For students who plan to continue their education by going to graduate school in arts and sciences, a high score on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is often a crucial component of a successful application. It has long been common wisdom in philosophy departments that philosophy majors tend to score extremely well on the GRE, and now new data released by the Educational Testing Service, who administers the GRE, reconfirms this fact.
The GRE is divided into three sections, each of which is designed to test a different skill: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. According to the recent data, philosophy majors score better than any other undergraduate major on the Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections. On the Verbal section, philosophy majors receive an average score of 160 (out of 170), which is a full 3 points higher than English majors, and on the Analytical Writing section, the average score among philosophy majors is 4.4 (out of 6). Physics majors top the list of best scores on the Quantitative Reasoning section, but even there philosophy majors rank above every other major except those one would ordinarily expect to be on the top of this category: science, engineering, and accounting.
There are alternative interpretations of the data, of course -- for instance, perhaps students who are antecedently the smartest tend to become philosophy majors -- but the most natural interpretation is the one that academic advisors in all disciplines would do well to convey to their students: if you're looking to go to graduate school in any traditional field of the liberal arts, you'll want to consider adding several philosophy courses to your transcript. (Similar data indicates that philosophy majors also do extremely well on the LSAT, the entrance exam for law school.)
(Thanks to this physicscentral.com blog for alerting us to the recent ETS data.)