Physical therapy schools have a low, 16% acceptance rate. This makes becoming a physical therapist (or a doctor of physical therapy) one of the hardest paths you can choose.
To get into highly competitive PT and DPT programs, your GRE scores must be high. But how high, exactly? Find out below.
Do PT Schools Require the GRE Test?
Some physical therapy schools require the GRE test and others don’t. Some also have a set minimum for their applicants’ GRE scores, which we’ll look at below.
The GRE (Graduate Record Exam) helps physical therapy programs compare their applicants and ensure they accept the best fit. They do have some other requirements, too, like a minimum GPA or clinical experience.
This means your application stands a chance even if your GRE scores aren’t particularly high. There’s a number of ways in which applicants can compensate for a low GRE score and seal their admission.
But first, check if your GRE scores are within the average range.
Average GRE Scores for PT Schools
Let’s first look at the average GRE scores that students submit. From this, we’ll try to infer what good GRE scores look like.
Here are the average GRE scores accepted students submitted for the top physical therapy programs in the U.S.:
|Physical Therapy Program||Average Quantitative Reasoning||Average Verbal Reasoning||Average Analytical Writing|
|University of Delaware||156||155||4.5|
|University of Pittsburgh||154||153||4.5|
|University of Florida||155||155||4.5|
|University of Utah||151||156||4.5|
|University of Colorado--Denver||155||155||4.5|
|Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences||154||157||4.5|
|George Washington University||156||156||4.5|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||153||152||4.0|
|Medical University of South Carolina||155||154||4.5|
What is a Good GRE Score for PT Programs Then?
If we look at our table of PT programs and their admission requirements, we can conclude that:
- A good GRE score for verbal reasoning is 154+
- A good GRE score for quantitative reasoning is 154+
- A good GRE score for analytical writing is 4.2+
While some programs admit students with lower scores, the above scores should satisfy the requirements of most physical therapy schools.
Physical Therapy Schools and the Minimum GRE Score Requirement
Some physical therapy programs have minimum requirements for students’ GRE scores. If you score lower than the required minimum, the committee won’t even look at the rest of your application.
Here’s what an average minimum required score for each section of the GRE test looks like:
- Verbal reasoning score - 140 - 150
- Quantitative reasoning score - 140 - 150
- Analytical writing score - 3.0 - 3.5
So, here’s where it could get tricky. For example, 3.0 is a generally accepted score for writing. But that doesn’t mean it will seal your admission.
The average writing score was 4.0, remember? Compare that to the required minimum, 3.0. That’s a big difference!
The conclusion? It’s better to use the average GRE scores as your target.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”
– Benjamin Franklin
Other Prerequisites for Admissions:
Besides just taking the GRE test, a college or university may ask that you:
- Submit your cumulative GPA
- Submit your science GPA
- Submit your resume
- Submit letters of recommendation
- Complete your bachelor’s degree
- Complete and verify your observation hours
- Take a prerequisite course or retake the GRE test
Usually, a PT school requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Mostly, they’re only interested in your GPA in the last 60 hours of your undergraduate degree.
The 3.0 is also a frequent cut-off score for your science GPA. If a school asks you to submit your GPA for the prerequisite courses, too, the same rule applies: anything below 3.0 will instantly get you rejected.
And yes, a school may ask you to retake the GRE test if your scores expired. They’re only valid if you’ve taken the GRE in the last 5 years.
What to Do If You Get a Low GRE Score
Anything below the average GRE scores from accepted applicants could be considered low. Chances are, there will be enough students who fit the criteria better.
You should absolutely aim for an above-average score but, if you happen to get a low score, you can do two things:
- Retake the GRE test. You can retake the GRE up to five times within a one-year period. You’ll have to wait for at least 21 days after taking your last test, though.
- Compensate for a low GRE score with the rest of your application. Together with their GRE scores, applicants must also submit other things (like their GPA scores) through PTCAS in order for their application to be complete. This is where you have your chance to stand out as a student, even if you haven’t nailed the test.
PT Programs That Don’t Require the GRE
You don’t want to take the GRE test? No worries. There are many PT programs that you can get into without submitting your GRE scores:
- American International College
- Boston University
- Chatham University
- Ohio State University
- Daemen College
- Pacific University
- Quinnipiac University
- Saint Francis University
- Saint Louis University
- Thomas Jefferson University
How Important is the GRE?
The GRE remains very important for PT universities and colleges. This is because the GRE tests three broad subject areas: verbal, quantitative, and writing.
Your GRE score, then, tells committees two things:
- how you compare to other applicants
- which subject areas you need to work on
Since you get a separate score for each GRE section, a committee can easily infer your strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s say you got 166 on quant and 140 on the verbal section. You’re obviously much better at math than language. A university that puts a lot of focus on the language may conclude you're not a good fit, and vice versa.
Besides that, the GRE is a standardized test evaluated with well-developed criteria. This makes it easy for committees to rely on it. Other parts of the admissions process, like your interview, are more prone to subjective interpretation.
Finally, your GRE score is only valid if you’ve taken it in the last 5 years, which is why the GRE is an important indicator of your current knowledge.
Tips: Pass the Admissions Process Even With Low GRE Scores
You’ll be required to submit your application through a computerized system, PTCAS. With PTCAS, you can apply to more than one PT or DPT program at once. In fact, your application can be sent to an infinite number of schools, making the process easy and straightforward.
Here’s how to boost your chances of getting admitted—even if you messed up your GRE:
- Submit several applications. If your score is lower than the minimum set by your dream graduate program, submit your application to other schools.
- Get clinical experience. Any healthcare experience is a plus in students’ applications, but clinical experience tells graduate programs that you’ve been mentored and worked under supervision.
- An above-minimum cumulative GPA. Make sure your GPA is at least above the minimum cut-off point, which is usually 3.0. Of course, it’d be best if it’s closer to the average GPA score for your college or university.
- An above-minimum GPA in science. While your cumulative GPA does matter, a physical therapy program might be more interested in your science GPA. Just like for your cumulative GPA, you need to ensure your science GPA exceeds the 3.0 mark.
- Complete all prerequisite courses. Not all graduate schools demand that you’ve completed the prerequisite courses before applying, but it could help convince the admissions committee that you’re the perfect fit for their PT program. A course could be worth a thousand GRE tests!
- Rock your interview. Explain why you’re the perfect PT student. Focus on your education and include the credit you have from taking AP courses in high school or another DPT or PT program. Share the number of hours you spent observing a licensed PT and the lessons you learned.
Whether you’re on a path to becoming a doctor of physical therapy or you’re about to take physical therapy courses for the first time, the admissions process is almost identical.
Your GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores must be received by a set deadline—not just sent—and must be above the required minimum.
If you have low GRE scores, you don’t necessarily have to wave goodbye to your admission.
You can compensate for a low GRE score with an outstanding application. Follow the steps we outlined above—or, take a GRE prep course that will help you pass the test with flying colors.