GRE Requirement Dropped for Over a Quarter of UCSB Graduate Departments

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Photo by Elena Zhukova

Madison Kirkpatrick
Campus Beat Reporter

Starting in the 2020-2021 application cycle, 16 out of the 56 graduate departments at UCSB have dropped the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) requirement from their application process. 

For years, many departments at UCSB have been questioning the necessity of the GRE due to a multitude of factors which could make the process of applying more difficult for students, like the cost of the exam, access to preparatory courses, and other factors. At the beginning of this year, departments were allowed to vote on whether or not they would continue to require GRE scores as a necessary component of their application process. 

Notable departments that have dropped the GRE are the Chemistry, Education, and Linguistics departments, each of which had their own reasons for dropping the exam for this upcoming batch of applicants in 2020.

“Because [the GRE] is linguistically and culturally biased … there’s no evidence to show that predicts that people will be good linguistics, it just shows who has one particular kind of brain, who got to go to certain types of schools, or who has money to pay for GRE prep,” said Anne H. Charity Hudley in a Twitter post. Hudley is the North Hall Endowed Chair in the Linguistics of African-America and a professor in the UCSB Linguistics department. 

Although there have been departments that have dropped the exam, a majority of departments still require it as a deciding factor in their application process. One notable example of such a department is the Sociology department.

Geoffrey Raymond, chair of the Sociology department and professor of sociology at UCSB, acknowledges the skepticism regarding using the GRE as an indicator of student success, but expresses how “faculty finds aspects of it informative.“

“We have long been aware of and taken into account skepticism about the GRE’s utility as a predictor of academic success and strong correlations with various forms of inequality/privilege,” said Raymond.  

However, Raymond expressed that applicants weren’t solely evaluated on their GRE scores, and were instead evaluated in a holistic manner.

“[The Department is] one that includes the score as part of a ‘holistic review’ that focuses on student materials including but not limited to grades, writing samples, letters of recommendation, public service, research experiences, program fit, contributions to overall diversity, and so on,” explained Raymond when questioned on how the department reviews their applicants.

The Atlantic published an article in 2016 regarding the drawbacks of requiring the GRE. English professor Christian Vasquez studied for the GRE on his own for several months because he wasn’t able to afford professional prep. His test results were not what he expected and he did not feel that they were good enough to submit to colleges.

Stories like Vasquez’s shed a light on the limitations standardized tests impose on disadvantaged students. Many first-generation or minority students cannot shell out money to pay for these tests and in turn, will see their chances at going to graduate school go out the window. Graduate school has become a “high-status” opportunity.

Many first-generation students find it difficult to find the motivation and resources to think about graduate school and standardized testing to pursue professional social work or therapy jobs. An over-reliance by top colleges leaves many students without the ability to pursue higher education above bachelor’s degrees.

Since this is the first year that departments have been able to drop the GRE, the impact of this decision won’t be seen for the next few years.

As mentioned before, the GRE is definitely a subject of controversy when it comes to testing student preparedness for graduate school. Dropping the requirement from departments could ultimately lead to more inclusiveness and motivation to apply for graduate schools, but time will have to tell what its effects may be.

Noe Padilla contributed reporting to this article.  

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Madison Kirkpatrick is a third-year transfer from Morgan Hill, CA. She is majoring in communication with a minor in professional writing. Her interests include photography, writing, and watching reality TV.

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