Cornell Applied Physics eliminates GRE requirement

Stock photo of a sharpened pencil and standardized test answer sheet
By: Chris Dawson

The School of Applied and Engineering Physics (AEP) at Cornell University will no longer use Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores as part of the admissions process for the Applied Physics Ph.D. program.

After temporarily suspending the use of GRE scores in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has decided to make the change permanent.

“It became increasingly clear that high GRE scores were not predictive of success in the doctoral program. In fact, using GRE scores as a sort of gatekeeper was preventing some highly capable students from studying here,” said David Muller, the Samuel B. Eckert Professor of Engineering and acting Director of Graduate Studies.

While considering this change to their admissions requirements, AEP faculty reviewed recent studies demonstrating that the GRE showed little correlation with graduate student success and that the test can be biased against women, underrepresented minorities, and students from underserved communities. 

AEP also replaced their high-stakes written qualifying exam with a core coursework plan, as performance on the written qualifying exam was found to correlate strongly with GRE performance, and was also not correlated with, or a good predictor of, successfully completing the Ph.D. program.

Muller noted that the applied physics graduate field will continue to evaluate and refine its holistic review practices for applications to its graduate programs to ensure a fair and unbiased admissions process.

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