Average GRE Scores for MPH Programs

Published on: Aug 11, 2023
Katherine Paul


Katherine Paul, MPH

Reviewed: Jun 5, 2024

There couldn’t be a larger need for a diverse public health workforce to tackle public health issues, both big and small. The role of MPH graduate programs is to train and mold this future workforce, and we will need a bright professional pool to think innovatively.

With this need for a more diverse workforce comes the great task of looking into graduate school application processes and the various barriers that will pop up for prospective applicants5. As many schools of public health are built on equity and diversity, the application process within these programs needs to mirror these beliefs and views. The graduate programs take a holistic approach to the application process and require numerous items to demonstrate the applicant's ability to succeed in the program. 

As stated in previous articles, the core elements of public health admission requirements are undergraduate transcripts, types of coursework taken, letters of recommendation, resume/CV, relevant work experience, personal statement, and standardized test scores. For applicants in the United States, many MPH programs will require you to take the Graduate Record Examination, commonly referred to as the GRE. School admissions officers take a holistic approach to evaluating applications, and the GRE is part of the admissions process4. The approach to assessing the GRE as part of the application process is evolving, and some programs no longer require this as part of the application submission.

After reading this article, you should be able to:

  • Review how GRE scores factor into the application process

  • Learn how the test is scored

  • Gain insight into how to interpret your score

  • Know what the top 20 public health programs in the United States require for standardized testing.

Admissions officers use the GRE general test scores to supplement the candidate’s application for graduate-level study and provide the admissions officer with a tool to compare candidates. 

What’s the GRE Measuring?

The GRE measures verbal reasoning, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills; all these skills take time to cultivate and are not related to one particular field of study but are essential for success in all graduate-level programs, as well as in public health professions globally3

The test has three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

A raw score in the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning measures is computed by the number of questions answered correctly. This is scaled in a process called equating, which factors in minor variations in difficulty in different test editions. For the analytical writing section, the grading process is described below, from the ETS website, which is the educational testing service. This is the educational testing and measurement organization that creates and administers the GRE, along with many other graduate school entry assessments3.

“Each essay collects a score from at least one trained rater, using a six-point holistic scale. In holistic scoring, raters are trained to assign scores based on the overall quality of an essay in response to the assigned task. The essay is then scored by e-rater®, a computerized program developed by ETS that is capable of identifying essay features related to writing proficiency. If the human and the e-rater scores closely agree, the average of the two scores is used as the final score. If they disagree, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores. The final scores on the two essays are then averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point interval on the 0–6 score scale. A single score is reported for the Analytical Writing measure. The primary emphasis in scoring the Analytical Writing section is on your critical thinking and analytical writing skills rather than on grammar and mechanics2

These elements of the GRE provide some insight into how the applicant will perform in the graduate school program and can add another dimension to understanding the applicant’s success, thus far in their academic life2.

GRE Test Scores: What it Takes to Get into a Top MPH Program

What’s a good GRE score to gain acceptance into top public health programs? This varies and entirely depends on what program you are interested in. 

The 50th percentile for the verbal reasoning measure is 151/170, and the quantitative reasoning measure is 154/170 is a good starting point3. For example, the average GRE scores for students admitted to the University of California, Irvine is 157 and 158 respectively12. Moreover, the university of California at Berkeley is looking for prospective students to have a GRE score of 151/154 and above but submitting GRE test scores is completely optional16.

Table 1, located at the end of this article, lists the top 20 MPH programs in the US and whether they require the GRE, along with what scores they are looking for.

GRE Scores: Not Required for Every School

For the 2023/2024 academic year program entry process, several of the top public health programs don’t require or review GRE scores. Top programs, such as Harvard University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, are prime examples of schools that don’t require or review GRE scores8. This policy was adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and future requirements for entry into these programs will need to be further reviewed and assessed. 

Other programs are making GRE score submissions optional and will review the GRE scores provided to help admissions officers better understand the applicant’s academic readiness. For example, the Public Health Admissions Committee at Tufts University will: “take your scores into account when considering you for admission. In particular, students who have weak undergraduate records, have not been in a college-level class in several years, or otherwise want to demonstrate verbal and quantitative abilities are encouraged to provide scores if they feel that they are an accurate representation of their academic skills”20. Similarly, Vanderbilt University is also waiving the GRE requirement for all Fall 2023 applicants, per the below statement: 

Applicants are not required or expected to submit GRE or MCAT scores in SOPHAS. Applications without scores will not be penalized in the review process. Applicants may choose to self-report their GRE or MCAT scores in SOPHAS. Self-reported scores should include the percentile score for each section of the test. Self-reporting scores is optional.26

While the GRE is becoming optional for numerous public health graduate programs, for international applicants, an English language proficiency exam is a requirement. Boston University requires the TOEFL or IELTS taken within 2 years of the application submission date13. The TOEFL test, administered by ETS, measures all 4 academic English skills — reading, listening, speaking, and writing - to demonstrate your mastery of these abilities7.

