Ivy League schools drop 'cuturally biased' standardized test requirement

  • Both Princeton University and Brown University have announced that many graduate and doctoral programs will no longer require applicants to submit the traditionally required GRE standardized test scores.
  • Reasoning for the change focuses around increasing the "diversity" of the student body and the “biased” nature of standardized testing.

Two Ivy League universities have announced that many graduate programs will no longer require the traditional standardized Graduate Records Examination testing requirements for applications, citing reasons pertaining to "diversity" and concerns that such tests are "biased" against minority and low-income students.

Both Princeton University and Brown University recently announced that they are moving away from standardized testing requirements for graduate admission in the name of creating a more diverse student body.

"there is concern that standardized tests are culturally biased in favor of certain groups"   

Princeton announced its decision to do away with the standardized test for 14 different graduate programs in September, calling the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) biased against minority groups.

[RELATED: College ditches SAT/ACT requirement to ‘increase the diversity’ of students]

Princeton Graduate School associate dean for access, diversity, and inclusion Renita Miller cited a need for "intellectual diversity" within graduate programs, as well as the importance of "demographic diversity." She insists that doing away with the requirement will help Princeton to achieve its goal "to identify, attract and develop the most promising individuals from as many segments of society as possible."

“Universities like Princeton have done a good job at expanding and diversifying their undergraduate populations,” Miller added. “If we want to make similar strides on the graduate level, we must find new ways to recruit and enroll graduate students who may be the first in their families to attend college, and from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds.”

The assertion is that one way to do this is to do away with standardized testing, because, as Princeton director of graduate studies for classics Johannes Haubold puts it, "there is concern that standardized tests are culturally biased in favor of certain groups; and that they end up testing primarily how good one is at taking tests." Haubold also brought up resource concerns, noting that some students can afford coaching for standardized tests while others cannot.

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Brown University announced a similar initiative earlier in October, eliminating GRE requirements for 24 doctoral programs. The university reasoned that doing so would "attract a wider pool of applicants" and "reduce barriers that discourage some students from groups historically underrepresented in higher education and from low-income backgrounds from applying for admission."

Brown Graduate School Dean Andrew G. Campbell insisted that “by removing the Graduate School’s GRE requirement and allowing programs to decide whether to require the exam, we will broaden the talent pool of students who apply to and have access to graduate education at Brown.”

Both universities' new policies will go into effect for applications for programs starting in fall 2020. Among programs with modified requirements are both universities’ neuroscience programs, as well as Princeton's molecular biology graduate program and Brown's biomedical engineering and biotechnology programs.

The moves by Princeton and Brown to drop GRE requirements for some graduate programs comes just months after another Ivy League school, Cornell University, dropped the same requirement from its biomedical engineering program over concerns that such requirements "can be biased against" women, minorities.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan



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Celine Ryan
Celine Ryan | Investigative Reporter

Celine Ryan is the Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform, reporting on liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. Celine was previously a New Hampshire California Senior Campus Correspondent for Campus Reform.

20 Articles by Celine Ryan