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Only 13 of more than 125 graduate programs at the University of California, Berkeley, will require the Graduate Record Examination for admission next year, the university announced this week.

Most departments eliminated GRE requirements last year due to difficulties applicants had in taking the exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the majority of Berkeley’s departments this year again chose not to require the GRE.

Berkeley, like most universities with many graduate programs, leaves the decision on admissions requirements to the individual departments. But the change at Berkeley -- at a time when most applicants could take the GRE -- is significant.

“I’m thrilled that so many of our departments elected to eliminate the GRE requirement in their admissions process,” said a statement from Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate Division at Berkeley. “The research clearly shows that there are significant race, gender and socioeconomic disparities in GRE scores. We are looking forward to assessing how removing the GRE admissions requirement allows us to develop better assessments and improve our holistic approach to graduate admissions."

While Berkeley has not required departments to drop the GRE, it has engaged in a number of activities to promote more of an emphasis on diversity in graduate education. Berkeley has sponsored workshops on best practices for conducting holistic admissions reviews, developing admissions rubrics and analyzing research on the GRE’s effectiveness in predicting graduate student success. Berkeley has also launched the Graduate Diversity Leadership Academy, a yearlong effort designed to help departments focus on the domains of admissions, belonging, climate and data for equity.

FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, the group that is leading campaigns against the SAT and ACT, is also opposed to the GRE.

A list of more than 400 STEM programs that do not require the GRE has been growing and attracting attention. It includes programs at Harvard, Yale and Stanford Universities, among others.

The programs at Berkeley that will continue to require the GRE are not all in the sciences. The programs are: agricultural and resource economics (Ph.D.), biostatistics (M.A. and Ph.D.), Buddhist studies (Ph.D.), demography (Ph.D. and M.A.), East Asian languages and cultures (Ph.D.), epidemiology (Ph.D. and M.S.), global studies (M.A.), health policy (Ph.D.), public policy (Ph.D.), sociology (Ph.D.), and sociology and demography (Ph.D.). In addition, programs in the business school require applicants to submit either the GRE or the Graduate Management Admission Test.

Alberto Acereda, associate vice president of global higher education at Educational Testing Service, said via email it was a mistake to drop the GRE.

“At ETS, we know that [admissions] requires reviewing candidates through a holistic admissions process, and this simply cannot be done fairly without the only independent, objective, research-based measure -- the GRE General Test,” he said. “The GRE test does not predict program completion; this is more often affected by unforeseeable circumstances like health and life changes that no assessment can predict. The skills measured by the GRE test unveil a prospective graduate student’s strengths while also shedding light on the areas where they will need support from their future graduate programs to foster their development and success.”

He added, “When standardized testing is removed from the admissions processes of graduate and professional programs, the other subjective components of an application packet wield even greater influence. From the potential for grade inflation to the connections needed to obtain strong recommendation letters to the access and opportunity for research opportunities -- candidates from underrepresented backgrounds are disadvantaged. The GRE test provides every student with the opportunity to demonstrate their graduate-ready skills on a level playing field that enables them to compete equitably.”

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