Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

mhazelm
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Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby mhazelm » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:11 pm

I haven't seen a consensus in another thread. Is it better to comment on why my score is pitifully awful, or just say nothing? My research advisor is going to add a blurb about my score and that people at my university tend to score lower, but I'm not sure if I should say anything. I know it didn't help me to take the exam without having taken QM, thermal, optics, or electronics (and it was more than 2 years later than my mechanics course), but I don't know if I should say something or not. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, but I do want to indicate that I'm quite capable of succeeding, when given the proper tools.

tmc
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby tmc » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:38 pm

Your supervisor saying that students at your university tends to score lower, unless you're at a well-respected university, will simply tell the admission committee that your undergrad grades should not be trusted; that your pgre grades aren't just a fluke, but that they're a result of poor undergrad education. That would be really bad for you.

Similarly, if you mention that it's because you hadn't taken QM, thermo, optics, etc., then they'll wonder what you've been doing for 4 years, as these are standard 2nd-3rd year courses.

What you do want to say, is that it doesn't properly reflect your abilities, and that they should instead look at your GPA, research experience and recommendations. And make sure your recommenders say the same; that your pgre score was a fluke that doesn't properly reflect your abilities.

Don't make excuses as in being sick or anything like that, and don't talk about your preparation (if you say you didn't prepare, it looks bad; if you say you prepared a lot, it looks even worse). Don't make a big deal about it either, the statement should be about saying how great you are, not about how not so terrible you are. So emphasize the good parts, and somewhere mention that your Pgre is a bad measure of your talents.

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secander2!
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby secander2! » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:40 pm

My personal feeling is to not mention it unless you had some really good concrete reasons for doing poorly (like being in a serious wreck on the way to the test or something): not having had four important classes does seem to border on "good concrete reason for doing poorly" though. If it was me, however, I'd just leave it to my recommender, that way they get the idea and there's no fear that they'll think you're whining.

Also, tmc's point is a good one. If you tell them that you haven't had four important courses, they might wonder what you've been doing for the last few years.
Last edited by secander2! on Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Andromeda
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby Andromeda » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:47 pm

I was advised that you should leave addressing any deficiencies in your application to recommenders- the personal statement is your moment to shine and assure the committee that you are awesome and will continue to be so upon acceptance, so pointing out bad stuff just tends to make them notice it more.

Plus if they're very concerned about your GRE score and it's addressed somewhere in your app, ie by your letter writer, I don't really see what a second mention would do for you.

mhazelm
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby mhazelm » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:50 pm

I'm a double math/physics major. I did my lower division physics courses first, then added math as a major and spent the next 2 years doing geometry, abstract and linear algebra, group theory, etc. So I wasn't totally just messing around - I was busy and also learning general relativity - it's just that knowing the First Isomorphism Theorem, spectral theory and representation of finite groups didn't help me to remember anything about modern physics or classical mechanics.

I guess I'd better find out what my recommender wrote. He just told me that he was going to change his letter because of it. I suppose I'll just leave my SOP as it is.

My chances are probably all dashed, so most likely I'll get my Master's here for a year and retake the stupid PGRE. Or the math GRE. I can't decide.

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secander2!
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby secander2! » Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:05 pm

I think that's a good reason, if your recommender puts that info in your letter, I think it should help quite a bit!

Anyways, one backup plan to consider is doing a Ph.D. in Europe. There are some very prestigious schools in Europe, and most of them have never heard of the PGRE. Your application is extremely strong except for the PGRE, so you might want to consider some of these schools. Of course there are the top ones in the UK: Oxford, Imperial, and Cambridge; and there are many others which are quite good too, I also know some people who went to Manchester for instance and said good things about it. Furthermore, since you speak German, you could consider studying in a place like Germany or Switzerland. I know that ETH Zurich is widely considered to be the best school on the European mainland, and it traditionally has a very strong physics department. From what I've heard, the process taken in applying to these schools is somewhat different than in America. I've been told that you have to contact the people you want to work with, and if there is an opening for a Ph.D. student, they can take you. I think you still have to apply to the school however, but most of the British ones I looked at have an online application similar to the American ones. Perhaps somebody like Helio can shed more light on the mysterious workings of the European admissions process.

US News has a nice ranking of the top institutions around the world. Here's the list for the natural sciences.

scallions
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby scallions » Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:14 pm

I'm not going to mention mine - just focus more on the achievements I do have (grades, research, tutoring, etc) rather than trying to explain where I goofed. I gave my LOR writers the heads up though, which should be sufficient since them concurring that it's not a good representaton probably holds a lot more weight than me saying the same.

mhazelm
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby mhazelm » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:17 am

This all sounds good, thanks for the feedback. Secander, I'll look into Europe. I wouldn't mind going back to Germany! Good beer, after all.

I tried for Oxford too (hence the Rhodes thing) and the Marshall, but didn't get either, so that's out - but if I can start an orphanage in Uganda or solve the AIDS crisis in Africa, I could totally get a Rhodes next year!!! lol just kidding.

I'll look into it though. I just have to keep myself from getting to depressed in the meantime. optimism, optimism, ...

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Helio
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby Helio » Sat Dec 13, 2008 3:32 pm

secander2! wrote:I think that's a good reason, if your recommender puts that info in your letter, I think it should help quite a bit!

Anyways, one backup plan to consider is doing a Ph.D. in Europe. There are some very prestigious schools in Europe, and most of them have never heard of the PGRE. Your application is extremely strong except for the PGRE, so you might want to consider some of these schools. Of course there are the top ones in the UK: Oxford, Imperial, and Cambridge; and there are many others which are quite good too, I also know some people who went to Manchester for instance and said good things about it. Furthermore, since you speak German, you could consider studying in a place like Germany or Switzerland. I know that ETH Zurich is widely considered to be the best school on the European mainland, and it traditionally has a very strong physics department. From what I've heard, the process taken in applying to these schools is somewhat different than in America. I've been told that you have to contact the people you want to work with, and if there is an opening for a Ph.D. student, they can take you. I think you still have to apply to the school however, but most of the British ones I looked at have an online application similar to the American ones. Perhaps somebody like Helio can shed more light on the mysterious workings of the European admissions process.

US News has a nice ranking of the top institutions around the world. Here's the list for the natural sciences.


Actually ETH Zurich uses the same system as OSU does for applications. I did a pre-app there for the MS in Physics and they said I should apply, which I will when the system opens up again. BTW the list above is a bit flawed, the ETH is considered one of the Top 3 programs world-wide for condensed matter, so in Physics they are stronger.

Another thing you need to consider is that most programs require a Masters (or at least en route in form of a Master's thesis) to get into these programs. For example I am applying to Masters programs in Europe and not PhD programs (there are exceptions like the IMPRS schools, which say they might accept you but want a Master's en route then)

Well rhodes is also a lot about athletics (at least the CA ones), i.e. 2 from CA this year were a rugby and a football player, 1 last year was basketball player.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby coreycwgriffin » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:52 pm

Advice I got, straight from those who are writing my letters, are that people at my college usually do do poorly on the PGRE, and that all I should say is that I don't believe it is an accurate reflection of my abilities.

Whoever it was that said if your professors say this sort of thing in their letters that shows a sign of weakness for your entire undergraduate program is full of ***.

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Helio
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby Helio » Sat Dec 13, 2008 5:24 pm

I would say you can do it if the school allows you too. PSU astronomy specifically says you can comment on it.

tmc
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby tmc » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:23 pm

coreycwgriffin wrote:Advice I got, straight from those who are writing my letters, are that people at my college usually do do poorly on the PGRE, and that all I should say is that I don't believe it is an accurate reflection of my abilities.

Whoever it was that said if your professors say this sort of thing in their letters that shows a sign of weakness for your entire undergraduate program is full of ***.

