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Question: Are There Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs That Do Not Require the GRE or That Offer GRE Waivers?

Answer: Yes, admission to many online Nurse Practitioner (NP) programs does not require the submission of GRE test scores, and programs that require the GRE may waive this requirement for qualified applicants. This includes online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with an NP specialization, online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, and online post-graduate certificate programs that provide training and instruction in an NP specialization.

While the GRE is used by some admissions committees to assess the academic qualifications of applicants, there are other factors that graduate programs in nursing take into consideration as part of their admissions process, including a candidate’s undergraduate GPA, professional references, clinical experience, and nursing licensure. Many online NP programs use these and other factors to assess applicants in lieu of the GRE, and programs that require the GRE may waive the GRE for applicants with significant professional experience and/or a record of prior academic excellence as reflected in their cumulative grade point average (GPA).

The GRE and NP Program Admissions

The GRE, which refers to the Graduate Records Examinations General Test, is one of several standardized tests that many graduate programs use to assess the verbal and quantitative proficiencies of applicants. This includes some graduate programs in nursing, a subset of which offer training and instruction in a Nurse Practitioner (NP) specialty. However, admissions committees have access to other assessment tools, and there are other factors that graduate programs in nursing may use to select qualified applicants.

Many nursing graduate programs, including online NP programs, do not require applicants to submit GRE tests scores and use other factors to assess applicants. Candidates for admissions to online NP programs are required to hold an active and unencumbered state-issued RN license, which indicates that an applicant has successfully completed an accredited training program in nursing, engaged in several hundred hours of supervised clinical work, and passed the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s NCLEX exam. In addition to a copy of their RN license, applicants are typically asked to furnish undergraduate transcripts and transcripts from any post-baccalaureate programs they have attended, and may be asked to provide several letters of recommendation, a written personal goals statement, and/or a professional resume or CV.

Some programs may prefer applicants whose undergraduate or graduate program GPA meets or exceeds a certain threshold, usually 2.75, 3.0, or higher on a four-point scale. And there are programs that require applicants to have one or more years of experience as an RN. These are some of the factors that online NP programs commonly use in the admissions process in lieu of the GRE.

While there are online NP programs that require the submission of GRE test scores, some of these programs may have waiver policies that allow applicants who meet certain qualifications to apply without having to submit GRE scores. GRE waivers are typically extended to applicants who have a record of high academic achievement as reflected in a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, and/or to applicants who have several years of proven RN experience. GRE waivers may not be automatic or guaranteed; applicants to online NP programs who qualify for a GRE waiver generally must apply to have the GRE requirement waived and may have to submit GRE scores if a waiver is not approved and they still wish to apply to the program.

GRE Requirements By NP Program Type

There are several distinct types of online NP programs and admissions requirements may vary based on program type. RNs who want to become NPs may be eligible for one or more of the following types of online NP programs:

Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs with an NP Specialization

MSN programs provide general training in advanced practice nursing, leadership and organization management, health policy, and healthcare technologies, and some programs offer one or more NP specializations. Applicants to these programs must have an active an unencumbered RN license. In addition, depending on the structure of the program and its curriculum, online MSN programs with an NP specialization accept Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduates and may accept RNs with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and/or RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or hospital-based nursing diploma. Some of these programs require the GRE, some do not, and others offer GRE waivers to eligible applicants.

Online Graduate Certificate programs with an NP specialization

These are non-degree programs that are designed to provide training in an NP specialization to RNs who have already completed a graduate degree at the master’s or doctoral level. These programs are typically designed for MSN and DNP program graduates who would like to add a new NP specialization. Certificate programs draw from a pool of applicants who have already gained admission to graduate programs, so they generally do not require GRE scores, relying instead on MSN/DNP program transcripts and professional references to assess applicants.

Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

These are programs that culminate in the conferral of a doctoral degree in nursing and that provide advanced training and instruction in executive leadership, healthcare systems management, evidence-based nursing practice, and patient care technologies. For RNs looking to become NPs while earning their DNP, there are two main types of programs: BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP with a new NP specialization. BSN-to-DNP programs combine MSN training with a DNP curriculum, and in some BSN-to-DNP programs students earn an MSN degree and are certified as NPs prior to completing the DNP curriculum. In other programs students only earn their DNP.

MSN-to-DNP programs with a new NP specialization combine DNP coursework with post-master’s NP certificate program. While ADN-to-DNP programs exist, they are not very common and may require RNs to have completed a non-nursing bachelor’s degree in addition to their ADN. Depending on the type of program and the level of educational attainment required for admission, online DNP programs may or may not require the GRE, and many online DNP programs do not require graduates from MSN programs to submit GRE scores.

Online NP Program Specializations and GRE Requirements

The NP designation represents a specialization within the larger classification of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), which encompasses Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), Certified Nurse Midwifes (CNMs), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), as well as NPs. There are NP specialties and online NP programs provide both general advanced practice training and focused training in an NP specialization. NP specializations include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
  • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PACNP)
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP)
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

RNs can receive professional training in the NP specializations listed above through online MSN, DNP, and graduate certificate programs. While choosing a specialization is an important part of becoming an NP and can have significant career implications, it is typically not a factor that determines whether or not a program requires the GRE for admission and there is little correlation between GRE policies and NP specializations among online programs at the master’s, post-master’s certificate, and doctorate levels.


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