With the pandemic going on, most schools have either decided to make both GRE and its subject tests optional. In all likelihood, would there be a big chance that this is the finishing hammer for the GRE, and make a lot of institutions move away from it?

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    Probably won't make a comeback anytime soon. It predicts graduate GPA and degree competition about as effectively as a well-trained RNG.
    – user133933
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 19:47
  • This is an operationally relevant question!!! ... even if non-trivial to answer. And, indeed, the questions with obvious answers are hardly worth asking? :) Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


My U.S. grad program in math had already been reducing attention to GRE subject test for years, due to its manifest uselessness for predicting success in our grad program. (I've been involved in grad admissions here almost continuously since about 1985, and have been Dir of Grad Studies in math for two stints, so I've really paid a lot of attention to this.)

Until the pandemic, we did tell our own undergrads to take the subject test GRE, since many places still did expect it. In fact, faux-ironically, until recently, we did tend to wonder why someone would not have taken the subject test GRE if they had any idea what they were doing... in terms of preparation for or application to grad school in math in the U.S.

A number of other good programs had already, in recent years, downplayed the significance of the GRE subject test score for their applications, so we ourselves had come to "wonder less" why someone might not have taken it.

With the pandemic, and the at-least-temporary vanishing of the GRE subject test, we have more-unabashedly stated that we don't care about a subject test GRE (nor any other part of the GRE).

I would speculate that other math grad admissions in the U.S. have also figured out how to not pretend that the subject test score is a good predictor of success... all the more that it (documentably, both anecdotally and other) never was, and the last year or so has necessitated making decisions without it.

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    You have convinced me to retract my vote for "opinion based." Thanks! Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 23:44
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    @AnonymousPhysicist, :)... there is an unsurprising inertia in these things... but/and in happy cases there does come a tipping point. Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 0:06
  • At the program I went to, the subject test GRE wasn't required. I have heard professors at other universities say that they don't care about GRE scores because they think that students cheat. But if it is so clear that it is useless, why is it so prevalent in the first place? Is it because "everyone else is doing it"?
    – Mehta
    Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 6:01

This will vary by institution in the US. Some will return, others not. It is likely to depend on how the experience of making predictions about success of applicants turns out without it. If the other indicators prove adequate there will be little pressure to return.

But, I suspect that many, if not most, will return to using it since, for the institution, it give some information at little cost or effort.

Hard to predict the future, of course.

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    This is a good answer: despite the fact that the GRE is not a good predictor of graduate student success, there are a lot of people who are used to using it as a cut off, and the key point from Buffy's answer is that "it gives some information at little cost or effort."
    – JHare
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 22:33
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    @AnonymousPhysicist, please don't try to manage me. I don't answer to your whims. Sorry.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 23:09
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    Another factor to consider: the GRE tests (especially subject tests, but also the general one) have increasingly been criticized from a diversity perspective- here's an example from physics (physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/PT.3.4626). I suspect that this pressure will only continue after the pandemic, and unless departments can really make an affirmative case for keeping it that the path of least resistance will become to move away, at least for the time being.
    – Rococo
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 23:19
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    Irrespective of their use in admissions, I actually found taking the GRE and the math subject test to be valuable. Humbling, though.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 23:21
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    @AnonymousPhysicist, it is, however, insulting. Not the first instance.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 23:50

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