Should I take the GRE?

It is common for international students to ask if a graduate program requires GRE or GMAT scores for admission. Some even ask which programs do not. It surprises us that students would apply to a grad program because an entrance exam is not required. However we understand our expectations of graduate school applicants may be different from students’. So before we tell you if you should take the GRE or not, let us explain the right reasons for applying to grad school.

Why should you go to grad school?

Enrolling in a graduate program-including certificate, master’s, and doctorate programs-can be a beneficial and life-changing experience. However grad school is a challenge. Students devote great amounts of time, effort, and energy to the pursuit of a graduate degree. To ensure success, students should enroll in grad school for the right reasons. A grad student should be in a graduate program because she or he is passionate about the subject matter, focused on a clear career goal that the program will help him or her achieve, or for both reasons!

Passion for the subject matter helps ensure grad school success by motivating the student to focus on course work and put forth the best effort. Passionate students typically produce the highest quality work and develop the best relationships with faculty. Applying to a graduate program that interests you increases your chances of becoming a happy, successful grad student.

Another strong motivation for pursuing graduate study is career advancement. For example, an MBA might qualify one student for a promotion with a current employer. Another student may be a teacher who knows he or she will be more attractive to employers after earning a Master of Education degree. Clear professional goals are another way to motivate grad students to excel at their work. If you are applying to a graduate program because it will advance your career, you are applying for the right reasons!

Back to the original question: should I take the GRE or not?

Yes. If the graduate program you are interested in requires GRE or GMAT scores for admission, and you are passionate about the subject area or you feel the program would help you professionally, you should take the required exam. We understand tests present some challenges. For example, they can be difficult for non-native speakers of English. In addition, scheduling a test date, studying for the exam, and requesting score reports can take a long time and cause a student to miss application deadlines if not done early enough. However applying to the right graduate program is worth the time and effort needed to meet admissions requirements.

Grad school is hard. A graduate program will present much tougher tasks than the GRE. Reading assignments can take hours to complete. You will conduct extensive research for projects. Finally, a thesis or comprehensive exam could be the biggest challenges of a student’s academic life!

Considering the challenge that grad school presents, it is much more important to focus on choosing a graduate program that meets your goals and interests, instead of finding a way to get into grad school without taking an entrance exam. Even if a program does not require GRE or GMAT scores, students should still expect the courses to be rigorous and challenging. Students who apply to a program for the right reasons will be better prepared to succeed.

Ben Shupe, Eastern Tennessee State University