Question: Are There Online Master’s Programs That Do Not Require the GRE for Admission?

Answer: Yes, there are many online master’s degree programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE scores as part of the admissions process. The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, is a standardized test that may be used by admissions boards as a general academic assessment tool for applicants to graduate degree programs across a broad range of fields. However, the emphasis placed on GRE scores varies by school, by department, and by program, and the GRE is just one of several criteria by which the qualifications of applicants to online master’s degree programs may be assessed. Admissions boards may also consider other materials submitted by applicants, such as undergraduate transcripts and grade point average (GPA); one or more letters of recommendation; a written personal goals statement; answers to one or more essay questions; and prior work experience in a relevant field. As a result, many online master’s programs do not require the GRE, and some programs that request GRE test scores will waive that requirement for applicants who achieved a undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, applicants who have one or more years of professional work experience, applicants who hold an advanced degree, and/or applicants who have professional licensure or certifications.

What Is the GRE?

The GRE General Test in its current form is a computerized, multi-part, standardized test administered by the Education Testing Service (ETS), a private, New Jersey-based, non-profit educational testing company that also administers the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam, the Praxis teacher certification exams, and GRE subject tests in biology, chemistry, literature, mathematics, physics, and psychology. Introduced in 1936 under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the GRE was deigned to provide admissions boards with a uniform means of assessing the general academic preparedness of applicants to a wide range of master’s and doctoral programs.

Since its most recent revision in August of 2011, the GRE General Test has consisted of six sections that test verbal, math, and analytical writing proficiencies. The first section is a two-part Analytical Writing section in which test takers are given 30 minutes to analyze an issue and 30 minutes to analyze an argument. Following the completion of the writing tasks, test takers are presented with two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections, and two 35-minutes Quantitative Reasoning sections. The GRE also includes an unscored experimental section that is not identified as such and that is used primarily for research purposes by ETS. The total time it takes to complete the GRE, including breaks, is about three hours and 45 minutes.

GRE test reports issued by ETS include three scores. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are separately assigned a scaled score between 130 and 170, with 150 standing as the average or mean value for both. The Analytical Writing section is scored separately in half-point increments on a zero-to-six point scale, with 3.5 standing as the average or mean.

How the GRE Is Used for Admissions to Online Master’s Programs

Requiring the GRE and using GRE test scores in the admissions process is a voluntary decision made by the school and/or the department within a school that offers an online master’s program. How much weight to place on an applicant’s GRE scores and whether or not to require the GRE is typically determined by a program’s admissions board or committee. For some programs, submitting GRE test results may be optional or a mere formality, while other programs may look for applicants with GRE scores at or above a certain level. There are also programs that only require the GRE for applicants who do not meet certain criteria, such as a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Online master’s programs that do not require the GRE may allow applicants who believe their GRE scores may improve their chances of being admitted to submit GRE results for consideration. For example, an application from a candidate who has a low undergraduate GPA and/or lacks professional experience may benefit from the submission of favorable GRE scores.

There are also other standardized graduate admissions tests that online master’s programs may require or accept in lieu of the GRE. Many master’s in business and management programs will accept either the GRE or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and some types of business programs specifically require the GMAT. Other master’s programs may accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in place of the GRE or GMAT.

Standardized test scores are just one of several criteria by which an applicant’s preparedness for an online master’s program may be assessed. Other criteria that may be factored into a the admission process include:

  • Undergraduate transcripts and GPA
  • Two or more letters of recommendation
  • A written personal goals statement
  • Answers to one or more essay questions
  • Prior work experience
  • Professional licensure and/or relevant certifications

There are many online master’s degree programs that rely on several of the criteria listed above rather than requiring applicants to submit GRE scores or scores from other graduate school admissions tests. This is particularly true of online master’s programs that are designed for students who have several years of professional experience in a particular field. For example, online Executive MBA program (EMBA) programs that require applicants to have five or more years of professional experience in business management typically do not require standardized test scores. Similarly, online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs may not require GRE scores provided an applicant holds an active and unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license.

Online Master’s Programs That Offer GRE Waivers

While there are online master’s programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE scores, some online programs that require the GRE will waive this requirement for qualified applicants. GRE waivers are generally granted on a case-by-case basis to applicants who meet one or more of several criteria. These criteria may include the following:

  • A cumulative undergraduate GPA at or above 3.0 or 3.5, depending on the program
  • Two or more years of professional experience in a relevant field
  • An advanced degree and/or professional certification/licensure in a relevant field

GRE waivers are generally not extended automatically. Applicants who believe they may meet the requirements for a GRE waiver typically must apply for or formally request a waiver from the program’s admissions board. If the admissions board does not approve a waiver request, the applicant must then supply GRE scores in order to be eligible for admission.


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