You may feel a bit overwhelmed and anxious about the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). However, not all grad schools require the GRE.
I have worked with hundreds of students to help them achieve their academic goals. I can share with you some good news: plenty of graduate programs don't require you to submit GRE scores.
Summary of the Key Findings
- Instead of the GRE, schools may use other measures, such as GPA, other standardized tests, or previous degrees.
- Specific programs, such as those in the arts, business, international studies, and online programs, may not require GRE scores as part of the admissions process.
- Many good programs do not mandate the GRE, but choosing a school based solely on that requirement is not necessarily a good idea.
Reasons Schools May Not Require the GRE:
These days, more and more graduate schools may not mandate the GRE for several reasons, some of which are outlined below:
1. Minimum GPAs
Instead of requiring the GRE, many programs may require that graduate students meet a particular undergraduate GPA score in order to be considered for admittance.
These types of programs are often referred to as "numerical" or "grade-based."
The baseline requirement for GPA will vary depending on the program. Still, in most cases, the level of GPA will depend on the particular field of study, the competitiveness of the school, and other factors.
These grad schools assume that a history of good undergraduate academic performance will result in similar academic ability during graduate studies.
Some graduate programs may not have GRE requirements because they prefer to see college coursework and relevant experience. For example, students looking to become school teachers may need to acquire a bachelor's degree in education or a related subject, such as English or history.
Many schools may also look favorably upon work experience in an educational setting such as tutoring or volunteer work.
In order to bring in non-traditional graduate students, some programs may waive the GRE for admission to master's degree and certificate programs if the applicant has five or more years of full-time professional and relevant work experience.
3. Other Degrees
Graduate programs may not require GRE scores if the student already holds a degree in a related or significant field. This can be an undergraduate degree but is usually another graduate degree.
For example, licensed lawyers or physicians have already demonstrated their capability for academic success, so graduate schools may waive the GRE on this basis.
A number of schools waive the GRE exam for individuals who already hold an MBA or Ph.D. If you already have an advanced degree, it may not be necessary to take the GRE before applying to another graduate program.
Some common examples of this include public health, healthcare administration, public administration, mental health counseling, nursing practice, criminal justice, computer science, or psychology graduate programs.
Read More: Can You Take the GRE Without a Bachelor’s Degree?
4. General Policy
Some schools have a general policy of not requiring the GRE for admission. They have eliminated the GRE over concern for admissions fairness and grad school success.
Some believe that the GRE favors those who have been educated in wealthy school systems or who can afford extensive test preparation classes, making the test miss qualified candidates from lower socioeconomic or disadvantaged backgrounds.
The GRE has also been criticized for its stress on aspects of language and math, which can favor students who have studied in English-speaking countries or who live in areas where mathematical training is more prevalent.
Many schools also don't require GRE scores if the program is a stand-alone degree or certificate. Programs like these may exist in fields such as business, education, information sciences and technology, the arts, and many others.
5. Other Tests
Some grad programs don't require GRE scores because they accept tests such as the GMAT or LSAT. The GMAT is particularly popular among business schools, while the LSAT is used frequently for law school admissions.
If a graduate school accepts either of these tests, students can elect to take one of them instead of the GRE.
Be aware that these are challenging examinations in their own right, but they may be a good alternative if you're looking to get into a graduate school without taking the GRE.
Types of Programs That May Not Require the GRE:
There are several types of graduate programs that often do not have GRE requirements. Some of these include:
1. Arts Programs
A Master in Fine Arts (MFA) program focuses on intensive studio or performance art training. These programs may involve advanced study in experimental or traditional media fields, including many visual and applied art forms.
Because this degree program involves intensive studio training, programs recognize that the GRE may not be the best way to determine whether or not an individual is qualified for this type of education.
Instead, these programs are more likely to require a portfolio or audition instead of a test score.
2. Executive MBA Programs
The Master of Business Administration degree is one of the most common advanced business degrees. However, many students start an MBA later in life once they have had significant business experience. Since they need to juggle work and school commitments, they often enroll in an Executive MBA (EMBA) program.
Because these students have been out of an academic setting for so long, many EMBA programs don't demand a GRE score.
These applicants usually demonstrate substantial work achievements, so their earlier academic experience is less relevant for this sort of program. Likewise, performance on the GRE is considered less important than current and historic work experience.
3. International Programs
Graduate programs that are preferentially recruiting international students may not mandate the GRE because they recognize that it's challenging to take the test in an unfamiliar language.
These schools may waive the requirement in favor of other admissions tests or materials.
Since the GRE is not offered in any language other than English, students with stellar academic potential may be left out.
This may happen for grad programs in a specific non-English language, such as literature or language studies. These schools may waive the GRE requirement.
4. Professional Degrees
Graduate programs leading to professional degrees often do not require GRE scores. Usually, they may have their own admissions tests for the field. This way, they can test applicants on the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their specific occupations.
For example, students may have to take the LSAT for law school and the MCAT for medical school. Thus, applicants for these schools may not have to take the GRE, though you should always check with your specific program.
5. Regular MBA Schools
In addition to Executive MBA programs, regular MBA schools may not demand GRE scores because they prefer the GMAT over the GRE.
This may be because the GMAT was designed for business schools, whereas the GRE is a general test for a wide variety of graduate studies.
Further, the GMAT has a more challenging mathematics section than the GRE. As numeric ability is essential for finance and accounting, most programs are looking to admit students who are strong in that area.
6. Terminal Master’s Programs
Some courses of study are not intended to bridge undergraduate work and a Ph.D. These are known as "terminal master’s" programs .
Some of these terminal master’s degree programs include Master of Design, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of City Planning, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Library and Information Science.
Many of these programs don't have GRE requirements because applicants' prior academic work and portfolios demonstrate their proficiency for these specializations.
7. Online Master’s Programs
Today, many online master’s programs do not require GRE scores for admission.
These online graduate programs are often looking for non-traditional students balancing work and family commitments while earning their master’s degrees.
This group may be far from their undergraduate work and may not have been in a classroom for years. Thus, the GRE test scores from this group may be less valid than the wealth of experience they bring from work and life.
Many of these online programs emphasize applicants' work experience and achievements instead of their performance on the GRE. This way, they can evaluate students across different backgrounds.
8. Certificate/Post-Baccalaureate Programs
Graduate certificate and post-baccalaureate programs often do not mandate GRE scores because they are short, intensive courses of study that focus on specific skills rather than taking students through an entire graduate curriculum.
These programs may be beneficial for those earning their graduate degree through an employer or those planning to go into a specific field of work after taking the program.
9. Doctoral Degree Programs
There are some doctoral degree programs that may not need standardized test scores because of the specific subject of study.
For example, students may be able to get into a Ph.D. program in musicology by excelling in undergraduate work and experience rather than GRE scores.
These Ph.D. programs can be highly competitive and look for students with strong academic potential who are likely to succeed in their program.
Should I Go to a School That Doesn't Demand the GRE?
You may wonder if you should go to a graduate school that doesn't require you to take the GRE. Answering this question may depend on your specific academic and professional goals and the reason you want to apply to this sort of program.
If you are sincerely interested in a program that doesn't require the GRE test, there is no reason not to apply. Many excellent grad programs do not have GRE requirements.
However, if your only goal is to avoid taking the GRE, keep in mind that it is not a good enough reason to limit your options. Don’t choose a grad school based on your fear of the GRE.
Most graduate programs have a GRE requirement. Thus, reducing your choices to grad schools that don't need a GRE score means you have fewer opportunities to be accepted to a program overall. Taking the GRE means that all your doors are open.
Read More: 22 PA Schools That Don't Require GRE
Is the GRE Going Away?
No, the GRE is not going away. The Graduate Record Examinations are still important for many graduate programs. However, there are many excellent graduate schools that don't require a GRE score.
Can the GRE Be Waived?
Yes, graduate schools can waive an individual's GRE requirement if they feel like there is another way of evaluating the applicant. This is often seen in online graduate degree programs.
However, higher education programs are more likely to eliminate the mandatory GRE for all applicants across the board than do so only for a single applicant. This is done for consistency and fairness for all applicants.
How Do I Get a GRE Waiver?
GRE waivers are obtained by writing a GRE waiver letter at the address that can be found on graduate program admissions websites. The letter should explain why you want the waiver and provide any information that might help support your request.
Common reasons someone might ask for a GRE waiver include health problems or family issues.
Should I Take the GRE Even If I Don't Have To?
There are some advantages to taking the GRE, even if it is not required. Many graduate schools have a "GRE-optional" policy; thus, some applicants may send in their GRE scores.
These schools may use the GRE scores as a tie-breaker, so it may be a good idea to take the GRE even if you don’t have to.
What is a Good GRE Score?
The average composite score for all GRE test-takers is around 304 points for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. That score is more than enough for some grad programs, while the most competitive schools will want scores in the 80th percentile or higher.
The analytical writing section of the GRE has an average score of 3.5, so scores better than the average are considered good.
Grad School Without the GRE
There are many excellent grad schools that don't require the GRE score.
Your choice of desired grad schools should be based on your interests and what you want to get out of your education. Don't make your choice based solely on whether or not you are required to send GRE scores.
In the end, you may find your dream school does require you to take the GRE. In that case, remember that the GRE is a test you can master with preparation and practice.
If you are interested in reading our review of the best GRE prep courses on the market today, click here to check it out.