Is The GRE Required For Grad School? GRE Score Admission

Graduate school applications can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding standardised test requirements like the GRE.

While the GRE has traditionally been a cornerstone of graduate admissions, reflecting a candidate’s readiness for the rigors of advanced study, a shift is occurring. You might find that increasingly, graduate programs are re-evaluating the necessity of this standardized test. For many graduate programs, good GRE score remains a significant part of the admission requirements.

Whether you’re eyeing a master’s degree, an MBA, or a doctoral program, the question of whether the GRE is necessary looms large.

This article explores the role of GRE scores in grad school admissions, how they impact your application, and what alternatives might exist for those looking to bypass this traditional path.

What Is The GRE Test?

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. It is a popular standardized test that many seem to take to gain entry into graduate school admissions.

Many know it as a formal, sit-down test to assess your eligibility for various graduate programs. The GRE scores are a common fixture in graduate admissions, from master’s to doctoral programs.

The GRE is structured to evaluate key competencies that graduate programs consider essential for academic success. These include:

  • verbal reasoning,
  • quantitative reasoning, and
  • analytical writing skills

A high GRE score in the quantitative section might be particularly critical for applicants to MBA or STEM-related graduate degrees, where analytical and numerical skills are paramount.

How Does The GRE Exam Work?

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, consists of three main parts:

  • Analytical Writing,
  • Verbal Reasoning, and
  • Quantitative Reasoning.

You start with the Analytical Writing section, which includes two tasks where you must craft well-structured essays.

This part tests your ability to articulate complex ideas effectively and support arguments with reasoning and examples. Each essay gives you 30 minutes, testing not just your writing skills but also your time management.

Next, you’ll tackle the Verbal and Quantitative sections, each split into two separate blocks. These sections are designed to assess your:

  • critical thinking,
  • problem-solving skills, and
  • ability to interpret data.

The Verbal sections challenge your comprehension and vocabulary through reading passages and sentence equivalence questions, while the Quantitative sections cover high school-level math and data analysis.

One unique feature of the GRE is its adaptive nature by section. Your performance on the first Verbal and Quantitative sections determines the difficulty level of the second sections in each respective area. 

Including breaks, the total test time nears four hours. It’s a marathon that requires stamina and concentration, highlighting why practice tests are vital to success.

They not only familiarize you with the test’s structure but also help you develop the endurance needed for such an extensive exam.

The GRE is offered year-round at Prometric test centers. You also have the flexibility to take the test at home.

This is a relatively new option provided to accommodate students during ongoing global shifts in test accessibility.

This online version adheres to the same structure and timing, ensuring that all test-takers are assessed equally, whether they submit GRE scores for traditional on-campus programs, or online grad programs.

Do Graduate School & PhD Program Require The GRE?

While the GRE has traditionally been a cornerstone of graduate admissions, reflecting a candidate’s readiness for the rigors of advanced study, a shift is occurring.

You might find that increasingly, graduate programs are re-evaluating the necessity of this standardized test.

For many graduate programs, good GRE score remains a significant part of the admission requirements. This is especially in fields like:

  • psychology,
  • engineering, and
  • education.

However, there’s a growing trend among graduate schools, including some MBA and MSW programs, to offer GRE waivers or even remove the GRE requirement altogether.

This change is partly due to the recognition that high GRE scores do not necessarily correlate with the most successful graduate students. Schools that don’t require the GRE are focusing more on these to make their admission decisions:

  • undergraduate GPAs,
  • professional experiences, and
  • personal statements. 

For instance, many online grad programs and master’s programs in fields less reliant on quantitative skills are moving away from the GRE.

This shift reflects a broader understanding that diversity in graduate education should not be hindered by standardized testing barriers.

In terms of practical advice, if you’re applying to a graduate program that does not require the GRE, it’s wise to focus on strengthening other aspects of your application. Make sure you highlight your:

  • professional achievements,
  • academic records, and
  • volunteer experiences.

For programs that still require the GRE, achieving a score above the program’s average can significantly bolster your chances of admission.

What Are The GRE Scores Needed To Enter Grad School?

If you’re aiming for a graduate degree, knowing the required GRE scores can significantly influence your preparation and application strategy. 

GRE scores are reported across three sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning,
  • Quantitative Reasoning, and
  • Analytical Writing.

Each has its scoring scale; Verbal and Quantitative are scored from 130 to 170, and Analytical Writing from 0 to 6.

The score you need can vary widely depending on the discipline and the competitiveness of the program you are applying to.

If you’re eyeing a top-tier MBA program, you might need to score in the upper percentile ranges—often a combined Verbal and Quantitative score approaching or exceeding 330. 

Meanwhile, programs in the humanities might place a heavier emphasis on high Verbal scores. Conversely, engineering or physics PhD programs will scrutinize your Quantitative score more closely.

The average GRE scores can provide a benchmark. Over a recent three-year period, the average scores were around 151 for Verbal and 154 for Quantitative Reasoning.

However, aiming for just the average might not suffice if you are applying to highly competitive grad schools where the median scores of admitted students are often much higher.

Some programs might even have specific GRE cutoff scores, which you must meet to even be considered. This is more common in certain technical or quantitatively focused disciplines.

Yet, it’s not just about meeting these minimums. A high GRE score can be a differentiator among a pool of similarly qualified candidates and can be crucial for securing scholarships and assistantships.

Remember, while a good GRE score is pivotal, it’s just one part of your application. Always check the specific requirements of each graduate program to which you’re applying, as some might offer GRE waivers or may not require the GRE at all.

Are There Alternatives To The GRE?

As you explore your options for grad school, you might wonder if there are alternatives to the GRE. Indeed, the landscape of graduate admissions is evolving, with many programs now offering options beyond the traditional GRE requirement.

For those seeking to avoid the GRE, it’s important to note that a growing number of graduate programs no longer view it as essential.

Instead, these programs focus on other elements of the application to assess a candidate’s potential.

Some MBA programs may prefer candidates to submit GMAT scores instead of GRE scores, recognizing the GMAT’s focus on business-related skills.

Moreover, many grad programs are embracing a more holistic approach to admissions. This shift means that your:

  • academic record,
  • professional experience,
  • letters of recommendation, and
  • personal essays

Can carry as much, if not more, weight than standardised test scores. This is especially true for programs that emphasise real-world experience or creative ability over traditional academic metrics.

Some fields, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, might consider subject-specific tests that provide more relevant insights into a candidate’s expertise in a specific area.

Alternatively, doctoral programs and certain specialised master’s programs might waive standardised tests entirely for applicants who have demonstrated exceptional academic or professional achievements.

For those applying to online graduate programs, flexibility is often even greater. A number of accredited online grad schools have moved away from the GRE as a requirement.

This is because they now see that non-traditional students often balance professional careers or personal commitments alongside their educational pursuits.

If you’re concerned about the GRE, it’s worth investigating the specific admission requirements of the programs you are interested in.

Many schools provide clear guidelines on their websites, and admissions counselors are typically more than willing to discuss whether alternatives to the GRE are acceptable.

Tips When Studying For The GRE Admissions Test

Studying for the GRE can be daunting. Here are eight practical tips that can help you maximize your study time and boost your performance on this crucial test:

Set Clear Goals

Before you dive into studying, determine what scores you need for the graduate programs you’re targeting. Setting a clear target helps tailor your study plan.

A good GRE score varies depending on the program’s requirements—some might demand high quantitative scores, especially competitive MBA or engineering programs, while others might focus more on verbal scores. 

Create a Structured Study Schedule

Consider to structure your study around your strengths and weaknesses, dedicating specific days to focus on quantitative and verbal sections.

You can look to balance your week to prevent burnout. You can study Quant on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Verbal on Tuesday and Thursday.

This approach should ensure consistent progress across all areas of the exam.

Use High-Quality Study Materials

The right materials are vital.  It’s essential to choose resources that cover all aspects of the exam and fit your learning style.

There are many study materials in the market. The key is do your survey, and ensure the materials are suitable, and can help you to progress in your study.

Regular Practice Tests

Simulating the real test environment is crucial. Taking regular timed practice tests helps you manage time effectively and get accustomed to the test’s pressure.

Consider doing a practice test every weekend to help you identify weak areas. This way, you can adjust your study focus accordingly.

Focus on Vocabulary Daily

For the verbal section, daily vocabulary practice is key. Even dedicating 15-30 minutes daily can significantly improve your command of complex words.

Flashcards can be an excellent tool for this, and apps like Anki can offer spaced repetition to help with long-term retention of vocabulary.

Review Fundamentals

Particularly for the quantitative section, revisiting basic math concepts is crucial. Even if you were strong in math during your undergraduate studies, refreshing your skills can prevent silly mistakes.

Kaplan’s GRE Prep Plus provides comprehensive reviews and practice questions that can be instrumental in this regard.

Adjust Based on Practice Results

Flexibility in your study plan is necessary. If initial practice tests show you’re not on track to meet your goals, don’t hesitate to extend your study period.

Do know that you do not have to schedule a GRE exam until you are confident in your abilities. This is a strategy that can allow you additional time to study without the pressure of a looming test date.

Maintain a Healthy Balance

Studying for the GRE while managing other responsibilities can be stressful. It’s important to keep a balanced schedule to avoid burnout. Remember to:

  • incorporate breaks,
  • maintain a healthy diet, and
  • get enough sleep.

All these factors play a significant role in your overall performance.

By applying these strategies, you can approach the GRE with confidence. Remember, this exam is a stepping stone on your path to further education and professional growth.

With the right preparation, you can excel and open doors to exciting new opportunities in graduate education.

How Do You Submit GRE Scores?

Checking your GRE score is straightforward. After you take the GRE, you’ll typically receive your official scores within 10 to 15 days, though sometimes scores can be available in as few as five days.

You access your scores by logging into your ETS account, where both your verbal and quantitative scores are posted immediately after they’re available. Your analytical writing scores may take a bit longer to appear.

ETS makes it easy to submit GRE scores to grad schools. From your account, you can choose which scores to send to the programs of your choice.

This makes it easy to apply to MBA programs, doctoral programs, or any other graduate degree programs that require or accept GRE scores.

Is The GRE Required For Grad School? Answered

While the GRE remains a significant component of many graduate school applications, its importance varies by program and institution.

Prospective students should carefully review the admission requirements of their chosen schools to understand the role GRE scores play.

Additionally, exploring GRE waivers and programs that do not require the test can provide alternative pathways to graduate education.

Ultimately, a well-rounded application, strong academic record, and relevant experience are also crucial for success in securing admission to graduate programs.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.