Didn't take GRE...

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shoemoodoshaloo
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Didn't take GRE...

Postby shoemoodoshaloo » Sat Nov 03, 2007 8:32 pm

I want to apply for grad school, but I didn't take the physics gre yet and ets isn't hosting another test time until April, well after applications are due.

My question is would grad schools still accept me based on a pending score? My marks are good otherwise and my general gre score was a 1460. I would hate to lose it over this stupid test... who really thinks the physics GRE is a true gauge of the student's skills anyway?

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:40 pm

Graduate schools that require the subject GRE do not accept the scores that late, you have to take the test in October or November. You can apply to programs that don't require the subject GRE or hold off until next year. Your general GRE scores are good for 5 years.

shoemoodoshaloo
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Postby shoemoodoshaloo » Sat Nov 03, 2007 10:24 pm

Well ***...

vicente
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Postby vicente » Sun Nov 04, 2007 1:32 am

How is it that you took the general test but not the subject test?

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:12 am

In a way the Physics GRE is a determining factor towards your success. The test is a function of your dedication of studying, and not necessarily how much physics you know. You'll find quickly that graduate school isn't much based on your intelligence as much as it's based on your commitment to working and studying.

Oh, and they ought to add a psychological portion to the Physics GRE, because graduate school is a test of your patience and sanity.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:46 am

The OUGHT to eliminate the whole test entirely, as like intelligence tests it is not even clear what it measures.

I think a massive boycott on the domestic front is in order. Those of us who work hard throughout the year do not deserve to have our futures resting on a commericialized, standardized test based on material the ETS knows full well not all students have studied as undergraduates. The only unbiased way to measure your ability to do physics is your grades in your university or college, which presumably measure your ability to do the physics you have learned rather than playing an intelligent guessing game with material you may have not learned.

<Rant over>

MSU_fizz
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Postby MSU_fizz » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:47 pm

You can apply to schools that don't require the subject GRE score, such as Michigan State.

geomar
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Postby geomar » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:27 am

Or you could consider applying to engineering departments which generally don't require the physics GRE. In my lab (department of physics) we have physics, applied physics and EE grad students. One of the EE students plainly said "I was an engineering physics student, but I just didn't want to deal with the physics GRE. I still wanted to work in a physics lab"

to twistor:
To be honest, the physics GRE isn't such a badly conceived test. It has to contain relatively easy problems that most physics undergraduates have studied, yet still somehow discern (at least a little) between most physics students. And certainly since quantum/statmech are such a huge foundation for basically every field in physics research today, it has to cover them.
Yeah, some people haven't seen any particle physics/solid state as a junior, but the amount necessary for the test is certainly no where near the grasp needed to pass a class in the subject (of even probably do the first few HWs).

We can certainly make tests that we personally would prefer and will show our own knowledge better on but a fairer standardized test?

It is often hard to tell what grades in college mean. Its rather conceivable to get straight A's without having a serious grasp on the material, as you are only measured relative to your physics class. I bet it certainly validates your grades at a weak school if you score well on the GRE.
Plus, I don't think I have heard of too many cases of brilliant students with 4.0's at a top tier scoring so badly on the GRE that they can't get into a top tier only because of it.

In the end, the physics GRE isn't very fair, but I have a hard time thinking of ways it can be fairer and still test all/much of undergrad physics. And I would say it certainly is necessary.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Nov 26, 2007 12:47 pm

geomar:

By your own testament the test is not fair. This should be sufficient to undermine its credibility. To be fair all students who have studied the same material should have an equal shot at doing well on the test. The problem is that many students have to take the test with insufficient preparation and there is no way to sort out the insufficiently prepared but able from the sufficiently prepared and unable, which is, I presume, what we are trying to accomplish with this whole fiasco.

Moreover, the ETS is a private organization not open to public scrutiny. As such, scoring on the GRE is highly questionable and the ETS's claim that any given score ten years ago is equivalent to the same score today is specious at best. You are not entitled to the answers to the test so you cannot double-check the scoring. The fact is that we're not taking this test to measure our competance, we're taking it because marketing professionals have convinced graduate schools that the test has merit. So-called standardized testing is big business and I doubt a fair and unbiased test is the bottom line for the ETS. But that is a debate best left for another day....

