Graduate programs that don’t require GRE are an option if you’re thinking about grad school but don’t have the time and preparation to take the GRE. Should you take the GRE before applying, you can still submit your scores along with the other parts of your application, such as your graduate school cover letter, grad school letter of recommendation, or research resume. If your scores are good, they can definitely help your application. However, some programs will not consider your GRE scores at all and if that is the case, you should not submit them. But if you haven’t taken the GRE yet, you can apply to several master’s and PhD programs in both the US and Canada without it, as long as you meet other important requirements. This article will give you a list of schools and graduate programs that don’t require GRE, whether they’re worth it, and what else you need to get into grad school.

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Article Contents
12 min read

List of Graduate Programs that Don’t Require GRE (US) List of Graduate Programs that Don’t Require GRE (Canada) Are Graduate Programs that Don’t Require the GRE “Good” Programs? What Programs Require the GRE? Is the GRE Worth It? Why Have Graduate Programs Stopped Accepting the GRE? Graduate Programs that Don’t Require the GRE: Pros and Cons of Taking the GRE How to Increase your Chances to Get into Grad School without the GRE Conclusion FAQs

List of Graduate Programs that Don’t Require GRE (US)

  1. American University Washington DC (not required for graduate certificates and some Master’s programs)
  2. Ohio University (university-wide; GRE-optional)
  3. Stanford University (university-wide; GRE-optional)
  4. Harvard University (program-dependent; GRE-optional)
  5. Columbia University (program-dependent; GRE-optional)
  6. West Texas A&M University (university-wide)
  7. Cornell University (program-dependent; GRE-optional)
  8. Duke University (program-dependent; GRE is optional for some programs and required for others)

List of Graduate Programs that Don’t Require GRE (Canada)

  1. University of Waterloo
  2. Carleton University
  3. University of Alberta
  4. Memorial University
  5. Royal Roads University 

Are Graduate Programs that Don’t Require the GRE “Good” Programs?

Yes, graduate programs that don’t require the GRE are excellent programs, and some are offered by some of the best universities in the US and Canada. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) was used for a long time (almost 80 years) to assess your skills in three main areas, namely, math, reading, writing and comprehension, which are tested by the three different sections of the test:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

But the GRE has fallen out of favor recently, for reasons we’ll talk about later. However, that doesn’t reflect on the programs that do or do not require it; it has more to do with the test itself rather than the programs. Despite the fact that the use of the GRE in graduate school admissions is becoming more sporadic, there are still programs at universities in Canada and colleges in the US that require it, so you have to decide whether you are willing to take the test to get into a dream program or choose a program that does not require the GRE at all.

The GRE requirement falls into three categories:

  • Not Accepted or considered
  • Considered (optional)
  • Required

You have to pay attention to these particular requirements. Submitting your scores to a program that does not accept them will not necessarily hurt your application, but they won’t be considered, you’ll end up wasting time and it does look bad, especially if the requirement is clear and made explicit.

The Considered requirement means you can send your GRE scores if you have them and they are not older than the five years, which is how long your GRE scores are valid. Depending on the program or school, you may also be able to submit your old scores, but you have to ask the particular program whether they have this option. The Required option is self-explanatory.

What Programs Require the GRE?

There is no correlation, mostly, between the GRE being required and a particular discipline or field. For example, you would imagine that many graduate-level programs at the best universities in Canada for computer science, or the best universities in Canada for engineering, require a standardized test such as the GRE, but they do not. Who still asks for the GRE is not based on the subject matter, but that program’s individual criteria and administrators.

There are even more variations. For example, the Economics Department at Carleton University does not require GRE scores for the master’s program, but it does for the PhD programs, and this is a division you might see repeated across various schools and programs.

You should also not assume that arts, humanities, and social sciences programs don’t require the GRE, as the Political Science and Psychology departments at the University of British Columbia both require it. So, you really have to do your research first into which graduate programs require or don’t require the GRE, especially if you want to apply there.

Is the GRE Worth It?

