The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has long been a key standardized test used for admissions to graduate programs in the United States. The test usually consists of about four hours of multiple choice and written questions that assess a candidate’s quantitative, verbal, and writing skills. However, even before the pandemic, many graduate programs were dropping the GRE as an admission requirement; a move that has been dubbed “GRExit”. These programs noted that the GRE is not a great predictor of a student’s success in school and that using this metric for admissions requirements often disadvantages applicants from underrepresented groups.
Some still see the value in reviewing a GRE score and stress that this is just one data point in a larger, more holistic picture of a candidate. Graduate schools use test scores in addition to letters of recommendation, essays, and general application materials detailing your experience and skills. However, according to Science, in 2018 44% of molecular biology PhD programs within the top 50-ranked US research universities stopped requiring GRE scores.
Fast forward to 2020 and almost all programs are waiving or at least loosening their GRE requirements to accommodate the needs of applicants applying during the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic when all testing centers were closed, Educational Testing Services (the administrators of the test) announced a GRE At Home program for students to have an alternative test taking option. In an effort to ensure an equitable testing experience, the testing requirements were long and detailed and included such things as a computer with webcam, private room, stable internet connection, whiteboard should you want to take notes, etc. While some students were able to successfully take the GRE at home; others ran into multiple issues.
If you are planning to apply to graduate school this cycle, please be aware of these issues. It is imperative that you check the GRE requirements for your target programs/schools to make sure you understand their current policy and what will be expected of you as an applicant. Even if the general GRE is no longer required, some programs are still mandating applicants to take field/program specific GRE tests. When questions arise, contact program directors and offices of admissions.