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:28 pm

I think just about everyone would agree that the GRE is far from the ideal measure of a persons ability. But I don't think there really is a better way. I think the GRE actually helps a lot of people, like me, who haven't graduated from top schools, have a chance at getting in to top graduate schools. With this test, anyone from any school, if they choose to put in the necessary preparation time. Those who attend schools where there aren't many great research opportunities and where it is easy to get a 4.0, it would be wise for them to put in extra hours and make sure they get a good score on the GRE.

All I can say is that I am glad there is a GRE, because without it I don't think I would have much chance at a top grad school.

geomar
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Postby geomar » Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:06 pm

Twistor, I guess what you are basically saying is a lot of people take quantum and/or statmech their senior years and thus aren't prepared for the physics GRE.

However, it is ridiculous to have a standardized test that only tests through intermediate mechanics/E&M (and rather simple questions involving these concepts) would be relevant in the admissions process. The advanced topics that some people may not see until their final year in school just happen to be the most important topics and are the ones you need to display a grasp of.

The solution? Learn QM at the Griffiths level (without worrying about any of the more difficult problems either) by yourself. Not sure what book everyone used for statmech/thermo, but I would imagine any book would do. Or just take the physics GRE the following year when you have had adequate preparation.

If you are talking about the solid state/HEP parts of the test, there are a negligible amount of questions on the test involving these topics. They can be solved through just random information you may have acquired/read rather than formal treatment. Plus, you can skip all these questions and still get a 990 no prob.

Just like an engine is a pretty important part of a car, Quantum/statmech knowledge is a pretty important part of a physics education. I certainly wouldn't buy a car without knowing anything about the engine. Would a grad school accept a student without knowing how he is at quantum/statmech (at least a little bit)?

And again, some sort of test is necessary. As butsurigakusha explained, it helps certain individuals who haven't had the opportunity to go to a top tier physics program as an undergrad.

Then again, this is coming from an undergrad who was lucky enough to have taken good classes in quantum/statmech/HEP/solid state as a junior. My physics GRE experience was probably atypical. But I think a lot of people are in the same boat of having to learn on their own/wait a year.

Yes, its not fair, but the way it is used in the admissions process is reasonable. No one is asking you get get every question right, even at top schools they are looking for you to get >800 or so, which corresponds to low 60's raw score or worse on every test. You could have a bad day/not have learned some material and still get that without too much fuss. No one says that someone who got a 950 is certainly better than someone with a 850, other things determine this in the admissions process.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:34 pm

It's funny how everyone who did good on the test thinks that it is an adequate measure of ability, while eveyone else thinks it's not.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Nov 26, 2007 7:42 pm

What amazes me is the legion of people who are quick to offer "learn on your own" as a viable solution when it inevitably turns out they themselves in fact did not learn on their own. Learning a subject on your own is not a substitute for an organized class taught by a professional instructor who can answer your questions, offer insight and clarifications, and do away with the dense pedagogy of the textbooks and present the meaningful material in an interesting way. If subjects were that easy for people to learn without further instruction, we'd all be experts on something.

fermiboy:

The results are still out for me, so I can't say for sure if I did well or not. But even in the case I did exceptionally well I would still say the test is a poor measure of ability, which is probably not the general sentiment among high-scorers. The true measure of achievement is the 4+ years you put in as an undergraduate and one ill-conceived test should not be grounds to stomp four years of hard-work.

So maybe there is no better way, but we could hardly do worse by eliminating the test entirely and using other metrics.

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will
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Postby will » Mon Nov 26, 2007 9:20 pm

Maybe it's because I'm not dead-set against going anywhere outside of the top 10 schools, but if you look real hard, those are the only places where your GRE has to be extremely better than tragic for them to look at you. In the U.S. News rankings (blech, but they'll suffice), there's not a school in the top 30 that doesn't have a widely respected physics program. From that list, Ohio State publishes that their average physics GRE for admitted applicants (06-07) was less than 700! Yeah, going to MIT sure would be nice, but if you set your sights not too much lower, you'll find that the GRE doesn't matter as much everywhere else.