Whether the GRE is “worth it” or not depends on many factors. As with other contentious issues surrounding higher education admissions, there is no right side to this argument, and those who oppose the GRE have as many good arguments as those who support it. But if you are thinking about how to get into grad school, you should ask yourself the following questions about whether you need to take the GRE or not:

  • Does your program require it, is it optional or not accepted?
  • Is the program you are applying to very competitive? (meaning GRE good scores can give you an upper hand)
  • Do you have the time and resources to prepare for the test?
  • Are you an international, mature or non-traditional student who may not be able to submit other important application materials, such as recommendation letters?
  • Do you have a low GPA and are wondering how to get into grad school with a low GPA?

A minimum GPA is often a more prevalent requirement that the GRE, especially for PhD programs, but many programs, usually master’s, will accept a low GPA if your GRE scores are higher than average. However, this policy is also program-dependent and you have to inquire what concessions or accommodations your program offers to various types of students.

All these questions and more are important to consider before you decide to take the GRE, or not. Another complication is that many graduate-level, professional programs such as law schools and MBA programs have started to accept the GRE as an alternative to the tests associated with those programs, namely, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and the General Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

The law schools that don’t require the LSAT still require either the GRE or GMAT, so if you plan to go into a professional program or even an MBA, you need to consider whether you should take the LSAT, GMAT or GRE, depending on where you are applying, and which test is easier for you to take. But as with law schools, medical schools and graduate programs, there are many MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT or GRE, so you can go that route as well.

Why Have Graduate Programs Stopped Accepting the GRE?

Believe it or not, once upon a time, the GRE was used to increase access to grad school, not decrease it, as many of its critics now accuse. The GRE was used as a way to increase enrollment amongst veterans returning from WWII, who did not graduate from Ivy Leage colleges in the US and needed a common denominator that assessed their skills and fitness for grad school. However, new studies have questioned whether the GRE is an accurate predictor of your abilities and whether it accurately determines how well you’ll do in grad school.

Other studies have gone further to discredit the GRE. The company that administers the GRE, Educational Testing Services (ETS), has commissioned studies on how various minority groups (women and racial minorities) perform on the test, and they found that both women, and racialized students score much lower than white test-takers. Compounding this problem is the fact that grad schools usually had minimum GRE score requirements, so anyone (mostly women and racialized students) who fell below that minimum were automatically disqualified.

ETS argued that these studies point out systemic inequality within the education system, and not the test’s inherent bias or prejudice. But what’s most striking about the GRE’s downfall is how quickly it has fallen out of favor and how so many graduate programs that don’t require GRE have sprung up as a result.

The same study commissioned by ETS that found discrimination against women and minorities also found that within a four-year period, the number of test-takes nosedived by half (50%), which is a monumental change over a short period of time, especially for higher education institutions and professional associations who are notoriously resistant to change.

Even more startling is the fact that now only 3% of major STEM programs within top-ranked US schools require the GRE, when, only four years ago, 84% of these same programs required the GRE. But even with all these studies and statistics, some of the top-ranked schools in the US have kept the GRE requirements. They have their arguments, which we’ll explore more in the following sections.

Graduate Programs that Don’t Require the GRE: Pros and Cons of Taking the GRE

Pros of Taking the GRE

High Scores are an Admissions Edge

There is little about the admissions process that is objective. Aside from your GPA, which is a major factor, all the other ways that graduate school admissions committees evaluate your application are subjective, such as reviewing your grad school personal statement and grad school statement of intent, and observing you answer tough grad school interview questions . For a program that does not allow you to submit the GRE, this will be enough. But if a program makes submitting your GRE scores optional, if they’re good scores, they can boost your application. Standardized tests have some value, despite their flaws. An excellent MCAT score or an exceptional LSAT score at the highest end of the LSAT score range will fling the doors wide open to your preferred medical or law school, and even though many grad school programs have moved away from the GRE, they are still willing to consider it for your benefit and will be as impressed as those other schools and programs.

