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Colorado School of Public Health Drops GRE Requirement

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Beginning with the current 2019-2020 application cycle, the Colorado School of Public Health is eliminating the GRE as an admission requirement for its Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) graduate programs. Immediately, applicants to the school will have the option to submit GRE scores if they feel their scores strengthen their application. Those not submitting GRE scores will not be penalized. 

The school’s leadership reached this decision to assure that a requirement to take the GRE would not pose a barrier to recruiting the most diverse student body possible.   

“It has been shown that the GRE can be a source of bias in admissions decisions and a barrier to higher education for some students,” said Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, dean of the school. “The Colorado School of Public Health is dedicated to improving health in all populations, and is committed to training a diverse workforce that can meet the health needs of diverse populations; eliminating the requirement for the GRE will help us in meeting this commitment.”

Graduate schools nationwide are moving away from the GRE and other standardized entrance exams because they serve as an applications and admissions barrier to many. The GRE and preparation for the test are not only expensive, but the test scores are unintentionally biased based on variation in scores by socioeconomic status, race, and gender. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, reports that women score on average 80 points lower than men in the physical sciences, and African Americans score 200 points lower than whites. Because of the focus on the GRE in admissions processes, this can limit schools from admitting a diverse student body.   

In addition to serving as a barrier to graduate education, studies have shown that the GRE is not a very good predictor of graduate school success. In 2015, ColoradoSPH conducted a study of the utility of GRE scores in predicting success in the school’s graduate programs. The findings were similar to the findings from a study at the Vanderbilt Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, an umbrella for various biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt. Both studies found that while the GRE had some ability to predict success in graduate school, other variables such as undergraduate GPA were better indicators of future success. 

“ColoradoSPH data show that GRE scores are weakly predictive of graduate-level performance, and students who had low GRE scores were often very successful in their coursework and subsequent careers,” said Lori Crane, PhD, ColoradoSPH’s associate dean for academic affairs. “We regard evidence of an applicant’s commitment to discovering and eliminating threats to health, including the underlying social factors that lead to health inequities, to be far more valuable judging candidates than performance on a standardized test.” 

At the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where the Colorado School of Public Health’s Dean’s office is located, the Graduate School eliminated its GRE requirement in 2016, leaving it to the discretion of each individual program whether to require the test. 

“There was overwhelming support from the leadership of our school, across all of our departments and programs here at CU Anschutz, and also within our MPH concentrations that are offered by our school’s collaborating campuses of Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado,” added Dean Samet. “We agreed that the weight given to GRE scores in admissions is disproportionate. If we diminish reliance on the GRE and look to proven markers of achievement, such as skills and character attributes that are more predictive of doing well in public health, we will make the Colorado School of Public Health more inclusive, and also help ensure that Colorado’s public health workforce becomes more diverse to meet the growing needs in the state.”