I recently asked a question about GRE wording conventions and was immediately told that I was off-topic. I promptly removed the question to avoid clutter, and decided instead to ask here:

Are questions about ETS’ GRE wording conventions on-topic or off-topic on the Academia Stack Exchange? If off-topic, is there a known appropriate venue?

Note that this is not about GRE vocabulary, but about the anchor words that ETS uses to describe the desiderata in their GRE questions.

EDIT: Per current discussion under @wrzlprmft's answer, I'm tilting this question towards the USA audience (those more familiar with the ETS and the GRE). I've removed the examples as they've apparently resulted in more confusion than clarification of what makes a convention a convention versus a standard.

  • Without your example, how should anybody know whether this is about conventions as used within the GRE or conventions used when talking about the GRE itself?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 21, 2017 at 14:36
  • @Wrzlprmft "Note that this is not about GRE vocabulary, but about the anchor words that ETS uses to describe the desiderata of their GRE questions." Seems fairly unambiguous to me given the common-knowledge relationship between the ETS and the GRE in the USA. How else are you interpreting that statement? Although perhaps that 'of' should be 'in'...
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


when the ETS says 'profit' they mean 'difference between sale and acquisition without regard for any unmentioned costs', or how when they say "the next integer past n + 2" they don't mean "(the next integer past n) + 2", etc.

These examples are about the communication conventions of specific academic disciplines (economics and mathematics ) and thus are off-topic here, as they pertain to the content of academic teaching and research.

If the institution in question adheres to what is common standard in those fields, such questions should be on-topic on the sites for these disciplines – in your examples, Economics SE and Mathematics SE –, usually tagged terminology.

If the institution in question doesn’t adhere to common standards or assumes conventions that go beyond this (and doesn’t tell you about it), well, then it sucks to be you: I don’t think that any Stack Exchange site would consider guessing the standards of such an institution on-topic (because their users wouldn’t be good at this and could not tell a good answer from a bad one). Of course, to be really sure, you have to ask those communities.

  • > "well, then it sucks to be you" that's fair.
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:48
  • @user: I am not exactly sure how to read your comment. Are you complaining about us or them?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:50
  • No, no, literally I'm saying, "That's fair." As in what you said is a fair response to the question I gave. It isn't up to an individual to decide how society treats said individual, it's up to the society. So it sucking to be me is a fair outcome. There is literally no sarcasm in that.
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:51
  • (I mean, not that that's my belief structure, but, the point is, it's a fair stance that answers my question, so, 'accepted')
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:03
  • @user: Actually, basing your career choices of your ability and resources to learn random standards that have no relevance beyond this would be anything but fair. Still, that doesn’t make us any better at answering questions about it (also see my edit).
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:12
  • With all due respect, the GRE is a common exam within the United States required for application to many (most?) graduate programs. I would expect there to exist expertise at least among the American audience for something so near to being a national standard. I don't find the justification provided about 'guessing' the standards compelling in that light... It might have been better to have left it as 'sucks to be me'.
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:19
  • @user: If I understand correctly, most people take this exam only once (and thus do not become experts just upon taking the exam). If there are any standards that only pertain to this exam, it would still take some particular kind of expert to answer this (and just being an expert in the respective field wouldn’t suffice). If, on the other hand, the exam adheres to common standards (as it should anyway), my second paragraph applies.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:32
  • The problem, sometimes, is that it's unclear whether the exam adheres to one particular set of common standards, or the simpler ones that were taught in grade school (it being made by the same people who make exams for high schoolers). This then ties into, "it would still take some particular kind of expert to answer this (and just being an expert in the respective field wouldn’t suffice)," which is neatly tied into a bow by your claim that it 'sucks to be me'. I liked that one a bit better, actually.
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:37
  • On second thought, I'm inclined to unaccept your answer and await responses from USA denizens. If the narrative is reinforced irrespective of national boundaries, then awesome. If it isn't, I can step outside and let the powers-that-be discuss. Is that a fair thing to do?
    – user
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:39
  • @user: As you wish. Note though that your example problems being off-topic on this particular Stack Exchange has nothing to do with what we discussed in the comments. Even if the GRE adhered to common field or language standards, it would at best be on-topic on the Stack Exchange pertaining to the respective field, not here. Of course, I cannot speak for all of these sites, but typically SE sites do not like questions where they cannot tell a good answer from a bad one.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 21, 2017 at 13:47

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