The 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.
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.
- Masters degree without GRE or GMAT – MS in USA
- Top MS in Engineering Management (MEM, MSEM) programs with low GRE score
- Top MBA in USA, Canada, Europe with GMAT 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Average GRE scores for top MS Universities in USA
- Average GRE scores for top MBA programs at business schools
- GRE score conversion to GMAT
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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)
|School||GRE Waivers for Programs|
|MIT Engineering||No GRE required for:
– Aeronautics and Astronautics
– 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
– 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.
- GRE Preparation Guide
- Best GRE Online Courses
- Free GRE Practice Tests
- Free Online GRE AWA Essay Grader
- Best GRE Books
- GRE blogs