gre and graduate school.

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

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Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 6:48 pm

gre and graduate school.

Postby rjharris » Tue Oct 24, 2006 8:11 pm

I'm going to be applying to grad schools in astrophysics /astronomy this term, and I just got back from the general. In all, I'm not sure how to interpret the scores. I got V630, Q800, and I haven't heard back from the other section. I was wondering how much the V630 hurts my chances of getting into grad school at ,e.g. Harvard or MIT. I have a subject score in physics of 990, and a physics gpa of 4.8/5.0 from MIT. I really think i have a chance at the top schools, but I don't know how much the V630 hurt it. Any insight would be great, including whether I should retest. Thanks.

Wanna Be Physicist
Posts: 27
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:56 pm

No problem

Postby Wanna Be Physicist » Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:56 am

You'll be fine with that Physics GRE score.

Posts: 101
Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 6:48 pm

gre enough?

Postby rjharris » Wed Oct 25, 2006 7:41 pm

i've heard that the gre is all (american) students need to get in (or at least, a high enough score will get you in anywhere), but that doesnt seem plausible to me. the gre really is a poor measure of physics knowledge, so it seems more like there is a cutoff on scores for schools such that for those below a certain score, they aren't considered, whereas those with high scores are considered. any thoughts?

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Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:15 pm

schools know GRE is dumb

Postby sciencexgirl » Sun Oct 29, 2006 5:12 pm

Yes, graduate admissions committees all know that the GRE is not really a good indicator of your ability in physics. However, because of the vast numbers of applications some of them receive, they are forced to use some quick-and-dirty method of narrowing down the candidates they will consider. When you are talking about a famous Ivy-League university that everyone here and abroad applies to, I'm gonna guess that this is a pretty extreme factor in their admissions process. I will say that I dont think an average score on the verbal gre will hurt too much when you balance it with such a high score in physics (630 is not low, it's about average, which is not bad considering this part of the test has to challenge people applying to humanities graduate programs in the same way the quantitative part was supposed to challenge us :wink:).

Beyond that, it's really your letters of recommendation that will get you in. They have to answer two questions: "Are you a good researcher?" because that's what your graduate school will be paying you to do for five years, and "Have you demonstrated your research interests are in line with the research that goes on in this department?" Because obviously you want to go to a department where you can find plenty of stuff to do. Hopefully you know your recommenders well enough that you can sit down and talk to them about where they think you should apply, because their suggestions can be very helpful.

If you're that obsessed with your scores, I'll say this: do not bother re-taking the general GRE unless you think you can maintain your quantitative score, and raise your verbal score significantly, which is to say by maybe 100 points. Keep in mind that this part of the general test is meant to be challenging to people who study words the way we study equations - the effort is probably not worth it.

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Postby invidia » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:46 am

For top ivy league schools, it all comes down to who you are as a person. Obviously, you will be automatically rejected if you have low scores, that means you will be competing against those with equivalent scores.

It's from there, they have to judge you from letters of recommendations, what research you have done, your personal statement, etc.

Plus I don't think you need a perfect verbal score to do something where mathematics is the primary language. It'll be kind of silly if they rejected you based on just your verbal score.

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Postby jrrtook » Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:25 pm

exactly what in the hell are you worried about? with that score, you're getting in everywhere

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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:56 pm

Last edited by schmit.paul on Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby rjharris » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:04 pm

hmm, that is interesting about the physics gre. i've been told (a) that it is used as a weeding out tool and nothing more, and, (b) that it is a primary factor in admissions (i.e. if you have higher than some high number, you're almost definitely going to get in). interesting you should bring up jan egedal, he was my recitation instructor for the advanced em class here. interesting guy.

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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Nov 11, 2006 10:29 pm

Yeah, Egedal's a nice guy, and an extremely smart experimentalist. I worked with Stephen Wukitch in the RF physics group over the summer, but a good friend of mine was doing work for Egedal, so I got a few chances to speak to him. Anyway, at all second tier programs a top notch physics GRE score will probably bump you to the front of the line for admissions, but at the elite schools it's only something that will keep you out if you don't perform up to a certain standard. Beyond your standardized test scores, their real concern is what your level of preparation is, what your potential for creative research is (your letters of rec are important there), and whether your interests are in line with the research going on at the school. Funding is very important too...I'm considering going into theoretical plasma physics, and my application to MIT's program strongly reflects that. I've heard, however, that some years the theory group doesn't even look at applications, no matter how strong of a student might apply, simply because they don't have additional funding to support another grad student (that's why I've been advised to express my willingness to do theory for the C-Mod group, which has most of the funding). So I would say a real smart thing to do is to express an interest in a couple projects or research pathways at each program you apply to, drop some names of PI's you wouldn't mind working under, but don't exclusively limit yourself to those choices either. If you're a fantastic student, you'll be competing against other fantastic students, and sometimes what might give you the edge in a tough admissions decision is the fact that you've got a better idea as to what you'd like to do than the other phenomenal student who is undecided.

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