Do i have a chance? help please!!!

mumaga
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:34 pm

Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby mumaga » Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:51 pm

Hello everyone:

I am in the process of applying to graduate schools in theoretical physics. i have two bachelor degrees, the first is in electric and electronic engineering (72%=2.88, which is in the top five) from Libya, my home country and the second in physics by distance learning (2nd class) from the UK, worked through both at the same time. no research experience whatsoever due to the absence of any opportunities to do so in my country, which i am pointing out in my statement of purpose. I am waiting for the GRE results ( i did really well in the quantitative and writing parts, but the verbal was a joke!!) and.....i got 39% in the PGRE :( :oops:
yesterday i applied for UC Berkeley (i can hear you saying 'how dare you?')...and i am think about these schools as well:

1)Columbia Uni.
2)Chicago Uni.
3)Northwestern Uni.
4)New York Uni.
5)CalTech!!
6)Brown Uni.

i just got my PGRE result a couple of days ago, and it was a shock. i thought i would have an average PGRE score plus my 2 degrees but now i don't think that i will be accepted to any place because of my score. What do you think? and are there any schools you advice me to apply to that i might have chance to get into? any help will be much appreciated...

thanks a million.....

User avatar
midwestphysics
Posts: 444
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby midwestphysics » Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:22 pm

I think you should repost this to the section at the bottom labeled "special concerns for international students". Also, supposedly there is an admissions committee member from a top 50 school as a member on this site, her member name is “admissionprof”. If she really is an admissions member she would be able to help you the most so send her a message. Outside of that I can’t really give you any help.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby admissionprof » Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:38 pm

midwestphysics wrote:I think you should repost this to the section at the bottom labeled "special concerns for international students". Also, supposedly there is an admissions committee member from a top 50 school as a member on this site, her member name is “admissionprof”. If she really is an admissions member she would be able to help you the most so send her a message. Outside of that I can’t really give you any help.


First, midwestphysics is being rather presumptuous in assuming I am female. There has been no evidence of that (I'm pretty careful---just like to keep people guessing). "his/her" is more appropriate.

A score of 39% on the PGRE, given your rather unusual background, will certainly not be "fatal" for many of the top 50 schools. But Caltech, Berkeley, Chicago, unlikely. I've known people with these PGRE scores to get into Northwestern or Brown. But I would certainly add a few schools in the 30-50 range.

User avatar
midwestphysics
Posts: 444
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby midwestphysics » Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:47 pm

I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous. I thought I saw a post on another topic that stated you were female. My bad if I’m wrong.

User avatar
quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby quizivex » Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:11 pm

The forum has been split for several years over the gender of admissionprof

More funny discussion here

User avatar
midwestphysics
Posts: 444
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby midwestphysics » Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:18 am

quizivex wrote:The forum has been split for several years over the gender of admissionprof

More funny discussion here



Those posts are pretty funny. I only said "she " in light of those other posts and because it made it easier colloquially. In reality his/her gender is not important, I don't place much value in the difference.

mumaga
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:34 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby mumaga » Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:41 am

well, thanks for the reply everyone :)

I will certainly add a few schools in top 30-50 as a safety net. many Thanks admissionprof for the left up :D

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby grae313 » Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:43 pm

39% for an international theory applicant? You have no chance (in my opinion, of course) at Berkeley, CalTech, Columbia, or Chicago. Apply to them if you can afford it and just want to see what happens, but you better add some more safeties. The fact that you have two degrees doesn't mean that much.

User avatar
WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:54 pm

admissionprof wrote:First, midwestphysics is being rather presumptuous in assuming I am female.


If you refer to admissionprof as "almighty highness" you will never have to deal with the gender issue.

mumaga wrote:1)Columbia Uni.
2)Chicago Uni.
3)Northwestern Uni.
4)New York Uni.
5)CalTech!!
6)Brown Uni.


How dare you apply to Berkeley? Honestly, I feel you need to drop some of these applications. Especially Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, and Caltech. Even if you have the money, there is really no reason to waste it. The combination of doing theory with a 39% as an international student will make it nearly impossible to get accepted to these Universities. You need to add many safeties, and by safety I even mean 50+ ranked school.

-Riley

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby grae313 » Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:06 pm

Are you making fun of me? :shock:

User avatar
WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:05 am

grae313 wrote:Are you making fun of me? :shock:


Not at all. Is there some inside joke I'm not getting here? :)

-Riley

mumaga
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:34 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby mumaga » Mon Dec 20, 2010 6:35 am

doesn't two degrees mean that i have a wide knowledge and have the capability to deal with much work load? ( i am just selling my self in here :( )...

I have been told that international students got a better chance because of the minority/ethnicity thing? isn't that right?

i will add a safety one in 50+ :(

thanks for the advice ppl....

vttd
Posts: 53
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:23 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby vttd » Mon Dec 20, 2010 11:06 am

mumaga wrote:I have been told that international students got a better chance because of the minority/ethnicity thing? isn't that right?


