Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
Graduate Record Examination English Literature Subject Test Scores

Currently no national examination assesses undergraduate learning in the humanities disciplines, but the average score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Subject Test score in English literature does provide an indicator of general readiness for graduate study in at least one of the humanities disciplines.

Findings and Trends:

  • In reporting year 2012, the average score on the GRE Subject Test score in English literature (549, on a scale of 200 to 990) reached its highest level since 1990 (the first year for which score data of this kind are publicly available; Indicator II-9).
  • Examination of rolling three-year average scores of examinees who took the test between July 1, 1990, and June 30, 2012, reveals four distinct phases in average examinee performance. Scores fell in the early 1990s (from an average of 525 to 508), increased gradually over the next decade (up to the average of 540 reported for 2005), and then remained relatively static for the next five years. In reporting year 2011 another period of improvement in performance began, with the mean rising to 547, followed in 2012 by a rise of an additional two points.
II-9: Mean Graduate Record Examination Literature in English Subject Test Score, Reporting Years 1990–2012*

* Each data point represents a three-year moving average to smooth out anomalous one-year variations. Thus, for example, the 2012 data are based on the performance of all examinees who tested from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2012.

Source: Data for reporting year 2012 obtained from GRE: Guide to the Use of Scores, 2013–2014 (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2013), 26 table 2. Data for previous years provided by the Educational Testing Service's Higher Education Division at the request of the Humanities Indicators.

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