Caltech Eliminates GRE Requirement for One Year due to the Pandemic

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Caltech Eliminates GRE

With many restraints brought forward by the Covid-19 pandemic especially in terms of test-taking and university admissions, the California Institute of Technology announced on Thursday (17th September) that all divisions of the institute will be suspending the requirement of GRE score submission for all candidates for at least a year. A written statement released by the institute stated about Caltech’s decision to eliminate GRE. It also highlighted that although the GRE was historically used as a component of evaluation for admission to graduate courses, in view of the current pandemic situation, applicants are not required to submit their GRE scores for admission in any division of Caltech.

Fiona Hudson, Harold A. Rosen Professor of Physics and Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy at Caltech said that Caltech’s academic leaders decided that it was inappropriate to continue the GRE requirements due to the social distancing norms and reduction of opportunities for students to take the exam. 

“While they can in principle be taken at home, the computer platform and camera requirements limit this option to students with enough money to purchase the specialized equipment, which we consider to be overtly discriminatory based on socioeconomic status.”, Hudson added.

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GRE scores will not be mandatory for any of Caltech’s 31 graduate programs for 2021-2022 as per the statement. A total of 29 of them have made the scores optional while providing assurance that there will be no impact on the applicant’s admission portfolio if the scores are not provided.

According to Doug Rees, the Dean of Graduate Students, Roscoe Gilkey Dickinson Professor of Chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Caltech, there were concerns over the use of standardised testing in college admissions even before the pandemic. 

“Barriers to taking the GREs during the pandemic have magnified concerns about systematic biases in standardized tests, the associated financial burden to applicants, and how well the scores are correlated with performance in graduate school,” Rees highlighted. He also added that the movement towards the evaluation of applications without the standardised exams is a silver lining to the pandemic.

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While some divisions of Caltech have eliminated the GRE score requirements for admission, others have only suspended it for one or two years. As per the statement, “a careful evaluation of the role of standardized tests in admission to Caltech going forward is part of the charge to the advisory committee of faculty, students, and staff that is being constituted to ensure the institute is identifying and attracting the best and brightest candidates from every background.”

John Grotzinger, Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology and Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair of Geological and Planetary Science Division of Caltech said that this move should be a learning experience for future policies and will be reassessed at this time in the following year.

“The COVID situation has created the basis for an easy consensus to do an experiment and see how this goes, in terms of how we will alternatively evaluate graduate admissions in the Division of Geological and Planetary Science (GPS),” Grotzinger commented.

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