Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

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scallions
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Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Fri Oct 31, 2008 1:18 pm

I'm sorry this is long, it's been wearing me down for a while and just helped to get everything out and unfortunatly I have no friends who went on to physics grad school other than continuing right at the same place as our undergrad where the application was just a formality....

I am taking the Nov 8th exam... while I haven't done any serious review (thanks to juggling what appears to be the QM class from hell with everything else I need to graduate in December!) a course of mine this semester wound up being what I imaging to be basically the same "touching up most every topic of physics you learned until now" studying most people do so I haven't felt too deprived.

However, I am always one to get overly stressed over tests, especially standardized tests when there's so much up in the air that I have no other way to be evaluated. I get very nervous easily, and I have been sick lately due to sinus migraines with the season changes. I did ok enough on the General GRE but even that make me so torn up inside that I know I didn't score as well on the math as I really should have otherwise (740Q). Hell, just typing this out makes me feel like I'm going to vomit from the stress :(

I'm in a bit of an interested situation, as I am applying for January admission - so it's already a crapshoot if there's going to be any slots then - at Rutgers (my physics department is joint with one of their campuses, and there is some overlap with faculty and such) which is the only realistic grad school option as I am limited by my fiance's job and cannot leave the area. I think that other than PGRE I have more than what it takes to get in.

The worst (?) of it is, some of my professors think I'm an absolute shoo-in for this school based on my GPA (3.85ish physics) being active in extracurricular physics things/summer REU, aiming for experimental/future teacher and being an underrepresented minority (though I'm not sure they'll say that last one aloud.... :oops: ) and that they'll see my application and "make" a slot appear for me somehow. Don't know if that works in real life, alas.

I just don't think I'll do very well on the exam, maybe 500-600ish range tops given how likely it is I'll just break down from the stress or be ill that day, and *I* know it's not a reflection of how much I learned in the past 4 years. I just don't know how to convince them I'm not as dumb as this exam will say, or I'm the textbook case where the scores really don't matter as much as a solid GPA/good recommendations/etc. I'm tempted to try and schedule an interview after the 8th so I can be more than just some words and numbers on a piece of paper, but beyond that I'm not sure.

Thanks for reading the wall of text, guys.

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zxcv
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby zxcv » Sat Nov 01, 2008 3:44 am

People on here will disagree with me, but almost everyone who knows anything about physics education will tell you that the Physics GRE is a damn near worthless as a metric compared to grades, letters of recommendation and research experience. In particular, underrepresented minorities and women underperform on the PGRE compared to how well they do in grad school.

That doesn't mean that the people on the admissions committee might not still use it as a objective measure of your skills, but it's some consolation. I think you still have a shot.

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noojens
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby noojens » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:50 pm

Deep breaths!

Just prepare where you can for the PGRE -- a few hours spent here and there will improve your score, no doubt. But with your solid GPA, research experience, recommendations, and yes, minority status, I think you're a strong applicant.

So relax. Do what you can. There are always other options, and if you don't get accepted the first time around, then you'll have more time to prepare your tests and applications next year.

slugger
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby slugger » Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:09 pm

Hey man...are you by any chance at NJIT? I am guessing because i dont know if rutgers has any other joint programs in physics. If so i just finished up there. As i understand it the PGRE is not necessary for admission. Also I can help with QM, i did very well in Dr. Wu's course and know sakurai's text inside and out. Also i am pretty good and at drinkin' beer and shooting the *** about grad schools cause i am sweatin' bullets about the PGRE i bombed in october and how its going to affect my apps. get back to me if you wanna hit mcgoverns and talk physics and ***.

johnny!

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secander2!
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby secander2! » Sun Nov 02, 2008 5:22 pm

It sounds to me like you've got a really strong shot! Also, my guess is that the faculty connections should really help: if people at the school to which you're applying know you or have heard of you, it's a lot more likely that they can overlook a low PGRE as a fluke. Lastly, if it makes you feel any better, I had a friend who was in almost the same exact situation as you, and he had no problems getting into his school. Good luck and don't stress!!!

