The Medical Physics Graduate Program of Duke University announced today that the GRE will be optional for this year, i.e., for the entering class of 2021. This change takes effect immediately.
Although the GRE has been a mainstay of graduate applications, there is a strong, nationwide effort to make the GRE optional. This “GRExit” movement is motivated by concerns about the usefulness and fairness of this test (see this Science article). The current pandemic adds obvious challenges to access the test, and may further aggravate racial, ethnic, economic, or other disparities.
In a message to faculty, admissions committee co-chair Dr. Joseph Lo observed, “If you have school-age kids, you probably noticed such disparities in remote learning this spring. Many poor or under-represented minority families didn’t have computers or broadband internet, and in spite of great efforts by the school system, many students just faded away and didn’t even check in with teachers anymore.”
Driven by concerns around both equity and logistics, the Duke Graduate School offered programs the option to not require the GRE for the coming year. As the admissions co-chairs, Drs. Oana Craciunescu, Anuj Kapadia, and Lo brought a unanimous recommendation to proceed, which was endorsed by Program Director Dr. Mark Oldham. The proposal was approved by the 12 faculty members of the admissions committee, followed by a vote of the 42 training faculty.
How will this affect the Duke medical physics admissions process? Applicants may still submit GRE scores, but this is no longer required. In fact, our program has already been de-emphasizing the GRE in recent years, and instead conducts a holistic review that considers all application materials. We will therefore shift our focus to those other factors, including the following: GPA, performance in specific courses, recommendation letters, life/work experience, research abstracts/papers, personal statement, mentor match, and interviews.
In these difficult times, making the GREs optional is one concrete, immediate act that Duke Medical Physics has taken to address concerns about inequity. We strongly believe this is the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. We urge our peer programs to join us in supporting all applicants to medical physics programs.