Atmospheric Science graduate program eliminates GRE as admission requirement

The Atmospheric Science campus
The Atmospheric Science campus.

Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science will no longer consider Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores for admission to the program. Faculty voted unanimously at their Friday meeting to remove the requirement based on their determination that the GRE is not an accurate measure of the skills needed to be a good scientist in the field.

“We anticipate this decision will lead to a higher number of strong applicants and a more diverse and representative applicant pool,” said Professor and Associate Department Head Eric Maloney, who led the effort to remove the requirement.

Prior to the vote, faculty reviewed information on which measures determine graduate school success, including resources from the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute. They found the GRE is not a good predictor of Ph.D. completion or student publication rate. The GRE, a standardized test used for graduate admissions since the 1950s, also has proven to be biased against women and people of color.

“The GRE score is biased against underrepresented minority applicants and hurts our ability to recruit a diverse student body that is representative of the U.S. population,” Maloney said. “The fact that the test is a financial and time burden on applicants also hinders the ability to create the strongest possible applicant pool.”

Because it would be unfair to students who did not submit GRE scores for financial or other reasons, the department will not consider them as an optional qualification for admission.

“Since there is no evidence that the GRE is a good predictor of graduate school success in the geosciences, and some have even argued that it has a negative correlation, it makes no sense to include it in a robust holistic review process for graduate admissions,” Maloney said. “Similarly, someone’s shoe size or birth month are not good indicators of graduate school success. We wouldn’t include those as parts of a graduate admissions process.”

The department will approach admission decisions holistically, taking into account academic preparation – including grades and strength and rigor of the applicant’s program, research experience, scholarly potential, alignment of research interests with its faculty and program, and the ability to clearly communicate long-term research goals. Letters of recommendation will continue to be a contributing factor.

CSU’s atmospheric science program is one of the top programs of its kind in the U.S. This is the latest of the department’s recent moves to diversify its student body. In January, the department was accepted into AGU’s Bridge program, which aims to improve recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduate programs.

Other geoscience programs across the U.S. have made similar decisions to forgo GRE requirements recently, including the University of Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences, which announced its #GRExit on Twitter the same day as CSU.