workforce. I’m broadly skeptical of the consequences of this.

The data for the plot at the top is below the fold.

Country Verbal Quant Writing
China 148.4 165.6 3
Taiwan 147.1 162.2 2.9
Hong Kong 150.2 161.1 3.4
Singapore 157.8 160.4 4.3
S Korea 149.9 160.3 3.2
Vietnam 147.6 159.1 3.2
Turkey 144.9 158.9 2.9
Japan 146.4 158.2 3.1
Iran 143.5 157.3 2.8
France 154 157.1 3.5
Greece 150.4 156.7 3.6
Germany 153.7 156.3 3.8
Thailand 144.7 156.2 2.9
Russia 149.3 156.1 3.2
Malaysia 150.8 155.8 3.6
Bangladesh 144.8 155.7 2.9
Italy 154.8 155.6 3.4
Sri Lanka 144.4 155.4 3.1
Chile 150.5 155.3 3.1
Nepal 144.8 155 3
Spain 152.3 155 3.4
Lebanon 147.5 154.7 3.3
Canada 156.1 154.6 4.2
UK 157.4 154.1 4.3
Egypt 145 153.2 3.1
India 144 153.2 2.9
Pakistan 147.9 152.5 3.4
Indonesia 147 152.2 3.1
Brazil 150.3 152.2 3.1
Philippines 150.7 150.9 3.6
Ecuador 147.4 150.5 3.1
USA 152.8 150.2 3.8
Colombia 148.6 150.1 3
Mexico 148.9 149.5 3.1
Kenya 147.3 147.8 3.4
Ghana 146.1 147.4 3.2
Nigeria 146.4 146.9 3.1
Saudi Arabia 137.5 141.6 2

* I suspect the poor English language skills of Iranian students is partly a function of the nation’s isolation the past two generations, but that’s speculation on my part.

3 thoughts on “Patterns in international GRE scores

  1. Would it really affect US graduate students differently from international graduate students? The international students still have to pay US taxes on their US income — right?

    I was an international graduate student in the US during the early 2000s and I think I actually paid more taxes than my non-international colleagues — there were some rebates and credits available to US citizens and permanent residents only.

  2. Baron-Cohen asserted that rs789859_G could be one of the ‘Maths gene’ allele. Regressing the allele fraction distribution from 1KGenome against some of the GRE Quant scores,

    Quant = +30.4767*rs789859G +136.286;

    # n=37; Rsq=0.4958; AdjRsq=0.4814; p=1.158e-06

    Quite statistically significant.

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