Statement about poor PGRE score

t2kburl
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Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:55 am

I had a poor PGRE score on the Nov exam. All of my application materials were already submitted before I knew the score. Should I email a statement to them about it? Not to make an excuse, but maybe to discuss some contributing factors, such as: bad test strategy (I guessed too much), reassigned at work to new project the day before the exam, and have not had EM2 and QM yet.

Would they bother to read it?

I wouldn't send it to the big schools (Colorado, UCSC) because I doubt it would matter, but I think it may help me for the smaller schools (UWM, NMT).

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:07 am

I've addressed this issue before. One person said he was very sick the day of the test and posted on here asking if he should inform the admissions committee. My answer to this question, regardless of the reason, is no. I realize that being sick during a test is not helpful, but if I was sitting on an admission committee, I'd have trouble weighing this issue, as I truly would not know the scale of the sickness, or if there even was one.

I'm not saying any of your reasons are excuses, but I would like to point out they are fairly common among people who take the Physics GRE. Many people have a bad testing strategy, but is this not part of the score in itself? A lot of the people who do well on this test have practiced a lot on how they expect to take the test.

I'm not sure how much a new assignment the day before the exam would affect your test. Although it is possible, what type of effect do you think this would have on the admissions committee if you informed them that this was the reason you did bad on the test?

As far as the last reason, I feel it is common among everyone who takes the Physics GRE. Very few will have all these "core" classes completed by the time they have to take the test. Everyone is at a handicap here. Plus, *most* of the EM2 related questions would be on the level of a general physics II course while the QM questions are typically very basic and do not require a full-fledged course to get them right.

Unless your reason is fairly substantial, such as your wife was in the hospital having a child, I'd say that sending something will be fairly ineffective. They may glance at the document, but I don't think it will be a huge factor in their decision making process.

-Riley

t2kburl
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:29 pm

Thanks for your input. I drafted a statement and sent it to my advisor asking him the same question ... should I send it or not ... He had me edit it a bit and go with it.

I opened the statement by saying this is not intended to be an <insert excuse here> statement, I am fully responsible for my score.

I think I used the new work assignment well. I was chosen to perform a role that is way above my pay grade for that project. I got picked because my engineering managers know that I was capable of getting the job done. This isn't like I was moved from fry-guy to burger-flipper. My job is pretty technical (though, you'd never know it by my pay check).

I concluded it by saying that my score is not a realistic representation of my abilities as a student.

At any rate, my advisor said it couldn't hurt, so I sent it off.

If nothing else it may take them 90 more seconds before throwing my file in the trash.

Three of the department secretaries have already contacted me, saying this was a good idea and will add it to my file. One even said she is rooting for me :)

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HappyQuark
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:55 pm

t2kburl wrote:Thanks for your input. I drafted a statement and sent it to my advisor asking him the same question ... should I send it or not ... He had me edit it a bit and go with it.

I opened the statement by saying this is not intended to be an <insert excuse here> statement, I am fully responsible for my score.

I think I used the new work assignment well. I was chosen to perform a role that is way above my pay grade for that project. I got picked because my engineering managers know that I was capable of getting the job done. This isn't like I was moved from fry-guy to burger-flipper. My job is pretty technical (though, you'd never know it by my pay check).

I concluded it by saying that my score is not a realistic representation of my abilities as a student.

At any rate, my advisor said it couldn't hurt, so I sent it off.

If nothing else it may take them 90 more seconds before throwing my file in the trash.

Three of the department secretaries have already contacted me, saying this was a good idea and will add it to my file. One even said she is rooting for me :)


I agree with Riley on this one. Most of your excuses for why your score wasn't as good as you wanted it to be won't be regarded as very relevant and will come off as such. Furthermore, starting an email by saying "I'm not making excuses, but..." doesn't change the fact that they indeed excuses and if they aren't reasonable, the email only stands to hurt your chances.

t2kburl
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:26 pm

OK, well it is already sent. I fail to see how anything addressing a 490 could possibly do more damage than the 490. I'm not going to copy the entire statement here, but I will say that my advisor did not think it sounded like I was whining or making excuses.
All I can say is, if I go down, I'm going down kicking and screaming all the way. If you guys think its better for people to try to hide from their deficiencies you are showing a lack of maturity and responsibility. I took ownership of my mistakes. There is a huge difference between that and making excuses for them. I hope you learn that some day.
Every school I sent the statement to has responded positively to it. Note that this only went to the smaller programs, I know the big schools wouldn't even bother with it.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:50 pm

t2kburl wrote:OK, well it is already sent. I fail to see how anything addressing a 490 could possibly do more damage than the 490. I'm not going to copy the entire statement here, but I will say that my advisor did not think it sounded like I was whining or making excuses.


Fair enough


t2kburl wrote:If you guys think its better for people to try to hide from their deficiencies you are showing a lack of maturity and responsibility.


Who said anything about hiding deficiencies? Assuming you reported your scores in your applications and had score reports sent to the school, you are already doing the "mature" and "responsible" thing. Writing an email in which you provide illegitimate reasons for admissions committees to ignore your poor performance is a less "mature" and less "responsible" move.

t2kburl wrote:I took ownership of my mistakes. There is a huge difference between that and making excuses for them. I hope you learn that some day.


In what way? You seem to be using the phrase "take ownership of my mistakes" in exactly the same way that everyone else in the world uses the word "excuse". If your email only had the following sentence, I would agree with you that it is an example of taking ownership of your mistakes.

"Dear admissions committee. My performance on the physics GRE was so bad that I felt the need to write you this email. It was my own damn fault and I'm embarassed.

Love and Kisses,
Ned
"

If you attributed your score to anything other than being an embarrassing failure in at least this one instance, then you are making excuses.

Please try to keep in mind, I'm not saying that excuses are necessarily bad (I think you are looking at it this way), particularly if you have a legitimate reason for mentioning it.

t2kburl wrote:Every school I sent the statement to has responded positively to it. Note that this only went to the smaller programs, I know the big schools wouldn't even bother with it.


Cool, congratulations.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:34 pm

HappyQuark wrote:"Dear admissions committee. My performance on the physics GRE was so bad that I felt the need to write you this email. It was my own damn fault and I'm embarassed.



Actually, that was the gist of the thing. Clearly it is pointless to debate what I wrote when you have only read a brief summary of it and not the whole thing.
My score proves I'm capable of screwing up big time on any given day, (actually, I'm quite good at it ... lots of practice). I'm not asking them to ignore it, but to consider the whole picture. I would hope that my application fee paid for enough of their time to do that.

There is a big difference between hiding FROM one's deficiencies and hiding them.
Please read more carefully. :roll:

"illegitimate reasons"? Really? Try it! How can you judge what may have caused a distraction or not? These people have my resume and know about what I do for a living. That is the strength of my application. I included it to play to that. I would hope that professional people who have done some things in their lives would be able to recognize that taking on a major new project one day and an exam the next is probably a bad combination. Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice in the matter. My boss said, "I need my best guy on this" and chose me. I think that makes me look good. It consumed a lot of brain power though.

If you are interested enough to continue this discussion, I'll PM you the actual statement. Maybe then you'll be able to see the difference between taking ownership and making excuses (which I do think is a very bad idea in a situation like this, for others who might be considering it.) But, in my case, leaving that score as a big ugly stain on my application without saying anything was unacceptable to me.

Hausdorff
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby Hausdorff » Sat Jan 08, 2011 12:21 am

to be honest I dont think that your sop will be read if you have a really low pgre score

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grae313
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby grae313 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:25 am

Hausdorff wrote:to be honest I dont think that your sop will be read if you have a really low pgre score


It depends on where he's applying. With a bad exam score or a bad GPA that would normally place someone in the reject pile, I've heard that a typical admissions committee will scan the application for mitigating factors: a remarkable research background, or unusual circumstances that prevented the student from performing to an otherwise demonstrable potential. It sounds like this guy's unusual background may at least get him a read, if only at lower ranked schools.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby quizivex » Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:28 am

t2kburl wrote:Not to make an excuse, but maybe to discuss some contributing factors, such as: bad test strategy (I guessed too much), reassigned at work to new project the day before the exam, and have not had EM2 and QM yet.
I've always thought students should be able to defend themselves against unfair situations and bad luck... There's a difference between excuses and legitimate explanations. Committees probably have mercy with the latter in extreme cases, but probably not for things such as "I had a cold."

In my case, I was livid when ETS rescored my GRE writing section from 5.5 to 4.5. I nearly threw in a note about that in my SOP, but didn't because they might interpret it as me being too arrogant to accept a 5.5 and could count it against me... and if I wrote a detailed explanation it would end up taking up a third of my SOP lol... "5.5 at the time I took the test was only 82%, and half the kids taking the GRE don't speak English, and I was very confident with my essays so I thought I'd get higher than 82% bla bla bla..." The risk outweighed the reward. (BTW, I think the incident reflects worse on ETS than on me, since their grading system for the writing section is embarrassingly inconsistent. :evil: )

Anyway, as for your case, t2, I don't think any aspect of your misfortune qualifies as you getting unfairly ripped off or having bad luck... "I guessed too much"... lol, it doesn't look good that you had to guess so much. That's as bad as saying "I'm a great student but I only struggled on the GRE because I don't know basic physics very well." You can't even know or prove that your guessing strategy hurt you, and that you would've done 100 points better if you left all those questions blank... all you know is your raw score. "reassigned at work to new project the day before the exam" Huh? This has nothing to do with taking the exam. It's unfortunate not to be able to take off the day before the exam, but if you had to work anyway, what difference does a new assignment make? Most students have classes the day before the GRE, possibly with another test. "have not had EM2 and QM yet" Lol, you knew the test was coming for months, and you had plenty of time to fill in any holes in your background unless you started studying last minute, which itself would look bad. The ETS website lists the general topics covered, and the 4 practice tests also show you things you need to learn. All of us had to study unfamiliar topics... I barley knew any quantum or stat mech... and knew nothing about particles. And all of us will still be clueless on some questions.

If anyone here has suffered a serious hardship that hurt your record in some way, such as a death of a parent the week of the GRE, then you deserve some mercy and you should ask one of your recommenders to make a note of that in his rec (so it'd carry more weight)... but excuses such as being sick with a cold, stuck in traffic while driving to the test center, or the dog ate your registration form, are too easy to lie about and anyone could use those on their SOP. Committees probably won't take those seriously.

t2kburl
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:07 am

I am surprised at the perception my OP generated. Obviously I was not clear enough about my purpose or the content of my statement here.

One thing this will prove is that, if a REALLY BAD PGRE is the only major deficiency in your application; do you still have a chance? We'll find out.

For others considering any form of communication regarding a bad score; check with an advisor or trusted faculty member. You score may not be as bad as you think, but I suppose that depends on where you are applying.

Looking for ways that you were ripped off or unfairly screwed will look like making bad excuses. Don't go there. That is certainly not what I did. It was more like "I screwed it up, and this is how I screwed it up ..." Unfortunately I didn't give myself an opportunity to take it again before the deadlines. That was probably the biggest mistake I made in the whole application process and likely caused me to waste my money on several of the application fees where I won't even get a read.
For those who can't quite figure out what I'm saying about the job project; imagine taking your PGRE on the afternoon of the second day of your REU. Do you think you would be as focused on the exam as you need to be at that time? My purpose in including that was to shift the focus off the weak point of my application to the strength of it.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby admissionprof » Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:28 pm

One should keep in mind that the average contributer to these threads is much better than the average applicant. Sure, a 490 will be probably be lethal at Colorado, UCSC , Wisconsin, etc., but at the lower rank places you've applied it certainly won't be lethal. If the rest of your application is strong, you have a decent chance at getting into one of the bottom 5-6 places you are applying.

If I were to get your "statement", I'd basically ignore it. There aren't any really good excuses (no, getting a new responsibility the day before isn't a good excuse), but it doesn't sound too whiny, so it would have no effect. I have seen good excuses before (mononucleosis, death in the immediate family, a nearby explosion due to a civil war), and this doesn't rate.

The most interesting excuse was someone who said they did poorly because the person next to them kept farting for the entire exam. Not sure what to make of it (but we said no since their grades were also pretty awful)....

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HappyQuark
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:04 pm

t2kburl wrote:Actually, that was the gist of the thing. Clearly it is pointless to debate what I wrote when you have only read a brief summary of it and not the whole thing.
My score proves I'm capable of screwing up big time on any given day, (actually, I'm quite good at it ... lots of practice). I'm not asking them to ignore it, but to consider the whole picture. I would hope that my application fee paid for enough of their time to do that.


I don't think any professor at any school needs to be reminded to look at all aspects of an application. This ain't there first rodeo, cowboy!

t2kburl wrote:There is a big difference between hiding FROM one's deficiencies and hiding them.
Please read more carefully. :roll:


You are correct and I did misread this the first time. Regardless, my question still stands, who said anything about hiding from your deficiencies and in what way does contacting professors about your bad score imply that you have managed to overcome this hiding?

The funny thing is, I misread your statement not because I lack comprehension skills but because "hiding my bad score" seemed like a more reasonable statement than "hiding from my bad score" so I assumed you meant the former. If you are aware of your score, which you clearly are because you reported it, how in the world could you possibly be hiding from it and how does anybody else's interpretation of your score influence what you are or are not hiding from?


t2kburl wrote:"illegitimate reasons"? Really? Try it! How can you judge what may have caused a distraction or not? These people have my resume and know about what I do for a living. That is the strength of my application. I included it to play to that.


I think others have covered this pretty well but, just to be clear, something like a death in the family or a serious injury or medical emergency would be an example of a reasonable excuse for doing poorly.

t2kburl wrote:I would hope that professional people who have done some things in their lives would be able to recognize that taking on a major new project one day and an exam the next is probably a bad combination. Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice in the matter. My boss said, "I need my best guy on this" and chose me. I think that makes me look good. It consumed a lot of brain power though.


I disagree and in fact would argue that anybody who is familiar with a professional environment, and I say this from experience, would know that you are trying to leverage this event in your favor when it doesn't warrant it. I work for a DoD contractor on some major air force contracts and have, on many occasions, been moved around between programs. In many of these instances it required learning knew security protocols, new types of technology, new procedures, new work environments, etc and I can say with the utmost confidence that none of these would have, even in the most stressful of cases, caused a typical person to lose any significant amount of points on the test. It may be the case that it really did hit you so hard as to drop your score hundreds of points but if that were the case, you probably aren't cut out for the low pay and stress of graduate physics anyhow.

t2kburl wrote:If you are interested enough to continue this discussion, I'll PM you the actual statement. Maybe then you'll be able to see the difference between taking ownership and making excuses (which I do think is a very bad idea in a situation like this, for others who might be considering it.) But, in my case, leaving that score as a big ugly stain on my application without saying anything was unacceptable to me.


The point I'm trying to make to you is mainly just one about definitions. An excuse is any attempt to attribute a negative thing to a cause that was out of your control. So, for example, when you said that a part of the struggle you faced was being given a new responsibility at your job, this was an example of you attributing part of your poor results on something else that was out of your control and was, by definition, an excuse.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:45 pm

admissionprof wrote:The most interesting excuse was someone who said they did poorly because the person next to them kept farting for the entire exam.


That is hilarious.

-Riley

CarlBrannen
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby CarlBrannen » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:03 pm

\begin{unasked_for_advice}
It's going to be hard to argue that your PGRE score is an outlier when you're roughly at the 67% level for the quantitative (which was presumably taken on a completely different day). That's a horrid score for a physics or math major. There are very few result with scores that low and most of them are not going anywhere. For example, see:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2824&start=50#p26452

There are some really bad quant numbers in the results that are obviously a consequence of confusion between the verbal and quantitative numbers. But you should be doing better on the quantitative tests than the verbal tests.

The thing about the GRE quantitative is that it's at the level of high school math. There's no calculus, no differential equations or vectors (all subjects you'd better have down before grad school). You really should have this material so down that you get done with the quant section early. It is utterly necessary for undergraduate physics much more so for grad school.

Of course these don't correlate perfectly with grades in grad school, but if I were you, I'd spend a year tuning my brain up to the point to the 770+ level on the quantitative. I'd bet that would help your PGRE more than anything.

It's a matter of getting the brain used to analyzing mathematical questions quickly and accurately. Sure this isn't physics, but it's the kind of thing that makes all sorts of other grad student activities easier. For example, graduate lectures are going to assume that you know algebra forwards and backwards, completely and perfectly. But from your quantitative scores I doubt that you're at that level. So what I'm saying is that preparing for the quantitative GRE is close to exactly what you need to do to prepare for physics grad school. If you doubt this, take a look at the problems in J. D. Jackson.

And if you wish to start this next year, I would write an SOP that went into what I was doing to bring myself up to par rather than explaining bad GRE scores.
\end{unasked_for_advice}

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razor
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby razor » Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:26 pm

(I don't know if this is relevant but anyways...)
Why not try a school that doesn't require PGRE?

t2kburl
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:17 pm

razor wrote:(I don't know if this is relevant but anyways...)
Why not try a school that doesn't require PGRE?


I have 4 such applications out there. One in planetary science and three in electrical engineering. None that are the greatest fit for what I want to do.

Re: Quant score. I have used computers and calculators for basic number crunching for the past 20 years (since high school). The quant gre has nothing to do with solving physics problems. Is the GPA so meaningless? Why have I bothered to work so hard to get good grades? I should have been spending all my time preparing for GREs instead? I don't have an infinite supply of money to pump to ETS to keep taking these things. I chose to spread out more applications instead, especially to the "lower level" schools, to increase my chances.

@ admissionprof: Thanks. I don't expect that statement to make a huge impact either way, but I couldn't just leave the 490 hanging out there.

@ HQ: "I don't think any professor at any school needs to be reminded to look at all aspects of an application. This ain't there first rodeo, cowboy!" --- If that were the case there would be no need for this discussion. I'd bet that half my applications hit the trash can with out any letters or statements or transcripts or the resume being read, just because of the PGRE score. This is the one thing about this process that makes it a joke. Putting so much weight on a standardized test score is bullshit. .... yeah ... I know .... you've had this discussion ... I enjoyed reading the rants.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:03 pm

t2kburl wrote:@ HQ: "I don't think any professor at any school needs to be reminded to look at all aspects of an application. This ain't there first rodeo, cowboy!" --- If that were the case there would be no need for this discussion.


You hit the nail on the head, there in fact is no need for this discussion. The fact that you want to have the conversation doesn't mean it's important, worthwhile or necessary.

t2kburl wrote:I'd bet that half my applications hit the trash can with out any letters or statements or transcripts or the resume being read, just because of the PGRE score.


I highly doubt this and even if it did, is it not their prerogative to throw out your application based on one thing? As I already said, this ain't there first rodeo, by which I meant that if they feel that an exceptionally bad PGRE score is enough to throw out an application, even if they've seen no other info, then I will defer to their expertise and assume that, in their experience, this indicator is generally sufficient to weed out unworthy applicants. With all that said, I can almost guarantee you that nobody gets thrown out of the pile without at least them seeing your GPA, General GRE, and some research experience which you recorded on the same application that you recorded your PGRE score.


t2kburl wrote:This is the one thing about this process that makes it a joke. Putting so much weight on a standardized test score is bullshit. .... yeah ... I know .... you've had this discussion ... I enjoyed reading the rants.


I think it is you and other people not involved in the admissions decision making process that over-emphasize the PGRE. A very bad PGRE score can kill your chances at a top level university, but that is only because your competition at these institutions are perfect in every conceivable way and so your score is an easy way to eliminate you from all of the 4.0/990/800/800/6.0/1st author/3 shining recommendation applicants in the pile. As admissionprof already pointed out, you can compensate for a bad score with other aspects of your application for many schools not in the top 10-20.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby CarlBrannen » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:50 pm

t2kburl wrote:Re: Quant score. I have used computers and calculators for basic number crunching for the past 20 years (since high school). The quant gre has nothing to do with solving physics problems. Is the GPA so meaningless? Why have I bothered to work so hard to get good grades? I should have been spending all my time preparing for GREs instead? I don't have an infinite supply of money to pump to ETS to keep taking these things. I chose to spread out more applications instead, especially to the "lower level" schools, to increase my chances.


The problem is that your bad GRE scores are 10 years separated from the good grades. I suspect that the admissions people will interpret these the same way I have; your abilities have gone down hill. We all know people who've lost math abilities as they got older. You should see some of the professors...

ETS even has a paper that says this happens. See "Older Students and the GRE Aptitude Test" where they talking about decays in skills measured by the GRE and other tests. The decline is primarily in quantitative rather than verbal skills:
http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/R ... Hartle.pdf

Physics grad school is about quantitative skills. Look at the problem sets in any graduate text book to see what I mean. My experience was that it was very very competitive. Knowing high school mathematics inside and out (which will get you an 800 on the quantitative GRE) is not enough. You also have to know calculus and differential equations inside and out. Professors assume that the students know algebra inside and out and are very quick with it.

Instead of wasting money taking tests from ETS, get the practice book for the general GRE. They're about $25, less if you buy one used like I did. When you can snatch the pebbles out of the practice test's hand, then sign up for the real test. You don't want to be allowed into physics grad school without the quantitative skills that the other students possess. Tune yourself up. Then show up and kick a**.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:13 pm

To add to what carl said,

Image

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:08 pm

t2kburl wrote:Is the GPA so meaningless?


Since you've read these rants about the Physics GRE, you'll already know my answer to this question. You're not competing against a baseline, you're competing against other students. They will take the best overall students, based on many factors in the application. However, as far as the GPA and the Physics GRE are concerned, I would expect committees to evaluate these side by side. For example, I come from a low-end school where the physics education could be much better. Also, until recently, the grading is highly inflated. So when an admission committee is trying to gauge how my 3.9 at xxxxxxx suck school compares to a 3.5 at MIT, I would assume they would look at the PGRE for backup in analyzing that.

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:00 am

CarlBrannen wrote:The problem is that your bad GRE scores are 10 years separated from the good grades. I suspect that the admissions people will interpret these the same way I have; your abilities have gone down hill. We all know people who've lost math abilities as they got older. You should see some of the professors...

ETS even has a paper that says this happens. See "Older Students and the GRE Aptitude Test" where they talking about decays in skills measured by the GRE and other tests. The decline is primarily in quantitative rather than verbal skills:
http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/R ... Hartle.pdf

Physics grad school is about quantitative skills. Look at the problem sets in any graduate text book to see what I mean. My experience was that it was very very competitive. Knowing high school mathematics inside and out (which will get you an 800 on the quantitative GRE) is not enough. You also have to know calculus and differential equations inside and out. Professors assume that the students know algebra inside and out and are very quick with it.

Instead of wasting money taking tests from ETS, get the practice book for the general GRE. They're about $25, less if you buy one used like I did. When you can snatch the pebbles out of the practice test's hand, then sign up for the real test. You don't want to be allowed into physics grad school without the quantitative skills that the other students possess. Tune yourself up. Then show up and kick a**.


Thanks for the info Carl. My GPA is current. Last semester starts tomorrow :) I spent about a month with that book and another (Princeton Review) last summer between attempts at the general test. I got the exact same score both times. :roll: I have proven to myself already that my age related skill decline requires me to work at it all a little bit harder than my younger classmates. I expect I'll have to step that level up another notch or two in grad school. My plan is to drop the full time job, at least for the years I'm doing the coursework, so I'll have more time to invest in it. I addressed this issue in my SOP to every program I applied to, so they know that my intentions are to bust my a** to do the best I can.


@HQ - I am impressed at your ability to twist everything I say and put a negative spin on it. Reminds me of my ex-wife. I hope you check your attitude at the door when working with the USAF folks and show them more respect than you have this Navy veteran. Its easy to smart off from behind the veil of internet anonymity. I was on SCUD missile watch duty in the Persian Gulf while your mama was (probably) still changing your diapers. If you have nothing more useful to contribute than a running sting of smart a$$ comments, then please stfu. I didn't post here to be lipped off to by some arrogant snot-nosed kid.

@ Riley - Thanks! I actually haven't read the entire forum, but I'll take your reply here as the consensus on the GPA vs GRE issue. It begs the question of why we have accreditation standards if the schools don't trust each other to the point where one test can be considered any where near equivalent to a four or five year body of work.

One thing that amazes me about this process is the apparent lack of credit given in a grad application for experience. I've been out here solving real world problems for years, but they need a standardized test to see if I might have the ability to solve real world problems? I suppose I should hand in my paycheck then, because, according to ETS, I'm probably incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, let alone figuring out why this FPGA won't accept its firmware binary load or whatever the problem is with the next board that crosses my bench. On the other hand, my boss has sat here and told me on several occasions that he could care less about my GPA or any test score if he were to interview me for an engineering position (which he is assuming will happen once I graduate). All they'd care about is my experience. Once you have done something (which takes a few years to show), your GPA is irrelevant. Interesting contradiction.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby pymtab » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:44 am

HappyQuark wrote:I think it is you and other people not involved in the admissions decision making process that over-emphasize the PGRE. A very bad PGRE score can kill your chances at a top level university, but that is only because your competition at these institutions are perfect in every conceivable way and so your score is an easy way to eliminate you from all of the 4.0/990/800/800/6.0/1st author/3 shining recommendation applicants in the pile. As admissionprof already pointed out, you can compensate for a bad score with other aspects of your application for many schools not in the top 10-20.


Actually, there are very few 4.0/990/800/800/6.0/1st author/3 applications, and I bet they all get into Harvard/MIT/Stanford with fellowships. As you may or may not know, Berkeley has an average of 920 on the PGRE, not 990.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Jan 09, 2011 4:18 pm

t2kburl wrote:@HQ - I am impressed at your ability to twist everything I say and put a negative spin on it. Reminds me of my ex-wife. I hope you check your attitude at the door when working with the USAF folks and show them more respect than you have this Navy veteran. Its easy to smart off from behind the veil of internet anonymity. I was on SCUD missile watch duty in the Persian Gulf while your mama was (probably) still changing your diapers. If you have nothing more useful to contribute than a running sting of smart a$$ comments, then please stfu. I didn't post here to be lipped off to by some arrogant snot-nosed kid.


It's funny how you hate HappyQuark's attitude on this subject, yet you married someone with that same outlook. Although HappyQuark is being harsh, I do believe he is trying to put a realistic spin on things. Your reasons for writing this statement (the original topic) were quite weak. That is of course my opinion and although I'm sure I fit in the arrogant snot-nosed kid category, I'm still sure my feedback on this issue was as straight forward as I could present it.

Also, I'm sure they do weight real life experiences favorably. However, regardless of how many real life experiences you have had, I highly doubt any of them will help you pass a qualifying exam in a phd program. Admission committees are looking for people who can pass this exam so they CAN do research.

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:08 pm

... yet you married someone with that same outlook ...


Biggest mistake I ever made. The result of thinking with the wrong ... uh ... parts :wink:

I thought the original post was put to bed in my first response to you when I said that my advisor approved it and I sent it. Anything after that was pointless. Your responses demonstrate someone with some inkling of professionalism, though, unlike HappyQuark's.

Obviously, I'm pretty frustrated with this entire selection process, and I really would like it to be over. It will be, one way or the other, but not soon enough for me. It took me until age ~40 to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and to be this close only to have the damn standardized test kick my a$$ really sucks. Fortunately, I have left some other options out there for myself. I'd be more than happy to go to any of the places I have applied to, regardless of their ranking. I also have a shot at working for NASA, if congress can ever get a budget approved and the job I did as an intern becomes available. I have maintained regular communication with my mentor there, so I have good reason to believe that is a very realistic possibility. But I can't count on it until it happens.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:30 pm

t2kburl wrote:@HQ - I am impressed at your ability to twist everything I say and put a negative spin on it. Reminds me of my ex-wife.


I don't see where I twisted anything you said. You insisted that despite writing an email in which you attributed some of your bad score to outside influences, that you weren't making excuses. My point is that this is precisely what an excuse is and your attempt to twist it into more palpable terms like that you are "not hiding from deficiencies" doesn't change anything. You can call it "facing your demons" if you want, I don't really care, it's still the construction of an excuse.

t2kburl wrote:I hope you check your attitude at the door when working with the USAF folks and show them more respect than you have this Navy veteran. Its easy to smart off from behind the veil of internet anonymity.


Of course I'm respectful. What does this have to do with anything? As a potential grad student and member of the forum, you should know better than to send off some kind of email making poorly justified excuses and then, when called out on it, try to paint it in less embarrassing terms. When I'm interacting with the USAF I do so on behalf of my company and, additionally, do so in a professional setting. This forum is a casual setting and so I have no such obligation to hold your hand and speak sweet nothings into your ear.

t2kburl wrote:I was on SCUD missile watch duty in the Persian Gulf while your mama was (probably) still changing your diapers.


I don't see what point you are trying to make here. Are you suggesting that because you served your country while I was an infant, that my points about your excuses being poorly justified is wrong? In what way?

t2kburl wrote:If you have nothing more useful to contribute than a running sting of smart a$$ comments, then please stfu. I didn't post here to be lipped off to by some arrogant snot-nosed kid.


Again, I don't feel my comments were of the "smart a$$" variety. I enjoy using more colorful phrasing but my points were still intended to be read as serious. Also, I think you will find that my nose contains very little snot as I'm a very tidy and well-kept individual.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:39 pm

t2kburl wrote: I thought the original post was put to bed in my first response to you when I said that my advisor approved it and I sent it. Anything after that was pointless.


Regardless of what your advisor said, most of us seem to be of the opinion that the excuses you cited in your email weren't justifiable. The fact that admissionprof generally seems to agree that your email won't benefit you, primarily because your excuses likely wouldn't be seen as sufficiently detrimental, is more convincing to me than what your advisor said.

t2kburl wrote:Your responses demonstrate someone with some inkling of professionalism, though, unlike HappyQuark's.


An internet forum, especially one with a long cherished history of irreverent discourse, is the wrong setting to be expecting "professionalism".

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:04 pm

HappyQuark wrote:Regardless of what your advisor said, most of us seem to be of the opinion that the excuses you cited in your email weren't justifiable. The fact that admissionprof generally seems to agree that your email won't benefit you, primarily because your excuses likely wouldn't be seen as sufficiently detrimental, is more convincing to me than what your advisor said.


The rest is pointless because I really don't care what you think about it, once I had a green light from my advisor, who actually knows what I do (as do the folks who will be considering my application), and what I actually wrote. Compared to your completely uninformed opinions, its a no-brainer. The only reason I posted here was to get a few more opinions to think about, not expecting to hear back from him until Monday.

Everything else you said is just more twisting and spinning. Shame you can't see it. :roll: You might want to be a bit more careful with your choice of words and how you use them. It doesn't mean sh!t to me, but sooner or later, it just might come back to bite you in the a$$ in a situation that does matter.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:14 pm

t2kburl wrote:Biggest mistake I ever made. The result of thinking with the wrong ... uh ... parts :wink:


I hope you don't get attracted to HappyQuark by thinking with the wrong parts again! Hahaha =)

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:59 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:I hope you don't get attracted to HappyQuark by thinking with the wrong parts again! Hahaha =)

-Riley

LMAO!

At ~40 those parts don't have much to say anymore. LOL

Something for you to look forward to, along with deteriorating quantitative skills, as you get older.

*oh goody! I found the 'ignore' feature. Should make this forum more useful and less annoying.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:49 pm

t2kburl wrote:The rest is pointless because I really don't care what you think about it, once I had a green light from my advisor, who actually knows what I do (as do the folks who will be considering my application), and what I actually wrote. Compared to your completely uninformed opinions, its a no-brainer. The only reason I posted here was to get a few more opinions to think about, not expecting to hear back from him until Monday.


I think if you re-read what I wrote, you'll find that what I said and, more generally, the theme of this entire thread is that It's not just my "uniformed opinions" but also the opinion of nearly all other forum members, including a number of people who have been through the admissions process, many who have been advised against such actions by their professors and even a professor that is an active part of an admissions board. I think you are confusing/deluding yourself by continually characterizing this as a disagreement strictly between my approach and your advisors approach.

t2kburl wrote:Everything else you said is just more twisting and spinning. Shame you can't see it. :roll:


Again, I don't see where this is the case. There is one instance I can think that you might be referring to but I explicitly acknowledged that I had misread what you typed. What, other than that, are you referring to?

t2kburl wrote:You might want to be a bit more careful with your choice of words and how you use them. It doesn't mean sh!t to me, but sooner or later, it just might come back to bite you in the a$$ in a situation that does matter.


Such as? I already explained precisely why I've taken the tone with you that I have and also that I'm aware of my surroundings and how to speak/interact properly in that setting.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:40 pm

t2kburl wrote:
WhoaNonstop wrote:I hope you don't get attracted to HappyQuark by thinking with the wrong parts again! Hahaha =)

-Riley

LMAO!

At ~40 those parts don't have much to say anymore. LOL


Lmfao

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby grae313 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:47 am

OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:48 pm

grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:


You're just jealous that I'm not giving you as much attention. Now now, you know you'll always be my number one over sized eyeball.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby grae313 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:18 pm

grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:


I meant like it's hot, of course.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:33 pm

grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:

This post was made by HappyQuark who is currently on your ignore list. Display this post.

Considering the amount of info in the profiles here, you may not end up quite as anonymous as you think you are. You never know when or where someone might know someone (or be someone) on an admissions committee. I have little doubt that they are very interested in the character and integrity of the students they choose to admit, so it may be a really bad idea to act like an a$$ just for the fun of it.

sleep well :twisted:

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:06 pm

t2kburl wrote:
grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:

This post was made by HappyQuark who is currently on your ignore list. Display this post.

Considering the amount of info in the profiles here, you may not end up quite as anonymous as you think you are. You never know when or where someone might know someone (or be someone) on an admissions committee. I have little doubt that they are very interested in the character and integrity of the students they choose to admit, so it may be a really bad idea to act like an a$$ just for the fun of it.

sleep well :twisted:


Yet, an admissions committee that goes out of it's way to match a PhysicsGRE member to one of their applicants is quite silly. They barely have enough time to read through all the applications, let alone play patty cake on here (besides admissionprof who we love). Plus, I guarantee you there are many graduate students and professors who are major asses but do wonderful research. ;)

By the way, if they started doing application matching to this website, I'd get accepted everywhere because of my awesome avatars.

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby admissionprof » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:49 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
t2kburl wrote:
grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:

This post was made by HappyQuark who is currently on your ignore list. Display this post.

Considering the amount of info in the profiles here, you may not end up quite as anonymous as you think you are. You never know when or where someone might know someone (or be someone) on an admissions committee. I have little doubt that they are very interested in the character and integrity of the students they choose to admit, so it may be a really bad idea to act like an a$$ just for the fun of it.

sleep well :twisted:


Yet, an admissions committee that goes out of it's way to match a PhysicsGRE member to one of their applicants is quite silly. They barely have enough time to read through all the applications, let alone play patty cake on here (besides admissionprof who we love). Plus, I guarantee you there are many graduate students and professors who are major asses but do wonderful research. ;)

By the way, if they started doing application matching to this website, I'd get accepted everywhere because of my awesome avatars.

-Riley


Actually, Riley, I know of several admissions directors who look at this site, but not many who even register. We certainly have time to glance through it (I estimate that I spend a few hours a year looking at it and commenting -- that's all). In fact, I know that an admissions director at one of HappyQuark's schools looks at it (but probably won't bother making the correlation---probably). Mostly, we are just interested in the time scales that other schools make offers, who our main competition is, etc.

You're right though. If anyone matched your application to the website, you'd be accepted instantly. Departmental parties would be a lot more fun.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:55 pm

t2kburl wrote:Thanks for the info Carl. My GPA is current. Last semester starts tomorrow :) I spent about a month with that book and another (Princeton Review) last summer between attempts at the general test. I got the exact same score both times. :roll:


With that attitude, I think you'll do fine. I didn't realize that your 10 years as a technician were from before you went to college. This is another reason it's difficult for people on physicsgre to estimate your chances; we don't have complete information.

My buddy back in college went into special forces at of high school. He was about 5'5" tall. Every time they went on a run he was left behind. He had the attitude that he was going to keep on running and when the guys in front got tired he'd run right over them. He also did fine.

And as I've said before, there's absolutely no doubt that technician experience will be extremely useful in work as an experimentalist and will be seen that way by admissions. And when I took the PhD qualifying exams I learned that the experimental students were not expected to do as well on it as the theoretical students. So don't worry too much about that (though it will be the toughest test you've ever come upon).

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby SSM » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:37 pm

CarlBrannen wrote:And as I've said before, there's absolutely no doubt that technician experience will be extremely useful in work as an experimentalist


Especially if you're certified in Labview. You have no idea how many agonizing hours people in my current group (me included) spend trying to get that program to work.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:56 pm

admissionprof wrote: I know of several admissions directors who look at this site,


I would not be surprised by that, but I would be surprised if they constantly try to match applicants, which is the "concern" someone might have.

SSM wrote:Especially if you're certified in Labview.


One thing I regret not emphasizing on my application / statement was my background with LABView. I basically just mentioned it on my CV, but didn't go into any details about building an elaborate program from scratch. And you're absolutely right, that crap can get annoying fast.

But anyways, my main point is: ANY CREEPING ADMISSION PROFESSORS I KNOW LABVIEW.

-Riley

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:47 pm

Carl ... My tech experience is current and ongoing, too. I do both full-time. Plus raising a couple of teenage daughters. What is a social life? ;)

I love the example of the short guy on the long run. I might use that. "I may be old and slow but I'll keep running until I run your a$$ over!" - to whatever gets in my way.

I'm banking on my "been there, done that" factor getting me in a door somewhere. The LabVIEW cert. may get me in the door at NASA, too. (still waiting ...) It got me the internship. A strong electronics/circuits background probably makes LabVIEW much easier for me than most students.
For SSM - Hint: Use example .vi's to find ways to do things you, or your group, are struggling with. There are TONS of them out there. Piece them together if you have to.

Three of my professors met with me today to discuss my PGRE performance, along with another student, (4.0 GPA & not the greatest PGRE score) to evaluate what, if anything, the department should do about it for future students. They all reassured me that the score isn't everything to everyone. They all believe my experience (along with solid GPA and good course selections) will get me accepted somewhere. Many admission committees really don't care that much about the PGRE score, except to evaluate otherwise equivalent applicants. Clearly, my application has a lot of uncommon qualities, so it may not be as much of a factor. Another factor they look for is weather the student has the perseverance to overcome adversity and finish the program. Maybe admissionprof can confirm or refute these things?

Its very uncomfortable for an old fart like me to be in this position. Where I've done all I can, but my destiny is now out of my control. I am glad this forum exists as a place for us to commiserate at this point and celebrate later!

@ work, I'm much more used to assuming other positions ... especially on payday ... :evil:

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby t2kburl » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:34 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
t2kburl wrote:
grae313 wrote:OH MY GOD HAPPYQUARK, DROP IT ALREADY! :shock:

This post was made by HappyQuark who is currently on your ignore list. Display this post.

Considering the amount of info in the profiles here, you may not end up quite as anonymous as you think you are. You never know when or where someone might know someone (or be someone) on an admissions committee. I have little doubt that they are very interested in the character and integrity of the students they choose to admit, so it may be a really bad idea to act like an a$$ just for the fun of it.

sleep well :twisted:


Yet, an admissions committee that goes out of it's way to match a PhysicsGRE member to one of their applicants is quite silly. They barely have enough time to read through all the applications, let alone play patty cake on here (besides admissionprof who we love). Plus, I guarantee you there are many graduate students and professors who are major asses but do wonderful research. ;)

By the way, if they started doing application matching to this website, I'd get accepted everywhere because of my awesome avatars.

-Riley


Silly as it may seem, I do, in fact, know someone at one of the institutions on his list. I was able to confirm, within an hour, yesterday, that their admissions people are, indeed, quite concerned about the character of the individuals they admit. Someone who feels that its no big deal to p!ss on a person that has put their life on the line to protect and defend his freedom has demonstrated severe character issues. Sunday morning was a test and HQ was an embarrassing failure. There is a lesson to be learned from this, but I have yet to decide how harsh it will be.

How about this: HappyQuark ... I'll un-ignore you (temporarily) to give you a second opportunity to read through this dialogue and see if and how you might change some of your responses. Look very carefully at the things you "didn't see" previously, even though you were virtually bludgeoned over the head with some of them. Of course, it may still be too late. After all, your character is who you are when you think no one is looking. It is a reflection of the very core of your being. You have until tomorrow morning. Good luck.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:45 pm

t2kburl wrote:How about this: HappyQuark ... I'll un-ignore you (temporarily) to give you a second opportunity to read through this dialogue and see if and how you might change some of your responses. Look very carefully at the things you "didn't see" previously, even though you were virtually bludgeoned over the head with some of them. Of course, it may still be too late. After all, your character is who you are when you think no one is looking. It is a reflection of the very core of your being. You have until tomorrow morning. Good luck.


I've looked through our dialogue a few times now and I promise you I'm not seeing any instances in which I manipulated what you said. Regardless, I don't think it's a good economy of your time or mine to be so concerned over this discussion any more, so I'd like to formally apologize for any instance in which I misrepresented what you were saying and I'd like to assure you it wasn't my intention.

Have a nice day and, again, congrats on your first acceptance.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby grae313 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:10 pm

t2kburl wrote:Silly as it may seem, I do, in fact, know someone at one of the institutions on his list. I was able to confirm, within an hour, yesterday, that their admissions people are, indeed, quite concerned about the character of the individuals they admit. Someone who feels that its no big deal to p!ss on a person that has put their life on the line to protect and defend his freedom has demonstrated severe character issues. Sunday morning was a test and HQ was an embarrassing failure. There is a lesson to be learned from this, but I have yet to decide how harsh it will be.

How about this: HappyQuark ... I'll un-ignore you (temporarily) to give you a second opportunity to read through this dialogue and see if and how you might change some of your responses. Look very carefully at the things you "didn't see" previously, even though you were virtually bludgeoned over the head with some of them. Of course, it may still be too late. After all, your character is who you are when you think no one is looking. It is a reflection of the very core of your being. You have until tomorrow morning. Good luck.


Now you're the one stepping over a line, buddy. Threatening people online makes you look ridiculous, and you come off as overly prideful, arrogant, and vengeful. If you feel pissed on, you need to take a look at yourself. Don't be oversensitive and don't expect everyone to lick your ass because you served. Learn to forgive as well as to fight, soldier, and take the high road when someone's simple words in an online forum are not to your liking.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby michael » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:04 pm

I hope this insinuation by admissionprof that there could be a great many lurking admissions people acts as an incentive for people to be a bit nicer to each other in these forums. Physics should be about understanding things, and helping other people to understand them, not trying to belittle people.

Its nice to be important, but its more important to be nice.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:50 pm

michael wrote:I hope this insinuation by admissionprof that there could be a great many lurking admissions people acts as an incentive for people to be a bit nicer to each other in these forums. Physics should be about understanding things, and helping other people to understand them, not trying to belittle people.

Its nice to be important, but its more important to be nice.


This is the only reason I'm nice on here. Otherwise I'd strangle you all!!1!!11!!1!

-Riley

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grae313
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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby grae313 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:13 pm

michael wrote:Its nice to be important, but its more important to be nice.


Only an unimportant idiot would say that. *** off, ya moron.











































:P

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby michael » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:24 pm

@grae A headmaster I had when I was a kid used to go around the school picking up litter, and knew all the dinner ladies and cleaners in the school as well as he knew the teachers and students. He made a big impression on me, and he used that as his motto. Although it is kind of a dorky saying, the guy was a legend and I appreciate the message so I think it's cool regardless.

Ok, just abusing the fact that there are probably lots of americans here - I have a W2 tax form from some research I did in the US in the last tax year. I am pretty sure I can claim some tax back. Can anyone point me towards any websites (which won't try to take some of my money) which tell me how to go about claiming it back? Is it already too late as the last tax year has passed? Sorry, I am massively confused by the form and advice would be highly appreciated.
Last edited by michael on Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Statement about poor PGRE score

Postby Goran15 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:01 pm

gr
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