The Significance of PET Scores

The purpose of the test scores

Institutions of higher education cannot accept every applicant. They prefer to accept applicants with the best prospects of successfully completing an undergraduate degree. In order to predict the applicants’ prospects, most institutions use the scores on the PET and on high school matriculation exams (Bagrut). The only purpose of the PET scores is to predict the prospects of academic success: the higher an applicant’s score, the greater the likelihood of success in academic studies.

However, it is important to bear in mind that this is a question of probability, not certainty. There is no guarantee that an applicant with a high PET score will do well in academic studies and an applicant with a low score will fail. There are many factors that influence academic success, including motivation, creativity, and tenacity, and no test in the world can assess them all.

The admissions cutoff point

A Bagrut diploma (or preparatory course diploma) is an essential precondition of admission to an institution of higher education in Israel. For many courses, there is a dual-route admission process: 1) on the sole basis of Bagrut tests and their average scores, or 2) on the basis of both Bagrut test average and PET score. Each institution has its own individual requirements for each course of study it offers and is responsible for publicizing them. The following details apply to admissions via the combination of Bagrut test average and PET score.

Each institution calculates a combined score for each applicant on the basis of Bagrut test results and PET score. This is called the “General Admission Score” and reflects the applicant’s prospects of success in studying for an undergraduate degree. Each faculty ranks its applicants according to their General Admission Scores, and then each faculty sets a cutoff point. Applicants with a score above the cutoff point are accepted and those with a score below it are rejected.

The cutoff point in each faculty is typically a function of the number of places available, the number of applicants, and their admission scores: it rises if there are fewer places available, if there are more applicants, or if the applicants have higher scores. Some faculties also set a cutoff point in order to ensure that the students accepted will be at a sufficiently high academic level.

Applicants who are rejected because their admission score is below the cutoff point are not necessarily unsuited to study in that faculty. There may have been enough applicants with higher scores to fill the available places that year. So a rejected applicant might be accepted another year, or be accepted to another faculty in the same institution or to a similar faculty in another institution.

What is the meaning of “relative score” in the PET?

In most tests given in the educational system, the score is supposed to reflect the level of the examinee’s understanding of the material and skills studied in the classroom. For example, an examinee with a score of 80 in geography presumably knows about 80% of the material and skills he was meant to learn in geography lessons.

The PET score, on the other hand, does not reflect the examinee’s understanding of any specific content. Rather, it reflects the examinee’s ability in particular domains relative to other examinees. This is what we mean when we say that the PET score is a “relative score”. The only thing that one can tell about an examinee with a score of 120 in the verbal reasoning sections is that his verbal ability appears to be greater than that of examinees whose score is lower, and less than that of examinees whose score is higher.

In order to ensure that each examinee’s score depends only on ability and not on other factors specific to the particular test taken, the final score is calculated relative to every PET examinee since the first test was given in December 1983. In other words, even if the examinees on the date when you take the test include many especially gifted students, this will not affect your final score (or theirs), since scores are compared to those of every student examined to date. This is why the test date has no effect on score. So examinees’ chief consideration when choosing a test date should be which date is most convenient for them.

What does the PET score represent?

The PET only measures basic academic ability. The test score does not reflect intelligence, and certainly not genius. Although many IQ tests measure the same abilities as the PET, these tests measure other abilities as well.

The assumption that an exceptionally high PET score represents high intelligence is wrong and even harmful: it can make examinees “stress out” before the test, dread getting a low score, and be ashamed of their score. It can also push them to invest time and money in preparatory courses even if the faculty they are interested in does not require a high score. Be aware that most faculties require a score close to average (550), and only a few courses and faculties, such as law and medicine, require an especially high score.

Since the PET score does not test intelligence, but reflects ability in domains required for academic studies, and since these abilities can be learned to some extent, comprehensive preparation for the test can increase your score and help prepare you for success in academic study.

It is also worth noting that the PET score does not necessarily predict a successful career. Tens of thousands of people without a high PET score, or people who never took the PET, are highly successful and fulfilled in their chosen professions, earn high salaries and achieve significant professional recognition.