I just got my scores of the revised general GRE and did REALLY badly.
Here are my scores and percentiles
(notice they're in the NEW 130-170 SCALE):
V-GRE: 146 / 170 (31%)
Q-GRE: 159 / 170 (82%)
W-GRE: 3.0 / 6 (11%)
I got too nervous on the test day and besides, I didn't get myself prepared for it, but I know this is not an excuse for such a poor performance. Honestly, the one score that frustrated me the most was the quantitative. I'm pretty sure I could definitely get an 800 easily, but I screwed up one of the sections. I did three quantitative sections, two of which I'm pretty sure I got everything correct (they were ridiculously easy), but the third one was unusually "difficult", mostly because of bad wording and some confusing tables in which I got stuck (although two or three questions were particularly challenging for a 35' time limit test), so that I ran out of time and had to guess around 8 answers. I was hoping that this section would be experimental, but unfortunately I guess it wasn't (I hate computer adaptative tests!), as my score is relatively low (at least for a physics student without any trouble at all with basic math). However, I'm pretty confident that I did great in the PGRE (hoping for a 950 or so) and I also have a very good GPA and one publication (2nd author in a Physical Review E article). I think I can also get reasonable letters of recommendation.
Taking into account that I'm an international student aiming to do research in theoretical physics, do you guys think it's still worth to apply for grad school with such credentials (in particular, for some of the top 20/30 programs), or should I definitely retake the general GRE test? What are my chances if I do get a high PGRE score? In case I apply, should I mention in my SoP the reason I did poorly in the general test?
This decision is really important to me, as I'm considering seriously to give up an academic career in physics if I don't get accepted by a reasonably good American grad school (in which case I would enter an engineering undergraduate school in my home country to have a better job perspective). BTW, I'm considering to apply only twice if necessary (if I'm rejected a second time I'll definitely say goodbye to my physics career and get into an engineering school).
It would also be great to hear admissionprof's opinion on how to resolve this dilemma.