I'm about as anti-ETS as it gets, but the physics GRE isn't some grand conspiracy against physics students; it's just a standardized test that's weakly indicative of graduate success.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 11:43 pm

Besides, if you're MIT, how else are you going to distinguish between the piles of applications that all have 4.0's, good LORs, and research experience? I agree, it's really just a big deal at the top few schools. After that, it's just used to screen out the people that flat-out flunk it.

(btw, I don't know my score yet, I might start seriously hating on ETS after Dec 5th :wink: )

I do definitely feel for the people who haven't had all the basic classes before taking the test though. That can't be fun.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Tue Nov 27, 2007 4:35 am

I think just about everyone would agree that the GRE is far from the ideal measure of a persons ability. But I don't think there really is a better way. I think the GRE actually helps a lot of people, like me, who haven't graduated from top schools, have a chance at getting in to top graduate schools. With this test, anyone from any school, if they choose to put in the necessary preparation time. Those who attend schools where there aren't many great research opportunities and where it is easy to get a 4.0, it would be wise for them to put in extra hours and make sure they get a good score on the GRE.

All I can say is that I am glad there is a GRE, because without it I don't think I would have much chance at a top grad school.


Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.... My thoughts exactly...


It's funny how everyone who did good on the test thinks that it is an adequate measure of ability, while eveyone else thinks it's not.


I figured someone was going to say that eventually, lol.

There's an undergrad in my dept who is boastfully proud of himself that he studies string theory in his spare time, helps run QM experiments at a government lab, and scoffs at our courses as being too slow and rudimentary for his taste (he uses boredom as an excuse for rarely getting A's in them).

He ended up with a 40% ish on his GRE.

The GRE is a necessary equilizer. We need it so that, as butsurigakusha and I mentioned, people with humble backgrounds can prove themselves, and also, to expose conceited fakes who really don't understand physics.

I'm sorry for any of you who struggled on the GRE for reasons other than not knowing physics. I agree the test dates and subjects can be very inconvenient and partial to people with varying amounts of preparation.

VT
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Postby VT » Tue Nov 27, 2007 12:20 pm

No I GOT 720( shitty score) and I SAY GRE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT

common guys, if you don score doesnot mean it is not imp.
if you make mistakes in GRE questions then either you were unlucky or you have misunderstood some fundamental concepts in Physics.

GRE questions are easy, tricky, and if we don get them correct means we have a problem.
THIS IS MY PROBLEM;
I AM VERY IMPATIENT

look at my GRE quant: do you think I don know how to add numbers? All my questions were addition, subtraction! but I made a total poo out of the quant too.but its okay, I have a paper on my own, so they will know how I add numbers and play around with taylor series expansion in my paper.
If princeton doesnot read my PS then Ohio state will, I guess, and I am happy with that too.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:10 pm

quizivex:

The problem with your interpretation is that not all mistakes on the subject test are do to lack of understanding. I tried to do a differentiation problem in my head and ended up marking the wrong answer because I was in a rush and didn't think the problem through. Certainly I understand differentiation, but if test scores are your only measure than that may not be apparent.

Apropos weeding out applicants via GRE:

It's true, we're competing for a limited number of slots. All other things being equal I don't think you can say applicant A with a score of X is better than applicant B with a score Y whenever X > Y. I say that because I'm not convinced that the GRE (or any other so-called standardized test) is fair and unbiased. What can we use as a deal breaker in these situations then? Perhaps some sort of game show where contestants compete for admissions slots...

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Tue Nov 27, 2007 5:32 pm

I agree with twistor. I tend to work problems slowly because I make stupid algebra mistakes, and I like to check my results as I go. When I got into the test, I was so concerned about speed that I'm sure I made plenty of algebra mistakes, so for me personally, I don't think the test is a good measure of my abilities. My problem is, my score is not bad (730), and it's not good, at least for the high end schools, so I don't know if I should mention it in my SOP or not.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:20 pm

I agree with both of you... the test is full of booby traps that trick students into making mistakes, and there are tons of ways to miss a problem you understand well just because of a trivial computation error.

When I went through the practice exams, I'd sometimes pick five problems randomly and solve them... I'd typically know how to do all of them, and yet I'd often get 3 or 4 wrong just because of simple error.

