Impressions from GRE Test of November

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danty
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2005 6:40 pm

Impressions from GRE Test of November

Postby danty » Sun Nov 13, 2005 5:28 pm

Hi to everyone. Yesterday i took the Subject test. It seemed to me a bit easier than the 4 sample tests, but...the permanent problem of time, in my opinion, will determine the scores of a large percent of test takers(including myself). I ran through the 100 questions at about 2:10 hours and answered
about 55. Then i turned back and tried some more. I ended up aswering 75 questions, a number worse than what i expected. With an estimated number of 10 wrong questions my raw score will be 63, which will give a scaled scored surely not enough for a strong candidacy to the big schools. But the
scaled scores will be determined from the difficulty of the test, so if one would want to express his own view on the test, please reply.

eanzenberg
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:28 pm

Postby eanzenberg » Sun Nov 13, 2005 7:40 pm

of course we cannot talk about percise questions on the test...I took it yesterday too. I ran into the opposite problem you did. I ran through the test answering everything I could carefully, and used up all the time for that. I didn't get to the last 5 problems. I felt that my biggest weakness was running through carelessly and making many mistakes which is why I spent more time checking my solutions to problems. I also answered about 75 problems. We'll see how we did soon!

fundimentalist
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:54 am

Postby fundimentalist » Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:03 am

Hey,

I took the exam at UofI in Urbana Champaign, and interestingly everyone I spoke with here seems to have answered around 3/4 of the questions also.

I took all four of the practice exams, and believe this one was infact easier. Unfortunatley, this thing is scored based on how everyone does, so...

I planned on doing the traditional thing, going through and doing the easiets first, then the harder, then the hardest. Instead, I found many questions that where not exactly hard, but required more than one formula, so I skipped those in the interest of time, intending to come back. But, alas, with one hour remaining I was only on question #60, so started working faster.

I tried to only answer questions I was sure of, or those I was able to narrow the choices for down to two. Its kind of funny thinking back now, but at some points, I thought to myself that I wasnt answering enough questions, so I began guessing on several. I may have guessed with no elimination on a few questions.

Ended up leaving 28 questions un answered. I had no time to go back over the exam, to return to the "harder" questions left unanswered.

One final observation. I think everyone was relieved to be done and happy with their work, because unlike on most timed exams, once the administrator said "Pencils down", I smiled and put mine down immediatley, and looking around, in a room of a few dozen ppl no one was still writing.

I hope we all did well,

opticschmoptics
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:18 pm

Postby opticschmoptics » Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:50 am

just thought I'd chime in here and say I got a little over 70 (counted 72) problems done and addressed all 100. I recall a few lucky guesses and a few stupid errors. So I guess I'm in the same boat with previous posters.

I took it in Freiburg, Germany. I certainly wasn't at the top of my game at 8:30 am, but if I can keep up with the Uof I kids at all, good for me! I guess I'm in the statistical mode for this site's score distribution. Can we all be above average?

erc
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2005 2:42 pm

November test

Postby erc » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:27 am

Hey...just to make you all feel better:

I only got to question 70, and didn't answer all of them up to there. I should have skipped through a lot more, and looked for ones I could answer easily. Total disaster on the strategy front basically.

So hey - you'll all be going to a good school, and I won't. Because I have studied Maths for 4 years, and done an MSc in elementary particle theory, but not done optics, thermo, lots of E&M etc or taken standardised test before. My preparation may be ideal for doing theoretical physics (my master's thesis was on string theory), but that's irrelevant I guess, because I can't do these stupid exams...

Sorry for the rant. I hope at least my frustration and misery can give you all a bit more hope for your own chances anyway...

opticschmoptics
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:18 pm

Postby opticschmoptics » Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:41 pm

erc. You're totally right. These tests are a necessary evil. And by 'necessary', I mean necessary that we have to do them, not that academia or society really needs them. I have an MS in optics, so I got kicked around by thermo, particle, and atomic physics problems a little. Even in my optics work, the ability to do random, semi-trivial physics problems (and trick questions) in under 1 minute and 42 seconds, never really came up.

I try to keep it in perspective. With a relatively decent score on this, some good recs, grades, research experience, and a well-reasoned statement of purpose...well, you get the idea. I imagine that these tests were conceived as a coarse 'filter' to scare off the armchair physicists and half-interested undergraduate minors at one end, and maybe to serve as a crude genius-detector on the other. Of course, the test is crackable if you have enough money (for coaches) and/or time (off from your real life/job/worthwhile research), so even this virtual meritocracy is easily corrupted.

To reiterate: 1) evil, 2) required to get in. Think of it as hazing that hasn't been banned yet.

erc
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2005 2:42 pm

Postby erc » Tue Nov 15, 2005 2:42 pm

Hi opticschmoptics.

Yeah, I am trying to keep it in perspective, but equally, they do matter and it was a disaster. I probably only answered 50 questions and that was with some guessing.

I am in the US now, having started a PhD at a small school who didn't require the GRE. Bad idea, for many, many reasons... I would like to go elsewhere in the US - to one of the biggies - but I am very unlikely to gain admission, since I don't have the standard background.

Hence, I may well return to the UK, where they do not require you to jump through such ridiculous hoops. If you are from Europe, I urge you to consider applying there - it won't cost you anything to apply, and you have plenty of time as the deadlines are usually well into the new year. You'll be able to start research straight away and your PhD will take about 3 years. Just another option you may want to consider.

Anyway, I have to go teach one of my 5 labs...

yosofun
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:50 am

Postby yosofun » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:44 am

hey erc, just curious -- which small college phd program are you from that does not require gre's?

i, too, had a non-standard background. in fact, physics for me was 90% math; 10% semi-reality until about 6 months ago... that was when i started reading the lower division general physics textbook by Giancoli... and i discovered the "physical meaning" of equations i never bothered memorizing.

as for my performance... although i spent roughly 20-40 hours per practice exam (sum amount of time it took to type up my solutions, re-do and check them, etc), i ended up making a number of silly mistakes on the real thing... :evil: forgetting formulae, calculational mistakes, etc. last saturday, i managed to complete all problems, skipping about 5... but i believe the number of silly calculational/wrong-formula mistakes i made would cost me more than i'd like to afford.

erc wrote:Hi opticschmoptics.

Yeah, I am trying to keep it in perspective, but equally, they do matter and it was a disaster. I probably only answered 50 questions and that was with some guessing.

I am in the US now, having started a PhD at a small school who didn't require the GRE. Bad idea, for many, many reasons... I would like to go elsewhere in the US - to one of the biggies - but I am very unlikely to gain admission, since I don't have the standard background.

Hence, I may well return to the UK, where they do not require you to jump through such ridiculous hoops. If you are from Europe, I urge you to consider applying there - it won't cost you anything to apply, and you have plenty of time as the deadlines are usually well into the new year. You'll be able to start research straight away and your PhD will take about 3 years. Just another option you may want to consider.

Anyway, I have to go teach one of my 5 labs...
:evil:

opticschmoptics
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:18 pm

Postby opticschmoptics » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:09 pm

Hey erc,

probably wandering off topic here, but I've already started doctoral research in Germany, so I'm a step ahead of you on that advice. I'm from the States, and I'd kind of like to get a degree with a little more (wordwide) name-impact from somewhere closer to home. I'll assemble all the other stuff for the applications and hope the GRE doesn't embarass me too much when it shows up. Seems the best course of action.

If all else fails, I'll be done quicker here and have a two-year head start compared to myself in the US. Careerwise, that probably balances out the lack of brand recognition. That and the 'international' angle.

Plus the health care here is way cool :wink:

sciencexgirl
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:15 pm

Genius-detector? don't think so.

Postby sciencexgirl » Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:59 pm

I disagree that this test could ever possibly serve as a genius-detector... you could be the greatest genius ever, and know how to derive every formula that you've ever seen, but you'd never have time to do that on this evil test. This is a test to find out who has been drilled on how to answer multiple-choice from the day of their birth. If your university doesn't emphasize this kind of thing, if you're more of a meticulous person than a very fast worker, or if you're prone to freaking out on tests, it doesn't matter how smart you are!

I spoke with a lot of graduate students at my university after my experience with the test... They all agreed that in the end it didn't matter as much as they thought when they were in our position. They've all ended up with positions they like, and are doing work they mostly enjoy.

I also spoke with my quantum professor, who was on the writing committee for a couple of years not long ago. Apparently ETS gets about 5 physicists together (at their EXTREMELY LUXURIOUS FACILITIES somewhere back east :evil: ... I'm telling you, those ETS people are just scamming us out of our money...). Each professor writes 20 questions. Then they peer-review each other's questions... and they all get them wrong because of various ways you can interpret these questions. So they sit down and debate each question until they have questions they agree upon. My professor is now of the opinion that GRE scores say absolutely nothing about the promise of a young student.

There is quite a bit of research in standardized test statistics published online at the ETS website. Almost nothing on subject tests, but lots on the general test. One paper I found particularly interesting was the one about the differences between male and female scores on the general math test: apparently, they can mess with the content of the exams so that females score significantly lower than males, as opposed to both groups getting comparable scores (this has to do with changing the number of spatial-thinking problems and the number of problems with more than one path to the solution). Now, I would say that for ANY test that can be skewed so easily (not just in the male/female sense, but in general), there is not a lot of meaning in whatever scores we all get--because we could simply go back and skew the test the other way and all the statistics on who gets what score will change.

Bottom line--ETS sucks, and the GRE is basically useless crap that they use to force us to part with our money.


opticschmoptics wrote:erc. You're totally right...

...

and maybe to serve as a crude genius-detector on the other. Of course, the test is crackable if you have enough money (for coaches) and/or time (off from your real life/job/worthwhile research), so even this virtual meritocracy is easily corrupted.

To reiterate: 1) evil, 2) required to get in. Think of it as hazing that hasn't been banned yet.

opticschmoptics
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:18 pm

Postby opticschmoptics » Tue Nov 22, 2005 7:25 pm

agreed, again, sciencexgirl. I should have emphasized "crude" as including many false positives, and negatives. I don't believe in the test as any reliable measure of merit, but I do believe a decent score can help keep your application out of the cylindrical file in the age of online applications. One thing's ideal, the other's practical. They're totally separate in this universe of standarized testing.

And, yes, ETS is a total racket that has, so far, separated me from about $500 (international test fees, travel expenses and worthless study aides), and will probably squeeze a little more out of me soon (official score report deliveries--I mean Come, On!).

But anyway, to steer this subject away from being a gripe fest; here's some advice for people who still haven't taken the test:

Don't buy the REA purple book, and DO NOT buy anything from mo-media. REA seems well-intentioned but is more of a psyche-out (there's another discussion on another forum), and mo-media DLs are nothing but common-sense advice and a few physics vocab words with ridiculously hand-wavy (and, sometimes actually innacurate) definitions. scam.

Go through the all the actual ETS downloadable tests, both slowly and quickly. Have your undergraduate texts ready, and be curious about problems you don't understand (be curious about how to do them really quickly, too). Reverse-engineer it. Make some flash cards with the less-obvious formulae that eat up lots of time to derive. Your mileage may vary with memorization: it's great for special relativity but may be less helpful for statistical mechanics, for example.

Whatever. By posting, I just contribute to the collective obsession with the test. Remember, there's always something else.




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