Importance of the physics GRE

Alice
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Importance of the physics GRE

Postby Alice » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:02 pm

I'm a senior undergrad in a top 20 school applying for hep-th this year. Like everyone else, I'm really hoping to get into some top schools. My GPA is 3.98, I've taken 4 graduate math classes, and will have taken 4 graduate physics classes (including 1 semester of quantum field theory) by the time I graduate. In terms of research, I've done research in hep-ex, hep-ph, and hep-th, but have only one publication. In terms of independent work, I've taken 3 independent studies - two in physics, one in math. I'm taking the physics GRE next week, and therein lies my biggest problem - I've been scoring about mid 700's on the practice tests. Do I still have a shot at places like Stanford and MIT if that's what I end up getting on the actual test?
Also, I don't know if this puts me at a disadvantage - I'm a girl (any misogynists on admissions committees?).

geshi
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby geshi » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:24 pm

Frequently asked questions:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2561

Profiles and admissions results from 2010 (other years are also in this subforum):
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2824

Look through the profiles and find a profile that matches you most closely to see what you think you need to get.

PGRE is more important at "higher ranked programs" (e.g. Harvard, MIT, etc). For HEP-TH, the PGRE is again, pretty important. Being a female is usually said to *help* your application by a small (emphasis on SMALL) margin rather than hurt it. All these thoughts are commonly uttered sentiments around the interwebz. I have no data or real information to back them up, however I think they are true.

A useful blog post about getting into graduate school: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmi ... te-school/
That blog post is by a professor at (I think) CalTech. He makes good mention of various application stuff including the importance of the PGRE.

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grae313
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby grae313 » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:24 pm

Alice wrote:Do I still have a shot at places like Stanford and MIT if that's what I end up getting on the actual test?
Also, I don't know if this puts me at a disadvantage - I'm a girl (any misogynists on admissions committees?).


You're fine.

Being a girl is an advantage.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby HappyQuark » Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:26 pm

Alice wrote:I'm a senior undergrad in a top 20 school applying for hep-th this year. Like everyone else, I'm really hoping to get into some top schools. My GPA is 3.98, I've taken 4 graduate math classes, and will have taken 4 graduate physics classes (including 1 semester of quantum field theory) by the time I graduate. In terms of research, I've done research in hep-ex, hep-ph, and hep-th, but have only one publication. In terms of independent work, I've taken 3 independent studies - two in physics, one in math. I'm taking the physics GRE next week, and therein lies my biggest problem - I've been scoring about mid 700's on the practice tests. Do I still have a shot at places like Stanford and MIT if that's what I end up getting on the actual test?
Also, I don't know if this puts me at a disadvantage - I'm a girl (any misogynists on admissions committees?).


As Grae pointed out, being female almost always benefits you in the admissions process. With the same amount of experience, a 700 on the PGRE might compromise your options a bit if you were male but since you're not, you should expect to get in nearly everywhere you apply.
Last edited by HappyQuark on Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pqortic
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby pqortic » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:37 am

grae313 wrote:Being a girl is an advantage.


I'm happy that you admit that. some gals here tel me that the "competition" was tough to get in.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:49 am

When it comes to the Physics GRE, always remember this one cardinal rule.

It isn't not untrue that nobody won't be rejected from nowhere without not first failing to pass the GRE.

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satyad18
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby satyad18 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:40 pm

HappyQuark wrote:It isn't not untrue that nobody won't be rejected from nowhere without not first failing to pass the GRE.

:lol:
:mrgreen:

CarlBrannen
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:17 pm

Alice wrote:I've been scoring about mid 700's on the practice tests. ... I'm a girl (any misogynists on admissions committees?).


I'm very curious about this. Women seem to do badly on the PGRE even though they get better grades. See Jennifer Sider's extensive data:

"Only 10 percent of the women applicants had over a 700 while 47 percent of the male applicants had already achieved a score higher than 700."
... but ...
"The correlation between undergraduate GPA and Physics GRE score is very small. 97 percent of the female applicants and 90 percent of the male applicants had GPA's over a 3.00"
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1996APS..MAY..L504S

Now UT Austin is a highly rated physics department (I want to go there myself) so I'd be willing to bet that you're in the top 2 to 5% of female PGREs. And it's clear that you did very well in school.

From reading comments by men who did badly in the PGRE I came to the conclusion that they were not finishing the test. That is, they were only working the first 75 problems and did not have time to even look at the last 25 problems. Does this describe your pattern of scores?