It's actually quite the opposite. International students typically have to have higher scores and a stronger application than domestic students because of funding constraints. If you browse through the profiles in this forum you will see that the average reported GRE scores for places like Berkeley or CalTech (for internationals) are around the 800-900 mark. The minority thing is more attributed to domestic students. I think you may want to consider applying to more safety schools

User avatar
WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:56 pm

vttd wrote:The minority thing is more attributed to domestic students.


Does anyone know the rough number of international applicants vs. domestic applicants? One of my professor's took a stab at 80% being international. I'm sure admissionprof has a decent idea of the international/domestic ratio.

-Riley

mumaga
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:34 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby mumaga » Mon Dec 20, 2010 2:50 pm

One of my professor's took a stab at 80% being international.


Probably because international students are more dreamy (like my self :) ) and do not fully realize how difficult it is to get accepted, talking here about highly rated programs.

I have went through the profiles and i guess now i quite understand how difficult it is to get into those Ivy schools...

User avatar
HappyQuark
Posts: 762
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Dec 20, 2010 2:53 pm

mumaga wrote:I have been told that international students got a better chance because of the minority/ethnicity thing? isn't that right?


As an undergraduate this may be occasionally true but in graduate school it is exactly the opposite, international students tend to have a harder time getting in. Generally there are three reasons for this

1. It is difficult to guage the quality of education that an international student gets as compared to a domestic student.

2. Many universities feel an obligation to fund and educate domestic students rather than international (taxes and all that).

3. International students tend to score higher on the Physics GRE because they tend to get significantly more preparation as a part of their standard undergraduate education, once again making it difficult to really determine skill/ability.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby admissionprof » Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:34 pm

HappyQuark wrote:
mumaga wrote:I have been told that international students got a better chance because of the minority/ethnicity thing? isn't that right?


As an undergraduate this may be occasionally true but in graduate school it is exactly the opposite, international students tend to have a harder time getting in. Generally there are three reasons for this

1. It is difficult to guage the quality of education that an international student gets as compared to a domestic student.

2. Many universities feel an obligation to fund and educate domestic students rather than international (taxes and all that).

3. International students tend to score higher on the Physics GRE because they tend to get significantly more preparation as a part of their standard undergraduate education, once again making it difficult to really determine skill/ability.


This is all correct. In addition, domestic students speak English better than most international students, and first-years often have to TA. I would guess that roughly 2/3 of applications are international, but less than 1/2 of the accepted students are international. It is much more competitive, for the reasons discussed above.

User avatar
quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby quizivex » Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:35 pm

mumaga wrote:I have been told that international students got a better chance because of the minority/ethnicity thing? isn't that right?
Internationals from groups underrepresented in physics (Africans, Hispanic/Latino, women) may have a better chance, but for everyone else, HappyQuark's comments apply. If you're Chinese, Russian, Indian, European or Canadian, you're at a substantial disadvantage compared to domestics.

mumaga
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:34 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby mumaga » Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:18 pm

Internationals from groups underrepresented in physics (Africans, Hispanic/Latino, women) may have a better chance


Well, I'm from Libya, that is North Africa, Hence i am African :roll:

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:53 pm

HappyQuark wrote:3. International students tend to score higher on the Physics GRE because they tend to get significantly more preparation as a part of their standard undergraduate education, once again making it difficult to really determine skill/ability.


I have to make a huge, epic, Battle-of-the-Pelennor-fields infinite objection here. This is simply not true for all international students. It is, in fact, the reverse in many cases. In my country, nobody knows what the GRE is. Nobody could tell you which company gives it, what material you use, which tricks you need to know, how much you would need to study, what kind of people you are competing against and how good they are. The average question I get is "Wow. Why would you ever do that. Do they give you like a book and past papers to study from??".

I suppose the situation might be different in poor countries where you HAVE TO get a kick-ass gre in order to leave, get graduate funding and secure a future career. Hence the preparation offered by their universities might be in accordance with this desperation. But I assure you that this is not true across the board - it is, in a very real sense, the complete opposite in many places. I would imagine US students are much, much better prepared than anyone I ever knew personally. And by this I naturally mean that the actual physics education in my country is by no means weaker than in the US.

Funnily enough, a friend from ETH, one of europes top ranked universities, says that the focus of their physics problem solving sessions is to solve REALLY LONG problems... i.e. not the kind you solve in 5-10 minutes from Peskin/Schroeder. They get research-level problems and are successively given hints on how to approach it, over a several-hour period. They would certainly be able to do the GRE with its silly "what is the next overtone in the hollow pipe closed at one end"-style problems around the time the courses in these topics were given, but the GRE is a relative test with relative marking, so they wouldn't get anywhere close to the students attending universities that have material ready, experience among the students and sometimes even give courses in the GRE. And, yes, my friend did confirm that no-one there knows what the GRE is either, and that he also thought it was a crazy idea writing the GRE if you were doing theory. The general feeling seems to be that mastery of newton rings and soap bubbles correlates utterly insignificantly with how much differential geometry/GR and group theory/particle physics you know/understand/master.

