Does the GRE Satisfy the Critical Thinking Objective in Physical Therapy Education Admissions?


The purpose of this poster presentation is to draw into question if the GRE is the best measure of critical thinking (CT) we can use as physical therapist educators to screen our applicants for admission into physical therapist education programs.


The CAPTE's 2015 accreditation standards places emphasis on CT skills in accredited education programs1. CT skills guide students to “become aware of multiple styles of thinking, diverse social concepts, values, and ethical behaviors that will help prepare them for identifying, redefining, and fulfilling their responsibilities to society and the profession”1. CT, as part of clinical reasoning and clinical-decision making, helps students apply current evidence to practice in order to reduce errors and improve patient outcomes in the constantly changing healthcare arena1,2.
The admissions process for physical therapist education is variable from program to program with some physical therapist education programs requiring different courses. The variability may decrease the number of programs for which the student can apply because he or she may not have the pre-requisites courses or information for a particular program. The GRE is used by physical therapist education programs, despite the literature being inconclusive in its ability to predict success in physical therapist education programs and the National Physical Therapist Examination3. The GRE assesses verbal, quantitative and analytical factors and the analytical part of the examination includes CT4. Some authors suggest that the GRE should be used with other factors to determine who is successful in physical therapist education5, 6. Also, the GRE is not used consistently across physical therapist education programs, with some programs focusing on one part of the test over another7,8,9. Utzman et al. advocates the use of the GRE in the admission process until “an admission test with content more relevant to physical therapy” is developed that may help predict which student will be successful in physical therapist education5.


Critical thinking, a necessary skill for clinical reasoning, allows healthcare professionals to consider all options, raise questions, and analyze solutions to make decisions concerning a patient’s health and safety10,11,12. Some studies have suggested that assessing CT during the admission process would be beneficial to predict which students would be successful in physical therapist education and on the National Physical Therapy Examination13,14. Currently, there is no pre-admission examination specific to physical therapy or one that has CT as part of its focus.

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

The GRE is a test for general admission to graduate programs or business schools. The context for the GRE is not one specific to healthcare or physical therapy. Due to these variables and the inconsistent use in physical therapist education program, CT of applicants cannot truly be determined by this examination for use in the admissions process.


1. CAPTE. (2015a). Aggregate program data: 2014 – 15 physical therapist education programs fact sheets. Retrieved from Alexandria, VA:
2. Brudvig, T. J., Dirkes, A., Dutta, P., & Rane, K. (2013). Critical thinking skills in health care professional students: A systematic review. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 27(3), 12-25 14p.
3. Hinds, G. (2014). A study on the relationship between GRE scores of doctor of physical therapy students and first time pass scores on the National Physical Therapy Examination scores: A retrospective study. Andrews University, Digital Commons @ Andrews University. Retrieved from
4. ETS. (2016). About the GRE® revised general test. Retrieved from
5. Utzman, R. R., Riddle, D. L., & Jewell, D. V. (2007a). Use of demographic and quantitative admissions data to predict academic difficulty among professional physical therapist students. Physical therapy, 87(9), 1164-1180. doi:10.2522/ptj.20060221
6. Utzman, R. R., Riddle, D. L., & Jewell, D. V. (2007b). Use of demographic and quantitative admissions data to predict performance on the National Physical Therapy Examination. Physical therapy, 87(9), 1181-1193.
7. ASU. (2015). Prerequisite courses. Retrieved from
8. UTC. (2016). Prerequisites. Retrieved from
9. UTHSC. (2016). Physical therapy, entry-level, DPT. Retrieved from
10. Cervero, R. M. (1988). Effective continuing education for professionals: ERIC.
11. Higgs, J., Jones, M., Loftus, S., & Christensen, N. (2008). Clinical reasoning in the health professions: Elsevier Health Sciences.
12. Simpson, E., & Courtney, M. D. (2002). Critical thinking in nursing education: Literature review. International journal of nursing practice, 8(April), 89-98.
13. Domenech, M. A., & Watkins, P. (2015). Critical thinking and disposition toward critical thinking among physical therapy students. Journal of allied health, 44(4), 195-200.
14. Suckow, D. W., Brahler, C. J., Donahoe-Fillmore, B., Fisher, M. I., & Anloague, P. A. (2015). The Association between critical thinking and scholastic aptitude on first-time pass rate of the national physical therapy examination. Journal of Student Physical Therapy Research, 8(1).

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  • Control #: 2751392
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Dr. Emily Shannon Hughes
  • Keywords:

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