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4 July 2023

7 minutes read

Is GRE Mandatory for MS in the USA

Key Takeaways

  • GRE scores are crucial but not mandatory for all MS programs in the U.S.
  • Strong academic and professional profiles can offset the absence of GRE scores.
  • Diverse MS programs offer GRE waivers, focusing on experience or portfolios.
  • GRE preparation involves understanding the test format, regular practice, and mock tests.
  • Scholarships are available without GRE scores; research each program’s criteria.

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Understanding the GRE: Significance for MS in the USA

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) holds a pivotal role in shaping the journey of many aspiring students who aim to pursue a Master’s degree (MS) in the USA.

is gre compulsory for ms in usa

This standardized test, designed to evaluate verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills, serves as a critical tool for universities in the USA to assess the potential of candidates.

GRE Score and MS Admissions

  • Verbal Reasoning: Measures your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse, reason from incomplete data, and understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative, and author’s intent.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses basic mathematical skills and understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, as well as the ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems in a quantitative setting.
  • Analytical Writing: Tests critical thinking and analytical writing skills, particularly your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.

Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.

– Robert Kiyosaki

Average GRE Scores for Top MS Programs in the USA

UniversityMS ProgramAvg. Verbal ScoreAvg. Quant Score
StanfordComputer Science159165
HarvardData Science158164
University of California, BerkeleyElectrical Engineering & Computer Sciences157166
Carnegie Mellon UniversityRobotics156168
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignMechanical Engineering155165
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)Aerospace Engineering156167
University of Michigan, Ann ArborCivil Engineering154163
Georgia Institute of TechnologyIndustrial Engineering153164
University of Texas at AustinChemical Engineering152163
Cornell UniversityComputer Science157164
University of Wisconsin-MadisonElectrical Engineering154165
Princeton UniversityQuantum Science & Engineering158166
Northwestern UniversityMaterial Science & Engineering155164
Duke UniversityBiomedical Engineering156163

Did You Know?

Some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including MIT and Stanford, offer GRE waivers for certain programs, reflecting a shift towards more diversified admissions criteria.

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Applying for MS in the USA: With and Without GRE

Navigating the application process for MS in the USA can be a complex task, especially when considering the GRE requirement. Whether you’re applying to universities that require GRE or those that offer waivers, a strategic approach is essential.

For Universities Requiring GRE:

  1. Prepare for and Take the GRE: Aim for a score that meets or exceeds the average scores of your target universities.
  2. Academic Transcripts and Recommendations: Focus on maintaining a strong GPA and obtaining compelling letters of recommendation.
  3. Statement of Purpose and Essays: Clearly articulate your academic and professional goals, and how the program aligns with these goals.

For Universities Without GRE Requirements:

  1. Strong Academic Record: Emphasize your GPA and any academic honors or awards.
  2. Professional Experience and Projects: Showcase relevant work experience, internships, or significant projects.
  3. Essays and Interviews: Demonstrate your motivation, leadership qualities, and how the program fits into your career path.
is gre required for masters in usa

Application Components for MS in the USA

ComponentWith GREWithout GRE
GRE ScoreRequiredOptional
GPAImportantMore Emphasized
Letters of RecommendationCrucialCrucial
Essays/Personal StatementsVitalVital
Work Experience/ProjectsConsideredHighly Valued

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Comprehensive List of US Universities Without GRE Requirements

As the educational landscape evolves, more universities in the USA are offering MS programs without GRE requirements. This shift allows a broader range of students to pursue advanced education, particularly those who may excel in areas not measured by standardized tests.

