I'm a Master's student in physics and I will be applying to PhD programs in the US and Canada (and other places, but that's not relevant for this question) for Fall 2022. Generally, I understand that I need to take the GRE and the Physics GRE and submit these scores as a part of my application. However, some schools decided to waive this requirement before the pandemic, and because of the pandemic for many of my friends who applied for the 2021 admissions cycle, they were not required to take the GRE or the Physics GRE. For the 2022 admissions cycle, many places in the US and Canada have made it optional or 'not required.'

I would like to know how my application would be viewed if I send my Physics GRE scores. My main motivation to do so is because there are some subjects that I have not done very well on, and doing well on the Physics GRE might help balance that. However, some schools on my list want me to 'explain why submitting the Physics GRE score is beneficial to my application' so it's almost like they don't want applicants to take the test? But their formal policy is still that it's 'optional.' So I'm very confused how to proceed.

tl;dr Will I be adversely affected if I choose to send in GRE and Physics GRE scores, or would I be worse off by not sending them in?

1 Answer 1


If the system is fair, which I can't guarantee, if the GRE is optional then it won't be used, formally, to distinguish between students. But it is hard to say what goes on in the minds of individuals on a committee.

But in particular, it shouldn't (in a fair system) be held against you if you don't submit. That does make the other factors more important in their decision, of course, since they have a bit less information to go on.

If your other factors are superlative and your GRE's are not, then don't submit them. But if you think you need a boost and your GRE's are great then submit them. But I can make no guarantee. Mostly people try to be fair, but the pandemic has disrupted a lot of things.

I think that some people are starting to question the predictive power of the GRE exams in choosing researchers. In the US and maybe Canada (no experience in the Great White North), letter of recommendation are probably better predictors when sent by people who know you well.

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