As stated previously, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools of public health no longer require GRE test scores. This change in admissions policy is due to various issues with the GRE itself. This exam may not predict academic success, with the correlation between GRE scores and academic success being null, and there isn’t even sufficient data to pinpoint mild relationships between the two6. Moreover, the GRE creates more barriers for underrepresented groups, due to financial burdens, gender, and racial biases5. More studies will need to be conducted over the next couple of years to see how removing this barrier will affect admissions and mold future public health professionals.

All in all, when applying to MPH programs, the GRE is becoming less essential to the application process. The MPH programs that do require applicants to provide their GRE scores are looking for prospective students to meet the 50th percentile on both the verbal reasoning measure and quantitative reasoning measure with the average for the analytical writing section averaging 4.0/6.0. This is not the case for the current application year, and the future of this requirement has yet to be seen. More research and studies are needed to assess the validity of the GRE equating to future academic success.

In other words, select the programs you are looking to apply to, and determine if the GRE is something that is required. If not, focus on all other aspects of your application and make those as robust and demonstrative of your abilities as possible.

Table 1: Top 20 MPH programs with GRE status listed



GRE accepted? 

If yes, average score provided.


Johns Hopkins University



Harvard University

Not required or reviewed


University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Not required or reviewed


Columbia University



Emory University

155 Verbal, 155 Quantitative and 4.05 analytic writing


Boston University

Not required or reviewed

6 (tie)

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Not required or reviewed


University of California – Berkeley

Optional (50th percentile and above)


University of Washington



University of California – Los Angeles



George Washington university


11 (tie)

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Not required or reviewed

11 (tie)

Yale University



Tulane University



University of Pittsburgh



Brown University

Not required or reviewed

16 (tie)

University of Illinois - Chicago

150 (both verbal and quantitative sections)

16 (tie)

University of South Florida



Colorado School of Public Health

Not required or reviewed

19 (tie)

Drexel University

Not required

We feature high quality MPH programs with students that match up well to them. Find your match - with MPH programs that both require and don’t require the GRE - using our matching tool. 


  1. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/scores/how/

  2. https://www.ets.org

  3.  https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table1a.pdf

  4.  https://publichealth.uci.edu/ph/_graduate/faq#average%20GPA

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7710796/#B22

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6428323/

  7. https://www.ets.org/toefl/test-takers/ibt/about

  8.  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/admissions/admissions/how-to-apply/test-scores/

  9.  https://ph.ucla.edu/prospective-students/how-apply/checklistgoogle

  10. https://www.sph.emory.edu/departments/hpm/degree-programs/mph-hp/index.html

  11. https://gradschool.unc.edu/programs/

  12. https://publichealth.uic.edu/admissions-aid/faqs-admissions/

  13. https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/become-student/how-apply/process/application-components

  14.  https://www.bu.edu/sph/admissions/applying/programs/master-of-public-health/

  15. https://sph.umich.edu/admissions/programs-degrees/masters/how-to-apply.html#mph

  16. https://publichealth.berkeley.edu/admissions/graduate/frequently-asked-questions/

  17. https://depts.washington.edu/hservmph/apply

  18.  https://publichealth.gwu.edu/admissions/graduate-admissions

  19. https://www.sph.umn.edu/prospective/application-process/#required-entrance-exams

  20. https://ysph.yale.edu/admissions-financial-aid/master-in-public-health-admissions/apply-to-yale-school-of-public-health/

  21. https://sph.tulane.edu/admissions-faqs

  22. https://publichealth.pitt.edu/home/admissions-aid/how-to-apply/requirements

  23. https://admissions.sph.brown.edu/requirements

  24. https://health.usf.edu/publichealth/apply/graduate-admissions/application-requirements-process

  25. https://coloradosph.cuanschutz.edu/admissions/how-to-apply/mph-applicants

  26. https://drexel.edu/dornsife/academics/degrees/mph-degree/

  27. https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/mph/admissions/

  28. https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/public-health-rankings 

About the Authors

Written by:

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH, is an experienced project manager at a nationally ranked Accountable Care Organization. Her current work focuses on seamless integration of electronic health records (EHR) to enhance care quality for patients. She has previously worked in health systems in the Greater Philadelphia area on numerous quality improvement and population health initiatives. She received her Master of Public Health degree from Drexel University. Prior to her work in the population health space, she worked as a certified Exercise Physiologist at fitness and wellness centers, and obtained her certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.

Opinions and information published by the author here on MastersPublicHealth.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Melisa Gebizlioglu portrait photograph

Melisa Gebizlioglu, MPH

Education: Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on MastersPublicHealth.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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