List of Universities Offering MS without GRE (2024)

UniversityMS Program(s) Offered Without GRENotes/Conditions
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Selected Engineering and Science ProgramsA high GPA and relevant experience may be required
University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)Various Programs in Engineering and SciencesGRE waiver based on program-specific criteria
Harvard UniversityCertain Programs in Engineering, Sciences, and HumanitiesDepends on departmental policies; some require alternative assessments
Stanford UniversitySelected Programs across Various DepartmentsCriteria for waiver vary; some programs focus more on professional experience
University of ChicagoVarious Professional and Interdisciplinary ProgramsEmphasis on academic record and professional achievements
University of Michigan, Ann ArborSeveral Programs in Engineering and Environmental SciencesGRE scores are optional for some programs; a strong academic background emphasized
Yale UniversityCertain Programs in Environmental Science and Public HealthGRE waiver available; holistic evaluation of the application
University of Texas at AustinEngineering, Computer Science, and Information StudiesSome programs do not require the GRE; others consider it optional
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPrograms in Information Systems and Public PolicyGRE scores are not mandatory; focus on practical experience
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)Select Programs in Engineering and SciencesGRE waivers available under specific conditions

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Maximizing Your MS Application: GRE Preparation and Beyond

For aspirants targeting universities that require the GRE, thorough preparation is key. However, it’s also crucial to build a well-rounded application, showcasing a blend of academic, professional, and personal strengths.

GRE Preparation Tips

  • Understand the Test Format:
    • Familiarize yourself with the GRE structure, including the types of questions in the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing sections.
    • Identify the time allocated for each section and the scoring system.
  • Develop a Study Plan:
    • Create a realistic study schedule that fits your routine.
    • Allocate more time to areas where you need the most improvement.
  • Use Official GRE Preparation Materials:
    • Practice with materials from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), including the Official Guide to the GRE.
    • Take advantage of official GRE practice tests to gauge your readiness.
  • Strengthen Your Vocabulary:
    • Regularly learn and review new words.
    • Use vocabulary flashcards or apps for consistent practice.
  • Focus on Quantitative Concepts:
    • Review fundamental math concepts, including algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
    • Solve various quantitative problems to understand different problem-solving methods.
  • Practice Analytical Writing:
    • Write practice essays on different topics.
    • Get feedback on your essays to improve your writing skills and argumentation.
  • Time Management:
    • Practice solving questions under timed conditions.
    • Learn to manage your time effectively during the test to complete all sections.
  • Take Regular Mock Tests:
    • Simulate the actual test environment with full-length practice tests.
    • Analyze your performance in these tests to identify and work on weak areas.
  • Seek Guidance if Needed:
    • Consider joining a GRE preparation course or hiring a tutor if you need structured guidance.
    • Participate in online forums or study groups for support and tips.
  • Stay Consistent and Motivated:
    • Keep your study momentum going with regular, dedicated practice.
    • Stay positive and focused on your goal.
  • Health and Well-being:
    • Ensure adequate rest and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
    • Practice stress-relief techniques to stay calm and composed.

Key Components for a Strong MS Application and Enhancement Tips

ComponentImportanceTips for Enhancement
GRE ScoreHigh (if required)Consistent practice, mock tests, focusing on weak areas
GPACrucialFocus on major subjects, seek academic help if struggling, engage in research projects
Work ExperienceValuableSeek internships in relevant fields, engage in professional projects, document achievements
ExtracurricularsBeneficialLeadership roles, community service, involvement in clubs and organizations
Letters of RecommendationEssentialBuild strong relationships with mentors, seek recommenders who know you well
Personal Statement/EssaysCriticalClearly articulate your goals and motivation, showcase unique aspects of your background, seek feedback
Research ExperienceImportant for research-focused programsEngage in undergraduate research, publish papers, attend conferences
Professional CertificationsAdvantageous in certain fieldsObtain relevant certifications, demonstrate continued learning
Language Proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS)Required for non-native speakersPractice language skills, take preparatory courses, engage in immersive language experiences
Interview PerformanceImportant where applicablePractice interview skills, prepare to discuss your experiences and aspirations

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Navigating Financial and Practical Aspects of MS in the USA

is gre necessary for masters in usa

The financial and practical aspects of studying for an MS in the USA are significant considerations for international students. Understanding and planning for these factors are crucial for a successful study experience.

Cost Considerations

  • Tuition Fees: These vary greatly between universities and programs. Top universities can have higher fees but also offer more scholarships and assistantships.
  • Living Expenses: The cost of living can differ based on the location. Urban areas like New York or San Francisco are typically more expensive.