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Sun Nov 02, 2008 5:30 pm

Thanks for the replies, I only just started going through the sample PGRE book I was sent as I'm juggling another midterm this week, it's not as bad as I feared and can probably get 30% of it right with no further review. But I mean, I look through the other topics here and people are panicking over getting over 700. Is that just a concern for people aiming for MIT/Caltech/Harvard/etc or a real worry? If the latter, what do the people who get 600s (or 500s) do, just not go to grad school?

I'm trying to look at other schools that have a wide range of options (heavily leaning towards high energy experiment, so Rutgers was very nice in that regard and a first choice) in case I do not get in for Spring and want to plan for fall - I assume they'd have to let me know by the end of the calendar year if the spring semester starts in mid-January, so before many other deadlines - but as mentioned I am tied to the North NJ/NYC area (can think of worse places to be tied to!) Stony Brook fits nicely as well... is a bit of a stretch geographically but might be doable, ranking wise it appears to be comparable to Rutgers but the PGRE is only "recommended" so more likely to excuse an bad score? Other than that I'm out of ideas of schools, as my current one isn't even ranked for physics grad school and has few areas of research.

slugger - Yup I'm at NJIT, though QM is back there for the time being (or at least not a mandatory Rutgers/NJIT combo course anymore, think there's only two or three Rutgers students in my class) It's finally starting to click but not without me spending more time doing those homeworks than everything else I have combined :shock:

secander2! - The only prof who is currently at both schools that I know of I only know through a journal club that he can't attend anymore due to being at the other school so much nowadays, but it turns out that Rutgers Applies Physics program is the same joint program I'm in now so it's more likely some people there have an idea of what my grades REALLY mean, as I hear that's a concern for some people from lesser known schools (and where the PGRE score takes on more weight than it otherwise would)
Awesome to know that your friend in a similar situation came out all right in the end, perhaps I should stop reading all the panicky posts in this forum where they fear the sky is falling :)

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secander2!
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby secander2! » Mon Nov 03, 2008 8:07 am

In that case, I think your idea about asking for an interview is a great one, heck, probably just shooting a faculty member who is doing research you're interested in an email expressing your interest in the program and explaining your situation would probably seal the deal. Although knowing faculty helps, I'd say you've got a very strong application even without this (hmmm, this is beginning to sound familiar :) ). One thing to remember is that the competitiveness of schools drops off quite sharply after the top 10. Most departments would be thrilled to have a domestic student who is excited about studying physics and quite willing to overlook a low PGRE score!!!

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:55 pm

So I'm no longer as deathscared of the PGRE being the sole factor in determining The Rest Of My Life.... but what I thought were just sinus irritations from allergies turned into a full-fledged use-your-sick-days-here sinus infection and if the antibiotics don't really kick in (they haven't since I started on them Sunday so I was told to return to the doc today) this could be worse for my score than just nerves :(

I'm sure I'm not the first person who is stuck taking the PGRE under no-good health conditions, obviously can't reschedule if I'm trying to snipe a spring admission spot... gonna hope for the best and try to go through as much of the practice exam ETS sent me and review equations from HRW while in bed the next few days. More reason I hope I hear back from Rutgers before the scores come in, cause I guess there's no such thing as excuses for a not-so-good PGRE score anyone would believe!

tau1777
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby tau1777 » Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:50 pm

hey, i'm pretty damn scared about this damn PGRE. i'm in the same boat with a low (730) on the quant section of the general one, and i was hoping that if i did really well (above 800) on this exam it would make the general exam look like a fluke. however i'd done the practice exams and the highest i've managed to score is a 640. i just took one today and i got a 610. i don't know what to do anymore either.

but i feel like it helps to think of ways that staying for an extra year might help, not just help these standardized test scores but also how much better i can get at physics before doing it in grad schools.

sorry to hear about getting sick, that happened to me last week and it totally killed a perfect week to study. it started on sunday and by wednesday i took some Nyquil and it got a little better but not 100%. i could have studied for my midterms as well as this monster of an exam. but now i had to study for a QM2 midterm last week, and a grad QM midterm tomorrow and the PGRE. i think this three pronged attack will just result in failure for all fronts but its the situation.

in any case feel. and take solace in the same thing i am, it's not over with this exam. you're physics career only ends when you want it to.

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secander2!
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:40 am

Good points guys! You're right: doing poorly on the PGRE is not the end of the world!!!

@scallions Being sick for a test like this really sucks! I'm glad you're not too scared about it now though! I bet you'll get in fine, although it can't hurt to diversify your applications somewhat in order to maximize your chances (I believe you said you're in the New Jersey/New York area... maybe consider Columbia, NYU, or check with Grad School Shopper).

@tau1777 Great outlook!!! Everything will work out and if not there's always the "year-off". I'm sure you can get in somewhere with the scores you're describing... but if you don't get into your dream school, you can always wait a year and strengthen your application. I'm currently taking my "year-off" and applying for the second time and it's one of the best choices I ever made!

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:00 am

I know for me a year off (well, a year and eight months for me) wouldn't be the end of the world - in fact, I originally was planning on taking a few years off to save up money so I wouldn't be drowning in student loans before I realize grad school in physics pays your tuition + stipend.

I'm starting to look at other schools, but due to my area that's limited to Columbia - waaaaay more elite than I stand a chance at unless I rock the PGRE I'm afraid, NYU which I will probably prepare an application to in a week or so, and maybe Stony Brook (though that one's very dependant on finding a good middle ground place so my fiance can still commute to NYC for work, he earns in triple whatever my stipend most likely would be so we sure aren't relocating!) On the bright side, at least my area HAS a number of schools which is definitely a plus :)

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:20 pm

Just did the 0177 exam cold (and in probably 1/2-2/3 the 3 hour limit) and got 530 :oops:
Man, it really is an exercise in memorizing formulas, and I shouldn't guess so damn much. I was always really bad at regurgitation stuff from memory like that, but if I can bump my score up 100 or so points by actually reviewing the formulas (been too long since I saw anything related to circuits and charges on spheres and such....) and maybe having less of a fever I should be ok enough for the school's I'm aiming for.

I think 650 is a solid goal? Are the questions right/score relations roughly the same from test to test? I don't want to get my hopes up too much but I also have no idea if that's going to doom me. Oh geez here I go getting nervous again :|

But I got in touch with one of the groups I'm interested in, the prof sent over a presentation they made and told me to call to discuss "science or Rutgers" at my convenience so hey, step in right direction!

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secander2!
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:02 pm

If you got a 530 cold and with time to spare, I would guess that a 100 point increase is very reasonable, you might even be able to get more. 600s should give you a good shot, especially since you're now in contact with people there!

As for other schools... it's possible that Columbia would be a stretch, but I would recommend giving it a shot anyways, it might be less of a stretch than you think. If you apply to NYU, Columbia, Stony Brook, and Rutgers, I'd say your chances of getting some very nice offers are extremely good.

I don't mean to pry but I noticed that you referred to your fiance as a "he"; anyways, if you're an underrepresented minority woman (or I guess there's also the possibility that you're a gay man, in which case, your demographic is still super-underrepresented in Physics), you have a DANG good shot!!! Heck, you might as well toss an application over to Princeton while you're at it!!!

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:11 pm

Ahaha well "American as apple pie female" was what I meant by underrepresented minority, I always feel weird proclaiming my gender to the internet.
Guess I just gotta see what comes up in the next 1-2 months. If I can snipe a rare spring semester spot at Rutgers I will be just ecstatic, as I know I start dulling and dumbing out just over the summer break - I know 8 months of no classes will not be so good to my poor physicsbrain! - and unlike my prior plans of staying at my undergraduate university, totally not settling for a less-good program!

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby coreycwgriffin » Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:48 am

Neat to hear about someone else who is applying (or considering applying) to Stony Brook and Rutgers. I spent this past summer doing an REU at Stony Brook, and it made me realize how much I hate theoretical physics, haha. My faculty advisor for physics went to Rutgers, so maybe that'll help me get in there. I feel like my PGRE scores won't be a good reflection of how much I love physics, so to speak, but my physics course grades have been great the past two years and my relationship with the faculty is amazing (as to provide good recommendations). My General GRE scores weren't amazing, but they're about dead average as compared those posted at gradschoolshopper.com for the schools I'm applying to. The other schools I'm applying to are Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Georgia Tech. Also, I've been a TA for intro courses here ever since my sophomore year, and I'm a native English speaker, and apparently that will make me a shoe-in for a graduate TA, or so I'm told.

I guess the point of this post is to say that although I happen to be in good health at the moment, I too am nervous about the PGRE, applications, and everything that is to come.

Hypernova
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby Hypernova » Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:27 am

I, too, think that the best I could do with PGRE is below 700. I don't know. As I'm writing this, I'm so nervous that my hand is shaking literally. Seeing other people got a little below 800 and think they're in trouble just make me feel so down.

Anyway, scallions, I don't know if you'll call me as in the same situation, but I think I do. I just spend five days straight of doing almost nothing else but solve one problem from my (grad) theoretical mechanics, but I can't even stay on practicing PGRE for just two hours. People will just say I'm just lazy. But, I don't know, I just can't get myself to do it. And I know that's a lame excuse.

I took April PGRE and got 610. My oct one should be better I think, but not by much. I think that the fact that I have two low scores already put me in an even more desperated situation than you are. I'm thinking about cancel my Nov test right now, seriously.

I'm really interest in Stony Brook, but even that I'm not sure I got a change.

Super nervous. YES. *sigh*

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secander2!
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby secander2! » Fri Nov 07, 2008 7:02 am

hahah "American as apple pie female"!!! You should definitely use that exact phrase on your SOP. Also, I'm sorry for making you reveal your gender... now I feel stupid :oops:

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:25 am

coreycwgriffin wrote:I feel like my PGRE scores won't be a good reflection of how much I love physics, so to speak


That's exactly what I feel!!! I'm the person a lot of my fellow classmates turn to for homework help, I score consistently at the top of my class, yet one memorizationfest of equations is considered such a make or break point... uhhhhhgh.

Since I didn't want to be referred to a test that may not be scored by the time admissions decisions rolled around I didn't elude to it at all in my SOP for Rutgers, but for the other schools I'll try for fall '09 I'm going to slip that in to maybe help me out a bit.

Though I may leave out "American as apple pie female" as I'm lucky enough my name gives it away :D

PoincareSection
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby PoincareSection » Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:51 am

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Last edited by PoincareSection on Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

scallions
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Re: Super nervous about PGRE and everything to follow....

Postby scallions » Fri Nov 07, 2008 12:37 pm

(ahaha, can you tell I'm going through the test solutions from GREphysics.com with my email notification window and this message board up?)

Woo hoo another girl! Where are you taking the exam? (I'm taking it at Rutgers-Newark)
If you already have a masters I'd imagine it's a help. But I hear you at, looking at the averages and feeling hopeless. I know this includes international students who have to score superwell to be competitive, and I know it's not the end of the world to not get into a top school (which might be where alot of these panic threads on here come from!) especially since yeah, being pinned to the area really narrows down choices more than I'd otherwise like.

I didn't want to mention being female originally because I always feel weird knowing it's "easier" for us to get into places and how much of it is due to how I perform VS what gender I was born. I admit I do feel pressure to work really hard and show my stuff to prove I can keep up with everyone else.

You're definitely in a good place for NJIT I believe - they don't require PGRE as they're applied physics and it's a department really looking to grow and get more domestic students (PM me if you want more info) The main reason I'm not sticking around is they don't have what I want to study, but it's a happening place for solar physics for one.

Stevens is mad pretty, I'm always jealous since it's an obvious parallel to my school and uh, well no one comes here for the trees let me tell you :)




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