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GRE Waiver for the top universities

GRE Waiver for the top universitiesThe fact that the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is accepted worldwide is a testament to its versatility. Whatever be the graduate program (Masters or PhD), whether Mathematics, Computer Science, or even a Business Degree, the GRE test score serves as a standardized baseline to evaluate all kinds of candidates from all kinds of backgrounds, countries, and education systems. Though most popularly a North American higher education entry requirement, it is now an application must for various Asian and European universities too.

Read Guide to Masters degrees for international students

Even with its generalized nature, the fact that many candidates tend to spend months in preparing for the GRE goes to show its difficulty (Read How to start studying for the GRE). A large number of candidates often enquire about programs that either don’t require the GRE test scores as an admission requirement,schools that accept low to medium scores, or programs that do require GRE scores but are willing to make an exception by way of a GRE Waiver.


In this article, we will talk about the last variety of the three,the way-out of GRE using GRE Waiver.It is applicable to schools that expect a GRE score but are willing to make an exception.
[Note: Article updated in November 2021. Tables with current programs waiving GRE requirement are listed at the end.]

What is a GRE Waiver?

GRE exams evaluate the following abilities required to survive graduate school.

    • Analytical – the ability to analyse, discuss and present a viewpoint, adhering to the given information
    • Verbal – the ability to understand the content and apply your reasoning skills. It requires a strong comprehension and mastery over the English language
    • Quantitative – it tests your aptitude, in problem-solving, using some basic algebra, arithmetic, and geometry. The foundations are simple. However, the ability to interpret data, recognize a problem, and reach a quick solution within a short time,are the elements that make it tricky.

Read GRE Exam Syllabus: General Test Pattern

Given these constituents of the GRE exam, a waiver, if granted, will only be in light of special circumstances. These circumstances may differ between schools, perhaps even between programs. The conditions in which a waiver, if possible, is granted are usually one all, or more than the following.

  • Educational Background – Given the focus of the GRE exam, if you are able to verify your command over mathematical, analytical, and reasoning competencies, you might be able to justify skipping yet another exam testing the same. Of course, it will require you to have degrees from accredited schools with your GPA supporting your claim. Usually a previous graduate degree, preferably with impressive record may be an acceptable substitute.
  • Work Experience – The same goes for professional background which can vouch for your quantitative, analytical and other skills reflecting your ability to comprehend complex situations and resolve them with some amount of deftness. Usually that kind of expertize comes with a considerable number of years in gaining a reputed work experience.
  • Previous GRE score – since GRE scores are usually valid for five years, candidates applying outside the period are required to retake it for fresh scores. If the school has room for a waiver, you may be able to request one based on your performance in a previously expired GRE.
  • Validation from your previous department head or professional superior.

Ultimately, the decision to waive a GRE score is purely a discretion of the program and it is best to have direct word on the same from the admissions office, just to be absolutely sure that you don’t ruin your chances for nothing.

Be forewarned that by obtaining a GRE waiver, you will most likely be competing with other candidates who have this score. A lack of a GRE score may possibly put you at a disadvantage when the admissions office compares the accomplishments of the applicants against a common merit. But such a situation is completely subjective to the school.

Read GMAT Waiver for MBA Application

Requesting a GRE Waiver

Most schools, when they do allow GRE waivers, want you to work for it. And by that, we mean sending them a letter, or essay, requesting why you should be afforded this privilege. As with the intent described in the last section, the letter should focus on your more-than-compensatory qualities in lieu of the GRE score.

Here is a sample letter/statement/essay for what you might be expected to write. Individual programs may have their own rules and formats. Check them out before you take the leap.

GRE Waiver Request Letter Sample

Attn: Graduate Admissions Committee
ABC University


Subject: GRE Waiver Request for Application to XYZ Graduate Program

Dear Graduate School Admissions Officer,

I am writing this letter to formally request a GRE exam waiver for my application to XYZ Masters Program at ABC University. I have a degree in Mathematics from EFG University and I have six years of work experience as an undergraduate Mathematics instructor at so-and-so college. I strongly believe that my background gives me the adequate quantitative, analytical and reasoning skills tested by the GRE exam. I understand that this test is crucial for the selection process, however, I would be much obliged if you could consider my case for a special case waiver.

I completed my Masters in Mathematics in 2012 with a GPA of 3.7/4.0. After graduating, I joined so-and-so college as an Adjunct Instructor for Introductory Mathematics. My responsibilities, in the role, involved teaching 1st and 2nd year undergraduate 100 and 200 level courses. After 3 years, I was inducted into the tenure track Instructor position and my responsibilities evolved to teaching 400 level courses, including some Graduate level courses. I have, since, secured my tenure and my passion for continued learning has led me to look forward to returning to Graduate School for the XYZ Program.

I thank you for your time and would really appreciate a consideration of my request to weigh my accomplishments against the requirement of the GRE exam for my application.

With Regards,
James Smith

You’ll find many more examples of GRE Waiver Request Letters on the internet. Download some of them for review and build your own accordingly.

What kind of programs waive GRE?