Scholarship and Funding Options

Scholarship/Funding NameUniversity/InstitutionCriteria/EligibilityCoverage
Fulbright Foreign Student ProgramU.S. GovernmentInternational students, varying by country, academic excellenceTuition, airfare, living stipend, health insurance
Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai FellowshipStanford UniversityIndian nationals demonstrated financial needPartial to full tuition
MIT Tata FellowshipMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyIndian citizens, academic excellence in selected fieldsTuition, living expenses
Knight-Hennessy ScholarsStanford UniversityAll nationalities, leadership potential, academic excellenceFull tuition, stipend, travel funds
University of California International ScholarshipsUniversity of CaliforniaInternational students, academic achievementPartial to full tuition
Harvard University Committee on General ScholarshipsHarvard UniversityVarious criteria depending on the specific scholarshipVaries, from partial support to full funding
Columbia University International Student Financial AidColumbia UniversityInternational students demonstrated financial needPartial to full tuition, living expenses
Chicago Booth International ScholarshipsUniversity of ChicagoInternational students, merit-basedPartial to full tuition
Annenberg FellowshipUniversity of Southern CaliforniaAll students, including international, academic merit, and creative excellenceFull tuition, stipend
Cornell University Tata ScholarshipCornell UniversityIndian citizens, undergraduate financial aid recipientsPartial to full tuition


The landscape of MS admissions in the USA is continually evolving, with a growing emphasis on diversity and the holistic assessment of candidates.

The traditional reliance on GRE scores is being re-evaluated, giving way to more flexible admission criteria that consider a wider range of student achievements and experiences.

Are you ready to embark on your journey to a top-tier MS program in the USA? Whether you’re gearing up for the GRE or exploring programs with flexible admission criteria, start your preparation today.

Dive deep into your GRE study, enhance your profile, and align your application with your academic and career goals. Remember, your dream program is within reach – take that first step now!

Achieve your highest GRE score and unlock a world of graduate school opportunities with Ambitio. Our comprehensive preparation platform offers personalized strategies, detailed study materials, and full-length practice tests, all designed to enhance your skills across the GRE’s quantitative and verbal sections.


Is the GRE mandatory for all MS programs in the USA?

Not necessarily. While the GRE is a common requirement for many MS programs, especially in top universities, an increasing number of universities and specific programs are offering GRE waivers or making it optional. It’s important to check the specific requirements of each university and program.

How can I improve my chances of admission to a top university in the USA without a GRE score?

Focus on strengthening other aspects of your application. This includes maintaining a high GPA, gaining relevant professional experience or internships, engaging in research or projects related to your field, obtaining strong letters of recommendation, and crafting a compelling personal statement or essay.

Can I apply for a scholarship in the USA without a GRE score?

Yes, there are scholarships and funding opportunities available that do not require a GRE score. However, the availability and criteria can vary widely among universities and external funding bodies. It’s advisable to thoroughly research and understand the requirements of each scholarship program.

Are there specific MS programs more likely to waive the GRE requirement?

GRE waivers are more common in programs that emphasize professional experience or portfolio-based assessments over standardized tests. Programs in fields like business, certain engineering disciplines, and some humanities and social sciences are increasingly moving towards a GRE-optional policy.

If a university offers a GRE waiver, should I still consider taking the GRE?

It can be beneficial to take the GRE even if it’s not mandatory. A strong GRE score can enhance your application and demonstrate your academic abilities, especially if other areas of your application are weaker. It can also be useful if you’re considering applying to a mix of universities with varying requirements.

What are the alternatives if I’m unable to meet the GRE score requirements for my desired program?

If your GRE score doesn’t meet the requirements of your desired program, you can consider retaking the exam, especially if you feel you can improve your score. Alternatively, look for programs that place less emphasis on the GRE or offer waivers. Additionally, strengthening other parts of your application, such as your statement, work experience, or academic record, can help compensate for a lower GRE score.

How important is the GRE compared to other aspects of the MS application?

The importance of the GRE varies by university and program. In general, top universities in the USA consider the GRE as one part of a holistic admissions process. This means that while a good GRE score can strengthen your application, universities also place significant emphasis on academic records, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and professional experiences.

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