DSI Showcase: The Inherent Bias of the GRE

I was recently discussing graduate study options with a friend, who is currently finishing up her microbiology Bachelor’s and as such is scouting out possible next steps. She mentioned that while discussing with her academic advisor as to entry requirements to OSU’s graduate program, her graduate advisor noted that OSU no longer requires the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test for admittance to their program. When asked why this change was made, her academic advisor called it “A test to determine whether or not you’re a white male.”

A bold statement, particularly coming from someone with such extensive experience with the GRE test and its administration. This criticism is not isolated, however. A division at Penn State also took the step of eliminating the test, as can be read about here:


In dropping the GRE, Penn State cited the expensive test fee ($205 for the standard test), the lack of evidence showing the GRE as an accurate predictive model for academic success, and perhaps most importantly: “…[S]ignificant gaps in GRE performances by women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities made it especially difficult for them to be accepted, even though their scores sometimes dramatically underpredicted their academic performances in our program.” (Inside Higher Ed)

Indeed, this is a concern and a debate that has been raging for decades. Multiple studies have been consistently showing the same conclusion: the GRE is systemically biased. The visual below helps to summarize this:

Miller and Stassun, 2014

In short, there is a consistent trend that the GRE massively favors those who are white, male, or Asian-American. This is a strong example of systemic injustice as this test was, and still largely is, the standard for many graduate admissions programs, despite these known and clear biases. Thus, those of he preferred sociopolitical backgrounds have been having a far easier time getting into these graduate programs all because of the inherent bias in this test.

While it is likely not the intent to discriminate against these groups via the test, that is nonetheless the proven outcome. The material and circumstances of the test are wholly inappropriate as a gauge for academic prowess. Based on the other shown failings of the GRE exam, it is likely that more and more organizations will take the same steps as OSU and Penn State in dropping this test entirely from their graduate admissions criteria.



Inside Higher Ed. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/09/17/decision-penns-philosophy-department-renews-debate-about-gre

Miller, C., Stassun, K. A test that fails. Nature 510, 303–304 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7504-303a

One thought on “DSI Showcase: The Inherent Bias of the GRE

  1. I read this blog post because your title immediately captured my interest. As a female who is probably looking to take the GRE in the near future, I was completely unaware of these facts. It hurts me to know how biased this test is and how schools know it but still continue to require it.
    It is a step in the right direction (it sounds like) that OSU is not requiring it anymore and perhaps other schools are following suit. How can a test be so biased? Is it the way the female vs male brain works? I would like to dig deeper into those questions. Perhaps in the future there will be a graduate test less biased to one gender over the other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *