End of Standardized Test Requirements?

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

In the past few years, it is noticeable that the universities and colleges across the country are slowly moving away from standardized tests like GRE and GMAT. While this does not happen as much for bachelor’s degrees, this is very much happening for graduate programs. Many universities provide a waiver for standardized test scores if students have a few years of professional experience or a related bachelor’s degree. Until recently, only a handful of universities were doing this, but it is increasingly becoming mainstream ever since the University of Michigan dropped the GRE requirement for its Biomedical Ph.D. Program. It was a bold step by a top university, such as the University of Michigan. According to the ScienceMag.org, University of Michigan’s action triggered many programs to drop the GRE requirement. In a couple of years, as many as 44% of Ph.D. programs of molecular biology and nearly 90% of chemistry, physics, geology, and similar programs stopped the requirement of standardized test scores for the admission process.

Reasons for standardized test waivers

Joshua Hall, Director of the University of California for the biological and Biomedical science program, said in an interview with Science magazine that the standardized test score requirements were waived to encourage more applicants. Another reason for waiver was peer pressure from top universities following the suite. He also predicted that the number of programs not opting for the test scores would only increase by 2020. The move to waive test scores has been advantageous to some universities offering specific research programs. This approach created more opportunities for some groups who may not necessarily be good on a standardized test but are good with their research concepts. There are other reasons for dropping the standardized test score requirement, such as:


Artificial Barriers: Removing artificial barriers for entry into graduate programs for students that already have a career and want to enhance that career with a graduate degree. Such professionals already have a day job, and they are busy as is and want to get a master’s degree for upward mobility quickly.


Cost Factor: It costs some decent amount of money to apply for standardized tests, prep materials, practice tests, etc.


Is Test score true representation: There is an increasing belief that standardized test score doesn’t fully represent student abilities. Still, it represents the strength of the training and prep for the Test itself rather than an overall picture of students’ capabilities.


In the past few years, some studies also concluded that there was little correlation between standardized test scores and student success in completing the graduate programs. However, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an organization that conducts many standardized tests, stated that the study was wrong. It was done amongst university applicants only and not as full blow study.

Covid-19 Factor

Even before the pandemic of 2020, many universities were moving away from the standardized test requirements. And with the prevalence of Covid-19 at the start of the year 2020, many colleges and universities had very few applicants. This led to an economic crisis within the universities. It forced the educational institutions to attract more applicants by replacing standardized test scores with specific enrolment criteria like work experience, GPA in undergraduate degrees, etc. This move also helped students from lower-income backgrounds save the financial burden that comes with test prep. And according to the Wall Street Journal, many MBA programs are now dropping GMAT requirement as well. According to Business Insider, the University of California went a step further and voted in May to phase out the Test for admissions at many of its main campus centers. The tests focused only on student knowledge and opportunities that didn’t correlate with their programs, said Michael Kurlaender, professor of education policy.

It is not quite the end of the Standardized test requirement

While many universities are moving towards standardized test score waivers, many Ivy League schools, top business schools, and many other universities still require GRE or GMAT for entry to their graduate programs. It would be interesting to see what universities would do after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. Would they continue with waivers, or would they go back to requiring standardized test score requirement?


At Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we believe that higher education is a must in today’s world. It should be easy for students to enroll and thrive in higher education programs. That is why we compiled a list of master’s programs that do not require GRE, along with a list of MBA programs that do not require GMAT.


Meet The Author

Cynthia S.

Cynthia S. is an educationalist and currently works as a lecturer at one of the reputed universities on the West Coast. She has a bachelor’s and is currently pursuing an online master’s in education. Cynthia has over ten years of experience in the field of higher education.

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