GRE for PhD

Considering a Ph.D. and wondering if you need the GRE for grad school? Confused by a lot of the “noise” on the Internet (you need to take the GRE/you don’t need to take GRE)? In this post, I hope to dispel your confusion, or at least set you on the right path to figuring out whether you need to take the GRE.


What is the GRE?

You might very well be wondering what this test is all about and who exactly has to take it. For the first question, I recommend hanging out on our site for a little bit—the test is complex and multi-layered and requires time for people to go through.  The second question though is a little easier to answer—and probably more relevant to the post.

The GRE is for almost everyone who wants to apply to graduate school in the United States, except for those applying to medical school, business school, and law school (those students will take the MCAT, the GMAT and the LSAT, respectively).

Why almost everyone? Because some of the less competitive programs typically aren’t too worried about GRE scores (though almost every single top ranked program requires them).


So where do Ph.D. students fit into this picture?

Well, the bad news is almost every Ph.D. program requires GRE scores. The good news is some of the better institutes, for whatever reason, may not require GRE scores (Northwestern, apparently, doesn’t require GRE scores for some of its program). That said, the Ph.D. programs that do not require the GRE are few and far between.

Your best bet is to contact the program and (fingers-crossed!) hope that it does not require the GRE score. In the great likelihood it does do not despair too much. You’ve definitely come to the right place, as this blog alone provides invaluable GRE tips and a trove of practice questions to get you going (our book reviews section will also help you embark on an effective study path).


Is there anything else I should know?

So let’s say you’ve contacted a few of the programs you hope to get into and each one has told you that it requires GRE scores. You’ve gone through the Magoosh blog, have downloaded our vocabulary eBook, and even taken the Powerprep II practice test. Is there anything else you have to know?

Well, perhaps the biggest piece of bad news, though one that should hardly come as much of surprise given the competitive nature of Ph.D. programs, is that the mean GRE scores for Ph.D. candidates are higher than those for students applying for their masters.

The score range for both the math and the verbal section is 130-170. While a 155 on both sections would be pretty solid scores for a non-Ph.D. candidate, you would want to get in the high 150s if not crack 160 to be competitive. Of course this differs somewhat depending on whether your field of study is quant-heavy, verbal-centric, or both. Once again contacting the program or programs you are interested is a great way to learn the specifics.


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