Applying to many postsecondary education programs entails submitting requested test scores along with other required application materials. High school seniors normally send SAT or ACT results to the colleges they want to attend, while individuals pursuing a Master of Business Administration submit their scores from the GMAT.
Many graduate schools require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This test is similar to the SAT and ACT in that it surveys general areas of knowledge without a specific focus on specialized topics, as do the MCAT for medical students or the TOEFL for secondary speakers of English.
The GRE has three sections: Quantitative Reasoning (essentially math), Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing. Unlike most other standardized tests, it is computer-based, which allows for an adaptive structure, i.e., the difficulty of questions presented in later sections will change based on performance on the first ones. In addition to the main test, there are also GRE Subject Tests with narrower focuses.
The benefits and drawbacks of the GRE for schools and students
Like other standardized tests, the GRE provides a standard metric by which institutions can compare applicants. Its questions evaluate the taker’s verbal aptitude (e.g., recognizing relationships between words), ability to solve common math problems and writing skills, all of which are important capacities in graduate school. The GRE helps universities put together a picture of which candidates are most likely to succeed in their programs.
There are some benefits to students, too. GRE review materials are widely available and the test is well-understood. That means students can usually score well with sufficient preparation. A strong GRE score can even shore up weaknesses elsewhere in the application.
However, the GRE represents a significant cost (more than $200 for the main test as of 2018) for students on top of other application. Plus, it is only offered at specific sites and may require considerable travel.
As with any standardized test, there’s the risk of results that more accurately reflect a student’s resources for preparation than his or her actual abilities. The GRE also is more relevant to some fields than others. For example, it is probably more germane to engineering than creative writing programs.
Why some schools require the GRE and others don’t
Indeed, the most reliable indicators of whether a program requires the GRE are its academic field and its intended audience. Degrees that usually do not mandate GRE scores include Master of Fine Arts (MFA) tracks, along with executive programs designed primarily to hone existing skills. MFA students are evaluated based on their portfolios, not their test scores, while experience is more important for participants in executive programs.
In other contexts, the GRE may be subject to a waiver. That simply means it isn’t required if the student has met certain conditions. Common criteria for GRE waivers include:
- Reaching a specified GPA threshold as an undergraduate
- Having another graduate degree, like a juris doctor or a master’s in a different field
- Possessing extensive relevant professional experience
- Submitting scores from a comparable test, like the GMAT for business students
For now, the GRE is still required by many institutions and programs. When applying to a program that does not require the GRE, always be sure to perform due diligence on the institution offering the degree.
A for-profit college or university is more likely than a not-for-profit one to eliminate GRE requirements in admissions. On paper, schools in both of these categories grant the same degrees, but they’re not usually perceived equally by employers. Degrees earned at not-for-profits, like most state universities and many private counterparts, are generally more prestigious, since the schools are more committed to learning than to turning a profit.
How much the prestige of the degree-granting institution matters will vary from one student to the next. Education is an investment in your future, and you have to consider what you are getting in return for your tuition. That means understanding the skills you will acquire by earning the degree, the network you will have access to and what others will think about your credentials. Institutional repute can be an important consideration.
The GRE at UCR: What you should know
While many online programs don’t require the GRE, the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) evaluates the test in all admissions. This helps ensure that every student admitted to the program has the maximum chance for success.
An online engineering degree from UCR provides all the rigor of a traditional on-campus program, without the required residency or long commute. The UCR MSE is a 100 percent online format and it even allows for expedited completion in as few as 13 months, making it quicker than the typical two-year window of conventional master’s degree offerings.
MSE candidates can select from a variety of specializations, including data science, environmental engineering and materials at the nanoscale (nanoengineering). Regardless of selected concentration, every student completes a set of core requirements that build expertise in the technical aspects of engineering as well as in managerial competencies. Graduates are well-prepared to lead engineering teams in their chosen fields.
Along with the GRE, applicants should submit transcripts indicating completion of a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. Evidence of significant real-world experience in engineering is also required. Professional certifications and letters of recommendation are also factored in.
The UCR MSE provides a clear path to a respected online engineering degree. Visit the program overview page today to learn more about admissions. By answering a few simple questions there, you can receive a copy of our program brochure with additional details on the curriculum.