On eliminating the GRE requirement

We know standardized test scores aren’t strong predictors of success.

So why do we still require them?

I have been a vocal advocate for eliminating the GRE requirement for our Master’s program. And here’s why.

When our Department began requiring the GRE in 2005, we saw a plummet in the number of applicants from both Puerto Rico and Latin America.

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The GRE is a hard filter against low-income students and it perpetuates the continuing under-representation of minorities in graduate school.

In 2006 I took the GRE in San Jose, Costa Rica.

This involved an hour walk, a 2 hour boat ride, a 6 hour bus ride, an overnight stay in a sketchy hotel, a taxi ride to the wrong testing center, a frantic call to the U.S. using my last phone card minutes, a nearly fatal taxi ride to the right testing center. And a few minutes to breathe.

Not to mention the cost.

The test (and travel) cost me a month’s minimum wage work at a local hotel.

This experience is not just typical in Latin America. It’s common in the U.S .

The GRE currently offers a 50% fee reduction program for U.S. citizens and residents who can demonstrate financial need. But even with the reduction we’re still talking $100 for the General test and another $100 for a Subject test.

That’s not counting additional score reports. And let’s just not mention the cost of retaking tests.

Anything that stacks the cards against minorities is bullshit in my book. And I’m calling it on the GRE.

I’m not the first to say so either. 

Miller and Stassun (2014) note that “the GRE is a better indicator of sex and skin color than of ability and ultimate success”.

I’m excited to say our Department has eliminated the GRE requirement for our Master’s program.

We are adopting evaluation methods that are based on other traits in order to recruit more diverse graduate students.

Instead of looking at a test score, we are scheduling in-depth interviews and opportunities to interact with prospective students at conferences (talk with me at ESA! and the Caribbean Biodiversity Congress in Santo Domingo!).

Students don’t fit into boxes and we need to recognize this. Because we all benefit from diversity.

#ActionOverWords

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