Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:40 am

Hi, I am new the forum and hope to obtain some valuable opinions from members on board.
First of all, I appreciate all of your attention and time to read/answer my questions.

Begin with a little background information about me. I am a domestic student; I go to a top 20 physics undergraduate school (US). I have a 3.6 GPA in my physics major. I have spent 3 years doing research in Condensed Matter (theory and experiments.) I have two strong letters from my academic research background and one letter from my industrial research background. However, unfortunately I don't have any publication, only have presentations and talks.
Earlier this year I took the PGRE and scored 880 (84th percentile.)

To be honest, I don't think I am a competent applicant to physics PhD programs. I think I am doing pretty average as far as my stats goes. I could have done better but there were various personal/family issues. Nevertheless, pursuing a career in condensed matter physics is my most sincere passion.

So let me get to the point. I took the Computer Based GRE General Revised Test just today. I got the result immediately and I scored a 160 (~750/760 on old GRE test.) My verbal was 149 which is something I anticipated. Reading has always been my weakness, especially with time constraint. Although I am not exactly sure what my writing score is, I think I did fairly well in terms of constructing arguments and analysis for the essay prompt. By the way, English is not my first language, so that might explain a little bit about my reading difficulty.
I was told several times that most physics graduate program don't put any emphasis on verbal section, so I haven't spent much time in reviewing the verbal materials like vocabs. What concerns me is my quantitative part, I believe 160 is fairly low for Physics student? Is this going to hurt my chance of getting into a good physics program?

I have the option to retake it in 21 days. Could you please advice me on this matter? Should I stick to my current GRE score or should I retake it in 3 weeks?
(I was expecting my quantitative score to be ~165, which is what I got in my practice test. However, I did poorly on time management today; I simply ran out of time to complete all the math problems.)

Once again, thank you for your attention.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby Catria » Sat Aug 23, 2014 1:03 pm

At least you know what, and how, to improve...

We physicists have only one compelling reason to study for the verbal section on the general GRE: university-wide fellowships are sometimes awarded partly on the basis of general GRE scores. My advice: wait until you have the writing score before committing to a retake.

Remember: the majority of applicants (and often matriculants) at schools outside the top-20 do not have any publications, so don't worry about only having presentations and talks to show for it. Take Minnesota and UPenn (after a visit at UPenn, a current graduate student there told me that the majority didn't have any publication prior to matriculation), for example, as far as GRE scores are concerned (here the average scores are expressed in terms of percentiles).

Minnesota (definitely consider if superconductivity is your thing):

Verbal: 68%
Quantitative: 88%
Writing: 46%
Physics: 68%

UPenn (definitely consider if soft condensed matter is your thing):

Verbal: 88% (626 on the old GRE corresponds to ~88th percentile; here non-native English speakers are excluded)
Quantitative: 86%
Writing: Not available
Physics: 68% (I'm going on a limb and say that 781 corresponds to the 68th percentile)

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:43 pm

Thank you Catria for the suggestion of grad programs. Those two are definitely on my list. However, I have a preference for schools in California, because that's where my family lives and oftentimes I need to go home for various reasons. My undergrad institution is in California as well. And also I am working in a company that has close tie to my undergrad school. There are many reasons for me to try to stay in California.

I think it takes up to 3 weeks to receive my complete score and then by that time, all the bookings of September computer-based test will be taken. Then I will have to wait until October to take it and I afraid it will be too late to send the scores in during the Fall application period.

So that's my main concern at this moment.

I either schedule a test immediately around the end of Sep and retake the test before school starts.
Or I should just forget about it and send in my current score to grad schools. The cost of first option is money and time. The cost of second option is my chances of getting into a good grad program (whether it is a deal breaker or not, that's what I am trying to find out.)

I don't think I can improve my verbal score dramatically. At most I can bump it up to 50ish percentile. I am fairly confident I can improve my Quantitative score to > 90th percentile but of course there is no certainty.

What do you think?

tsymmetry
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby tsymmetry » Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:43 pm

I would ask your recommenders where you should apply. Since you are in a highly ranked physics department, they should have a good idea of reasonable places.

You don't absolutely need a publication to get into top places. Sometimes things get slowed down or something happens so it's understandable. I know a few people who got into places like Harvard or MIT before they had publications (although I think one got something published after applications were submitted and another will eventually get something out).

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Aug 25, 2014 12:03 am

The answer to the titular question is no.

There's nothing wrong with your GRE score--especially if English is your second language--and no one makes admissions decisions based off of the verbal score, anyway.

As a side comment--if it's at a recognized conference, a talk or poster is probably as good as a second (or lower) author paper, at least when it comes to undergraduates filling their CV for admissions to grad school.

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:57 pm

Thank you everyone for the assistance.

So here comes the actual result.
Quant 160 (78%) Verb 149 (41%) AW 3.5 (38%)

I got the quant and verb result on the day I took the test. Yesterday I received the AW score. I am surprised it only took ETS 2 weeks to finish grading GRE. The physics one took like forever.
Anyways, my English portion of the test is below average. I overestimated my writing performance. Perhaps it has to do with the fact I didn't have time to finish the last paragraph of the essay.

So with this result, would any of your opinion/advice for me change?
At this point, it's only early September. If this score is hurting my graduate application too much, I still have the time to retake it.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby Catria » Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:40 pm

Now I could say retake...

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:13 pm

alright then, there goes my $200 for doing algebra all over again.

I probably should start reading the sample essays and memorize the whole format instead of coming up with useless creative content.

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:06 pm

By the way, thank you everyone for helping me to make the decision.

I took it again. Now my quantitative score is in the 90th~ percentile range. The verbal went up as well, the verbal went up to 60th percentile. I am waiting for my writing score. Hopefully it doesn't suck.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby Catria » Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:29 pm

Now I can confidently recommend you UCSD...

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:03 am

Catria wrote:Now I can confidently recommend you UCSD...


Actually, I go to UCSD lol... I know the faculties pretty well. The company I am working for has strong connection to UCSD, the founders, the executives etc... are PhDs from UCSD.

But one of my professors told me it's not good to stay in the same school. So I am debating... I love San Diego, no doubt.
I really want to stay here but if other offers are significantly better I will go. At this stage, I don't know what kind of results I will get from the applications.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby Catria » Wed Oct 15, 2014 6:44 am

What about UCLA then?

gigadan
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby gigadan » Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:02 pm

Yeah UCLA is on my list

So you think I have good chances at UCSD/UCLA tier of Physics grad programs?

Actually I really want to go to UCSB but it's very tough, they have one of the best Condensed matter programs.
The location is great and it has beaches just like UCSD.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Poor quantitative GRE score, should I retake?

Postby Catria » Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:29 pm

gigadan wrote:Yeah UCLA is on my list

So you think I have good chances at UCSD/UCLA tier of Physics grad programs?

Actually I really want to go to UCSB but it's very tough, they have one of the best Condensed matter programs.
The location is great and it has beaches just like UCSD.


So you've got yourself a reach in UCSB and feel free to apply at Stanford and at Berkeley too. Now choose which top-10 schools to apply to based on whether there are condensed matter projects that interest you at one; each and every one of them is a reach.

UCLA is a match, and you may apply to one of Minnesota, UPenn and Rutgers based on areas of interest within condensed matter.




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