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198. Just The Abstract: Is the GRE Really Optional?

Just The Abstract is a new series where we explore a topic in a short, focused episode that’s easy to share. This week, we find out why most science PhD programs stopped requiring the GRE, and whether they’ll demote your application if you fail to provide a score.

We take our inspiration this week from a thread in the r/gradschool subredit.

knightshade017 writes:

I’m currently at a point where I’m applying to PhD programs in behavioral neuroscience, brain and cognitive psychology, and similar fields. Most (if not all) of the programs I am interested in have the GRE as optional, but I am a bit weary to say I won’t take it altogether because I don’t know if it will ding my chances of getting in… Any insight and honest thoughts/opinions would be greatly appreciated!

We cover the recent history of “GRExit” – a data-driven movement to remove the GRE as a barrier to graduate school after learning that the test is not a good predictor of research success.

Instead, application committees focus much more on prior research experience. How you’ve fared in your previous labs is a much better predictor of how you’ll do in the future. Unsurprisingly, a GRE that tests your ability to complete word antonyms and find the length of the sides of a 3-4-5 triangle are not indicators of success.

Here are some resources we mentioned in the show:

‘GRExit’ gains momentum as Ph.D. programs drop exam requirement

Predictors of Student Productivity in Biomedical Graduate School Applications

And here are a few episodes with related content:

112: Listener Mailbag – Leaving Home, Avoiding the GRE, Finding Collaborators, et al!

065: Does the GRE Predict Which Students Will Succeed?

023: Seriously, can we ditch the GRE already?

At the end of the show, we mentioned the recent tragedy at UNC where a graduate student killed his faculty advisor. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is help within reach. This guide from the NIH has links and phone numbers for crisis support and mental health resources:

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