Things to Consider About the GRE

When I started my graduate school search, I had decided that I would take the GRE, or graduate record exam, without much thought or planning. After looking into it more and looking into programs, I decided against taking the test. This was a decision I had not questioned or felt like I would have to defend until recently. While talking with some people, one asked me why I had chosen not to take it. Without paying much attention to my answer, he said that he would take it because it gives unlimited choices. His comment left me questioning myself and, honestly, made me feel like I may have really messed up by deciding not to take it. If you’re just starting your graduate school search and aren’t sure whether or not you should take the GRE, consider these things:

1. Does your program of interest require it?

Depending on what you want to study, you may not need the test. For what I am interested in, most places are pretty split on the test. Some don’t require it depending on your GPA. If your program of interest does not require, check to see if any of the schools you’re considering do.

2. Is it worth it?

The GRE is not what any typical college student would define as "cheap." You must pay to take the test and you can send your scores immediately to up to four schools wherever you take the test for no additional fee. However, if you need to send scores elsewhere after you leave or if you’re applying to more than four schools, you have to pay for them to be sent. There are fee waivers for the GRE, but they do not cover the entire amount.

(Photo by Kinga Cichewicz)

3. Are you prepared?

Studying for standardized tests feels impossible but studying for the GRE is an entirely different battle. Depending on when you take it, you may also be balancing classes and other academic obligations. For me, personally, I have not taken a math class since my first semester of college and that made preparing for the test seem even more daunting.

4. Is it necessary to reach your career goals?

If the school you are absolutely in love with requires the GRE, then take it. However, if you fall in love with a school that doesn’t require it and you can get excited about a few others that don’t, do not cause yourself more stress.


Applying to graduate programs is a daunting task no matter who you are. It can leave you feeling inferior or hesitant to pursue a master’s degree, but at the end of the day all that matters is that you make the best choices for yourself. Take the advice of others as a grain of salt and find a few people who you really trust to guide you. Good luck!