In the US, many PhD programs require applications to submit the results of one of the GRE subject tests. For example, almost every (serious) PhD program in mathematics that I've seen requires it. However, when looking at the admissions webpage of some programs, there sometimes seems to be some kind of grey area when it comes to the subject test.
For example, on Harvard's webpage for the mathematics PhD program, it is written that:
The Department requires all applicants to submit GRE Mathematics Subject Test scores. Applicants should check on the ETS website for test dates in their area to insure the scores will be submitted before the application deadline.
So far so good, and if they left it at that, the message would seem to be: "you have to submit the GRE subject test, otherwise your application will be incomplete and rejected outright". However, it goes on to say:
While the admissions committee reviews all applications submitted by the deadline, missing math subject test scores are one less data point available to evaluate the application. Depending on the applicant pool and the strength of the application materials, the missing subject test scores may put the application at a disadvantage.
How should one interpret this? Does it mean:
- "We thank you for the $105 donation, but your application lacks critical information and will almost certainly be rejected"; or
- "Your application will be considered, provided it somehow demonstrates that you have a sufficiently strong mathematics background to succeed in our program"?
One one hand, it seems possible that they would want to "consider" applications without the GRE subject test, in that they receive the admission fee and that they can discard the application with very little time and effort (after all, they said the GRE was necessary). On the other hand, it seems silly that Harvard should reject an applicant who, by all accounts, seems to be this generation's Terence Tao, for the simple reason that he did not take the GRE subject test.