The University of North Carolina's Joshua Hall (@jdhallphd) has been curating a running tally of the biological and biomedical graduate programs that have dropped the requirement of GRE scores from applicants. You can see the list here.

As we approach the opening of the fall application windows, programs have rushed to announce their decisions on whether they will continue to require the GRE. The list has grown quite a lot over the past few weeks.

To put this list into perspective, it roughly accounts for around a thousand or so of the 16000 slots that will be awarded for the fall 2019 class. But I've been watching this list grow over the past several months; it accounted for only a few dozen slots when I first saw it.

So this #grexit movement is real. It's hard not to imagine that most of these programs will dispense with the GRE by 2020.

Why?

Josh lists a few research papers on the references sheet in that document that investigated the topic. You'll know why #grexit is happening simply by reading those. The bottom line is that the GRE has been a poor predictor of anything.  The exam fails to provide insight into the things that are really valuable to admissions committees. And it also serves to discriminate in admissions decisions against people of lower socioeconomic status.

These are people the biomedical community is desperate to attract to the field. For them and everyone else, needless to mention graduate programs hoping to improve their applicant pools, the GRE is just an unnecessary barrier to entry.

It's been very clear from running Gradschoolmatch that students believe admissions committees operate by a simple formula of GPA and GRE scores. If that's you, be grateful for the clarity about what is important when applying to graduate school that #grexit brings forth.

One can also find internet forums where participants convince each other that admissions committees only care about numbers and never read the rest of the application.

That's never really been true. Yes, some programs with way too many applicants would have had the luxury of stratifying applicants on the basis of numbers. But numbers alone are never enough.

The worm turns on everything else. Committees really do focus on the myriad application details, interviews, your personality, and the like. Admitting a student to one of these programs is a big, expensive deal that the committees tend to take very seriously.

Some thoughts on what's going to happen moving forward:

  1. Most of the programs on this list are very highly selective (less than 10% acceptance rates). They could get even more selective because of this if it leads to more applications.
  2. You'll still need to take the GRE to apply to programs that are not on this list.
  3. The transcripts will get a much closer read. Did the applicant take the right coursework, and did she perform well on it?
  4. Pedigree will matter more. The perceived rigor of an undergraduate institution will signal preparation (if not aptitude for standardized tests. sigh.)
  5. Applicants with weak undergraduate GPAs who were previously saved by super high GREs will probably need a rescue master's to compete for PhD programs.
  6. Those application narratives, the letters of recommendation, and relevant experiences will become more crucial than ever before. Applicants will need to figure out how to write their way into these programs.

More than anything I hope that this gives applicants pause to put more effort into researching whether a program is right for them, rather than focusing on whether they have the right numbers to get accepted by a "top" program. Because that mindset can change everything.