Using analysis of variance on a sample consisting of 1,499 US students across 21 US PhD programs, we show that there is no significant difference in the time it takes US male and female physics PhD students to complete their degree programs. This result comes in spite of a statistically significant 18 percentile point gap in median GRE-P scores between genders. Additional analyses reveal that there is no statistical difference between US students reported as White, Black/Hispanic/Multiracial/Native American, and Asian. Expanding our sample to also include 1,143 Non-US students, we find a small but significant effect of citizenship status on time to PhD completion where the average time for Non-US students to complete a physics PhD is about two months less than their US student counterparts. These results show that in spite of known gaps in standardized admissions exams between genders, these differences are not reflected in subsequent graduate school performance. Our findings reinforce the need for graduate admissions committees to go beyond quantitative metrics and conduct a holistic assessment of an applicant's potential to perform research effectively and to earn a PhD.
Typical physics Ph.D. admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion
This study aims to understand the effectiveness of typical admissions criteria in identifying students who will complete the Physics Ph.D. Multivariate statistical analysis of roughly one in eight physics Ph.D. students from 2000 to 2010 indicates that the traditional admissions metrics of undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Quantitative, Verbal, and Physics Subject Tests do not predict completion as effectively admissions committees presume. Significant associations with completion were found for undergraduate GPA in all models and for GRE Quantitative in two of four studied models; GRE Physics and GRE Verbal were not significant in any model. It is notable that completion changed by less than 10% for U.S. physics major test takers scoring in the 10th versus 90th percentile on the Quantitative test. Aside from these limitations in predicting Ph.D. completion overall, overreliance on GRE scores in admissions processes also selects against underrepresented groups.
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- Science Advances
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- National Science Foundation
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