GRE in the Age of COVID

Much research has shown that GRE scores alone do not adequately predict one’s potential to succeed in graduate programs. Placing a strong emphasis on GRE scores alone fails to consider the inequities of standardized tests. Furthermore, the cost for GRE test preparation courses is not universally accessible particularly to low income, women and minority students.  A number of universities have recognized the flaws of standardized tests and have advocated for programs to adopt a more holistic review that places less of an emphasis on test scores.

In 2017 the University of Michigan’s biomedical sciences graduate program decided to no longer require applicants to submit GRE scores. This forward thinking decision would spawn a movement for more schools to reconsider GRE scores as a requirement for admission.  #GRExit became an opportunity to disclose the bias that the GRE scores elicit against underrepresented groups (women, minorities, first generation college students and low-income students). Then COVID-19 happened and all universities were forced to consider whether or not GRE Scores (particularly in these unprecedented times) were really all that important… 

As someone who works with undergraduates in engineering who are preparing for graduate schools I will tell you something that I find myself telling students every single day: Every aspect of our lives has been impacted by COVID so it’s not realistic to think that your application will not have some impact by COVID.  Whether it’s making the decision to take a course for a letter grade or deciding not taking the GRE.  One student challenged this notion and said, “Not really my life hasn’t been affected by COVID at all. My parents are still employed and I tend to stay home a lot anyway.” “Really? Are we not having this conversation over Zoom? Are you not taking all of your lab classes online?”  

In August MIT decided that in their school of Engineering the following programs would not accept GRE scores for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle:   Aeronautics and Astronautics, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Medical Engineering and Medical Sciences.

A consortium of Computer Sciences PhD programs including UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences announced that GRE scores will not be part of the review process even if they have already been submitted. This National Sciences Foundation consortium the FLIP Alliance ((Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate) includes 11 schools all of which has agreed to waive the GRE requirement for their Computer Sciences Programs 2021 admissions cycle.

FLIP Alliance Schools and Computer Science PhD Deadlines:

  • Carnegie Mellon University (December 10)
  • Cornell University (December 15)
  • Georgia Tech (December 15)
  • Harvard University (December 15)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (December 15)
  • Princeton University (December 15)
  • Stanford University  (December 1)
  • University of California at Berkeley (December 8)
  • University of Texas (December 1)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (December 15)
  • University of Washington (December 15)

Like many things have been changed as a result of COVID-19 this may be something that schools will forego long after a vaccine is approved and we’re physically back in the classroom.

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