For some graduate schools, they are no longer requiring the math GRE subject nor the regular GRE due to the pandemic. On UC Berkeley's admissions site, for example, they write that

Is the General GRE exam or Mathematics Subject GRE exam required?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we plan to make the GRE exams optional for the Fall 2022 graduate admissions application. You may still submit GRE scores; however, an absence of GRE scores will not negatively impact your application.

Taking this statement literally, it seems like there should be no reason to take any GRE examination (at least for Berkeley, and I've found similar statements for other schools). But if that's the case, why do they still accept it? I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on this. Thanks!


Take them at their word that not submitting it won't be a negative. On the other hand if you think you will get an exceptional score then it might be a small positive factor. But, no longer a large factor since many applicants won't be submitting it so there is no comparative advantage in that alone.

The reason they still accept it is that the overall evaluation of an applicant is a broad assessment of the likelihood of success of the person. Things that point to that are a help, even if they aren't required and even if they are a bit unique to a candidate. It isn't, normally, an algorithm that makes the determination, but a "good feeling" about how the student is likely to do.

Moreover, for some applicants, "accept" is the obvious choice. For others, "reject". Only for those in the middle, for which seats might be available do small things potentially make a big difference.

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