The pandemic put a spotlight on equity—or a lack of it—and now might be a good time to reevaluate entrance exams like the GRE, which moved to an online exam.

4 reasons why eliminating the GRE might benefit students


The pandemic put a spotlight on equity—or a lack of it—and now might be a good time to reevaluate entrance exams

Last year in 2020, we saw many graduate programs waive their GRE requirements after the test moved online. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which offers the GRE, revamped the test so that students can take it safely at home after the in-person test centers were closed.

However, many educators were concerned about the equity of the online version of the test. Many advocated that the online version of the test can be a disadvantage for prospective students, especially for low-income and minority students, because the test requires students to have access to a computer and a stable internet connection. This was a problem not only for domestic students, but also for international students.

As of now, we will be going into a new admissions cycle. Many universities and educators are asking if they should continue waiving the GRE or if they should require the test again once students are able to take the test in-person.

While many individuals see value in assessing the GRE scores in that it creates a baseline standard in evaluating all applicants, here are some reasons why getting rid of college exams, such as the GRE, might be beneficial for students.

1. Underrepresented students may not apply because of the GRE. As we know, the GRE is expensive. Many students may choose not to apply to graduate programs because of the cost associated with the test. Also, prep courses are expensive. Those who can afford those courses can take them and do well. However, not all students have that type of money. Therefore, the results of the exam may disproportionately affect underserved students. Removing the GRE may allow more underrepresented students to apply for graduate programs. Finally, the test scores might affect students’ confidence in applying to certain prestigious universities and programs.

2. The test does not predict the students’ success in graduate school. The GRE does not test for intelligence and it is not necessarily a good representation of the student. Besides that, the test can hurt the growth of diversity in certain university programs, including in STEM fields. Many of those tests typically measure if students are good at test-taking. The test evaluates math and English knowledge. However, it does not evaluate problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, or other knowledge areas that require more than just bubbling in the answers.

3. Students can focus on more meaningful things. Instead of having to worry about taking the test and spending hours practicing different test-taking strategies on how to get high scores on the GRE, students can spend their time and energy on efforts that are more meaningful towards their academic goals. One example might be getting involved in additional extracurricular activities that can help their application and can also give them additional skills they need.

4. Decrease other hurdles on the way. In some parts of the country, students have to drive to the test location that might be far away from where they live. Some students might have to drive a couple of hours to reach the testing site. Eliminating those tests can also help remove the unnecessary stress that can have an effect on the students’ overall mental health.

By removing the GRE as a measure to evaluate the students, it can reduce the bias and it can actually help us assess the students more holistically. When looking at each student’s application, we want to make sure that all elements are considered. Eliminating the test might mean one less barrier for the most disadvantaged students.

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