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby axiomofchoice » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:15 pm

swestrings wrote:
HappyQuark wrote:3. International students tend to score higher on the Physics GRE because they tend to get significantly more preparation as a part of their standard undergraduate education, once again making it difficult to really determine skill/ability.


Huge, epic, Battle-of-the-Pelennor-fields infinite objection here. This is simply not true for all international students. In my country, nobody knows what the GRE is. Nobody could tell you which company gives it, what material you use, which tricks you need to know, how much you would need to study, what kind of people you are competing against and how good they are. The average question I get is "Wow. Why would you ever do that. Do they give you like a book and past papers to study from??".


Argument invalid. It's unsurprising that "nobody" knows about the GRE in your country because it's a US specific thing, but it's not an excuse. Nobody knows about the Physics GRE in the US unless they intend to go to grad school in physics. I would venture to guess 99% of all US undergrad schools do NOT have a class specifically dedicated to studying for the PGRE. Domestic students are as much as on their own as you are. Just google "physics gre" and click (and read) the first few links will give you as much information as we domestic students have (including this forum :lol:).

I think what HappyQuark tries to point out is, the US undergraduate system tends to be more liberal arts oriented (that is, we have to take many classes not in our field of interest by requirement). This is fairly unique in the world as far as I know. International students tend to be more prepared for the PGRE because they have more exposure to physics (because they are not required to take many non-physics/math classes and thus can take more physics/math classes), not because they are specifically trained to take the PGRE as you seem to think.

As to your whole "long problem" objection, it is not specific to your country or Europe. Undergraduates in US are similarly used to exams composed of just a few long, time-consuming problem instead of 100 problems that you can solve in 1.7 minutes. There are plenty of complaints from domestic students on how they are not used to the PGRE exam format. I don't think you are particularly disadvantaged here either.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:26 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:Argument invalid. It's unsurprising that "nobody" knows about the GRE in your country because it's a US specific thing


I think its very safe to say that if the only people I ever met who knew what the GRE was, and would be willing to spend time on it, were Chinese, Indian and other international students, then most people in my country are relative to the rest of the international community, highly unaware of this test and its 'importance'. I would be surprised if the most ambitious upper-level (3rd + 4th year) undergrads at good schools in the US didnt know what the GRE was, is that really the case?

What I meant is that the statement of all internationals being better prepared is nonsense for some countries, whereas it is true for others. I happen to live in a country where its nonsense. In what way did you mean that it is "not an excuse" ? Its not an excuse to try less or study less, but for a given level of mastery surely doing everything on your own - having no idea what focus is placed on various parts in the american undergrad physics program (upon which the gre is based, see the green practice test for the exact quote) - is harder and would lead to a lower score on a test which measures many things apart from intrinsic intellectual capacity.

Side note: My absolute favourite was from http://grephysics.net/ans/ where someguy said that he learned the formula for the final velocities of particle collisions off-by-heart in the center-of-momentum frame or something like that. HUGE ass formulae dependent upon the initial velocities. I mean, that probably saves him lots of time regardless of whether he would be top 20%, top 10%, top 5% or top 1% at MIT. It is completely not a function of IQ or problem-solving ability but it is a time-saving technique that will increase his score. God knows what more he memorized. I saw countless other examples of the same thing, but he really was the icing on the cake. No-one symbolized to me what I was up against more than him. It had all the most necessary ingredients, a) it was conceptually easy to understand 2b) takes time to derive even if you are smart, simply because it is simultaneous equation c) helps a lot if you commit it to memory. Note how the number of 1d-calculus formulae he remembers probably says very little about how good he will be at the AdS/CFT correspondence.
Last edited by swestrings on Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

schwiss
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:49 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby schwiss » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:32 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:Argument invalid. It's unsurprising that "nobody" knows about the GRE in your country because it's a US specific thing, but it's not an excuse. Nobody knows about the Physics GRE in the US unless they intend to go to grad school in physics. I would venture to guess 99% of all US undergrad schools do NOT have a class specifically dedicated to studying for the PGRE. Domestic students are as much as on their own as you are. Just google "physics gre" and click (and read) the first few links will give you as much information as we domestic students have (including this forum :lol:).


I think swestrings meant that you can not ask anyone, including a professor or a counselor or current graduate students, because no one knows.

And regarding the more advanced classes (coming from a country that sounds much like swestrings'), here we study the PGRE material during the first and maybe the second year. If you have a 4 or 5 year degree, that's three or four years before you're supposed to use the material. What the more advanced training gives is precisely what swestrings has been explaining. You get to do the interesting stuff, which does not give you any advantage with the PGRE level problems. In fact, it is extremely unmotivating to re-memorize all the elementary formulas, when you know you are not going to need them ever again.

Edit: Another thing I might add is that most (or all?) US undergraduates know all the tricks of the multiple-choice exams, due to SAT. I trust no one will deny that test-taking strategy is very important in the PGRE.
Edit 2: This is in contrast to many European countries, where the PGRE might be the first multiple choice exam of the examinees life.
Last edited by schwiss on Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:44 pm

schwiss wrote:I think swestrings meant that you can not ask anyone, including a professor or a counselor or current graduate students, because no one knows.


I could probably bitterly list 20 things that people in the US take for granted, that I simply did not have access to, but I won't. But suffice to say, what you said here is one of the more important things I lacked: nobody could ever tell me which books the americans used the most, which chapters in those books were more important, which types of problems I could practice on, what sources of problems with solved solutions were available, what tips/tricks he/she could recommend, what tips/tricks/study-programs his/her previous students taking the GRE used and so on.

All this because, whilst most professor-level faculty know what it is and have heard of it, none have written it, none have looked at what it contains, none have had students who have written it - perhaps minor exceptions but its not as if they made it their universities business to help students with GRE.

To be 100% honest, I honestly believe that one of the universities I attended deliberately held back info about the GRE in order to keep the very best students on this side of the pond, learning in fourth year that this test existed was a tough one to swallow. Thin oil films suck. GRE sucks.

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby axiomofchoice » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:52 pm

schwiss wrote:And regarding the more advanced classes (coming from a country that sounds much like swestrings'), here we study the PGRE material during the first and maybe the second year. If you have a 4 or 5 year degree, that's three or four years before you're supposed to use the material. What the more advanced training gives is precisely what swestrings has been explaining. You get to do the interesting stuff, which does not give you any advantage with the PGRE level problems. In fact, it is extremely unmotivating to re-memorize all the elementary formulas, when you know you are not going to need them ever again.


US students would also learn the "elementary" stuff in their freshmen year typically as well, so we also have to go back and re-memorize those elementary formulas for the PGRE. However, my impressions from what I read around the interweaving-web seems to be that a fair amount of US students did not have (or were only taking) quantum mechanics, stat. mech., particle physics, solid state, etc. by the time they take PGRE. This is what I mean by international students being typically more prepared.

All in all, I'm just not buying the argument that international students are at a disadvantage with regard to the PGRE compared to domestic students. I would concede that on average, the advantage of international student on the PGRE is not large enough to warrant a different admission standard, but there are other factors that influence the different standard already stated above (i.e. lot more international applicants, US schools being US schools have more or less some obligation to educate domestic students, etc.).

schwiss
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:49 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby schwiss » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:58 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:US students would also learn the "elementary" stuff in their freshmen year typically as well, so we also have to go back and re-memorize those elementary formulas for the PGRE.


Where's the disadvantage then, if you start as early as we do?

pymtab
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:19 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby pymtab » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:58 pm

Sorry for the digression,
Anyone care to venture how they would tread a domestic student with international credentials. That is, a Green Card holder who did his UG abroad, at a relatively well known university.

Would it be exactly the same as a domestic?

schwiss
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:49 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby schwiss » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:01 pm

pymtab wrote:Sorry for the digression,
Anyone care to venture how they would tread a domestic student with international credentials. That is, a Green Card holder who did his UG abroad, at a relatively well known university.

Would it be exactly the same as a domestic?


I'm under the impression that the biggest reason internationals are at a disadvantage is because most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. There are other aspects, too, but to me that has always sounded the biggest. Thus, you should not be in a situation as bad as internationals.

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby axiomofchoice » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:02 pm

swestrings wrote:Side note: My absolute favourite was from http://grephysics.net/ans/ where someguy said that he learned the formula for the final velocities of particle collisions off-by-heart in the center-of-momentum frame or something like that. HUGE ass formulae dependent upon the initial velocities. I mean, that probably saves him lots of time regardless of whether he would be top 20%, top 10%, top 5% or top 1% at MIT. It is completely not a function of IQ or problem-solving ability but it is a time-saving technique that will increase his score. God knows what more he memorized. I saw countless other examples of the same thing, but he really was the icing on the cake. No-one symbolized to me what I was up against more than him. It had all the most necessary ingredients, a) it was conceptually easy to understand 2b) takes time to derive even if you are smart, simply because it is simultaneous equation c) helps a lot if you commit it to memory. Note how the number of 1d-calculus formulae he remembers probably says very little about how good he will be at the AdS/CFT correspondence.


You think a typical US physics student know that velocity formula off their head without studying? You do have a high estimation of domestic students :lol: If you take time to study for the PGRE (we all [should] do) and decide that knowing that formula can help you, you can easily memorize that formula as well. End of the story. You don't have to be a domestic student to memorize that.

schwiss wrote:
axiomofchoice wrote:US students would also learn the "elementary" stuff in their freshmen year typically as well, so we also have to go back and re-memorize those elementary formulas for the PGRE.


