The use of the GRE and GMAT at graduate schools is waning

The GRE and GMAT have been a staple of graduate school admissions for decades. Their usefulness is being questioned at a growing number of schools after the pandemic forced them to waive requirements.

In short

Schools continue to drop exam requirements

The standardized admissions exams, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), are losing their relevance at graduate schools. Great news for anyone interested in continuing their education who dreaded exams. 

Efforts to make the exams optional or drop them altogether have been building for years. The movement first made significant progress in the life sciences. Now, entire graduate departments are reexamining their admissions procedures. 

It’s not just smaller or newer schools, either. Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, UNC Kenan-Flagler, and SMU Cox School of Business have made testing optional. At the same time, other schools, like the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, offer a waiver for those who can show their academic ability in different ways, like a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

A quick overview of the GRE and GMAT

The GRE was initiated in 1937 by Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale deans. It was initially administered by the Carnegie Foundation, which created the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to continue the task. It is the most popular graduate school admissions test. (0:46)  

 The GRE is divided into three parts based on the skills needed to excel in graduate school. 

Analytical Writing has two 30-minute tasks. Verbal Reasoning has two 30-minute sections of 20 questions each. Finally, Quantitative Reasoning has two 35-minute sections with 20 questions each. In total, you can expect the GRE to take four and a half hours and cost $220.

In 1953, ETS and nine business schools developed the GMAT for graduate business and management studies. The GMAT has four sections

Quantitative Reasoning has 31 questions and a time limit of 62 minutes. Verbal Reasoning has 36 questions and a 65-minute time limit. Integrated Reasoning has 12 questions and a 30-minute time limit. The Analytical Writing Assessment gives 30 minutes to write an analysis of an argument. Altogether, the GMAT takes three and a half hours and costs $270.

For most of their existence, the tests were administered in person at global testing locations. Since 2020 they have online versions of the exams that are remotely proctored. (7:10)

Reasons for not requiring the GRE and GMAT

As the pandemic spread in the Spring of 2020, students were stuck at home, and testing locations were closed. Many universities were forced to waive exam requirements for their 2020 applicants. Most waivers stayed in place for 2021 and 2022, so now it’s possible to question why they should return.

 While a high score on an exam doesn’t guarantee admission to a program, it certainly helps. On the other hand, it’s a waste of time to apply for a program with a strict score requirement you didn’t meet. Despite every other accomplishment, one number was the key to opportunity. 

At all levels of education, standardized testing is being challenged for perpetuating stereotypes. Test scores are treated as objective measures of ability (1:49), but behind the scores are other factors outside an individual. Scores can consistently be used to group people by socioeconomic status, race, and gender. It then becomes easy to see the scores as measuring who had the resources for exam prep courses or multiple tries, and not academic ability. 

Graduate schools a waking up to the fact that there’s a growing body of evidence showing little correlation between test scores and real academic success. Schools that have dropped the exam requirements receive broader demographics in their applicant pool without dropping their academic standards.

The Future of the GRE and GMAT

The GRE and GMAT are likely to be around for a while. They are still a part of the admissions process at thousands of schools globally. The growing trend is to incorporate the exams into a holistic admissions process where an applicant’s score is only a single data point among many. Still, other schools of developed their own exams as an alternative.

At schools where taking a test is optional, applicants should consider taking the test to boost their application. If your transcript is less than spectacular, a high test score can give your application the boost it needs.

For a personal take on the admissions process at the school you’re interested in, reach out to one of our Ambassadors.

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