Reading Comprehension as an Admissions Criteria in an Entry-Level Physical Therapist Education Program: Correlation between the Nelson Denny Reading Test and the GRE


Entry-level physical therapist education programs often consider GRE general test scores as part of the application for admission. Although the GRE adds quantitative data to the admission file, its relevance to success in the program is not clear. In addition, there is not a clear cut point within the range of scores accepted. There is some evidence to suggest that reading comprehension which is a component of the GRE is related to success on the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE). Previous work by Aldridge et al. found a moderately positive relationship between reading comprehension measured by the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT) and scores on the NPTE. In addition, Keith found a similar relationship between NDRT scores and success on the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination (NPTAE). The purpose of this study was to investigate the correlation between the Nelson-Denny Reading Test and the GRE general test scores for students admitted to an entry-level DPT program.


109 students enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program completed Form H of the Nelson-Denny Reading Test. Pearson correlations were computed between GRE general test scores and the scores on the NDRT.


Total GRE score (M = 125.17, SD = 27.68), verbal GRE score (M = 70.19, SD = 17.59), total NDRT score (M = 142.0, SD = 7.55), vocabulary score (M = 73.2, SD = 4.07), reading rate (M = 285.3, SD = 84.27). The mean grade level equivalent for reading on the NDRTwas 17.86 (i.e., grade 17, month 8) with a range of 14.8 to the maximum of 18.9. Correlations between total NDRT score and the total GRE score and the verbal GRE score were statistically significant, r = .624 and r = .617, p < .01, respectively. Correlation between the total GRE score and the vocabulary score on the NDRT was statistically significant, r =.719, p < .01. The correlation between reading rate and total GRE score was not statistically significant, r = .166, p < .01.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

The Nelson-Denny Reading Test strongly correlates with the verbal portion of the GRE which suggests that they both measure the same metric. This is not surprising since the verbal portion of the GRE is comprised of roughly equal parts vocabulary and reading comprehension which are also the two components of the NDRT. If reading comprehension is predictive of success in a PT or PTA program as measured by performance on the respective licensure examination, the GRE is likely predictive of success on the NPTE. The range of grade level equivalents determined by the NDRTscores suggests that many students are reading below graduate school level. Further research is needed to determine whether GRE scores are predictive of success in a PT program and whether there is a level of reading comprehension ability that should be required for DPT education.


Aldridge RL, Keith B, Sloas S, Mott-Murphee A. Relationship of the Nelson-Denny Reading Test to scores on the National Physical Therapist Licensure Examination. J Allied Health; Summer 2010; 39, 2;72-75.
Haught PA, Walls PT. Adult learners: New norms on the Nelson-Denny Reading Test for health care professionals. Reading Psych; 2002; 23, 217-238. DOI: 10.1.108010270271290061337
Keith B. The impact of reading comprehension on Physical Therapist Assistant education. Platform presentation. American Council of Academic Physical Therapy’s Educational Leadership Conference, October 9, 2016.

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  • Control #: 2748681
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Ann Wilson, Dr. Jennifer Hastings
  • Keywords:

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