COVID-19 has forever changed the lives of billions of people across the planet, giving birth to various paradigm shifts in the collective human psyche, systems that have been in place for decades, and the way we approach our lives. Coupled with the advent of the internet and smartphones, the pandemic has led to rapid digitalization in many corners of the globe. We order our groceries online, our clothes online, and in a way, even order products online that feed our aspirations.
The dream to study abroad, the aspirations of exploring a new country, and actualising potential, has been a collectively familiar dream for many students. During this pandemic, the emergence of online classes and online interviews ensured that the aspirations and dreams of thousands of students did not come to a complete standstill. While these changes have been beneficial to many, others who have been less privileged have had to adapt at frighteningly steep rates. Professors, students and university admins alike have all been forced to make changes in order to prevent the transmission of the virus, and ensure everyone’s safety.
One of the biggest changes that has been introduced in this regard, has been the decision to offer waivers for standardized test scores such as the GRE and the GMAT, in terms of applying for higher education in universities. At a certain level, this decision seems to be a welcome one. After all, the journey of preparing for a standardized test, paying a coaching institute, taking the test, and finally getting your scores can be highly stressing for many. In a pandemic-riddled world, this journey can be even more stressing.
However, if we dig deeper, we can find that the underlying problems of this decision have far-reaching consequences for many students’ dreams. Are standardized tests really important?
Are standardized tests important?
Typically, universities assess the applications of candidates by looking at multiple aspects of their profile, namely:
- Academic Performance
- Work Experience and Projects
- Statement of Purpose and Letter of Recommendations
- Finally, your Standardized Test Scores.
At this juncture, let us assume that you want to apply for Program X. Program X requires a certain number of years of work experience in the concerned field, a certain GPA, and a certain GRE score. Meeting all or most of these requirements will ensure that you will be able to keep up with the rigour of the coursework, learn effectively, and prove to be, in crude terms, a good investment of the university’s time and resources.
Now, let us say you apply for the program, meeting the work experience criteria but not the academic criteria. You have your SOPs and LORs ready, and have exceeded the minimum GRE score required by 2 points. What are the odds that you will be chosen, over an applicant with an almost identical profile but has not taken the GRE? Those are odds that are overwhelmingly in your favour.
If you noticed, your academic background, your work experience, projects and LORs, are all extremely subjective. The underlying timeline of your life, the socio-economic factors that have influenced your being, and the spirit of the individual you are, cannot be accurately compared with another individual’s profile in order to determine who should be chosen for the program. This is why standardized tests are important, for they offer an objective viewpoint to your profile. They provide a holistic angle to profile evaluation, and offer supplementary data points that illuminate your capabilities of being able to handle the program.
Take a look at the following information regarding feasible GRE Verbal and Quant Scores for various streams:
Mean AWA Score
Humanities and Arts
We reiterate: GRE scores are utilised by universities as a measure of raw ability. They help universities identify the candidates who are academically prepared for graduate-level studies.
Your GRE Scores will be valid for 5 years, and you can also defer admits to more viable timeframes. To know more about what a ‘good GRE Score’ looks like, and the minimum GRE scores required by some top universities, head on to this link.
Who can receive the waiver?
A waiver isn’t a free pass for everyone looking to apply for a certain program in a university. They are simply paths to using alternate means of profile evaluation, where other proofs of analytical, verbal, and academic ability come into the fore. The reasoning of the universities (apart from the obvious safety concerns due to the pandemic) is that standardized test scores are simply not needed during a time like this, and that other indicators of academic abilities and success can be utilised for candidate selection. Let us quickly look at some of the most common criteria that universities are using for candidate selection.
- Exceptional Academic Performance.
- An Essay stating your Reasons for claiming the waiver.
- Prior Professional Certifications within the subject areas of the program.
- A Certain Number of years of Work Experience in a demanding job role that proves your calibre.
It is quite obvious from the above that apart from the essay criterion, all the other criteria describe exceptional candidates, the weight of their profiles being enough to power through program applications. This begs the question – What about students with relatively average profiles? What can they do to stand out?
That’s right, they can use standardized test scores to their advantage. These scores offer to lift huge amounts of pressure off of factors they no longer have control over. Their academic mistakes, professional errors, achievements, projects, and certifications all come into sharp focus. Why would a candidate lessen their chances of mitigating this pressure, by applying for a GRE waiver? Unless they are severely immunocompromised, or have exceptional profiles since high school, candidates should avoid the temptation to apply for these waivers.
This year, we have seen hundreds of student applications be rejected solely due to the absence of GRE Scores. The programs that the students applied for offered GRE Waivers, but empirical data showed that those with similar profiles but with the added data points of test scores, were more likely to be selected for the program.
The crux seems to be that for the average candidate, NOT writing the GRE is a sure-fire way to get rejected.
As experts in the EdTech field with over a decade of experience in the GRE and other standardized tests, we can assure you that having a good score will inevitably boost your profile, and make it stand out. It is a filter that university selectors use to assess the quantitative and verbal abilities of thousands of students. A filter, that will make your profile shine in different ways, and will provide new perspectives to your application in the eyes of the selectors.
At Galvanize Test Prep, we believe in offering quality test prep at affordable prices. As an EdTech company, we also have tons of free resources available for students in need. Check us out here, and galvanize your journey abroad, the right way.
Here’s a video testimonial from one of our students, who describes the rollercoaster of a ride she went through by applying for programs, without GRE Scores. Her inputs may prove to be relatable to you.
We wish you all the very best in your endeavours, and urge you to stay safe, and study hard!
Written by Saahil R Bhatt.