I'm in a fairly unusual situation, and not sure what's the best way to approach applications - or indeed whether I stand a chance at all. On the positive side, I have a strong degree - a first-class physics MA from Oxford. The negative side is that I got it in 1997, and have been out of science ever since. Whilst I think I can make a decent case for how my years in the workplace will make me a better grad student, they sure don't make me a better PGRE-taker.
I looked through ETS's example PGRE paper and had the depressing realization that - whilst I think I could have got a respectable score 12 years ago when I finished my degree - any attempt I made now would be absolutely pitiful. I'm pretty sure, given time, that I can re-learn what I need to re-learn - but I am also pretty sure that any attempt to do so by November, considering that I also work full-time, is not going to produce anything close to the best I can do. I'm an impatient person, and fall 2010 already seems an eternity away, so spending a year practicing physics and then applying for 2011, while it's a logical solution, isn't something I really want to do unless I can't find any other alternative.
Just to add to the confusion, I'm an international student (British, and living in Denmark - which, incidentally, doesn't even offer the PGRE, meaning I will/would have to travel abroad to take it in November). I'm also, for what it's worth, female.
My question is - do you think there is any point in attempting to cram for the PGRE, given that I can't imagine I will be able to get a wonderful score in the time I have available? Is a not-so-good score better than nothing? Am I better off looking for a not-so-fancy school or a not-physics-but-related-to-physics program that doesn't require it, and focusing on getting a top-flight score in the general GRE (I'm much more hopeful about being able to achieve that)? Am I stupid to even think this is achievable at all? (I spoke to a careers advisor at my alma mater, and she recommended that I shouldn't waste time trying to take PGRE - but will that prevent me from getting in to any decent schools?)
Is it worth approaching colleges and explaining my situation? If so, what sort of people should I be approaching? Professors? Admissions officers? I'm so far removed from the US university system, that I'm not really sure of the best way to attack it - but I AM sure that I want to get into the best school I can, do as good a job as I can, and that I will make as good an effort as I can to achieve that. Any advice would be very, very welcome! Thanks in advance.