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Philosophy Spotlight

If you’re heading to graduate school, studying philosophy can help.

“When it comes to the demands of the GRE verbal and analytical sections, our majors should feel at home: been there, done that.”

Are you contemplating pursuing a career in a field that typically requires a master’s degree or even a doctorate? Is the thought of taking yet one more standardized exam making you rethink your plans?

Most graduate programs require applicants to take the GRE® (Graduate Record Exam), a standardized test that assesses your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. If that seems daunting to you, we have a sure-fire way to help you successfully tackle critical parts of the exam.

Consider majoring or minoring in philosophy.

Graph of verbal scores

Recent data collected by ETS, the non-profit educational organization that administers the GRE, indicates that philosophy students scored highest on both the verbal reasoning and the analytical writing sections of the exam.

The reason for that is simple: studying philosophy sharpens your ability to read and comprehend complex concepts, critically evaluate them, and present clear, logical arguments about the material.

In short, studying philosophy teaches you to think and to articulate your ideas.

Graph of analytical scores

According to the Buzz Blog on the Physics Central website (www.physicscentral.com), GRE test takers since 2011 who indicated they intended to study philosophy in graduate school outscored test takers from other disciplines in both the verbal reasoning section and the analytical writing section of the test. (Review the complete data for all majors on the ETS website.)

And that makes sense. As the writer of the blog explains, “Philosophy departments focus heavily on logical reasoning and identifying logical fallacies, most likely leading to philosophy students' dominance of the verbal and analytical writing sections.”

At Transylvania, philosophy students practice the very skills the GRE evaluates, according to philosophy professor Jack Furlong.

"Reading vigilantly, developing and critiquing arguments, making effective distinctions, untangling complex analyses, sniffing out hidden biases, comparing and contrasting points of view from varying cultural and historical perspectives—these skills and habits are continually reinforced in philosophy courses and press upon philosophy majors a responsibility to think clearly, critically, and thoroughly."

Keep in mind that the data collected by ETS represents students who intend to study philosophy in graduate school. However, it seems clear that students who choose to study philosophy as undergraduates will improve their verbal and analytical reasoning skills, regardless of what field they eventually pursue. Whether these philosophy students decide to go into business, law, education, or politics, their undergraduate experience will help prepare them to be successful applicants for post-graduate work—and eventually be successful in their chosen field.


Graphs provided with the permission of Physics Central.

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