Opinion | Psychology graduate programs shouldn’t require the GREs

The GRE is a poor predictor of success and causes too much stress.


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Concept of GRE Exam in wooden block letters on table.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

All psychology graduate programs need to stop wasting students’ time and money by dropping standardized test requirements.

The University of Iowa Department of Psychological and Brain Science is not requiring or allowing applicants to submit the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, as of fall 2020.  Considering the lack of evidence to show the GRE predicts success in graduate school and the stress it causes, this sets a good precedent for other schools.

The GRE consists of three sections — analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. It measures algebra, arithmetic, data analysis, and college-level vocabulary.

According to Manhattan Review, the GRE has been used as a standardized measure of all students.

A research study examined how GRE scores correlated with aspects of success in graduate school, such as first and second-year grades, professors’ ratings of students’ dissertations, and professors’ ratings of students’ analytical, creative, practical, research, and teaching abilities. The only aspects the GRE was found to be correlated with were first-year grades and analytical skills for males.

Another research study found that while most schools require the GRE because they believe it is a strong predictor of success in graduate school, scores were not found to be strong predictors of GPA after completing graduate school.

Mark Blumberg, chair of the UI department of psychological and brain science, said the psychology department stopped requiring test scores because of the GRE being biased toward people who can afford to take prep classes and not being high predictors of success in graduate school.

Blumberg said other measures the program looks at are courses taken in college, undergraduate grades and grade-point average, and prior research experience. There is an interview process to see if students are motivated to attend graduate school.

He also said dropping the GRE requirements has not decreased the quality of students applying.

“We decided to focus on other measures that we have,” said Blumberg. “[The GRE] comes out of a tradition of reducing people to numbers.”

From my personal experience, graduate school and the process of applying is already stressful enough without the GRE. The first step is making a list of schools and faculty members. The next is contacting each faculty member and seeing if they have any openings for the semester you are applying for. Then, you can start applying. The application consists of three recommendations, a cover letter, and personal statements. That’s enough stress and work without a standardized test.

Another downside to the GRE is the cost. The GRE General Test, which I took and have discovered is what most psychology programs use, costs $205. One in 4 test-takers retake the GRE and have to pay the fee multiple times, which ends up being very expensive. Graduate school applications come with a fee ranging from $50 to $200. Graduate school itself can range from $10,000 to $20,000.

Students should not be forced to spend so much money on a test which doesn’t always predict graduate school success. The GRE can’t measure my empathy and compassion — which are vital for clinical psychologists.  All psychology graduate programs need to stop requiring the GRE. Graduate applicants have more value than the numbers GRE scores give them.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.