Stony Brook University’s graduate school has waived the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test requirement for the next two years to examine how the change affects representation in program admissions, according to a letter sent out by the graduate school.
The letter, authored by Dean and Vice Provost of the Graduate School, Eric Wertheimer, referred to various studies that suggest that GRE scores show a “weak or negative” correlation between success in graduate schools. These studies, in combination with statistics that show certain minority groups and women score lower on the test, support the argument that admissions would deter potentially successful students with lower GRE scores from entry into graduate programs.
“By waiving the GRE General Test requirement for two years, we can assemble data from across graduate programs to assess how this change affects levels of representation in admissions,” Wertheimer said in the letter. “That information will be considered when we revisit the use of the GRE in two years.”
The GRE was previously required by many of the university’s graduate applications as a baseline assessment. However, some programs over the years have chosen to opt out of using the test according to Brenda Anderson, professor of psychology and chair of the Stony Brook University’s Graduate Council. The Graduate Council has considered waiving the GRE since the fall of 2018.
“Many faculty still disagree with our decision—but reasonable people can disagree on this, and we respect their autonomy as colleagues and as leaders of programs,” Anderson wrote in an email to The Statesman. “We believe it was time to make a statement about where our priorities stood in erring on the side of access and away from the possibility of hurting whole classes of applicants in our admissions process.”
Anderson also pointed out the decision was not without precedent, several other research universities have also waived their GRE requirements. Although the Educational Testing Service defends the GRE as a fair and valid measure with a variety of studies, Anderson said that the studies do not demonstrate a connection between scores and research productivity.
Stony Brook University’s Graduate Student Organization (GSO), praised the decision to waive the GRE requirement to The Statesman.
“We welcome this measure to waive the GRE requirement,” the GSO said. “We encourage students from diverse backgrounds to apply to graduate school and Stony Brook University. We need new approaches and creative problem solving to take on the challenges our world is facing today and create a new future.”
Due to the GRE requirement dropping, other measures of student performance such as resumes, letters of recommendation and academic performance will now weigh more heavily in admissions, Anderson said. Graduate programs who want to use the GRE test as a factor of admission will have to submit a memo to Wertheimer arguing for the GRE’s value, while also factoring in the Graduate School’s determinant data, by Sept. 15.
“We are proud to be able to further diversity in Stony Brook’s teaching and research missions, as we believe this will be a substantive way to address the institutional factors that impede access to higher education,” Wertheimer said. “As we reduce reliance on the GRE General Test, we encourage faculty to remember that diverse communities and collaborators make for better ideas, better decisions, and better discoveries.”