GRE covers a wide variety of graduate programs, from Masters to PhD. Within each of those degrees, every department has their own rules of admission. Some choose to forego GRE completely and substitute it for some other test:

  • MCAT for programs in the medicine and health departments
  • LSAT for the Law programs
  • GMAT for the Business programs

Some programs, like Business, accept both the GRE and GMAT scores. There are also many universities, and their individual departments,that have chosen past academic records, recommendations, and resumes to completely substitute the GRE. Although the majority, especially in the US, still require the GRE as one of the ingredients in applications.


In this context, however, here are a few examples of reputed graduate programs which normally require GRE scores but that requirement can be waived under special conditions or requests.

Programs that require GRE but can consider Waiver Requests


School GRE Waiver Programs & Conditions
Tufts University – Master of Public Health and combined degree programs

– Doctor of Public Health

– Health Communication Degrees

– Pain Research, Education, and Policy Degrees

Student has to indicate academic and professional background rendering test scores unnecessary. Waiver Request Form

University of Houston – Industrial Design, MS with minimum GPA 3.3

– Art MFA, Art History MA, Arts Leadership MA, Music MM, Theatre Acting MFA, Theatre Design MFA, Theatre Studies MFA, Summer MA for Educators (Min. GPA 3.3)

– Accountancy MS, Finance MS, Global Energy Management MS, Management Information Systems MS, Marketing MS (Min. GPA 3.5-3.6)

– Administration and Supervision MEd, Counselling MEd, Curriculum & Instruction MEd, Health Education MEd, Special Populations MEd, Professional Leadership MEd (Min. GPA 3.3)

– Engineering: Aerospace MS, Biomedical MSBE, Chemical MSChem/MChE, Civil MSCE, Computer & Systems MS, Electrical MSEE, Environmental MS, Geosensing Systems Engineering and Sciences MS, Industrial MSIE/MIE/MSME, Materials Science and Engineering MS, Mechanical MS, Petroleum MSPerE/MpetE, Space Architecture MS, Subsea Engineering MS (Min. GPA 3.4)

– Hospitality Management MS (Min. GPA 3.5)

– Anthropology MA, Applied Economics MA, Athletic Training MAT, English-British & American Literature MA, Hrealth Communication MA, Political Science MA, Public Policy MPP, Public Relations Studies MA, Sociology mA, Spanish MA, Sports & Fitness Administration MA, World Culture & Literature mA (Min. GPA 3.4)

– Applied Mathematics MS, Chemistry MS, Computer Science MS, Mathematics MS/MA, Physics MS (Min. GPA 3.4)

– Nursing Administration MS, Nursing Education MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner MSN (Min. GPA 3.3)

– Social Work MSW (Min. GPA 3.3)

– Construction Management MS, Engineering Technology MS, Foresight MS, Global Retailing MS, Human Resource Development MS, Information Systems Security MS, Supply Chain & Logistics Technology MS, Technology Project Management (Min. GPA 3.3)


Nanyang Technological University – IGS PhD in Secure Community @IMI

GRE Waiver request considered

– School of Physical and Mathematical Science. Email for more information

National University of Singapore Several Programs offer waivers

Contact Faculty/School directly

Yale University – PhD in Law (needs LSAT)

– PhD in Management (substitute with GMAT)

– MS Program in Chronic Disease Epidemiology (substitute with MCAT)

– Non-Degree Visiting Assistant in Research

– Sackler/NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program


Illinois Institute of Technology Waived for applicants to professional Masters programs (Min. GPA 3.0 and Bachelors from accredited US university)

Contact for waiver request


We won’t go on searching the lengths and breaths of the university universe forprograms per individual department who waive GRE for special cases. Instead, we will leave this humongous task on you, since you naturally have your field and potential universities already zeroed in, for a more extensive research.

What is the difference between GRE Waiver and GRE Fee Waiver?

Finally, our discussion above pertains to doing away with the GRE score for application. It should not be confused by yet another form of GRE concession – GRE Fee Waiver or Reduction. The latter serves to reduce the financial burden of appearing for the GRE exam. Here are the conditions, in brief, that may make you eligible to request a GRE Fee Reduction.

This is applicable only to US citizens and resident aliens.

  • If you are in financial need:
    • College seniors who receive financial aid
    • College senior who is a dependent with an Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR) with limited parental financial contribution
    • College senior who is a self-supporting ISIR
    • Graduated and applied for financial aid, and have an ISIR
    • Unemployed and receiving unemployment compensation
    • Individuals who are applying to the National Programs in the United States.

To apply for the GRE Fee Reduction,

  • Contact financial aid office at your undergraduate or prospective graduate school
  • Financial aid office will issue you a Fee Reduction Certificate and copy of ISIR, if eligible

For further information, you are advised to refer to the ETS website for GRE Fee Reduction Program.

That covers some of basic bits about GRE Waivers. You are strongly recommended to explore the programs, within your interest, for such an exception. If in doubt, you should enquire at the graduate admissions for clear instructions.


