Why don’t most graduate schools in Eurasia and Ocenia accept/impose GRE?

Suppose, someone completed his bachelor degree 10 years ago, or, someone had bad grades in the bachelor’s, he can still manage to get into a graduate research program if he can demonstrate a good GRE score.

On the contrary, non-GRE schools do not offer such advantages to the applicants.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:18

4 Answers 4


The GRE general test covers college-level vocabulary and high-school mathematics. The GRE subject tests in specific disciplines have more relevance to their specific fields, but are also disappearing with time. They’ve shown to correlate only with academic performance in coursework. So their value as a predictive tool is limited.

Why aren’t they more widely required? In part because they’re not widely administered outside of the US—at least nowhere near as they are in the US. The tests are US-based, and the admissions processes that developed in other countries did not base themselves around testing. So there’s not an inherent reason to require them, nor would any PhD admissions committee use GRE scores as the reason for accepting a candidate.

Some schools may use the security measures imposed by the GRE to help combat fraud in admissions—to ensure the person who is interviewed is the person actually applying. This used to be and can still be a problem in admissions.


Many of the premises of this question are fundamentally wrong. The GRE is not a good predictor of university success and does not measure someone's ability to do research. You’re also ignoring the plethora of people in the opposite position, who demonstrate good skills on a day to day basis at school but test poorly or had a fluke or didn’t get any sleep the night before and did poorly on the GRE. My example is far more likely to be hurt than yours is to be helped, as universities primarily use the GRE as a filter to throw out applicants rather than a way to improve a bad application.

The GRE does little to predict research success, primarily correlates with test prep rather than intelligence or performance when one is not actively studying for the GRE, and does little to predict or explain graduate grades. It has a strong cultural bias in favor of white upper-class students, as evidenced by the fact that it punishes students who are Spanish/English bilingual as opposed to ones who just speak English (Bornheimer), under predicts the scores of Black students (Scott and Shaw), and exacerbates the effect of socioeconomic status in admissions (Pencock-Roman), further disadvantaging poor students.

Given all this, one obvious answer is "it's a bad test." A far better question is "why do so many universities in the US require the GRE"


Scott, R.R. & Shaw, M.E. (1985). Black and White Performance in Graduate School and Policy Implications For Using GRE Scores in Admission. Journal of Negro Education, v. 54 (no. 1), pp. 14-23.

Bornheimer, D.G. (1984). Predicting Success in Graduate School Using GRE and PAEG Aptitude Test Scores. College and University, v. 60 (no. 1) pp. 54-62.

Penncock-Roman, M. (1994). Background Characteristics and Futures Plans of High-Scoring GRE General Test Examinees, research report ETS-RR9412 submitted to EXXON Education Foundation, Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

  • ... GRE does not test ability to do research - I never said it does.
    – user84565
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:34
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    @why how can you test someone’s ability to pursue “graduate education (most likely research based)” without testing their ability to do research? Apr 17, 2018 at 18:35
  • how can you test someone’s ability ... without testing their ability to do research? - that is not my headache. Ask ETS, and thousands of schools worldwide who accept GRE.
    – user84565
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:37
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    @why I've greatly elaborated on why the exam is a bad exam in my answer. Apr 17, 2018 at 18:47
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    @why see here and here for explanations of why that's an acceptable way to respond to a question. In any event, I do tell you why. It's because the GRE is a bad test. Apr 17, 2018 at 18:53

Your premise seems to be that a good GRE score can compensate for bad grades. This is not how PhD admissions work. While a bad GRE score may sink your application, a good GRE score will not save it.

Getting to your title question: Fundamentally, the GRE is a weak predictor of success in research. The real question is why any universities accept it, not why some don't.

PhD admissions committees may receive hundreds or even thousands of applications. They may use the GRE to filter out applicants that are completely unqualified without wasting time reading their applications in detail.

Why does this reasoning not apply to Europe etc.? Firstly, the GRE is administered by a US organization and US universities are familiar with its standardized testing system, but this is not the case elsewhere. Secondly, in many places (particularly outside north america) the admissions model is different. Rather than a committee reviewing applications and admitting students to a program, individual faculty choose students that reach out to them informally first. Thus there is less need for a filter like the GRE.

  • Outside north america the admissions model is different. Individual faculty admit students and there is no committee. Thus there is less need for a filter like the GRE. - 100% untrue.
    – user84565
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:46
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    @why Sure, perhaps I over generalize. But the fundamental answer to your question is that the GRE is a bad test. You seem to dispute this though.
    – Thomas
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:54
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    The subject-test mathematics GRE exam is a multiple-choice exam. Mathematics is not generally multiple-choice. Nor is it timed. Nor can the stuff asked on the GRE subject test really reflect important mathematics, since not everything lends itself to multiple-choice format. Not to mention the conflict-of-interest of having a for-profit corporation promote such a product. And it's not well correlated with success in grad school, in my observations over 35 years. Apr 17, 2018 at 19:21
  • @paulgarrett I agree. (I took the general and math subject GREs many years ago.) I think the timing is the most difficult aspect of it. At best, a good GRE score is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being ready for a PhD.
    – Thomas
    Apr 17, 2018 at 19:31
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    @why: Not 100% untrue. Many PIs do not need to go through a committee to accept a PhD student.
    – aeismail
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:22

The simplest answer is that the GRE is administered in American English, and the test is normed on students applying to U.S. universities. I'm arguing that it can be a valid test measuring the exact subject matter that it covers, for the intended population (people seeking graduate study in the U.S.), without being valid for a wider set of uses. (Stella Biderman's answer suggests it may not be valid for U.S. use, due to test bias. I might argue that the citations are thirty years old and that ETS (Educational Testing Service) works hard to eradicate test bias, and that schools might appropriately inform their decisions based on the tests, even if they shouldn't set score cut-offs. (I do not and have not worked for the ETS, in case there are suspicions.))

Is English enough of an academic lingua franca that every academic in the world should be given a high stakes test in it? In particular, the GRE tests people on abstruse English vocabulary and on composition in English. I am not surprised that most schools outside the U.S. do not make the GRE mandatory.

It might be interesting to have a translated quantitative section or translated subject exams, though it is also valid for universities to choose what kind of information they value about applicants and make choices different than ETS.

  • "Simple" doesn't mean "correct". While the exam being in English certainly plays a role, it may as well be insignificant. Admission processes are simply completely different in the US compared to most of Europe or Australia (and this includes several English-speaking countries: the UK, Ireland, Malta, Australia obviously). In most of Europe the exam is "getting your master's degree", and doctorate admissions don't involve exams at all, English or otherwise.
    – user9646
    Apr 17, 2018 at 19:19
  • In particular, the GRE tests people on abstruse English vocabulary and on composition in English. I am not surprised that most schools outside the U.S. do not make the GRE mandatory. - How about Alglosphere countries other than USA? Also German universities accept GRE (e.g. CS program in TUMunchen, etc). Also, most research programs are offered in English regardless of the country.
    – user84565
    Apr 17, 2018 at 19:21
  • @NajibIdrissi Fair enough; but the path-dependent historical fact that other systems work differently than the U.S. isn't necessarily a strong response to "Why not?" It's sort of a, "This is how it is," rather than, "This is why it would be impractical, unnecessary, or undesirable to change." It sounds like there is room in the European system for GREs for admission to a master's degree, but it still may not be a desirable idea. Apr 17, 2018 at 21:55
  • @why Sadly, the students from other anglophone countries would lose points on the GRE for misspelling so many things, with extra "u"s and whatnot. ;) There are non-trivial differences in the connotations of words in different English dialects, which can lead to the test bias Stella Biderman mentioned; while ETS looks tries to weed out questions that have differential performance on their main audience, it would be harder to do so across all the dialects of English. More importantly, the hegemonic use of academic English is something that many universities could rightfully resist. Apr 17, 2018 at 22:00

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