Where's the disadvantage then, if you start as early as we do?


As I mentioned above, domestic students have to take other classes (art history, anyone? English literature, anyone? foreign languages, anyone? economics, anyone?) which take up their time so they don't get to take some advanced physics classes till later on in their undergraduate career.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:03 pm

schwiss wrote:What the more advanced training gives is precisely what swestrings has been explaining. You get to do the interesting stuff, which does not give you any advantage with the PGRE level problems. In fact, it is extremely unmotivating to re-memorize all the elementary formulas, when you know you are not going to need them ever again.

Edit: Another thing I might add is that most (or all?) US undergraduates know all the tricks of the multiple-choice exams, due to SAT. I trust no one will deny that test-taking strategy is very important in the PGRE.
Edit 2: This is in contrast to many European countries, where the PGRE might be the first multiple choice exam of the examinees life.


To be honest, at first I didnt read all of your post. Now I have read it and you make some very solid points that I agree with completely. In fact, a friend and I (whom I convinced to take the GRE with me) were joking about how extremely little the added memorization of Malus' law and physical pendulums would aid us in our studies and masters theses. I hadnt seen a bachelor level course for three years. In every elective course, I chose to avoid things like bravais lattices and torricellis formulae - instead to focus on advanced mathematics and quantum field theory. I have excellent training in theoretical physics, but the things that Schwiss lists above are true and probably did deduct a lot from my competitiveness. Having said that, I have a totally OK score but it wont be viewed favourably by the Ivy League.
Last edited by swestrings on Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby axiomofchoice » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:04 pm

schwiss wrote:
pymtab wrote:Sorry for the digression,
Anyone care to venture how they would tread a domestic student with international credentials. That is, a Green Card holder who did his UG abroad, at a relatively well known university.

Would it be exactly the same as a domestic?


I'm under the impression that the biggest reason internationals are at a disadvantage is because most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. There are other aspects, too, but to me that has always sounded the biggest. Thus, you should not be in a situation as bad as internationals.


I agree, as far as the information I seen before. Admissionprof can probably give better answer here.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby admissionprof » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:34 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:
schwiss wrote:
pymtab wrote:Sorry for the digression,
Anyone care to venture how they would tread a domestic student with international credentials. That is, a Green Card holder who did his UG abroad, at a relatively well known university.

Would it be exactly the same as a domestic?


I'm under the impression that the biggest reason internationals are at a disadvantage is because most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. There are other aspects, too, but to me that has always sounded the biggest. Thus, you should not be in a situation as bad as internationals.


I agree, as far as the information I seen before. Admissionprof can probably give better answer here.


I don't think most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. At least that certainly isn't the case of most institutions I'm familiar with. The word "international" is misleading, perhaps. We treat some "international" students differently than domestic for several reasons:

1. They must TA, and thus interact with undergraduates. Many institutions don't care about undergraduates, but those who do don't want to have their undergraduate students complaining about the English of the TA. This is particularly true of public universities, since state legislators are wary of institutions with too many non-English speaking teachers. Note that a student from an English speaking country would be treated just like a domestic student.

2. Some funding issues that is restricted to citizens, so that makes a small difference. It just isn't a majority.

3. Many (not me) have the feeling that we should be training people who will contribute (after their degree) to this country, and not leave just afterwards.

4. Frankly, we are more familiar with students from US institutions, we are familiar with the meaning of the courses and grades, and thus there is less of a risk.

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby axiomofchoice » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:04 pm

schwiss wrote:Edit: Another thing I might add is that most (or all?) US undergraduates know all the tricks of the multiple-choice exams, due to SAT. I trust no one will deny that test-taking strategy is very important in the PGRE.
Edit 2: This is in contrast to many European countries, where the PGRE might be the first multiple choice exam of the examinees life.


Good point on the SAT, although I think the extent it helps is quite small. There are not that many tricks for the generic multiple-choice exam, and those can be easily learned by reading ETS's instructions (yup, they do give sound advices on how to answer multiple choice questions) and taking a practice exam. I personally have not had a single multiple choice exam since high school, thus by taking the PGRE or the general GRE once you would have as much experience as I do from taking the SAT.

swestrings wrote:To be honest, at first I didnt read all of your post. Now I have read it and you make some very solid points that I agree with completely. In fact, a friend and I (whom I convinced to take the GRE with me) were joking about how extremely little the added memorization of Malus' law and physical pendulums would aid us in our studies and masters theses. I hadnt seen a bachelor level course for three years. In every elective course, I chose to avoid things like bravais lattices and torricellis formulae - instead to focus on advanced mathematics and quantum field theory. I have excellent training in theoretical physics, but the things that Schwiss lists above are true and probably did deduct a lot from my competitiveness. Having said that, I have a totally OK score but it wont be viewed favourably by the Ivy League.

I have not seen a Bachelor level physics course in 2 years when I took the PGRE as well. Nor did I ever learn some of the topics (optics, solid state stuff, etc.) on the PGRE in any of my courses. Do you think that everyone of the domestic students, and the international students from the countries that you keep pointing out, are excellently prepared for the PGRE by his/her studies, while only you and those from your countries are not? I have seen lots of excellent PGRE scores from Europeans on the profile threads, as well as plenty of not-so-excellent PGRE scores from domestic students. Your theory does not seem to hold up.

I can believe you when you say your PGRE scores does not reflect your intellectual abilities, but to blame your score on your educational background and you being an international student is too much of a stretch for me. Most of the information I know about the test come from the internet, and most I chat about with my friends about the PGRE is on how ridiculous it is. You seem to have those resources as well as I do.

p.s. If someone introduces you to me as a renowned string theorist, and you can't explain to me why a thin oil film on glass do funny things, I'd cry BS.

pymtab
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:19 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby pymtab » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:13 pm

admissionprof wrote:I don't think most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. At least that certainly isn't the case of most institutions I'm familiar with. The word "international" is misleading, perhaps. We treat some "international" students differently than domestic for several reasons:

1. They must TA, and thus interact with undergraduates. Many institutions don't care about undergraduates, but those who do don't want to have their undergraduate students complaining about the English of the TA. This is particularly true of public universities, since state legislators are wary of institutions with too many non-English speaking teachers. Note that a student from an English speaking country would be treated just like a domestic student.

2. Some funding issues that is restricted to citizens, so that makes a small difference. It just isn't a majority.

3. Many (not me) have the feeling that we should be training people who will contribute (after their degree) to this country, and not leave just afterwards.

4. Frankly, we are more familiar with students from US institutions, we are familiar with the meaning of the courses and grades, and thus there is less of a risk.


Well, assuming someone who is a permanent resident- but who is currently residing in another country- is applying to your university, would you assume he intends to remain in the U.S after his PhD or not? If so, and he has a strong TOEFL score, and is coming from a relatively well known institution, wouldn't you just treat him like a domestic student- based on your 4 categories?

User avatar
WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:41 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:I can believe you when you say your PGRE scores does not reflect your intellectual abilities, but to blame your score on your educational background and you being an international student is too much of a stretch for me. Most of the information I know about the test come from the internet, and most I chat about with my friends about the PGRE is on how ridiculous it is. You seem to have those resources as well as I do.


My belief is that anyone with enough perseverance and knowledge of basic physics will do well on the PGRE. Truly, there is no one else you can blame for a bad PGRE score than yourself. I come from a fairly terrible undergraduate university in the US as far as preparation for graduate studies and PGRE tests. Of the five students who will be graduating from this university, three of them were in the 400s on the PGRE, one of them was in the 600s, and I was fortunate enough to get an 890. If my score was based on my undergraduate education, it would not be as high as it is. Honestly, this PGRE talk has started to get very repetitive. Either it is a person with a low PGRE trying to demonstrate that it doesn't convey their abilities correctly or trying to blame it on some other factor that truly isn't relevant. I believe everyone (with a decent physics understanding) is capable of an 800+, but obviously everyone isn't capable of the dedication required in acquiring an 800+.

-Riley

michael
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:21 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby michael » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:28 pm

The world is a pretty big place, and I am sure there are big variations within countries let alone in general across the globe on these sorts of things. However I think the following things are pretty general international verses domestic advantages taking the PGRE:

1) international students have usually studied almost all of the material on the tests - and therefore only need to REVISE in order to be able to have a stab at all problems on the PGRE. In comparison many US students simply have never studied much of the material in university before taking the PGRE (I have heard often around 30% of the questions would be on material a US physics major would not have studied).

2) US students will probably know at least a few other students who want to take the PGRE, and maybe even know some who have taken the test. Therefore they probably find out it exists earlier in their career, and maybe get a better idea of how to study for it and what kind of competition they may be up against - many advantages of pooled knowledge. In comparison, it is very common for international students to find out about the exam a few weeks before they have to take it (I know at least 3 people who were in this position), or who don't realize its importance and don't put much time into it.

3) US students will have taken other standardized tests in the past, and will probably have developed their exam technique on such tests. Standardized, multiple choice tests simply don't exist in many countries.

I feel a massive disadvantage to many European students applying to the US is with research experience. At least at my university there were no REUs or any research opportunities in the university. Luckily I was keen and wrote to various professors in other universities and offered to work for free to secure some summer research, but I never realized that this would end up being important for later phd applications. In my university, research was seen as something to start for the first time after undergrad was over, and very few people did ANY before then.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:46 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:I have not seen a Bachelor level physics course in 2 years when I took the PGRE as well. Nor did I ever learn some of the topics (optics, solid state stuff, etc.) on the PGRE in any of my courses.


