Exploring universities waiving off GRE: A comprehensive guide

Last updated: May 30, 20238 min read
Exploring universities waiving off GRE: A comprehensive guide

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardised test that has traditionally been a common requirement for admission to many graduate programs. However, an increasing number of universities are recognizing that the GRE may not be the best indicator of an applicant's potential for success in graduate studies.

As a result, they are offering GRE waivers, allowing applicants to be evaluated based on alternative criteria.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide valuable insights into the world of GRE waivers, offering information on why universities offer them, how it works, and a list of notable institutions that have embraced this trend.

Understanding the GRE waiver: What is it?

The GRE waiver is an exemption that allows certain graduate program applicants to bypass the requirement of taking the GRE.

The purpose of the GRE waiver is to provide an alternative route for applicants to demonstrate their academic potential and qualifications for admission without having to take the GRE. It recognizes that various factors can be indicative of an applicant's ability to succeed in graduate studies, aside from performance on a standardised test.

It is granted based on various factors such as exceptional academic achievements, relevant professional experience, advanced degrees, research or publication experience, or exceptional circumstances. The specific eligibility criteria and process for obtaining a GRE waiver vary among institutions. It's important to research each institution's policies and contact the admissions office for detailed information.

Also read: PhD in USA without GRE

Why do universities offer GRE waivers?

Universities offer GRE waivers for several reasons, each aimed at creating a more inclusive and flexible admissions process. Here are the main reasons why universities offer GRE waivers:

1. Diverse evaluation criteria

Universities aim to evaluate applicants holistically and consider multiple factors beyond standardised test scores. By offering GRE waivers, institutions can broaden their assessment criteria and consider other indicators of an applicant's qualifications, such as academic achievements, work experience, research experience, or advanced degrees. This allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of an applicant's capabilities.

2. Access and diversity

GRE waivers can enhance accessibility and promote diversity in graduate programs. Standardised tests can present barriers to entry for certain individuals, such as those from underrepresented backgrounds, non-traditional students, or individuals with financial constraints. By offering GRE waivers, universities can attract a wider pool of applicants and promote inclusivity by recognizing alternative pathways to success.

3. Practical relevance

Some graduate programs prioritise professional experience and practical skills over test performance. For fields where practical knowledge and work experience are highly valued, such as business, healthcare, or social work, the GRE may not accurately reflect an applicant's readiness for the program. In such cases, universities offer GRE waivers to acknowledge the practical relevance of applicants' professional backgrounds and accomplishments.

4. Streamlining the application process

The GRE can be a time-consuming and costly component of the application process. By offering GRE waivers, universities streamline the application process for eligible applicants, saving them the effort and expense of preparing for and taking the GRE. This can attract motivated and qualified individuals who may be deterred by the additional burden of the GRE.

5. Alignment with program goals

Some graduate programs have specific goals and objectives that may not necessarily align with the content and focus of the GRE. For instance, programs with a strong research emphasis may place greater value on an applicant's research experience and publications rather than test scores. By offering GRE waivers, universities can align their admissions criteria more closely with the objectives and requirements of specific programs.

Also read: MS in USA without GRE: top universities and admission tips

Universities accepting students without GRE: How it works

Universities that accept students without requiring the GRE have alternative admission processes in place to evaluate applicants based on criteria other than standardised test scores. Here's how it generally works:

1. Updated admissions policies

Universities that do not require the GRE will clearly state this in their admissions policies or application instructions. They will outline the alternative criteria or qualifications that applicants should fulfil instead of submitting GRE scores. These policies vary among institutions, so it's important to carefully review each university's specific requirements.

2. Holistic evaluation

In the absence of GRE scores, universities adopt a holistic approach to evaluating applicants. They consider a combination of factors to assess an applicant's qualifications and potential for success in graduate studies. This can include academic achievements, undergraduate transcripts, GPA, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, research experience, professional experience, and other relevant accomplishments.

3. Academic record

Universities will review the undergraduate transcripts to assess academic performance. They will evaluate factors such as GPA, coursework, and the reputation of the previous institution. A strong academic record, especially in relevant coursework, can positively influence your application.

4. Letters of recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation play a crucial role in the evaluation process. Universities typically require letters from professors, employers, or other individuals who can attest to academic abilities, work ethic, research potential, or professional achievements. These letters provide insight into the skills, character, and potential to succeed in graduate studies.

