Many colleges and universities conduct entrance exams before admitting students into their institution. I have wondered why a good understanding of the English language is so crucial in these exams.
Take for example the Gradate Recognition Examination (GRE), an exam an aspirant has to clear, before he can start studying in the US.
The exam focuses so much on English comprehension and vocabulary. (Of course, it does include tests of math and reasoning abilities too) But English occupies such a central role.
Also, I notice that the words used to test vocabulary are not so common-place, if not altogether obsolete. Why is it important for me to know words like 'recant', 'upbraid' and 'ameliorate' which I have never till now and probably never will.* A thought comes to mind: How many of these words figure in President Obama's day-to-day conversations or speeches?
* - abominate, inveterate, orotund, scurrilous, fulmination, distend... the list goes on.
Surely, pulling out a list of vague words from the dictionary, cannot be a test of the applicant's overall competence. This is especially true in this age of globalisation where the trend is towards simplifying the language more so that people can communicate more easily.
Is it merely to filter the huge number of applications so that only a few manage to qualfy? What other purpose does it solve?