This means nothing, what is the statistical significance of one persons result? Either people are in general more well-prepared or less well-prepared, statistical background noise will unfortunately not change this and there will always be some who break the trend, upwards and downwards.

axiomofchoice wrote:Do you think that everyone of the domestic students, and the international students from the countries that you keep pointing out, are excellently prepared for the PGRE by his/her studies, while only you and those from your countries are not?


This is a straw man. I made a statistical observation and you follow up by "...everyone of the domestic students..." and "while only you and .." Needless to say, you are missing the point. If some student were to do his undergrad and preparation in the US and writes immediately after his bachelors, he will, for the reasons I gave, probably score ON AVERAGE about 1.1 or 1.2 times a higher raw score than if he had had his education and preparation in certain countries outside the US, and hade written after he had done his masters in something advanced, say string theory for example.

If he had done it in Hong Kong or Japan, sure, maybe his score would be even higher! But this means nothing for those countries who have absolutely no experience with the gre and where you are basically a lone wolf trying to do what is considered OBVIOUS in other countries.

axiomofchoice wrote:I have seen lots of excellent PGRE scores from Europeans on the profile threads, as well as plenty of not-so-excellent PGRE scores from domestic students. Your theory does not seem to hold up.


There is a really, really tall girl at my school. This nonsense of men being on average taller is just such hocus-pocus and people are just saying that because they are haters who scored humbly on the PGRE.

Having said that, there MAY in fact be certain european countries that score extremely well on the gre. Unfortunately, Portugal is not the same country as Poland. Therefore, no matter how prepared the average pole is for the gre, and how well-informed the students are of how they should write it and when - this will be of little consolation to, for example, the average portuguese physicist who was told of its existence after having learnt Riemannian geometry.

I hope you catch my drift :)


axiomofchoice wrote:I can believe you when you say your PGRE scores does not reflect your intellectual abilities, but to blame your score on your educational background and you being an international student is too much of a stretch for me.


If I prepare you really well for physics and not so much for multiple-choice, strategy-focused speed-runs in thin oil films then this does not mean you are allowed to score 500. It may mean that you will score 800 whereas at a normal US school you would score 850, and at an ambitious ivy league school where everybody in the class is writing it, and spreading information and groupworking, you might get 900 or more. Not everybody has these advantages, not even in the US, it just annoys me that regardless of where I study in my home country I would be exposed to way less of these kinds of things than at any average US school.

I am not blaming my score on anything, I was commenting on the statement made above that was made - that internationals are always better prepared. That statement was wrong and I did and still do object vehemently. As for my own personal performance, that might just be statistical noise.

axiomofchoice wrote:p.s. If someone introduces you to me as a renowned string theorist, and you can't explain to me why a thin oil film on glass do funny things, I'd cry BS.


Sure I can do all that stuff. I often see statements made on this forum which, if read by someone who was unfamiliar with the PGRE, would interpret it as being a non-relative test. Somehow meaning that if you don't have a good score, you can't do it. This is of course wrong, and displays ignorance on how the grading of the GRE is a scaled score and not a raw score.

We all have to remember that you can be pretty good at solving problems based on simple oil films, constructive interference and based on simple number-equals-number formulae. But if somebody who studied hardcore for many months with the best materials, tricks etc. can do it really fast because he solved an identical problem in this one obscure PDF he found - well then your score will be lower. Of course I can do anything in the bachelor curriculum - its just that my expertise was solving long problems - which I did better than almost anybody else - and that my expertise has long since moved on to real physics much closer to the research frontier. There are thick books in algebraic geometry and topology that need to be swallowed and I cant devote too much time to these childish "can you tell me which of the following five electric fields has a vanishing curl and is therefore a candidate for a field created by a fixed set of motionless charges - come on guys DO IT QUICKLY AND GET IT RIGHT -ITS (C)!!!"-type questions which do not further my grasp of research.
Last edited by swestrings on Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby admissionprof » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:51 pm

pymtab wrote:
admissionprof wrote:I don't think most of the funding is restricted to citizens and permanent residents. At least that certainly isn't the case of most institutions I'm familiar with. The word "international" is misleading, perhaps. We treat some "international" students differently than domestic for several reasons:

1. They must TA, and thus interact with undergraduates. Many institutions don't care about undergraduates, but those who do don't want to have their undergraduate students complaining about the English of the TA. This is particularly true of public universities, since state legislators are wary of institutions with too many non-English speaking teachers. Note that a student from an English speaking country would be treated just like a domestic student.

2. Some funding issues that is restricted to citizens, so that makes a small difference. It just isn't a majority.

3. Many (not me) have the feeling that we should be training people who will contribute (after their degree) to this country, and not leave just afterwards.

4. Frankly, we are more familiar with students from US institutions, we are familiar with the meaning of the courses and grades, and thus there is less of a risk.


Well, assuming someone who is a permanent resident- but who is currently residing in another country- is applying to your university, would you assume he intends to remain in the U.S after his PhD or not? If so, and he has a strong TOEFL score, and is coming from a relatively well known institution, wouldn't you just treat him like a domestic student- based on your 4 categories?


Yes, we would.

michael
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:21 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby michael » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:17 pm

@swestrings:

I am an international student, and have studied some fairly advanced topics in my classes at university - certainly we finished anything useful for the PGRE in the first 1.5 years at university. The first standardized multiple choice tests I ever had were the GRE exams, and I never really knew anybody who I could talk to about the GREs (general or physics).

Despite all this, I personally feel that I was still at a slight advantage compared to the average US student because I had studied pretty much everything on the test in the past, so just needed to go over it a bit, whereas the average US student had never studied a lot of the material.

This only applies because I discovered what kind of a score I would need to get on the test (from this forum), and had discovered the 4 past papers (again from this forum, I think) - so I knew it was a hoop jumping exercise which would require me to invest a fair amount of time. I believe however that many international students either find these things out late, or never find them out at all. These international students are in my opinion HEAVILY disadvantaged compared to everyone else.

schwiss
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:49 am

Re: Do i have a chance? help please!!!

Postby schwiss » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:56 pm

One point that came into my mind from swestrings' last post was the time factor. It's true that every good physicist should be able to do all the problems of the PGRE. However, doing them in 1.7 minutes each does not have anything to do with real physics. What matters is memorization and the test-taking tricks of limits etc. You don't actually have to understand most principles.

Of course, the tricks can be practiced. The only excuse for internationals (or anyone else, for that matter) to do worse than domestic students because of this is either finding out about the test too late, or assuming the test is a traditional physics test. I don't actually know if this has been a factor for anyone, but it does make me consider PGRE not a very good test for physics ability. Sure, it tests your test-taking skills and your determination to prepare well. Knowing the material well enough is also a prerequisite for being able to use the said tricks. Thus, everyone who gets a good score is at least okay, but it would be silly to assume that only those who get a good score can be good.

Of course, without other information the decisions have to be based on what is available. I could understand going with the safe bet if we were talking about doctors, bridge builders and bus drivers. However, we are talking about people who have the potential to change our whole world, but are not directly responsible for human lives or anything else important. Going with the people who are sure to be at least mediocre is very short-sighted, especially in theory, where incremental routine work probably has close to zero value. And the lack of available information really does sound more like an excuse to me.

I would guess the biggest reasons for considering the PGRE are either that people who decide about the admission requirements did themselves well in these kind of tests, and due to psychological constraints not realizing they should not necessarily consider themselves to be a scientific success (which is very different from a successful career), or that they have no idea what will predict success in research, and just ask whatever is offered by ETS marketing people, or what other schools ask. Maybe both. Maybe now that NSF (if I remember correctly) has disregarded the test, schools will follow.

I have strayed quite far from the beginning of my post, and I realize this sounds pretty bitter. Thus, I would like to state for the record that I'm not applying to theory. I'm just worried because theoretical physics has been stuck for quite a while, and I'm not sure if future physicists, who are selected based on largely insignificant traits, are able to make it unstuck. What's worse, the future physicists will not see this themselves, and will continue to select their students based on a model of themselves.

I probably have offended some people by this point, so I want to say that, of course, many physics professors are smart, excellent, handsome, drive expensive cars and can be described in other positive ways. Do they have creativity, the ability to think original thoughts? The question is equivalent to: Is the creativity selected for in any phase? I don't actually know. The professors I have met really do not seem like it, but then again I'm not from a country known for its physics research.

Can they solve problems by thinking outside of the box (yes, I hate the expression too, but I still think it's reasonably informative) or only by trying all the methods they have been taught. Is this selected for in any phase? Again, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure incremental research does not require it, and to me it seems that incremental research is enough to get a professorship.

Do they have ambition to do great research. Is this selected for? I'd actually say it is selected AGAINST. If you do not produce enough papers that are good and safe enough to be accepted to a relatively good journals, you are not going to get a professorship. One can, of course, take a risk and try to come up with something original. I'm not sure how possible that is in grad school, but after that it's quite difficult. Everybody needs to eat, and it's very hard to think creatively while doing anything else. And not many sources provide money for people to only think creatively. If you take the risk and do not get lucky, you are out of the game. Good luck with your quant career. Naturally, once the tenure is secured, things change. Not being that age myself, I don't know how the creativity or out-of-the-box thinking are then. But surely the ambition to solve the greatest of mysteries is not a requisite for a professorship.

So, while, by pure chance and the lack of much explicit selecting against, some professors probably do have the ability to do groundbreaking research, I'm not sure if the majority, or even a significant portion, does. I think the purpose of science is not primarily to support itself by training new professors who can train new professors etc, without anyone actually doing anything else.

Please feel free to agree or disagree.




Return to “School Selection”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests