Which majors are smartest?

One of Steve Sailer’s readers sent him a link to this very interesting table:

GRE results by college field of study

This is really good data but I can’t figure out how to select the data in a form I can paste into a spreadsheet so I can analyze it properly, because of the settings used to create the PDF file. Anyone know how to do this?

The point Sailer’s reader was making is that Education majors do very badly, which I already knew, but I’m sure there is a lot more to be learned from this.  I’ll just note here that high Quantitative scores are concentrated in the fields you would expect, while both the Verbal scores and the Analytical Writing scores are highest for “Classics”, “Classical Languages”, Philosophy, History of Science, and Comparative Languages and Literature.

Also, there are way fewer 800’s in the Verbal exam than in the Quantitative exam, so I guess I should be prouder of my Verbal score.


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13 Responses to Which majors are smartest?

  1. Polymath says:

    Does anyone know how to alter the settings of that PDF file so the numbers can be pasted into a text file or a spreadsheet?

  2. AMac says:

    As far as I know, what you want can’t be done (easily). PDFs are designed for presentation, and one of the “features” of the format is that the creator can make it difficult for the reader to extract information in a readily-usable way. The College Board has done so for that PDF. Look in Acrobat or Reader under File -> Properties -> Security to see that (a) the file is password-protected, and (b) copy/paste functions are “not allowed.”

    There may be a hack out there for defeating these provisions.

    Even then, it’s kludgy to go from a PDF to a spreadsheet. Usually it involves saving the desired data as text in a text file, cleaning it up by hand, and then importing it into Excel (or whatever) so that 1 or more “space” characters are interpreted as a tab.

    Scanning followed by OCR and manual cleanup may be the best option.

  3. Polymath says:

    Well, just typing it in by hand can probably be done in an hour or so, maybe I’ll get around to that eventually — but it makes absolutely no sense for them to both release the data publicly and make it inaccessible. Eventually someone will take on the hour of effort and retype the data and post it.

  4. Jehu says:

    Bet you could print it out then use a scanner to pull it back in converted to a more tractable format.

  5. Matt G says:

    According to the table test takers majoring in elementary education had an average score of 958 (V+Q). There are various websites that convert GRE to IQ. A score of 958 correlates to an IQ of 108. Do we really need elementary school teachers with extremely high IQ scores? Shouldn’t somebody with a slightly above average IQ be smart enough to teach 6-12 year olds? I would think that somebody with a high IQ would be bored to death teaching basic math and reading to 8 year olds, especially since teaching at that level is basic and repetitious. The high IQ teacher probably wouldn’t relate very well to their lower IQ students. It seems like the biggest problem in the schools is a lack of discipline and common sense. Not to mention filling up the schools with students that aren’t very bright to begin with.
    I’m part of that testing cohort since I took the GRE in late 2005. It can’t be overemphasized enough that scoring an 800 on the verbal portion is ridiculously hard. Personally I’ve never known anybody that got higher than 680. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life and always read well above grade level and I scored a 640 (90th percentile). Anybody who scores an 800 is probably wasting their exceptional verbal ability by teaching in an elementary school. Not that teaching school is a waste, but for somebody at that level it would be.

  6. Polymath says:

    I had not realized how hard the Verbal GRE was, because I did better on it than on the Verbal SAT (I got 800’s on all three GRE sections but only 750 on the Verbal SAT). I suppose I overthought some of the Verbal SAT questions, which can happen because they are not written to require very complex reasoning.

  7. RebelliousAwesomeness says:

    Matt, the obvious problem is that schools aren’t organized by the IQ of their students and hence high IQ kids wouldn’t have dumb teachers for the sake of dumb students.

  8. Matt G says:

    “I had not realized how hard the Verbal GRE was, because I did better on it than on the Verbal SAT (I got 800′s on all three GRE sections but only 750 on the Verbal SAT).”

    That’s damn impressive. According to the converter that puts you in the 160 range. Interestingly my GRE verbal percentile matched my SAT verbal percentile (90 and 92% respectively), even though there was a 12 year time interval between taking the two tests.

    Looking back on my school days I realize now that I was smarter than most or probably all of my teachers. Nevertheless I never felt like I was dumbed down by them. I thought they did a good job of teaching me the fundamentals. All the really interestings things I learned on my own, which I was able to do since they taught me to read. I think a really smart teacher only becomes important for a smart student in advanced high school and college classes. I’m glad I didn’t go to schools that were segregated by IQ. Smart kids need to see that most people aren’t at their level intellectually, segregating them into a seperate school gives them a distorted view of the world. However I firmly believe that kids should be seperated by intellectual abilities
    in their respective classes. To not do so only frustrates the smart kid who gets bored to death, and frustrates the dumb kid who can’t keep up.

  9. Matt, nobody believes that all people are intelligent, except stupid liberals who are for keeping all this together. If you got in a school because you were smart, you know taht not everyone is. Besides, you can probably connect the dots that some sweep streets for other reasons that the joy that the job brings them.

  10. rob says:

    If you go to the site and look at the summary data Education C&I majors do well on verbal (logical reasoning) and anaytical writing, better than some engineers and businesspeople. You may be getting confused because some Elementary Education majors are basically for Kindergarten, which demands more heart than anything else and not even a BA in most schools. There’re several types of Education major.

    As usual Philosophy (thinking) majors blow everyone out of the water since they stopped counting them with Religion majors in V and A, and do well in Math along with the engineers. My hiring experience was the smartest ones went directly into non-profits or business or into Law or Medicine so are rarely on the GRE or they would be on top in Math as well. In fact many of them were double or triple majors in say Business, Technology, or Education or whatever else they thought useful in their careers outside academia.

  11. David says:

    Interestingly, I was expecting the education, philosophy, social and language-dominated fields to have verbal scores that were significantly better than other fields, but the distributions are similar to even quantitative-centric fields. But conversely, the quantitative-centric fields like physics and engineering dominated the quantitative scores.

    @ Rob: I do not think that people who go into law or medicine would necessarily have better scores in math. I have colleagues in both professions (very intelligent and articulate individuals no less) and they would admit that numbers are not their strong suit.

  12. David says:

    Addendum: some disclosure. I am a physician myself in internal medicine and endocrinology. My thoughts are that the hypothetical GRE quantitative scores for medicine matriculants would be similar to those from biology or pre-med programs from which the majority of medical students are selected (maybe superior, but the difference would not likely be statistically significant). The quantitative scores would not be anywhere close to physics or engineering, I’m pretty certain.

  13. The Philosopher says:

    I’ve always found it hard to score well on all verbal tests. I test in the top 1% of the population on WAIS IV, but bizarrely the SHL-type employment verbal tests have poorly designed questions and/or words that a higher level guy can take to interperet differently taking into account how a normal person would use the word/context. Designing a standardised verbal test with strong internal consistency/validity value is actually an achievement in itself.

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