PG programmes dropping GRE requirement!
Gayathri Gopakumar

Meet Gayathri - a Content Editor at Hotcourses India- an IDP company. A once-international student herself- she loves to research & give insights into the world of global education through her writing. When she isn’t working, you'll find her playing, travelling or binge-watching just about anything.


13 Jun 2019 669 Book icon 3 mins Share

No more GRE preparation? PG programmes dropping GRE requirement!

If you’re in the middle of GRE preparation, read this. Many postgraduate programmes in the US are dropping GRE score as an admission requirement!

13 Jun 2019 669 Book icon 3 mins Share
PG programmes dropping GRE requirement!

If you’re planning to pursue any science-related postgraduate programmes in the US, you might just be lucky – many universities in the US are abandoning GRE as an admission requirement – yay! So, you may not have to worry much about GRE preparation after all.

For years, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has been the one standardized test, which was fundamental for admissions into science postgraduate programmes in the US universities. The nearly 4-hour test involves written and multiple-choice questions that assess verbal, quantitative and writing skills. But looks like the winds of change are bringing an end to the long reign of the GRE – thanks to new studies that show no connection between your GRE score and your success in graduate school.

Why you ask? – There are three key reasons:

Impedes inclusion

Another grave concern that GRE score requirement poses is that it hinders inclusion efforts and diversity. Data from ETS show that many women and people from underrepresented ethnicity and race score lower in GRE as compared to Asian and white men. The background to this is that not everyone has the access, opportunity or financial means to train for the GRE test. The money for coaching class, preparation material and exam fees are too unaffordable for many. Add to that the travel cost and means. Since GRE is timed, the test will also turn out to be more challenging for those non-native English speakers. (People who don’t speak English as a first language).

University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania shelved the GRE requirement in 2018. Its chair of physics and astronomy department, Arthur Kosowsky opines that abandoning GRE “just seems like a no-brainer”. “This test is both not really measuring something useful … and at the same time discriminating against students who we are trying to work very hard to increase the numbers of in our program,” he adds.

Studies prove otherwise

As mentioned, recent studies disprove that higher GRE scores mean better academic performance by the student. In line with these findings, more and more number of programmes are abandoning GRE as an admission requirement. 

For scientists who are used to looking at quantitative data, scores are just an easy component to “find people who plausibly more or less admissible,” explains Julie Posselt – an expert in GRE admissions and a higher education researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. According to her, faculty member who link GRE score with a successful student are faulty assumptions and the reality is different.

For example, according to a 2017 study by Joshua Hall (director of graduate admissions for the biological and biomedical science program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill), 280 graduate students were assessed, and it was found that their GRE scores had no relation to how long they took to complete their degrees, or the number of first-author papers the students published.

Similarly, according to another study on 495 biomedical PhD students, while those with higher GRE scores got better grades in the first semester of their postgraduate programmes, the GRE score could not predict which students graduated or passed in their exams, how many publications they accrued or how long they spend in completing the programme. The GRE scores also don’t draw any parallels to the merit scholarships, grants or fellowships the students received. There are many such study that came to similar conclusions regarding GRE preparation too.

Domino effect

Another reason for this increasing trend in dropping GRE as an admission requirement is the peer pressure. Initially there were only a handful of institutions who discontinued the requirement of a GRE score, according to Hall. But now, as many as 74 institutions have adapted this trend.

It all started in 2017 when the University of Michigan’s biomedical science graduate programme decided to shelve GRE scores in 2018. Hall recounts that few other programmes followed suit and soon an increasing number of schools started dropping the requirement – which created some sort of a peer pressure on the rest. Schools were concerned that they’d lose out on applicants if they required GRE.

Here’s proof of the turning tides

When science studied PhD requirements for eight subject areas at 50 top-ranked US research universities, here’s what the study found: 

The life-sciences discipline has been the frontrunner in dropping the GRE requirement for admission. About 44% of PhD programmes in molecular biology discontinued the requirement of GRE scores. This figure will surge a minimum of 50% for the 2019-2020 application cycle.

In the field of ecology and neuroscience, GRE requirement was dropped by around one-third of the programmes between 2016 and 2018. More programmes have plans to follow suit in 2019.

Whether abandoning the GRE requirement will pave way for diversify among the applicant pools is yet to be known. There are new research teams set out to study that. But that’s for another day. All that matters for you now is that you may not have to break your head for GRE preparation.

Why don’t you check out the popular universities in the US and see if they require GRE!

Or, sign up in our ‘call back’ form and avail career guidance from our expert counsellors who’ll be happy to help you with subject-specific information and application processes for universities. Hurry now!

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