Use of GREs has dropped dramatically, vice provost’s survey finds

Chart of GRE usage


Of the 246 Pitt graduate and professional programs that responded to a survey from the vice provost for Graduate Studies, only 14 percent were still requiring the GRE for admission this academic year; 42 percent have made it optional and 40 percent have dropped the test completely.

The survey was reported to the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy committee (EIADAC) on Feb. 16 by committee co-chair Allyn Bove, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. The remaining programs were using other types of tests, such as the LSAT.

Of the 202 programs that said that the GRE is either optional or not accepted, 15 percent said they’re going to reassess after the pandemic. “That means that the large majority have decided that change is not temporary,” Bove said. She noted that the change in GRE use has been dramatic in just the past two years since EIADAC did its own survey.

“I about fell out of my chair when I saw it was less than a fifth that required the GRE now,” Bove said. “I think that shows that the work that this group has done, as well as the work from Nathan Urban while he was here, and that Amanda Godley has continued, has been effective.”

“Many graduate programs at the University made the decision to make the GRE optional or not to accept GRE scores before the pandemic hit, driven by concerns about potential bias in the test, the costs of testing, and recent research showing that GRE scores don’t predict many indicators of success in graduate programs,” Godley said.

“Although some of the programs at Pitt that are currently GRE-optional plan to reassess this policy once the pandemic ends, for the majority of our programs, GRE-optional or GRE-not-reviewed policies reflect permanent changes in admissions practices,” she said. “Across graduate and professional programs at Pitt, we are engaged in discussions around best practices in holistic admissions which look at many aspects of the applicant beyond test scores and grades.”

The report also broke out the information by program level. For Ph.D. programs, 32 percent have made the GRE optional; 51 percent are not accepting it and 17 percent require the GRE. For master’s level programs, 51 percent are optional; 34 percent don’t accept the GRE and 12 percent require it.

Bove said the next step would be for the committee to help develop “a best practices toolkit of how you might do more holistic admissions processes and what you might replace the GRE with to still make sure you’re recruiting and accepting excellent candidates, but hopefully not excluding people who are known to be excluded by some standardized testing.”

Committee member Sharon Nelson-Le Gall, an emeritus faculty member in Psychology, pointed out that just getting rid of the GRE doesn’t mean that bias doesn’t still exist in the admissions process. She said there needs to be a way to monitor what departments are using instead of the GRE and how that is affecting the diversity of applicants and accepted students.

Earlier this month, Pitt announced that the test-optional policy for fall 2021 undergraduate admission has been expanded to first-year applicants in all programs, majors, schools and colleges through fall 2023.

“We are committed to welcoming students of all backgrounds to our campuses so that they can access a high-quality college experience. No stars should be lost in the dark,” Provost Ann Cudd said in Pittwire. “By becoming test optional through 2023, we are not only responding to the challenges of the pandemic but also opening doors for students whose diverse talents and potential for leadership may not be well measured by standardized tests. Evaluating our students holistically continues to be central to our admissions approach.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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