Most graduate programs at the University of California at Berkeley will not require the GRE this year


The vast majority of the more than 125 graduate programs at the University of California at Berkeley will not require the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) for this year’s admissions cycle. The move, announced by the university this week, follows on from last year’s policy when most of UC Berkeley’s graduate programs stopped using the GRE due to access to tests disrupted during the pandemic.

“I am delighted that so many of our departments have chosen to eliminate the GRE requirement in their admissions process,” said Lisa García Bedolla, Vice-President Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Studies Division from UC Berkeley. “We look forward to assessing how the removal of the GRE admission requirement allows us to develop better assessments and improve our holistic approach to graduate admissions.”

In addition to the reduced reliance on the GRE, the university’s graduate studies division worked with faculty and staff to identify best practices in holistic admissions and analyze the research on effectiveness. of the GRE to predict student success. In addition, the division launched a one-year coaching program, the Graduate Diversity Leadership Academy, to help departments focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in graduate studies.

Denzil Streete, associate dean of diversity in the graduate studies division, believes moving away from the GRE is an important step in making graduate admissions more inclusive. “As we seek to expand the pool of students from which our many leading programs can select, removing any barriers to access is always a good idea,” Streete said.

The UC Berkeley decision is another example of the major rollback of standardized admission testing that has taken hold in U.S. colleges and universities in recent years.

Attention has been focused on undergraduate admissions, where, according to an updated list of ACT / SAT and blind elective schools maintained by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), more than 1 700 colleges and universities will not need the entrance examination results of applicants seeking to enroll in university in the fall of 2022. This represents more than 73% of all US institutions granting bachelor’s degrees , meaning that elective testing or blind testing policies have become the new standard for college admissions.

But UC Berkeley’s decision is likely to cause other institutions to review, suspend or end their use of the GRE, which is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). For its part, ETS insists that the GRE requirement is consistent with achieving greater student diversity in graduate programs and that GRE scores are valid indicators of graduate readiness.

Not only does UC Berkeley offer a large number of graduate programs, but its reputation as a leader in higher education makes its GRE decision a likely harbinger of similar moves at other institutions. According to the university, 41,359 people (not counting those applying to Berkeley Law) applied to Berkeley graduate programs in the last admissions cycle, an 18% increase from the previous year .

In addition, applications from historically under-represented students increased by 33%, and the proportion of doctoral applicants from under-represented minority groups increased from 12% in fall 2016 to 15% in fall 2021. This fall, UC Berkeley enrolled 13,200 graduate students, its largest body of graduate students to date.

The momentum against the GRE is growing, based in part on research that found it to be a relatively weak predictor of students who will complete doctoral programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

A “Beyond GRE” website is now available, along with a “GREXIT” listing of dozens of programs that do not require GRE. The “Beyond the GRE” campaign is supported by organizations, professors, administrators and researchers who wish to develop doctoral admission procedures that are not dependent on GRE scores.

According to Julie Posselt, associate professor of higher education at the University of Southern California, such research is leading more and more colleges to question their use of GRE. “Over the past decade, an increasing number of graduate programs are moving away from the GRE … Students who score in the bottom quintile do not have significantly different chances of graduating from those of the top quintile. The programs look at the data and remove the requirement, ”Posselt said in the UC Berkeley announcement.

Robert Schaeffer, director of public education at the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), one of the main opponents of standardized admission tests, agrees. In an email he sent to me, he described the Berkeley announcement as the latest victory in a campaign to downplay the influence of the GRE in graduate admissions. This campaign was born out of a conference at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst led by Professor Sandra Petersen in 2017.

According to Schaeffer, “the movement has made significant strides, especially in STEM fields. The addition of more than 110 programs at UC Berkeley, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate schools, will only add to the momentum.

Schaeffer added, “For many years, FairTest has criticized the GRE as an inaccurate, biased and unnecessary barrier in the graduate admissions process. The test is even less useful than the ACT / SAT as graduate schools have access to three years of undergraduate grades and can easily contact faculty members who have worked with the candidate if they need additional information. / have other questions. Each graduate program may have only several hundred nurturing institutions, while undergraduate admissions offices see applicants from tens of thousands of high schools. “


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