Graduate entry tests are an important part of the admissions process for some PhD programmes. They help universities and graduate schools confirm that you have the advanced subject knowledge and / or critical thinking skills to tackle a doctorate. Common examples include the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) but a range of other tests are used internationally.
If you're studying your PhD abroad, you may also need to pass a language test. This confirms you have the necessary proficiency to carry out research in a second language, write up your results and (eventually!) discuss them at your viva.
Select from the guides below, or jump to general information about admissions tests for PhD study.
The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is used to assess applicants for PhD and DBA study at some business schools.Read more
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) tests general reasoning and analytical skills. A subject-specific version is also available.Read more
Graduate entry tests tend to be used by universities whose PhD programmes have a limited number of places (and receive more applicants than they can accept). This is common for selective graduate schools in the USA and Canada.
Universities in the UK and some other countries tend not to require a GRE or GMAT. Instead, your eligibility for a PhD is determined based on how relevant your existing degree(s) are and – crucially – how good your research proposals is.
Language tests are much more common: if you're planning to do a PhD abroad in a second language, you'll usually need to prove your proficiency when you apply.
Our guides to PhD study abroad are a quick way to check the admissions requirements for different countries. If in doubt, check with the university you're applying to.
There is no standard minimum GRE or GMAT score for a PhD. The university you apply to will consider your test score alongside your existing qualifications and experience.
Some universities publish the average score for successful applicants to their doctoral programmes. This is usually a guide, not a minimum.
Universities in the USA and some other countries may look at your GPA as well as your final degree result. The highest GPA you can gain is usually 4.0. Scores of 3.5 or above are considered good.
However, your GPA is separate to your score for a GRE, GMAT or other entry test: they are different parts of your application. Having a good test score might help you if you have a lower GPA (or vice versa) but the two do not influence each other.
The GRE and GMAT are the most commonly used graduate entry tests for PhD study, but they aren't the only ones. Specific exams are used for PhD applications in certain subjects. Some countries also use their own tests, in place of the GRE and GMAT.
Here are some of the other graduate entry tests that may be used for PhD applications:
Some other countries use their own specific tests – make sure you check our guides to PhD study abroad for detailed information.
Last updated - 18/09/2019