It’s a Good Way to Develop New Skills or Improve Them

Being a grad student often requires a lot of interdisciplinary work, and you’ll more often than not require skills in several areas, not just your specialization, which is why preparing for the GRE can help you develop or sharpen these skills. We’ll get more into the GRE sections and how long it is (usually, a little less than four hours) in other blogs, but it’s not easy, and you have to prepare well in advance to be able to get a worthwhile score. The preparation involves a lot of reading, developing comprehension skills, and solving math problems, so you’ll have to prepare as you did for the SAT and ACT. But the content of the GRE is much more difficult than either the SAT or ACT so you do need to study, especially if it’s been a while since you did any math.

Gives You More Options when Applying

The GRE is not an insignificant factor to consider when looking for your ideal grad school program. But if you’re passionate about a specific school, program and faculty member, you shouldn’t let the GRE stop you if the program requires it. Getting into grad school is hard, and choosing a non-GRE program is one way to make the process easier, but having GRE scores in the run-up to when you apply can give you more options. You might find a program that appeals to you more than others and has a GRE requirement, which won’t be an obstacle for you, since you already have scores or are willing to take the test to get into this particular program. This option may only apply to you if you are willing and able to study for the GRE. If you’re a mature student or you already took the GRE before and have valid scores, and you’re more anxious about starting grad school than preparing for the test, choosing a non-GRE program may be the right move.

Cons of Taking the GRE

It’s an Investment of Time and Money

How long and how much you put into preparing for the GRE depends on your grad school application timeline, like when you are thinking of applying and the individual deadlines for your preferred programs. The two types of GRE tests cover different things. The GRE subject tests are more based in your knowledge of a specific subject, such as Psychology, Physics or Chemistry, so you can approach studying for it in the same way that you would for an undergraduate exam: memorizing facts, words, and concepts; being able to figure out particular math problems in algebra and geometry.

But the GRE general covers your analytical, or logical reasoning, and your problem-solving abilities so you won’t need to learn a new set of skills exactly, but sharpen and adjust them to particular demands of the GRE. This requires a lot of time and if you invest in a GRE tutor or any GRE test prep materials it may cost a lot. Factor this, and the costs of taking the GRE, into your budget to take the exam and it might not seem a good investment, especially if your program does not require it.

It Takes Away from Other Application Materials

The time and money you put into preparing for the GRE can either be saved or put into something more important (and required) by your graduate school program, like a PhD motivation letter, personal statement or research proposal. Now that many schools have eschewed the GRE there is even more pressure on you to produce exceptional application materials. Freeing yourself from the added burden of preparing for and taking the GRE will give you more time to put all your efforts behind the other crucial aspects of your graduate school application.

It’s Not a Good Predictor of Your Success

If you have to take the GRE or decide to take it for whatever reason, getting a good score may lull you into the belief that you are completely prepared for the rigors of grad school, even though you may not be. Entering a PhD program is one thing, but completing your PhD is an entirely different beast. Unless you choose a PhD without dissertation or thesis program, you’ll have to write one, which is so difficult only half of PhD STEM students actually complete one. Completing a master’s has its own unique challenges, and the GRE does not, some argue, prepare you for any of these challenges at all. Preparing for the test does have its advantages, in terms of helping you get a good mark, but critics of the GRE have long argued that it does not predict whether you have the fortitude, resilience, and hard-working attitude to complete a master’s or PhD degree.

How to Increase your Chances to Get into Grad School without the GRE

Getting a Good GPA

A minimum GPA is a more widely-used admissions requirement than the GRE, and you should focus on excelling in high-level, senior courses so that you get your average to well-above the required minimum, which usually ranges from 70-75%. The actual range depends on your program, but it’s common for many programs, Masters or PhD to require a minimum GPA to apply, and maintain a minimum GPA when you’re in the program. If you want to go to grad school and are worried about your GPA, you should take steps as early as possible, because you’ll need time to increase it. You should try taking courses that are easier for you or take extracurricular courses during summer break to boost your GPA to more competitive levels.

