Date of Award

Winter 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Disorders & Special Education


Special Education

Committee Director

Anastasia Raymer

Committee Member

Robert Gale

Committee Member

Kimberly Murphy

Committee Member

Silvana Watson


Within the next three years, the number of available speech-language pathology (SLP) jobs is projected to increase by 18% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). The most logical response to the escalating market demand would be to increase the number of students admitted into SLP graduate programs. However, this may not be as simple as it sounds.

Successful training of graduate SLP clinicians requires the professional, emotional, financial, and time commitments of the program’s clinical and academic faculty. The accreditation status of graduate SLP programs is based in part on graduation completion rates and students passing the national examination in SLP, the Praxis II. Such benchmarks and the pressure to increase a program’s admission class size place greater importance on the need to ensure the best students are selected for admission. Thus, graduate SLP programs need to be certain that their vetting process for graduate school admission is effective and appropriate if they plan to increase the number of students who successfully complete programs and meet certification and accreditation requirements.

Undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are standardized means used commonly to predict graduate students’ academic ability. However, SLP graduate programs require students to demonstrate competence not only academically, but also clinically. Tests of executive functions (EFs) have been used as predictors of ability as they assess areas of cognitive ability essential for decision-making (Vestberg, Gustafson, Maurex, Ingvar, & Petrovic, 2012; Kirova, Bays, & Lagalwar, 2015). This research study examined EF measures as unique, additional means to predict student ability to succeed in SLP graduate programs. The purpose of this study was to investigate what relationships, if any, exist between: (a) academic admissions criteria, (b) tests of EFs, and (c) academic and (d) clinical outcomes.

An observational design using stepwise multiple regressions was used to determine the strength of the relationship between the variables (i.e., current SLP graduate school admissions criteria, tests of EFs, and clinical and academic outcomes) by identifying the model(s) of best fit. Findings indicated that objective and subjective EF measures were highly predictive of successful academic and clinical outcomes for graduate SLP students. Implications for future research are also provided.


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