Do You Need to Take the GRE for a Ph.D. Program?

Many doctoral programs no longer require the GRE for admission. Learn more about how to earn a Ph.D. without GRE scores.
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  • Many graduate schools no longer require GRE scores for Ph.D. programs.
  • A good GRE score may make you more competitive at a test-optional school.
  • Ph.D. programs that don't require GRE scores often prioritize other admission requirements.

Typical Ph.D. admission requirements include recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, and a resume.

You may also need Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Standardized tests such as the GRE predict your graduate school readiness and help master's and doctoral programs evaluate applicants.

Standardized tests can feel stressful, though, especially if you last took one many years ago. Fortunately, some programs now waive the GRE for Ph.D. admissions. Top reasons for waiving this requirement include the exam's high price and its content not aligning with some majors.

Keep reading to learn more about popular doctoral and Ph.D. programs that don't require GRE scores and when you should consider taking the GRE.

Featured Online Doctorate Programs

10 Popular Doctorates and Ph.D. Programs That Don't Require GRE Scores

You can find GRE-optional Ph.D. and doctoral programs in many academic fields. These programs may instead require other application materials, such as an academic writing sample and curriculum vitae.

Ph.D. programs without GRE requirements may still recommend submitting scores. Good scores can help you stay competitive if your application falls short in other areas. Make sure to check all application requirements closely before applying to any doctoral programs.

1. Doctorate in Business Administration

A Ph.D. in business or a doctor of business administration (DBA) can offer specializations in areas like leadership, strategic management, and tourism management. Some online programs let you graduate in just three years.

Some doctoral business programs require or recommend the GMAT — a business-oriented admissions exam — instead of the general GRE. GMAT questions better assess your ability to do well in a graduate business program.

Featured Doctorate in Business Programs

Popular DBA Programs Without GRE

2. Doctorate in Computer Science

A Ph.D. in computer science prepares you for careers in academia, computer science research, and leadership. You'll take courses in subjects like artificial intelligence, computer networking, and social computing.

Ph.D. in computer science programs with no GRE requirements tend to look for applicants with strong resumes, impressive portfolios, and compelling recommendation letters. You can also impress admissions officers with a persuasive statement of purpose.

Featured Doctorate in Computer Science Programs

Popular Computer Science Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

3. Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Consider doctorate in criminal justice programs if you want to work as a correctional supervisor or criminology professor. First-year classes may include seminars in police administration and police socialization.

Although you can find many criminal justice Ph.D. programs with no GRE requirements, it's a good idea to submit scores if you need departmental funding and other institutional financial aid.

Featured Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs

Popular Criminal Justice Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

4. Doctorate in Data Science

A Ph.D. can take your data science career to the next level with classes in machine learning, big data, and probability and statistics. Research classes prepare you for the lengthy dissertation process. Other graduation requirements include teaching undergraduates.

Admissions officers prefer applicants with a bachelor's or master's in mathematics, computer science, or engineering.

Featured Doctorate in Data Science Programs

Popular Data Science Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

5. Doctorate in Education

Consider a Ph.D. in education or a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree if you want to teach the next generation of teachers and school administrators. Top programs let you select an emphasis, such as learning and mind sciences or school organization and educational policy.

Applying to an education Ph.D. without GRE scores means your recommendation letters, teaching experience, statement of purpose, and academic record will likely carry the heaviest weight.

Featured Doctorate in Education Programs

Popular Education Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

6. Doctorate in Healthcare Administration

Hospitals and other healthcare settings require well-trained professionals to oversee operations. A doctorate in healthcare administration prepares you for this role with coursework in population health and leadership strategies.

Admissions officers look for applicants with strong undergraduate grades and shining recommendation letters. Other requirements may include an interview with department faculty.

Featured Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Programs

Popular Health Administration Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

7. Doctorate in Nursing

Like many Ph.D. programs that don't require the GRE, doctorate in nursing programs feature several concentrations for you to choose from. Your program — a Ph.D. in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) — may offer concentrations in health promotions, health outcomes, or nursing education. Your program may take less time to complete if you already hold an MSN.

Nursing programs not requiring the GRE for Ph.D. admissions may use an undergraduate GPA cutoff and interview. Other application materials may include a statement of purpose and a resume.

Featured Doctorate in Nursing Programs

Popular Nursing Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

8. Doctorate in Pharmacy

All licensed pharmacists must hold a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Core classes in Pharm.D. programs include the principles of drug development, bioanalytical methods, and molecular spectroscopy. You'll also complete a research project and dissertation.

Admissions officers will review your undergraduate transcripts, resume, recommendation letters, and essays.

Featured Pharm.D. Programs

Popular PharmD Programs Without GRE

9. Doctorate in Psychology

Top doctorate in psychology programs — whether you're getting a Ph.D. in psychology or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) — let you choose a specialization, such as cognition, developmental science, or clinical psychology.

All degree-seekers take introductory coursework in statistics for psychology. You'll earn your Ph.D. or Psy.D. after you successfully defend your dissertation.

Featured Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Popular Psychology Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

10. Doctorate in Social Work

The best doctorate in social work programs — either a Ph.D. in social work or a doctor of social work (DSW) — take about four years and require classes in areas like professional social work issues, correlation and regression, and qualitative data analysis. You may also need to complete a teaching practicum if you wish to become a social work professor.

DSW and social work Ph.D. programs with no GRE typically require a master's degree, professional experience, and coursework in statistics.

Featured Doctorate in Social Work Programs

Popular Social Work Ph.D. Programs Without GRE

How Do Ph.D. Programs Use GRE Scores?

Graduate schools use GRE scores for a variety of reasons, including as a way to judge your academic readiness.

Some schools use the GRE to make admission decisions, some use it for merit-based financial aid, and some require it but don't weigh it heavily, said Ben Paris, a tutor and test prep expert with over 25 years of experience. Paris also served as curriculum director at Kaplan Test Prep.

A high GRE score suggests you're well prepared for the rigor of a graduate program.

But not all Ph.D. programs use GRE scores the same way.

According to Paris, Programs may consider different parts of the GRE and not others. For example, English grad programs care less about your Quantitative score, and engineering grad programs focus less on Verbal.

Before you apply to any grad schools, consider reaching out and asking how the program uses GRE scores to evaluate applicants.

Asking your target programs about how they use the GRE gives you helpful information and demonstrates interest, which helps your application, said Paris.

Should You Submit GRE Scores to Test-Optional Programs?

Whether you should submit GRE scores to test-optional grad schools depends on many factors, including how high you're likely to score and how competitive your programs are.

Find out if your program has competitive admissions, recommended Paris. For competitive programs, the GRE can be an advantage if you've got good scores that are higher than those of typical admitted students.

A high GRE score can also help negate a less-than-impressive undergraduate GPA.

Students with lower GPAs especially benefit from submitting stellar GRE scores, as those scores can compensate for low grades, said Paris.

Finally, your academic field can affect whether you should submit GRE scores. An excellent Quantitative score can set you apart if you're applying to STEM programs, whereas high Verbal and Analytical Writing scores can boost an application to a humanities or liberal arts Ph.D. program.

Many grad schools publish the average GRE scores of admitted applicants on their websites. Knowing what other students scored can help you determine whether to submit your own GRE scores.

Look up scores of admitted students, advised Paris. That will give you a sense if your scores are competitive or if you should invest in more preparation for a higher score.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ph.D. Programs That Don't Require GRE Scores

What is a good GRE score for a Ph.D. program?

A good GRE score will depend on the expectations of the Ph.D. programs you're applying to. Some program websites may explicitly state what they consider to be a good GRE score. They may also report the average GRE scores for the latest incoming class.

You'll want to meet or exceed any GRE score a Ph.D. program uses for admission purposes. A score within this range can make your application more competitive.

When should you take the GRE for a Ph.D. program?

You should take the GRE well before your application deadlines, ideally at least 1-3 months in advance. ETS lets you take the exam once every three weeks, giving you many opportunities to improve your score if needed.

Can you get into a Ph.D. program with low GRE scores?

You can get into a Ph.D. program with low GRE scores if you submit strong transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters.

That said, you'll need every advantage when applying to competitive Ph.D. programs. Use GRE practice tests to identify your areas of weakness and create a long-term study plan.

What is the minimum GRE score required for a Ph.D.?

There is no universal GRE score cutoff for a Ph.D. Although some doctoral programs may require a minimum GRE score for admission, many do not (or don't require GRE scores at all).

Some programs may require a combined minimum Verbal and Quantitative score, while others may require only a minimum Verbal or Quantitative score. In general, you can expect more competitive Ph.D. programs to maintain a higher GRE score cutoff. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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