If it does, I think you can improve considerably by skipping the problems that you don't have time to work. I'm an old man, I've been taking practice tests and I can just barely finish the test on time, and that only by skipping over a half dozen problems. I'm taking the test on Saturday (Oct 9).

The whole thing is quite a mystery. Here is some advice that might help:

"So where does the problem lie? A joint study by the ETS and the College Board concluded that multiple choice formats favor men over women, partly because men are more willing to guess on tests when they don't know the answer. Men also perform better on timed tests. Another ETS study found that when the time limit was removed from SAT subtests, girls' scores improved markedly, while boys' scores changed very little."
...
"Jennifer Siders, a recent physics Ph.D. from the University of Texas who is now at Los Alamos National Laboratory, took the GRE subject test four times to meet her department's minimum requirement of 700. She finally managed to raise her score 200 points, not by learning more physics, but by learning how to take standardized tests, often at the expense of her actual coursework."
http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews ... gender.cfm

In addition to what's mentioned above, part of the difference might be that men like the competition. I will spend almost every waking moment for the next 4 days going over stuff with the intention of getting a 990. Part of this is that I just don't want to admit that I'm slower now than I was when I was 25. The test is the last thing I think about at night and the first thing in the morning. So is that a guy thing?

Carl

geshi
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby geshi » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:21 pm

CarlBrannen wrote:In addition to what's mentioned above, part of the difference might be that men like the competition. I will spend almost every waking moment for the next 4 days going over stuff with the intention of getting a 990. Part of this is that I just don't want to admit that I'm slower now than I was when I was 25. The test is the last thing I think about at night and the first thing in the morning. So is that a guy thing?


Sounds like obsession to me. I don't think that phenomenon is more applicable to either sex, but maybe that's just me. I also don't think a 990 is really that important. Good luck to you!

Alice
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby Alice » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:33 pm

Thanks for all the responses, everyone! (and thanks to HappyQuark for making me laugh during this stressful pre-GRE week)
I'm not entirely sure what to think about girls supposedly having an easier time getting into good schools. I suppose the appropriate response is yay! although if I end up getting into my top 5 schools (*fingers crossed*), I'd like to think I got there on basis of my physics ability rather than being a woman. Still, if it means I get into my top 5, I won't be complaining too much :wink:
@ Carl: I've actually managed to finish 8677, 9677, and 9277 on time, but I only got through about 85 problems on the 0177. I did skip a lot of problems rather than guessing, which may be my problem. I'm going to try and work on my speed and guessing skills in the two days I have left before the apocalypse on Saturday morning...

kroner
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby kroner » Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:33 am

To console yourself, you can think about the deeply entrenched cultural forces that perpetuate the notion that women aren't capable of or have no interest in succeeding in math and physics, and how you overcame those forces which your male competitors did not have to deal with. Or something along those lines.

geshi
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby geshi » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:54 am

kroner wrote:To console yourself, you can think about the deeply entrenched cultural forces that perpetuate the notion that women aren't capable of or have no interest in succeeding in math and physics, and how you overcame those forces which your male competitors did not have to deal with. Or something along those lines.


Would make a great SOP. Sure, you probably don't feel that way, but that's what essays are for. Making *** up. How many times did you take a liberal arts class, not do any of the reading, and still get an A on the essays you had to write? SOP = liberal arts essay portion of the application.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby CarlBrannen » Sun Oct 10, 2010 8:49 pm

I had a short friend who joined the US special forces. For him the worst part was not the hand to hand combat training but instead the long runs. He couldn't keep up with the long legged guys. He was at the back of the pack. His attitude was that he may not be at the front of the pack, but he's dammed well going to keep running and when those guys slow down he's going to run right over them.

If I had a low PGRE score, that's the attitude I would try to put into my SOP. Determination will trump preparation and native ability.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:32 pm

grae313 wrote:Being a girl is an advantage.


Interestingly enough, I thought about putting "prefer not to answer" for my gender and inform my recommendation writers to refer to me as a "they" instead of a "he" in their letters. Considering my name is bi-gender (Riley), I was wondering how application committees would view my application.

-Riley

negru
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby negru » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:54 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:Interestingly enough, I thought about putting "prefer not to answer" for my gender and inform my recommendation writers to refer to me as a "they" instead of a "he" in their letters. Considering my name is bi-gender (Riley), I was wondering how application committees would view my application.

-Riley

I say inform your recommendation writers to refer to you as "His Greatness"

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:42 pm

negru wrote:I say inform your recommendation writers to refer to you as "His Greatness"


Quite suiting. ;D

-Riley

riversong
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby riversong » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:26 am

Nope, why not go all out.

'I would request that you always refer to me by the following title:

"His, her, or its most illustrious, divine, merciful, and all-knowing oracle. Divine arbiter of all wisdom, Gracious giver of all thine stuff which is good, &c &c" '

If that is felt to be too long for the purposes of form fields and oral communication, it can safely be shortened to "His, her, or its most illustrious so-and-so,", but *only* under the circumstances enumerated....' :D

larry burns
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby larry burns » Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:29 pm

CarlBrannen wrote:
"The correlation between undergraduate GPA and Physics GRE score is very small.


from what I've seen on this website, thats not true at all. The people with 900+ PGREs almost always had 3.9+ gpa's. I think I found just one person with a 3.6 gpa or less (at a US school) that got higher than a 850.

geshi
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby geshi » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:32 pm

larry burns wrote:from what I've seen on this website, thats not true at all. The people with 900+ PGREs almost always had 3.9+ gpa's. I think I found just one person with a 3.6 gpa or less (at a US school) that got higher than a 850.


Are you also implying that anyone above 3.9 GPA had over 850?

larry burns
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby larry burns » Mon Oct 18, 2010 4:07 pm

geshi wrote:
larry burns wrote:from what I've seen on this website, thats not true at all. The people with 900+ PGREs almost always had 3.9+ gpa's. I think I found just one person with a 3.6 gpa or less (at a US school) that got higher than a 850.


Are you also implying that anyone above 3.9 GPA had over 850?


no. I guess I wasn't being specific enough. Yes, there are plenty that don't follow the correlation of strong gpa and strong PGREs, such as those with strong GPA's but not strong PGREs. But whenever someone had a strong PGRE, its because they almost always had a strong gpa

admissionprof
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby admissionprof » Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:39 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
grae313 wrote:Being a girl is an advantage.


Interestingly enough, I thought about putting "prefer not to answer" for my gender and inform my recommendation writers to refer to me as a "they" instead of a "he" in their letters. Considering my name is bi-gender (Riley), I was wondering how application committees would view my application.

-Riley


I would consider it a challenge. With teh google, and facebook, it would be really easy to find out. But in practice it wouldn't matter. Females do have a SLIGHT advantage, but it isn't that critical. BTW a couple of years ago we had a transgendered applicant. Caused problems for the bean counters....

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:06 pm

admissionprof wrote:I would consider it a challenge. With teh google, and facebook, it would be really easy to find out. But in practice it wouldn't matter. Females do have a SLIGHT advantage, but it isn't that critical. BTW a couple of years ago we had a transgendered applicant. Caused problems for the bean counters....


That would be even better! Physics professors snooping on me to find out if I'm a girl or a guy! I would love to see their reaction if they found the "right" facebook...

..."There is no way this guy has a physics degree..."

-Riley

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InquilineKea
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby InquilineKea » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:49 pm

no. I guess I wasn't being specific enough. Yes, there are plenty that don't follow the correlation of strong gpa and strong PGREs, such as those with strong GPA's but not strong PGREs. But whenever someone had a strong PGRE, its because they almost always had a strong gpa


On the forums, right? Strong PGRE + weak GPA is a very possible combo - it might not happen very much among students in this forum for whatever reason though. I can definitely see this combo happening in:

- people who REALLY ****ed up freshman year (or freshman + soph years)
- people with ADD
- people who have had ample practice with MC Physics GRE-ish questions, but who don't do that well with the proofs and more complex problems in upper division physics courses (not saying that this combo is desirable, since it isn't, but it is quite possible)
- people who are simply smart and lazy

Of course, maybe people fitting any of the above characteristics aren't the types of people who are super-motivated to go to grad school (motivated enough to post in a forum like this). But they do exist. It's a lot easier to get a decent Physics GRE score (if you put enough time into it) than it is to get a 3.8+ Physics GPA.

Richwest
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby Richwest » Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:22 am

I really like physics, however I'm worried about not being able to get a 3.8+ gpa (looking to go to a top med school) if I major in it. I'm also going to track a cell phone be attending a really good undergrad school so there will be much more competition in my classes (having a near 4.0 gpa in high school is irrelevant considering everyone else attending the university has one too).
Last edited by Richwest on Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

bfollinprm
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Re: Importance of the physics GRE

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:45 pm

Med schools understand the relative difficulty of physics. I personally know people with less than perfect GPA's (3.4-3.6) getting into Hopkins on the strength-of-degree physics offers. You'll also probably ace the MCAT, since the hardest part to cram is the physics portion.




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