Graduate Programs

Blogs from students, faculty & staff

When I began looking into graduate school, the number one thing people told me was, “Make sure to get a good GRE score!” It seemed like logical advice at the time – I didn’t know much about graduate school, but I did know, based on every show or book I’d ever seen with a character in grad school, that they had to take a huge test before getting in. That was how undergraduate admissions worked too – I still recall studying for the ACT as a high school student, taking that test over and over again to try and get my best score. So I began studying for the GRE, purchasing study books, setting aside time to take practice tests, etc. Everything was all set. 

Imagine my surprise then, when none of the programs I researched required the GRE. What had happened? When my older brother was looking into graduate school just a few years prior, he’d had to study for and take the GRE. What did it mean then, that suddenly quite a few graduate programs no longer required the test?

The simple answer is that quite a large portion of graduate programs no longer think tests like the GRE or the GMAT are necessary. For quite some time now, there have been growing doubts about the effectiveness of using standardized tests as a marker of potential.. Students who score well on such tests have been shown to be no more likely to excel at their studies than those who have not, or haven’t taken the test at all. In addition, such metrics have been used to exclude students of more diverse backgrounds and with the need for diversity recognized as more important than ever, such exclusionary tactics should be left in the past.  As such, the question of whether or not the GRE and GMAT are still relevant is one that most graduate institutions are taking into consideration. 

So what replaces it? It seems like, as with my own graduate school, most schools are looking to measure student success through holistic methods. These methods of assessing students take into account the student’s personal experiences and history, more specifically than their testing scores. For example, in my own program, they cared more about my cohort’s individual experiences in the field in related jobs – proven leadership experience was considered much more important than other metrics used in the past. 

Looking at it that way, it’s a no-brainer that many colleges and universities are dropping the GRE or GMAT requirements. There are some that still argue that test scores are important metrics for admissions. They are an easy way to quantitatively compare other students, making choosing between applicants easier on admissions committees. However, just because something is easier, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. 

With so many institutions dropping their need for standardized testing, you might, as I did, question the necessity of taking the GRE or GMAT. There are plenty of good universities that still may require those tests, but with student success being just as likely at an institution that does not, students are well within their rights to avoid one more extra step in the admissions process. The most important thing is to examine the programs that you’re interested in– don’t just use the GRE or a similar test as your metric for whether or not you choose to apply. Take a look at all of the admissions materials, see what their requirements are and what the program can ultimately give you. If the benefits outweigh the costs and they require the GRE, there is serious consideration to give to the test. At the same time, there are plenty of programs out there that do not. If you believe an institution that requires the GRE is where you belong, then best pursue that. If not, then there are plenty of options available to you. It all depends on what you want to do!