5. Statement of purpose

The statement of purpose or personal statement allows one to articulate motivations, academic interests, research experience, career goals, and how the program aligns with the aspirations. A compelling and well-written statement can showcase passion, clarity of purpose, and ability to contribute to the field.

6. Additional evaluative measures

Some universities may employ additional evaluative measures to assess applicants in the absence of GRE scores. This can include writing samples, portfolios, interviews, or subject-specific tests. These measures help universities gauge readiness, knowledge, and potential fit for the program.

7. Program-specific requirements

Some programs within universities that waive the GRE requirement may have specific requirements or expectations. For instance, certain STEM programs may require evidence of quantitative proficiency, such as coursework in mathematics or statistics.

8. Program fit

Universities will also evaluate how well candidates align with their program's focus and goals. They look for candidates whose research interests, academic background, and career objectives are in line with what the program offers. Demonstrating a strong fit and a clear understanding of the program's strengths and resources can enhance their chances of admission.

Universities offering GRE waivers: A list

While the availability of GRE waivers varies among universities, here is a list of some universities that have been known to offer GRE waivers or have flexible GRE policies.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • Columbia University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Northwestern University
  • Duke University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Cornell University
  • New York University (NYU)
  • University of Washington
  • University of Virginia
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Georgetown University

Factors influencing your application to universities offering GRE waivers

When applying to universities offering GRE waivers, several factors can influence the evaluation of your application. Here are some common factors that can influence your application to universities offering GRE waivers:

1. Academic record

Your academic performance throughout your undergraduate studies is a crucial factor. Universities will review your transcripts, looking at your GPA, course selection, and any honours or awards received. A strong academic record demonstrates your ability to excel in coursework and indicates your commitment to academic pursuits.

2. Relevant coursework

The universities may consider the specific coursework you completed during your undergraduate studies. They will look for relevant coursework that aligns with the field of study you're applying to. Strong performance in courses directly related to the program can demonstrate your preparedness and knowledge in the subject area.

3. Professional experience

Relevant professional experience can be a significant factor in evaluating your application. Universities value practical experience in the field, as it demonstrates your ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Your resume, letters of recommendation from employers, and details of your job responsibilities can provide evidence of your expertise and potential contributions to the program.

4. Research experience

If you have engaged in research projects, universities offering GRE waivers will consider this experience. Research experience showcases your ability to conduct independent inquiry, problem-solving skills, and potential for contributing to the knowledge base in your field. Publications or presentations resulting from your research can further strengthen your application.

5. Letters of recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation can significantly impact your application. These letters should come from individuals who can attest to your academic abilities, work ethic, research potential, or professional achievements. Recommenders who can speak to your skills and potential in the specific field of study you're applying to are particularly valuable.

6. Statement of purpose

The statement of purpose is an opportunity to articulate your motivations, academic and professional goals, research interests, and how the program aligns with your aspirations. A compelling statement that reflects your passion, clarity of purpose, and understanding of the field can make a positive impression on the admissions committee.

7. Exceptional Circumstances

Universities may consider exceptional circumstances that could have affected your academic performance or prevented you from taking the GRE. These circumstances could include personal challenges, health issues, family responsibilities, or financial constraints. Providing documentation and explaining how these circumstances impacted your academic journey can help the admissions committee understand your situation and make a more informed decision.


Exploring universities that waive the GRE requirement provides prospective graduate students with a wider range of options and a more inclusive admissions process. By delving into this comprehensive guide, prospective students can gain valuable insights into the universities that offer GRE waivers, the factors that influence the application process, and the alternative criteria used for evaluation.

Frequently asked questions

What is a GRE waiver?

A GRE waiver is an exemption granted by universities that allows applicants to bypass the requirement of taking the GRE for admission to graduate programs.

Why do universities offer GRE waivers?

Universities offer GRE waivers to create a more inclusive and flexible admissions process. They recognize that the GRE may not be the best predictor of an applicant's potential for success in graduate studies and aim to consider a broader range of factors to evaluate an applicant's qualifications. GRE waivers also help attract a diverse pool of high-quality applicants and streamline the application process.

Do all universities offer GRE waivers?

No, not all universities offer GRE waivers. It's important to research and review the admissions requirements of each university to determine whether a GRE waiver is available for the desired program of study.

author avatar
Written By

Stay tuned with us for more updates on studying abroad.

Comments Disabled