Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby uhurulol » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:38 pm

Hi everyone.

I'm applying to Astronomy PhD programs this semester. I just took my PGRE yesterday, and while I thought I was gonna do pretty well as it turns out I was only able to answer 49 questions. A handful of those were educated guesses, so I think I'm looking at the 35-40 correct range (more if I'm lucky), meaning my score will be anywhere from 550-720.

Here's the thing; I haven't taken Quantum or Thermodynamics yet (next semester). My school doesn't even offer a Particle Physics course, and thus my only real backbone on this exam was Classical Mechanics and E&M. As I understand it, I can mention this in my statement in an appropriate way to try to dissuade the readers from tossing my application to the side.

For reference, here are the credentials I'm applying with. I'd like to make sure all the attention ends up on my research and not on a stupid standardized test score that I hadn't even had the coursework to prepare for.

-1.5 years of research experience in Optical Interferometry, funded by a huge NSF grant that typically only goes to top physics schools. Our work really seems to be cutting edge, and I want this to be the highlight of my application.
-Upcoming trip to Kitt Peak in Arizona this summer to test out our interferometer.
-Upcoming publication about the aforementioned research. It won't be published until after I apply, but I'm sure I can appropriately tailor my statement to mention it.
-Upcoming senior thesis, doing some star cataloging and trying to find globular cluster candidates.
-3.2 GPA, yeah I know it's not great, but I've never gotten lower than a B in a physics course.

I'm really really excited to begin a career in Astronomy and do research in the field, and I don't want that stupid test to bog me down and make me have to wait another year to be accepted. I'm applying to mostly lower ranked schools to be safe. So again I ask, is there a good way to mention this in my statement? And any other helpful tips?

Thanks everyone!

blackmass
Posts: 61
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:01 pm

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby blackmass » Sun Oct 26, 2014 7:14 pm

So, I'm in the same boat as you in that I'm just now applying to grad school, and I don't imagine my PGRE score (also from yesterday) will be particularly impressive. I've thought about whether or not it's a good idea to address this in the statement, and I've finally reached the conclusion that it's not. I don't think it's worth-while, or particularly endearing (for lack of a better word) to try to make excuses for short comings, whatever they may be. At the end of the day, admissions committees know the drawbacks and limitations of the GRE and they will take that into account. I think you should use the statement to emphasize all of the awesome stuff you have done and to let that speak for itself. I guess I just feel like unless there's been a serious illness or something of that nature, talking about a bad score is just making excuses. This is just my personal take, though, of course.

On another note, from what I've gathered from these forums and elsewhere, the PGRE is not as big a deal for astronomy programs. It sounds like the median score is generally lower with regards to astronomy applicants, so I wouldn't stress about it too much!

AlexisPrel
Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:26 pm

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby AlexisPrel » Sun Oct 26, 2014 7:17 pm

Hi,

I have a similar issue ... I feel like this year test was giving much more importance to some topics than previous ones.

I guess you can mention in your statement something like "i do not think that my GRE score reflects my skills in physics" but I'm not quite sure it worth using a whole paragraph about it. I feel like blackmass is right about not making them feel like your making excuses.

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

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Oct 26, 2014 9:47 pm

I wouldn't mention it. The best means of "Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement" is to not bring it up. If they read the personal statement before they trash the application, they'll see all the other awesome things you've done that you do include in there, and know that the PGRE doesn't represent all you are. If they don't, well, then putting "MY PGRE SCORE ISNT AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF MY SKILLZ" isn't gonna matter, is it?

The best thing to do, if you're worried about this, is to make contact with a professor* at the schools you're applying, so there's someone who's not you saying "Take a careful look at this guy's application." This is far more work, but actually has a chance of accomplishing something, which is getting the admissions committee to actually look at your application in detail. I'd start with getting in touch about the person's work, and expressing interest in it, then when he seems interested in starting work with you, you can bring up the PGRE concern.

* Writing emails to professors who you've never met requires a lot of work. You're gonna want to sound knowledgeable and informed about the work they do, which means reading a few of their recent papers, and tying your interests (previous research experiences and electives/independent studies) to their work in some way. And if you don't start off on the right foot (sound informed and personal), you go into the trash bin for eternity.

TakeruK
Posts: 816
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby TakeruK » Mon Oct 27, 2014 11:18 am

Don't mention it. Also, astronomy programs do not have as strict PGRE cutoffs as physics programs. For example, the U. Washington astro program (a top 10 program in astro) has a cutoff of 500. Caltech's median PGRE score for accepted applicants is around 700 (see: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html).

My own scores were 640 and 690. I submitted both (no score select back then) and I got into many top astro programs (you can see my profile in the 2012 thread if you want more details). I didn't mention these scores at all in my application.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby uhurulol » Fri Oct 31, 2014 5:40 pm

TakeruK wrote:Don't mention it. Also, astronomy programs do not have as strict PGRE cutoffs as physics programs. For example, the U. Washington astro program (a top 10 program in astro) has a cutoff of 500. Caltech's median PGRE score for accepted applicants is around 700 (see: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html).

My own scores were 640 and 690. I submitted both (no score select back then) and I got into many top astro programs (you can see my profile in the 2012 thread if you want more details). I didn't mention these scores at all in my application.


Thank you very much for this post (and everyone else). You've all helped quite a bit.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby uhurulol » Mon Nov 24, 2014 4:30 am

Hi all, update.

So I got my PGRE score back, and it's absolutely terrible. 500 (9%). I don't know how it's this terrible. It's not indicative of my abilities as a physicist whatsoever.

Is the consensus still that I shouldn't mention it in my applications and just hope they look past it in lieu of my other qualifications? I really really hope my applications aren't completely ruined by this...

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Taking attention away from mediocre PGRE in statement

Postby uhurulol » Mon Nov 24, 2014 2:21 pm

RonaldoMcDonaldo wrote:
uhurulol wrote:Hi all, update.

So I got my PGRE score back, and it's absolutely terrible. 500 (9%). I don't know how it's this terrible. It's not indicative of my abilities as a physicist whatsoever.

Is the consensus still that I shouldn't mention it in my applications and just hope they look past it in lieu of my other qualifications? I really really hope my applications aren't completely ruined by this...


My advice is to address it directly. Don't beat around the bush. The score will stick out like a sore thumb and you should treat it as the strange exception that it is or else admissions committees will assume that you expected that score. At this point, it's your job to convince them that this score is a fluke by pointing to things like research experience. I probably wouldn't point to your lack of coursework on some of the important topics. A person taking the PGRE should have, at that stage, had nearly all of the courses necessary to take the test. I don't know how you didn't, but schools probably won't have much sympathy for that as an excuse.


So just a quick sentence or two in there somewhere saying "this score just isn't me" in an appropriate fashion?




Return to “Statement of Purpose and Resume”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest