How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

shep23
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Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 pm

How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby shep23 » Mon Nov 24, 2014 2:15 am

Assuming a solid GPA, solid (~2 years) research experience, and solid letters of recommendation, would a 990 in the Physics GRE (as a domestic applicant) guarantee entry at most astronomy grad schools? It seems to be that way for physics grad schools, but it's unclear if the same is true for astronomy. Thoughts?

astroprof
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Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby astroprof » Mon Nov 24, 2014 10:33 am

In general, astronomy programs give less weight to the physics GRE than physics programs do, but a high score will certainly make you competitive. However, there is no such thing as a guaranteed acceptance based on just the Physics GRE. Astronomy programs are looking for bright, motivated students who can do Astronomy, while the Physics GRE is a good predictor of performance in first year graduate Physics courses. Thus, astronomy admissions committees look at the entire application folder (personal statement, transcript, letters of recommendation, test scores) and no single aspect will guarantee either acceptance or rejection. So, while you clearly have a strong application, you should still apply to a range of schools.

shep23
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Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby shep23 » Mon Nov 24, 2014 11:27 am

That's pretty much what I figured, but a small part of me hoped that I'd be wrong I guess. Thanks for the reply!

blackmass
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Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:01 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby blackmass » Mon Nov 24, 2014 1:12 pm

astroprof,

I always hear about programs with strict GRE cutoffs, meaning a score below some threshold results in your application being thrown out, regardless of any other qualifications. Is this really the case? Obviously a low score makes you less competitive, but is it a waste of time to apply to certain schools based solely on a poor PGRE score?

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Mon Nov 24, 2014 1:48 pm

blackmass wrote:astroprof,

I always hear about programs with strict GRE cutoffs, meaning a score below some threshold results in your application being thrown out, regardless of any other qualifications. Is this really the case? Obviously a low score makes you less competitive, but is it a waste of time to apply to certain schools based solely on a poor PGRE score?


I know I am not astroprof, but I asked this question to my advisor who has served on several admissions committees.

No, it's not a waste of time to apply. They really do look at the whole application ( at least my advisor does). This info might be field dependent. If your record is otherwise very poor, then that's a different story.

blackmass
Posts: 61
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:01 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby blackmass » Mon Nov 24, 2014 3:15 pm

PathIntegrals92 wrote:
blackmass wrote:astroprof,

I always hear about programs with strict GRE cutoffs, meaning a score below some threshold results in your application being thrown out, regardless of any other qualifications. Is this really the case? Obviously a low score makes you less competitive, but is it a waste of time to apply to certain schools based solely on a poor PGRE score?


I know I am not astroprof, but I asked this question to my advisor who has served on several admissions committees.

No, it's not a waste of time to apply. They really do look at the whole application ( at least my advisor does). This info might be field dependent. If your record is otherwise very poor, then that's a different story.


Thanks, that's good to hear. What a stressful process, haha.

astroprof
Posts: 95
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby astroprof » Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:33 am

While I can't speak for all astronomy programs, most programs do not have a strict cut-off for the PGRE. However, schools with a strong physics component are more likely to give more weight to the physics GRE than those that expect students to take only astronomy courses, or astronomy plus a minor in any related field (computer science, math, geology, etc). So, as you consider which schools to apply to, you should look at the expected course work. Are you likely to be taking physics courses? If so, is the physics department similar or higher ranked than the astronomy department? If so, then you will probably need a PGRE score comparable to the physics department PGRE scores since you will be taking classes with the physics students. If not, then the PGRE is less relevant (since it is primarily a predictor of performance in first year graduate physics courses) and is likely to be given less weight than the other aspects of your application.

I should also note that I do not recommend discussing your PGRE score in your SOP, whether it is low or high, as you will appear to be making excuses (or bragging) and it will detract from your description of your research strengths and career goals. If you are concerned that your PGRE score does not reflect your abilities, then discuss this issue with your strongest letter writer (usually your research advisor) and ask if it might be appropriate for them to mention the circumstances (test anxiety, lack of appropriate coursework, etc) in their letter. I, personally, give almost no weight to student statements that their PGRE score does not reflect their ability, since I do not believe that most students have sufficient perspective (yet) to make such a statement. Conversely, I do give significant weight to such statements in letters of recommendation, particularly if supported by strong statements regarding the applicant's research strengths and potential for success in graduate school.

blackmass
Posts: 61
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:01 pm

Re: How much weight does PGRE carry at astronomy programs?

Postby blackmass » Tue Nov 25, 2014 12:13 pm

Thanks for the reply, astroprof. I agree that mentioning a low PGRE score in the SOP just comes off as making excuses. I don't think I did terrible on the PGRE (680), but relative to most people on these forums, it's quite low. Otherwise, the score is about as average as it gets, but it seems as though average is not ideal for a lot of places. I have to remind myself (for my own sanity) that most of the people posting here represent the top applicants, and not necessarily the average. That being said, I feel like I'm a really competitive applicant in all other respects, so hopefully schools can look past a not so impressive PGRE score.

And almost all of the programs I'm applying to have predominantly astronomy courses as the required coursework, so that's a good sign.

Anyway, thanks again!




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