You obviously lack basic reading ability and should reread my post above, as I'm the one who you're saying is full of ***, even though I did say
tmc wrote:What you do want to say, is that it doesn't properly reflect your abilities, and that they should instead look at your GPA, research experience and recommendations. And make sure your recommenders say the same; that your pgre score was a fluke that doesn't properly reflect your abilities.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby coreycwgriffin » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:25 pm

tmc wrote:
coreycwgriffin wrote:Advice I got, straight from those who are writing my letters, are that people at my college usually do do poorly on the PGRE, and that all I should say is that I don't believe it is an accurate reflection of my abilities.

Whoever it was that said if your professors say this sort of thing in their letters that shows a sign of weakness for your entire undergraduate program is full of ***.


tmc wrote:Your supervisor saying that students at your university tends to score lower, unless you're at a well-respected university, will simply tell the admission committee that your undergrad grades should not be trusted; that your pgre grades aren't just a fluke, but that they're a result of poor undergrad education. That would be really bad for you.

tmc
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby tmc » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:30 pm

tmc wrote:Your supervisor saying that students at your university tends to score lower, unless you're at a well-respected university, will simply tell the admission committee that your undergrad grades should not be trusted; that your pgre grades aren't just a fluke, but that they're a result of poor undergrad education. That would be really bad for you.

As I said, reading is essential. Saying that everyone at the university gets bad PGRE score makes your university look bad, unless it already has a well-known reputation of being good. Saying that you alone got a bad score this time which doesn't properly reflect your abilities makes it look like a fluke, which isn't bad.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby coreycwgriffin » Sun Dec 14, 2008 3:49 am

tmc wrote:
tmc wrote:Your supervisor saying that students at your university tends to score lower, unless you're at a well-respected university, will simply tell the admission committee that your undergrad grades should not be trusted; that your pgre grades aren't just a fluke, but that they're a result of poor undergrad education. That would be really bad for you.

As I said, reading is essential. Saying that everyone at the university gets bad PGRE score makes your university look bad, unless it already has a well-known reputation of being good. Saying that you alone got a bad score this time which doesn't properly reflect your abilities makes it look like a fluke, which isn't bad.


My professors have mentioned it in letters for students from my school who ended up in very nice grad programs (Stanford, Brown, et cetera).

Part of me hates this website because a lot of people state their opinions as fact.

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Andromeda
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby Andromeda » Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:10 pm

I dunno if it shows bad things about the school's program if students do badly on the PGRE and this is mentioned. Everyone knows that students from liberal arts colleges do worse on average, for example, so what's terrible about pointing something like that out?

tmc
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby tmc » Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:45 pm

Because it says specifically that the reason the student did not get a good score was because he lacked the Physics knowledge, because he was busy taking liberal arts courses.

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gliese876d
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby gliese876d » Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:35 pm

I dunno-- personally I did add a sentence about my low PGRE score in my SOP, on the advice of my advisor. He said some very encouraging things when I was depressed about my results, but he also said that it is a bad enough weakness (520 in my case), that it's going to be rather obvious to admissions committees and if I act all "ho-hum, la-de-da" and don't address it in my SOP it could make me look either like I'm oblivious to this very noticeable weak point or that I'm trying to put up smoke screen and deceptively trying to hide it.

I don't see what's so bad about this sentence placed strategically near the end of my SOP after I've highlighted all the good things about my application (my research experience, my scholarships, etc): "If you are hesitant about the weakness of my physics Graduate Record Examination score, I urge you to consider all the positive qualities about my application and notice that this one measure is anomalous compared with my other displayed strengths."

Then I end with a final paragraph summarizing my strengths and why I feel I'm a good candidate for admission. I look at my SOP as an opportunity to at least explain a little about an outstanding flaw.... Perhaps it might depend on just how outstanding the flaw is as to whether or not you feel it should be addressed. Too many over-achievers on this site think their world is going to come to an end because they got a 700 on their PGRE. And maybe this is a big handicap for the most competitive schools, but it's nothing that needs to be addressed in a SOP for middle-ranking schools.

I would say that you have to consider how high you're shooting, how bad your score is, and how misrepresentative it is of the rest of your application, and then evaluate just how bad it will look to admissions committees based on those things. If it's going to look really really out of place and like a very obvious weak point, I think it's worth briefly addressing to at least attempt to clarify. If it's only a slight handicap, I'd say don't bother.... JMO...

SuperStringBoy
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby SuperStringBoy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:47 am

I also need advise
I am in same problem. I got 590 . I don't have subject gre center in my country. I had to go other country and took enough pain to find the center and a hotel close to that center. It was really painful. Is it a strong cause?? should i mention it in sop or not?? obviously i am not applying to any top school.

arieszen
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby arieszen » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:25 am

yes you should. but at the same time your sop shoudn't sound whiny. so mention something like "It's probably not a good excuse but...then mention what problem you faced. make it sound like you don't want to use it as an excuse but you did have genuine problems.
Also ifff possible retake the exam.

SuperStringBoy
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby SuperStringBoy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:55 pm

arieszen wrote:yes you should. but at the same time your sop shoudn't sound whiny. so mention something like "It's probably not a good excuse but...then mention what problem you faced. make it sound like you don't want to use it as an excuse but you did have genuine problems.
Also ifff possible retake the exam.


Thanks a lot .

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby ncanac » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:01 pm

I know someone recommended AGAINST mentioning sickness, but I was extremely sick with mononucleosis at the time I took my PGRE. High fever, splitting headache, terrible sore throat (I was having difficulty swallowing my own saliva)... I fully acknowledge I wasn't about to score a 990 healthy or otherwise, but my condition didn't do me any favors. I was scoring in the mid 700s to 800 on practice tests a few weeks out and intended to keep cramming until the test, and then I got sick. Judging by how I felt things went, I'll be surprised if I get a 700. Is my situation worth mentioning? Not meant as an excuse, but just a short note on my condition. Should I instead get one of my professors to mention it? Thanks.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:30 pm

ncanac wrote:I know someone recommended AGAINST mentioning sickness, but I was extremely sick with mononucleosis at the time I took my PGRE. High fever, splitting headache, terrible sore throat (I was having difficulty swallowing my own saliva)... I fully acknowledge I wasn't about to score a 990 healthy or otherwise, but my condition didn't do me any favors. I was scoring in the mid 700s to 800 on practice tests a few weeks out and intended to keep cramming until the test, and then I got sick. Judging by how I felt things went, I'll be surprised if I get a 700. Is my situation worth mentioning? Not meant as an excuse, but just a short note on my condition. Should I instead get one of my professors to mention it? Thanks.


It's unfortunate your situation is... I got a 990 with Mono, then that would be beautiful in your SOP. "Oh by the way, I just thought I'd let you know I got a 990 with Mono. Whats up now?"

Personally, I wouldn't tell them. Regardless of it being true or not, I'd just get a feeling they'd think it was an excuse, but who knows.

-Riley

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby vttd » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:43 pm

I've spoken with a professor who has been on admission committee and he told me that I should have explicitly mentioned my reasoning for not scoring well on the GRE (I had to observe the night before). It was a shame that this advice came after I submitted my application. But on the applications I submitted I just commented that I did not believe my scores accurately represented my aptitude for graduate school.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby HappyQuark » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:20 pm

tmc wrote:
tmc wrote:Your supervisor saying that students at your university tends to score lower, unless you're at a well-respected university, will simply tell the admission committee that your undergrad grades should not be trusted; that your pgre grades aren't just a fluke, but that they're a result of poor undergrad education. That would be really bad for you.

As I said, reading is essential. Saying that everyone at the university gets bad PGRE score makes your university look bad, unless it already has a well-known reputation of being good. Saying that you alone got a bad score this time which doesn't properly reflect your abilities makes it look like a fluke, which isn't bad.


As has been pointed out on the forum ad nauseam, doing well on the physics GRE is NOT tantamount to doing well in graduate coursework or research. There probably is some correlation but to make the generalization that if all students do poorly on the PGRE, then that school doesn't provide a satisfactory preparation for physics in graduate school is wrong.

Since I graduated from a liberal arts college but took a number of courses at a large state/research university, I can say with some experience that big state schools do a much better job of preparing you for the type of questions that the GRE asks. At my undergrad alma mater, for example, professors focused heavily on the process of getting to the right answers and, more importantly, understanding the phenomena. I don't doubt that larger universities also focus on critical thinking, but were a small private liberal arts college differs is that this philosophy was reflected in lectures, homework, tests, and finals. With never more than 10 students in my upper division coursework (I'm actually being generous, the average was probably around 7 students) the professors had the time and resources to give assignments which required extensive and often times verbose reasoning. In addition, all labs required formal write ups because, once again, the professors (as opposed to a TA) had the time to read through, comment and grade everyone's complete set of procedures, analysis, etc.

At the larger state university, homework typically took the form "do these 30 problems at the end of the chapter, put your quantitative solution in a box and I'll have my TA see if the number you put in the box is the same as the number in the solutions manual".

At the liberal arts college, every exam we ever had felt a lot like a Putnam exam, in that you were expected to solve a few (usually between 3 and 5) very extensive problems which were intentionally designed in such a way that you could only solve them by a thorough understanding of the topic and a lot of ingenuity. At the large state university, the tests were typically between 10-20 questions long and you were graded primarily on whether you were able to get the right answer and, for some small amount of partial credit, whether you took a reasonable approach to get there (e.g. used the right equations). Compare these to the Physics GRE which was designed to test your ability to answer rapid fire plug-n-chug problems and it shouldn't be surprising that students from a liberal arts college are less prepared for the exam.

Of course there is something to be said for ones ability to quickly recall previously derived equations and, to a degree, the PGRE exam score is an indication of a persons persistence and motivation. However, to accept the generalization you've provided would require a person to be in a profound state of ignorance and/or denial.

Just sayin'!

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby vttd » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:44 pm

I would have to disagree about your generalization of large research universities. At my school (a large research university) we had exams that were at max. 10 problems (typically 3 or 5) which were very complex and complicated. You could not solve these exams with any quick method that you had learned on easier problems in class that the professor derives. Our class sizes were in the 20-30s and even lower division classes followed this format (with class sizes of 100-200). This lead to really low curves (one was a nice 30/100 and you could see the pain in everyone's face during the test). Of course some of the professors took the approach of assigning problems out of the book, but I'd say that was very rare. We were typically given 5-problem problem sets.

But then again I didn't do extraordinarily well on the GRE. In either case, I feel like the GREs are something that you can study for and adjust to, but learning how to do difficult problem sets is a skill that is much harder to learn. Glad to have gotten that out of the way

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby HappyQuark » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:26 pm

vttd wrote:I would have to disagree about your generalization of large research universities. At my school (a large research university) we had exams that were at max. 10 problems (typically 3 or 5) which were very complex and complicated. You could not solve these exams with any quick method that you had learned on easier problems in class that the professor derives. Our class sizes were in the 20-30s and even lower division classes followed this format (with class sizes of 100-200). This lead to really low curves (one was a nice 30/100 and you could see the pain in everyone's face during the test). Of course some of the professors took the approach of assigning problems out of the book, but I'd say that was very rare. We were typically given 5-problem problem sets.

But then again I didn't do extraordinarily well on the GRE. In either case, I feel like the GREs are something that you can study for and adjust to, but learning how to do difficult problem sets is a skill that is much harder to learn. Glad to have gotten that out of the way


It may be a poor generalization but ultimately my only point was to say that if you spent 4 years being told that "because the equation says so" is not acceptable reasoning for why a certain phenomena acts the way it does, you are more likely to struggle on a test that requires this form of reasoning.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby admissionprof » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:50 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
ncanac wrote:I know someone recommended AGAINST mentioning sickness, but I was extremely sick with mononucleosis at the time I took my PGRE. High fever, splitting headache, terrible sore throat (I was having difficulty swallowing my own saliva)... I fully acknowledge I wasn't about to score a 990 healthy or otherwise, but my condition didn't do me any favors. I was scoring in the mid 700s to 800 on practice tests a few weeks out and intended to keep cramming until the test, and then I got sick. Judging by how I felt things went, I'll be surprised if I get a 700. Is my situation worth mentioning? Not meant as an excuse, but just a short note on my condition. Should I instead get one of my professors to mention it? Thanks.


It's unfortunate your situation is... I got a 990 with Mono, then that would be beautiful in your SOP. "Oh by the way, I just thought I'd let you know I got a 990 with Mono. Whats up now?"

Personally, I wouldn't tell them. Regardless of it being true or not, I'd just get a feeling they'd think it was an excuse, but who knows.

-Riley


I disagree, Riley. Mono is not an excuse, it is a reason. And mono can last a while and be quite debilitating. If I saw this in the SOP, I would tend to discount the PGRE score somewhat. I think it is extremely important to mention it in your SOP (but don't dwell on it). One of your professors should also mention it, in case the reader doesn't notice it in the SOP.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby admissionprof » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:55 pm

ncanac wrote:I know someone recommended AGAINST mentioning sickness, but I was extremely sick with mononucleosis at the time I took my PGRE. High fever, splitting headache, terrible sore throat (I was having difficulty swallowing my own saliva)... I fully acknowledge I wasn't about to score a 990 healthy or otherwise, but my condition didn't do me any favors. I was scoring in the mid 700s to 800 on practice tests a few weeks out and intended to keep cramming until the test, and then I got sick. Judging by how I felt things went, I'll be surprised if I get a 700. Is my situation worth mentioning? Not meant as an excuse, but just a short note on my condition. Should I instead get one of my professors to mention it? Thanks.


P.S. Every professor has dealt with students with mono. It is not a disease to be embarrassed about, it does go away, and it is quite debilitating when it is in the worst phase. This isn't like a head cold or flu (which is probably something you shouldn't mention), but is much more serious. Absolutely you should mention it.

Now if your illness were something like syphyllitic sores, effects of heroin withdrawal or a bad reaction to your anti-psychotic medication, then maybe you shouldn't mention it....

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:10 pm

admissionprof wrote:I disagree, Riley. Mono is not an excuse, it is a reason. And mono can last a while and be quite debilitating. If I saw this in the SOP, I would tend to discount the PGRE score somewhat. I think it is extremely important to mention it in your SOP (but don't dwell on it). One of your professors should also mention it, in case the reader doesn't notice it in the SOP.


I suppose I lack trusting others. If I was on a committee I would probably disregard the "excuse" or "reason" because I would have no evidence to believe it or not. With that being said, I really don't think it will affect the application much even if he does mention it, but then again, I am not an admissions person. I'm just saying if I was the one making the decision, it wouldn't sway my vote for the particular student.

-Riley

CarlBrannen
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby CarlBrannen » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:28 am

I would think that admissions would not be expecting a student to cook a bald-faced lie about mono. I imagine I'd give them the benefit of the doubt. The question is whether or not the other information about the student supports the bad GRE score.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby swestrings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 11:44 pm

What about getting a bad GRE for other reasons, should that also be mentioned in the SOP? Personally I feel that the GRE is extremely detached from my research which deals with string theory, and no-one in my country (save one or two exchange students) knows what it is, I constantly have to explain to people why I would bother spending time and money on such a capricious test.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby danielvulrich » Wed May 04, 2011 10:12 am

actually i'm pretty sure there's no need to mention your bad GRE in the SOP if you think that it is far from your research

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grae313
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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby grae313 » Wed May 04, 2011 10:20 am

swestrings wrote:What about getting a bad GRE for other reasons, should that also be mentioned in the SOP? Personally I feel that the GRE is extremely detached from my research which deals with string theory, and no-one in my country (save one or two exchange students) knows what it is, I constantly have to explain to people why I would bother spending time and money on such a capricious test.


I'm pretty sure writing that in your SOP would be a terrible thing. That may be the attitude in your country, but over here it's expected that a strong physics student destined for high-level theory research could easily ace the exam, even without studying. I'm not presenting anything to argue with here -- I'm merely stating how professors feel and not saying that it's right or wrong. If you're a gifted theory student, concentrate on everything that shows that. Use your SOP to convince the admissions committee you're an amazing student and they're more likely to disregard your score. Whatever you do, don't say what you you wrote in the quoted text.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed May 04, 2011 11:37 am

danielvulrich wrote:actually i'm pretty sure there's no need to mention your bad GRE in the SOP if you think that it is far from your research


agreed. If schools were to accept this excuse (they wont) they don't need to be told it. They'll just say to themselves "Oh! He's a string theorist! His mastery of undergraduate physics doesn't matter, so we'll discount the PGRE score." However, since to the department in general a string theorist is less a researcher (you don't bring in money) and more a TA (you'll teach for 2-3 years at least), and since knowing your freshman physics is important to being a good TA, I don't think their thought process will go this way. Also, the PGRE has little to do with anyone's research (I do way more stats than physics on a day-to-day basis); the point is not to see your fit for research, but to prove your aptitude for physical intuition and general knowledge of physics, which is useful for (1) passing the qualifiers, and (2) building intuitive analogies in your specific field of interest.

If you want, take the Math GRE. It won't be a substitute, but a 900 on it might at least show that you have learned things as an undergrad. And that test, while still not on lie algebras, probably has more to do with your research than the PGRE (and may be a better fit for the more mathematically inclined).

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby Bozostein » Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:09 am

i don't know, the first time i took this test i got in the 7th percentile, the next time i got the 25th percentile and the third time the 70th percentile... i'm pretty sure if i wanted too i could get in the 80th percentile at least but at this point it's like i already spent a bunch of money and the main thing i've proven is that this test is not like some test or raw intelligence, not even close. It is a test of how much college level physics you know. And college level physics is a pretty wide field i saw some pretty insanely obscure questions on some of those practice tests. I think part of the those guys who get 990's "without studying" are actually people who live an breathe physics and do alot of physics learning all the time even if it isn't for the pgre so in some sense they are doing prep all the time and they are the ones who are studying the most. I'm sorry I don't really buy that line about the super genius who just woke up and aced the test. you have to give something to get something. that's a nice little tale to impress people though.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:06 pm

Bozostein wrote:i don't know, the first time i took this test i got in the 7th percentile, the next time i got the 25th percentile and the third time the 70th percentile... i'm pretty sure if i wanted too i could get in the 80th percentile at least but at this point it's like i already spent a bunch of money and the main thing i've proven is that this test is not like some test or raw intelligence, not even close. It is a test of how much college level physics you know. And college level physics is a pretty wide field i saw some pretty insanely obscure questions on some of those practice tests. I think part of the those guys who get 990's "without studying" are actually people who live an breathe physics and do alot of physics learning all the time even if it isn't for the pgre so in some sense they are doing prep all the time and they are the ones who are studying the most. I'm sorry I don't really buy that line about the super genius who just woke up and aced the test. you have to give something to get something. that's a nice little tale to impress people though.


I think Grae's point (from long, long ago) was that people interested in high level theory should be the ones who live and breathe physics in the first place--you have to know lots of nooks and crannies to make progress in theoretical research. If you know these nooks and crannies well, the limiting cases and simple models you need to quickly construct to score high on the PGRE should come quite naturally, without you having to specifically prepare for the exam. It certainly isn't the case that any old Mensa member can walk into the PGRE and score a 990; it definitely requires intimate familiarity with the essential undergrad physics curriculum, and is NOT a good tracer of someone's intelligence.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby grae313 » Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:10 pm

Bozostein wrote:this test is not like some test or raw intelligence, not even close. It is a test of how much college level physics you know.


Yes, exactly.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby midwestphysics » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:51 pm

grae313 wrote:
Bozostein wrote:this test is not like some test or raw intelligence, not even close. It is a test of how much college level physics you know.


Yes, exactly.


Still, it's an entirely skewed test. If it were given in pop-quiz fashion the average scores would be abysmal. It's really not about how much college level physics you know, it's about how much you can cram into your head and solve very quickly. If I took the test right here right now it would be ugly, but give me time to prepare and it's a different story. Of all the gripes I have with the test that's my big one. When doing research I can either take my time and find all the things I need to in order to solve a problem. Or I'm asked a question on the spot which I may not fully be able to answer right away but again I'm not given 6 months warning to prepare for it. It has zero real world application if you ask me.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:16 pm

I donno....I was fiddling around with the new released test the other day, I'm sure I scored in the 900's (I didn't really have issue with any question, though I might have made a few silly mistakes). I'm not specifically studying for the PGRE (though I am studying for my prelim), and that's much better than the mid 700's I scored while I was an undergrad.

So not skewed, exactly; it does seem to measure things appropriate for grad level physics preparation as currently defined by prelim exams (I'm more prepared now, so I'm scoring better). But, it definitely doesn't directly test anything especially important, since both the prelim and the PGRE are both exercises in memorization and quick regurgitation, with a sprinkling of intuiting tricks and methods of solution.

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby blighter » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:59 pm

midwestphysics wrote:Still, it's an entirely skewed test. If it were given in pop-quiz fashion the average scores would be abysmal. It's really not about how much college level physics you know, it's about how much you can cram into your head and solve very quickly. If I took the test right here right now it would be ugly, but give me time to prepare and it's a different story. Of all the gripes I have with the test that's my big one. When doing research I can either take my time and find all the things I need to in order to solve a problem. Or I'm asked a question on the spot which I may not fully be able to answer right away but again I'm not given 6 months warning to prepare for it. It has zero real world application if you ask me.


The same can be said about the exams for all the courses. How does that make PGRE any worse an indicator than the GPA?

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Re: Do we mention bad GRE in SOP?

Postby midwestphysics » Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:48 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I donno....I was fiddling around with the new released test the other day, I'm sure I scored in the 900's (I didn't really have issue with any question, though I might have made a few silly mistakes). I'm not specifically studying for the PGRE (though I am studying for my prelim), and that's much better than the mid 700's I scored while I was an undergrad.

So not skewed, exactly; it does seem to measure things appropriate for grad level physics preparation as currently defined by prelim exams (I'm more prepared now, so I'm scoring better). But, it definitely doesn't directly test anything especially important, since both the prelim and the PGRE are both exercises in memorization and quick regurgitation, with a sprinkling of intuiting tricks and methods of solution.


I haven't looked at one in a while, and prelims are out of the way so that's why I'm saying it's kind of skewed since while I can handle any of problems given time if I sat for it right now it wouldn't be nearly as good as if I had 6 months to prepare knowing about it beforehand.

blighter wrote:
midwestphysics wrote:Still, it's an entirely skewed test. If it were given in pop-quiz fashion the average scores would be abysmal. It's really not about how much college level physics you know, it's about how much you can cram into your head and solve very quickly. If I took the test right here right now it would be ugly, but give me time to prepare and it's a different story. Of all the gripes I have with the test that's my big one. When doing research I can either take my time and find all the things I need to in order to solve a problem. Or I'm asked a question on the spot which I may not fully be able to answer right away but again I'm not given 6 months warning to prepare for it. It has zero real world application if you ask me.


The same can be said about the exams for all the courses. How does that make PGRE any worse an indicator than the GPA?


They both suck if you ask me, hence why grad school gpa's mean exactly jack. To me research experience and LOR's are what really counts, and other skills like programming. Because when you're done with your phd your gpa isn't going to get you a postdoc your research and letters from connections (advisors) will be what moves you forward. And from there it's the same. A lot of people review apps differently and look for different things, if it were me I'd be looking at research exp and LOR's, as long as the rest is respectable I couldn't care less.




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