Covid 19 and post pandemic GRE requirement changes

Updates (as of November 2021) on MS programs that don’t require or can waive GRE are shared below in the tables for MS Engineering and MS Physical Sciences programs for some of the top universities in USA. Covid 19 has affected the admission process whereby quite a few schools have either waived the GRE requirement altogether or suspended it during the pandemic phase.

MS in Engineering (Most programs have waived GRE for 2021 2022 Admission cycle)


GRE Waivers for Programs
MIT Engineering No GRE required for:

– Aeronautics and Astronautics

– Architecture

– Chemical Engineering

– Computational Science and Engineering SM

– Data, Economics, and Development Policy

– Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

– Materials Science and Engineering

– Mechanical Engineering, and more

Stanford University – Aeronautics and Astronautics

– Bioengineering

– Chemical Engineering

– Civil and Environmental Engineering

– Computer Science

– Electrical Engineering

– Mechanical Engineering, and more

University of California—Berkeley Master or Engineering, all departments
Caltech Applied Mechanics, Civil Engineering & Mechanical Engineering
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor – Electrical & Computer Engineering, and more
University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign Not required in Graduate College
University of Southern California – Aerospace Engineering

– Mechanical Engineering

– Electrical Engineering and more

The University of Texas at Austin – Engineering Management

– Mechanical Engineering

– Software Engineering

Columbia University Optional for 2022 for MS Engineering
University of Pennsylvania Optional for 2022-2023 but recommended


Graduate Physical Sciences Programs

School GRE Waived Programs
MIT – MS Physics waived for 2022

– MS Chemistry

– MS Mathematics

– MS Biology

Harvard University – MS Physics

– MS Chemistry

– MS Applied Mathematics

– MS Biology and related fields, and more

Stanford University – MS Physics

– MS Chemistry

– MS Mathematics

– MS Biology, and more

Caltech No GRE for all Science Programs
Princeton Optional for 2021 and 2022
UC Berkeley Not required now. For admission for 2023 and beyond, no decision has been made.
Cornell University GRE recommended but not required
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign GRE is optional
Yale University GRE is optional or not required
University of Michigan Ann Arbor GRE is not required


For other programs like Business and related degrees that usually require either a GMAT or a GRE, we recommend this article (coming soon) on top MBA with GMAT/GRE waivers.


Meanwhile, here are a few related links to keep you busy.

Also read TOEFL IELTS Waiver for the top universities abroad

Sources: 1, 2

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

8 thoughts on “GRE Waiver for the top universities”

  1. I have low profile in my past like in 10th,12th and in graduation my mark is not good 60_70% with nice score in gre can I able to get top mba colleges in world

  2. Hello Sir,
    How much does my Cgpa matter for MS, because it isn’t much. My gre mark is just above 300. I’ve a little experience in the field I’m applying to (i.e. Data science). I’ve done one project. Is it important to have more experience.. like, would you suggest doing an internship in the software field.. or will this be enough to put on my resume- along with “national basketball player accolades” and “Person of Indian Origin”(U.S.A).

  3. Hi..this is an important information for my daughter. She wants to study abroad near future. This year she is preparing for CAT. Thanks.

  4. Hi ,

    I am planning to pursue MEM degree from the US and going to write my GRE in a few days.
    I have 2.6 yrs work experience in IT field where I realized I have an edge for management as well, hence the decision.
    As I have a STEM background, I do not have exposure about the MEM course and also concerned about future job prospects .
    Can you please help me?


  5. Hi
    I am NandaKumar. I am currently pursuing 3rd year CSE UG program with 7.7 CGPA (at present).
    Its my desire to pursue my MS in universities like MIT,HARVARD,STANFORD.
    Does GRE score alone is enough for getting admission in those universities or whatelse needed .
    What are the steps should I need to take from now to get an admission there .I have still one and half year to plan for it.

    It would be very much helpful for me ,if you say what all the procedures or the things I need to do to shape myself to enter into the wisdom of my dream

  6. Hi,
    I am currently working in the US based MNC and wants to go for International MBA. I am having experience of 2 years. But I am having a dilemma of what should I go for- GMAT or GRE. As of now, many of the universities have started accepting the GRE scores for MBA programmes. If I appear for GRE, I would get a chance to apply for B-schools as well as for MS in contrast to GMAT where I ‘ll be limited to applying for B-schools only. I am a mediocre guy with academics in the range of 75-85%.

  7. @Siddharth / NandaKumar: Apart from a test score (GRE or GMAT) there are other requirements for an international MBA programs. Read this:

    @Sandeep: Academic grades (CGPA, percentage etc) matter a lot for MS because many applicants have very little or no experience why applying. That leaves very little for Admissions Officers to evaluate.

    @Upasana: Good luck to your daughter!

    @Sanjana: Read up the details on the official sites, look at the syllabus, and talk to some current MEM students to find out more.

    @Aditya: GRE or GMAT is the easier decision to make (try out a sample questions for both and see which one is easier / more difficult). Decide on whether you want to go for before that. MS and MBA will take you on different career tracks.

  8. When does one apply for GRE waiver in the application process?
    I am guessing not with the application submission as it would render all effort waste.
    So, do one need to email for GRE waiver to the admission office before submission? Any idea.


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