“Is the Miller Analogies Test important?” It’s a fair question. Some of you may be wondering if the Millers Analogies Test is just an arbitrary hurdle in an already unwieldy graduate application process. Others may be genuinely afraid that doing poorly on the exam signals they won’t do well in grad school. Of course, everyone is concerned with doing well enough to even gain entry into their chosen program.
The goal of any graduate exam is to predict how likely a student is to succeed in graduate school. Graduate schools want to accept students who are likely to do well. When too many students drop out, it tends to hurt a school’s national ranking. This means there is a strong incentive for schools to find ways to predict student success before they accept them. Accordingly, the MAT prominently features research on its predictive power.
On the one hand, the Miller Analogies Test is important to your school because it helps them assess how likely you are to succeed. But let’s be clear: these exams are imperfect. They test a small portion of your ability in a high pressure situation that is quite a bit different than what you can expect in the classroom. So much goes into a student’s ability to succeed that exams simply can’t capture it all. Schools know this. This is why your application consists of not just test scores but GPA, recommendations, work experience, etc.
In my opinion, exams tend to work as a way of setting a minimum “bar.” Students who score below a certain point might be missing crucial skills, but above that point other characteristics tend to matter more to the college. That’s why we instruct students to focus on a “good score” for their college and not a perfect score.
Students have to strike a balance. You need to attain a score that fits the standard of your college; that’s important. However, you do not want to neglect the other parts of your application. Studying for the exam should not come at the expense of writing a good admissions letter or submitting your materials on time. The wise approach is to find out the score you need to achieve early and give yourself adequate time to study.
Still, for a variety reasons, some students will not achieve the score they wanted. Some students may even score below average. It’s important to remember that these exams, as I said, do not capture everything. If the rest of your application is strong, you can still get into a good school even with a less than stellar score.
The MAT is important enough that you should to take study preparation seriously. But it should not be seen as the deciding factor for whether you’ll be able to succeed in graduate school.