Do Research in a Relevant Area 

Your reasons for going to grad school may vary, but many people go to grad school to pursue a specific research question or topic, which is why having the appropriate research experience is important for when you are applying. The research aspect is more important when you’re applying to a PhD, so during your Master’s you should explore what research areas by volunteering to work on other colleagues' research projects or even faculty projects. These experiences are great to put on a CV for grad school, but they will also teach you valuable skills such as how to publish as a graduate student or how to write a Master’s thesis proposal.

Get Good Letters of Recommendation

When doing your research in the lead-up to grad school or a doctorate, you should participate, but find ways to distinguish yourself as well, which is important for two reasons: it makes you stand out from others, but it also leaves a good impression on research supervisors and faculty members who you could ask for a recommendation in the future. Even though there are ways for how to get into grad school without recommendation letters, they are usually an indispensable part of getting into grad school at top-ranked schools and programs. Having letters written by those who have witnessed your intelligence, determination, creativity and resilience in action and are willing to put it in writing is maybe even more important than taking the GRE.


The list of graduate programs that don’t require GRE is growing every day and whether the test will be done away with for good remains to be seen. There are flaws to the test, but many schools are still hesitant to eliminate the requirement altogether, so you need to pick your program carefully if you want to avoid the test. But if the program is more important to you, and it requires or recommends the GRE, you should take the test.


1. Should I take the GRE?

Whether you take the GRE depends on a lot of different factors. If the program you are applying to requires it, then it’s not a question of “should” - you must take the test. But if you are either not interested in taking the GRE for whatever reason and the programs you are interested in do not require it, then you should focus on other parts of your grad school application, such as getting the right research experience, getting good letters of recommendation, and having a specific research topic that you want to pursue.

2. Why are grad schools dropping the GRE?

We talked about the reasons why the GRE is being gradually phased out, but the reasons stem from whether the test is an unfair gateway to people who do not have the time or resources to prepare for the test, and the supposition that it does not accurately predict whether you are ready for grad school.

3. How hard is the GRE?

How hard is the GRE? The exact difficulty of the GRE is one of the things being called into question, with many accusing the GRE of preparing students to take the test, and not to be excellent grad students. While the test is challenging, it does not require you to become familiar with an unfamiliar set of questions, as with the LSAT, and you will be tested more on your knowledge than creativity. The problem-solving and analysis on the GRE is similar to the SAT and ACT, but with a higher level of difficulty. 

4. How long do I need to prepare for the GRE?

Preparing for the GRE depends on how much time you have before you application deadlines, and your skill level in the areas the GRE tests. If you are way behind on your math, reading and comprehension skill, then you should take up to three months. But many students prepare in only a few weeks, as the GRE is a more familiar exam in both the content and format than other tests such as the LSAT, and does not take as long to complete as the MCAT.

5. When should I take the GRE?

The GRE is offered throughout the year, and there are many versions you can take, including shortened ones that do not have all the sections. What you should focus on more when choosing a GRE test date is the application deadline for your preferred program, if you haven’t already taken the GRE. If you have taken it within the last five years, this doesn’t apply to you, but if the deadline is fast approaching you should take it as soon as possible. If you still have time, you can choose when you want to take it based on your preferences. 

6. Is there any difference between graduate program that don’t require GRE and those that do?

No, not really. There are differences between graduate programs, in general, but many programs have simply removed the test from their admission requirements without having any significant impact on their curricula or teaching methods. 

7. Is the GRE a good predictor of success in grad school?

Some argue yes, others say no. Many students who have not taken the GRE have both successfully completed their degree and been able to transition from academia to industry.

But they may have not been able to do this if their program required the GRE, and they were not admitted because of their low scores, even though they proved they were able to complete grad school. Now many programs are turning to more conventional admissions metrics such as your GPA, research experience and how well you do during the interview. 

8. How much does it cost to take the GRE?

The GRE test has different prices, as the company has released different versions of the test. But the usual fee for the normal test is around $200 but with fees and other costs it can get up to $220. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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