And indeed, the student who knows how to do the problem loses 1.25 points and upto 3 minutes of time while the student who's clueless just skips the problem, saves the time and only loses one point.

But still, trivial mistakes screw me and everyone else up in exams in our classes as well. Also, the GRE has plenty of conceptual problems that simply test understanding and cannot be messed up if you know what's going on. I think the GRE is still better than other admission factors... When a student says he spoke at a conference, nothing precise can be discerned of the candidate, in my opinion.

The game show idea sounds great.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:37 pm

I disagree with you, quizivex. Speaking at a conference, publishing papers, etc. all show aptitude for real world physics. They show that you are able to engage in productive research which is important enough to be presented at a conference. Moreover, they show you have the ability to communicate science and motivation to follow through in your research.

On the other hand, the GRE is simply a test. It does not measure any of the things that really matter, and no test can.

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will
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Postby will » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:06 pm

Also, the GRE has plenty of conceptual problems that simply test understanding and cannot be messed up if you know what's going on.


That should read: "if you remember the result." I didn't have any problems that were particularly novel; I remember there being a couple on the practice exams, but don't remember what they were either.

In my quantum class, at the very beginning, we were asked to redevelop the Bohr model, but for an electron orbiting a neutron under gravity. Is this very physical? Probably not. Was it a better test than "do you remember all the formulae the Bohr model spits out?" To that I say yes. No one is going to solve a 1-D simple harmonic oscillator in a constant electric field in 1.7 minutes starting from Schroedinger. I get that. I also think it's unfair to say that if you screw up a factor of 2 when memorizing the eigenfunctions that you don't know what's going on.

I agree that having spoken at a conference says little, but the test says little too, if not less. In fact, speaking of quantum, one of the more prolific astro professors here was just the other day telling my friend about when he gave up on the subject entirely. Does he not know what's going on? Is he a bad physicist? I wouldn't say that. In fact I'd suggest there's something to be said for knowing what it is you don't need to know. Einstein always said he'd never memorized a thing that could be looked up in less than two minutes. ;)

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:28 am

Yeah, on plenty of earlier posts, I've expressed anger over some of the practice test problems, especially those on 0177, because they expect us to apply some random formula that is unreasonable to expect us to remember...

However, those are still a minor handfull of the total # of problems. In fact there were only two such problems on my real test. So this issue is just another minor stigma for the GRE and not a reason to discredit it.

In my quantum class, at the very beginning, we were asked to redevelop the Bohr model, but for an electron orbiting a neutron under gravity. Is this very physical? Probably not. Was it a better test than "do you remember all the formulae the Bohr model spits out?"


This is one of those problems... but after reviewing the four practice tests and seeing so many questions on positronium and hydrogenic atom energies, we should all have known to find and memorize the bohr model energy formula. And note that radii for classical orbits is inversly prop to energy. The answer to this problem then comes from substituting masses for charges and replacing the relevant physical constants.

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will
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Postby will » Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:08 am

However, those are still a minor handfull of the total # of problems. In fact there were only two such problems on my real test. So this issue is just another minor stigma for the GRE and not a reason to discredit it.


My point isn't that the formulas are random or obscure. My problem is that the questions don't ask you to apply the formulas in any interesting way. They ask for the most trivial applications, and thus the test rewards a superficial knowledge of physics. Yes "knowing" (memorizing) all of the Bohr formulas should be an obvious step in preparing for the test, but knowing anything about atoms or where those formulas come from is never tested.

My point with the example I gave wasn't to suggest that it's a hard problem in the least; rather that knowing how to develop analytic formulas from postulates is more important to working physicists than remembering what those formulas are. Obviously ETS feels differently.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:09 am

Another thing, why does the test have to be so damn early in the morning? I guarantee my score would increase linearly at a rate of 20 points per hour if we graphed my score vs. starting time. Of course, this linear approximation is only good for the first few hours. After that I think my score would asymptotically approach 900. :)

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will
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Postby will » Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:11 am

Definitely. And if it wasn't already early enough, I had to drive for an hour and some change to get to mine. That was nice.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Nov 28, 2007 5:07 am

Finally, something we all can agree on! :wink:

My general test was at noon--I can't understand why they make the subject test so early, especially with all the studies that have shown that most people just don't do well early in the morning.




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