The GRE disadvantages applicants of lower socioeconomic status and is not an accurate predictor of many important aspects of graduate students’ later success
Graduate programs that are still requiring the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are making it incredibly difficult for students interested in graduate school to meet this requirement in the middle of a pandemic.
In general, the GRE should not be required for graduate admissions. It is unclear how the ability to memorize obscure words that applicants are unlikely to ever use again are indicative of the qualifications of graduate students. In fact, only one of the three sections has been found to have any predictive value, and this one section’s correlation between scores and academic success is weak at best. It holds only for first-year grades––not for any other aspect of performance––and this correlation typically only holds for men. It seems unfair to require students to take a $200 test—not including any extra money spent on preparatory materials—when this test is not even accurately predictive of their success as graduate students in terms of dissertation ratings and reviews from professors.
The University of California is no longer requiring SAT or ACT scores for students applying for undergraduate admission at least until 2025. It is absurd this has not been implemented in graduate departments across the UC system as well, since it is arguably more difficult for those applying for graduate school admission to pay for an exam and set aside time and money to prepare for it.
As college students, we are infinitely more busy than we were in high school—many of us have jobs and organizations we are a part of, not to mention the increased intensity of college coursework compared to high school. The added cost of having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education makes it all the more difficult to pay the GRE’s price tag and any preparatory items needed for it.
Those who are applying to graduate programs after having graduated from college may be in similar or even worse positions of decreased time and limited funds. The GRE favors select individuals who can not only afford to take the exam and pay for preparatory materials, but also who have the time to actually study and take it.
Continuing to require the GRE especially in a pandemic is particularly tone-deaf. Not only are students even more strapped for funds due to the pandemic, but also those not willing to risk contracting COVID-19 at a test center must take the test from home, which is a very different experience that may yield different results.
For instance, students must be monitored at all times through ProctorU while taking the exam at home, so if their laptops don’t include a webcam, they cannot even take the GRE. Students are also only allowed to use a whiteboard or write on an erasable sheet protector with a whiteboard marker, which is unfamiliar to most students when taking exams. In this unconventional testing environment their scores may not be reflective of scores they may have received under normal testing conditions. Issues with WiFi or not having a secure room to take the test in adds extra stress to an already stressful event and continues to disadvantage students who are of lower socioeconomic status.
The GRE is inaccessible for students who cannot afford a laptop with a webcam, cannot pay to take the exam or for any preparatory material and do not have access to a private room. It does not even accurately predict success––why bother requiring it?
We are proud to be part of an institution that strives for inclusion. We commend the majority of UC Davis graduate programs that have decided to not require the GRE for applicants intending to begin in fall 2021 and encourage them to continue this pattern. The GRE is both detrimental to ensuring a diverse applicant pool and has been shown to not be a quality predictor of students’ success.
Written by: The Editorial Board