How much does the GRE matter?

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vicente
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How much does the GRE matter?

Postby vicente » Fri Nov 16, 2007 6:06 pm

Hey everyone, especially those who have already got into grad school:

How much do you think the GRE subject score actually matters to admissions committees? I've heard some people say that it's just a guideline, and some who say that it doesn't matter at all.

Will good scores be able to cancel out e.g. bad recommendation letters / grades and get someone into a good place? Will bad scores cancel out good recommendation letters / grades and keep someone out?

I'm thinking that GRE scores really don't matter compared to having good recommendations and research experience. That is, good research experience and good recommendations plus a bad GRE score is always better than bad research experience, bad recommendations, plus a good GRE score.

What do you all think?

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:09 pm

From everyone I've talked to and everything I've read, GRE's matter. In what respect is the real question. Everyone I've talked to (professors, advisors, admissions professors from other schools, grad students, etc) have said that at least the top tier schools will have a cutoff GRE for the first round of selections, where they consider the applications above that cutoff very carefully. Afterwards, they will look at the rest of the applications more briefly to see if they missed anything good, but the first consideration goes to the students who score above the cutoff.

Again, I've read that good GRE scores have a very weak correlation to success in graduate school, but *bad* GRE scores have a very *strong* correlation to doing poorly in graduate school. It is my theory that once your score is above the cutoff, it is the rest of your application that decides whether you get in (for the most part). A 990 looks great and certainly helps an application, but I don't think it makes up for serious weaknesses in your application like really bad grades or bad letters or recommendation. On the other hand, an great application with a bad subject test can still get in, but it's more difficult to get your application looked at carefully.

Imagine a pile of 500 or so applications, how are you going to go through them all? A logical first step to me would be to throw all of the applications that have above 750 and above a 3.5 gpa in one pile, and the rest in another (or something along those lines). The GRE is like the first screening, but if you've gotten a decent score, the rest of your application is more important.

Just my researched opinions here, feel free to disagree.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:51 pm

What if your are like me and have a 3.9 GPA (overall and physics) but only a 730? I feel like my application should at least be read by the top schools, not just tossed in the trash because I'm not above an 800 or something. I wish I knew more about how the cuts are made.

VT
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Postby VT » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:58 pm

POOR me. Mine is exactly 720!! RIGHT THERE on the line!! but I think I have good research exp. so will they throw away my application without even looking at it? terrible news, but I also think this is true and logical!!
@grae313
Can you plz list the name of the Universities( if possible) that you may have some idea of would do this sort of cutoff thing? I will appreciate it.
I will not apply to those schools and save money.

Do you have any suggestion that I must do(other than waiting for an yr and retaking the physics GRE) in order to make my application looked by the admission committe in top schools like Princeton, MIT etc?

Ps# I am an international student but I go to a small liberal arts College in the States.

VT
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Postby VT » Sat Nov 17, 2007 12:05 am

fermiboy,
we are on the same line!
my GPA is also 3.75 overall and 3.95 physics/math

but i bombed the physics GRE, It turned out that I made 16 mistakes out of 71 attempted questions! I only did the questions that I was COMPLETELY sure of! I donot know what the hell went wrong!! 16 mistakes!! This freaks me out!

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 12:24 am

well I've heard from multiple people that MIT does this, and it's been hinted that the other top tier schools do something similar. I really don't know for sure though, but I would compare your stats to the info at gradschoolshopper.com. Remember, those are averages, including the international students who usually don't get in to a top ten without a score above 900. That means a good portion of the domestic students scored under the average. If you are within 50-100 points of their average score and have good grades, letters, and research, I would definitely apply, just make sure to include some good safety schools. I'm mostly talking about the top 5 programs here. We put so much value on these big names but there are so many world class universities here offering world class educations. Your future will not change that much on going to Chicago vs. Maryland.

http://web.mit.edu/uwip/grad.htm

This is for women so disregard the part about 70%, but the general idea is good.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:25 am

removed
Last edited by fermiboy on Thu Dec 20, 2007 3:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:17 am

I think it's a good list. I think it's worth applying to a couple of top programs, and I agree that Arizona and Oregon are pretty good bets. However, your fighting chance schools (and I agree with you on that as well) are pretty far above your safety schools. There are a lot of programs better than Oregon or Arizona but not quiet as good as Cornell/SB/Yale that I think you could get into.

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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:42 am

fermiboy,

i know someone from my undergrad program (big state university) who got into cornell for CM-related physics with ballpark figures close to yours. Echoing grae313, MIT is definitely a big proponent of GRE cutoffs, and most programs that have a cutoff will not be very vocal about it (most schools like to say that there is no stated minimum test score, which is true, but only to a certain extent...higher test scores will certainly bump you up several places in the stack of applications to be considered for admission at many top schools). And seriously, I don't know why people keep leaving UIUC off their list for condensed matter programs, especially when it comes to theory, they're one of the best. The last prof I worked with at my undergrad institution is a condensed matter theorist from UIUC, and he studied under David Ceperley, who's a pretty big deal in computational quantum stat mech/CM physics. It's a huge department! A friend from my graduating class is headed there, possibly to do CM-theory after he finishes up his fulbright this year.

VT- didn't we agree on another thread that you should calm down a bit? :-D You're going to be ok. It's true that you might fall victim to some preliminary screening methods at the top of the top schools, but if you spread yourself out and apply to a number of good programs (and don't delude yourself into thinking you have to go to Harvard to become a legitimate physicist), you will surely have some success. And foreign students with US undergrad degrees do have a marked advantage over foreign students from undergrad institutions outside the US, this was made clear to me during the application process last year, since a close from of mine is a Mexican citizen and got his degree in the US. Seriously though, when he went to check out Washington, UCLA, Yale, and Brown after he'd been admitted to the programs, he liked each one a ton and had a really hard time making a decision. There are a lot of good programs out there, and many large, state-funded institutions have great physics departments with tons of resources. Check them out.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Sat Nov 17, 2007 4:16 am

I considered UIUC, but I would prefer to live in the western US, and my mentor said that UIUC has a reputation of admitting huge pools of students and then weeding them out, of course after they have served their terms as TAs. But this is just one professor's view of UIUC I guess. I do have 2 east coast schools, because Cornell is really my dream school, and I chose Yale because my mentor has connections there. But I don't want to really live in the south or midwest, and other 2nd tier west coast programs, such as U. of Washington and UC Irvine, do not really have a lot of CM/AMO theory research that I am interested in. Colorado is a great CM/AMO school but it's out for personal reasons. So that's how my list came to be. Of course that was before I took the physics GRE. After I got my score, I realize I have no chance at Caltech, but I might get into Stanford (mentor connections) or Berkeley, because Berkeley's department is so huge, and the UCs seem to admit a lot of domestic students. Anyways, the reason I don't have places like Maryland, Hopkins, etc, is that I figure I'll just go do optics in the desert (U. of Arizona) if I don't get into any of my top choices.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:48 pm

U of A's a pretty good school (i'm an ASU alum, so they are our rivals in all things trivial), have fun with the desert climate if it comes down to it. 21 years of that was enough to instill in myself a desire for a change of scenery. Yeah, I know the midwest can be tortuously boring, that's why I wound up deep sixing UT-Austin and UW-Madison from my list of schools I applied to last year (it was a pretty big list already, according to my profs). But UIUC and Chicago are two examples of phenomenal schools in that area, plus you can't beat the cheap property cost out there...one thing I've found out here on the east coast is everything is so damn expensive, even if you're nowhere near the coast! I'm paying more monthly for a tiny ass dorm room at Princeton than I was for half of an 1100-sq. ft. apartment in a gated community back in tempe, AZ. Of course, this is all monetary, which in the context of picking a grad school shouldn't be your primary concern, but it was a rather surprising realization.

And try going for some of those external fellowships. Nobody's going to try to "weed you out" anywhere if you've got your own funding. And btw, usually the only thing they can do to try to weed people out is impose prelim/entrance exams along with generals, and this is actually pretty typical amongst reputable programs (our prelim exams are in january, gonna totally ruin winter break because i'll be studying for them the whole time i'm back home). But these exams are pretty formulaic, so if you know your stuff then there's nothing unreasonable you have to worry about. But I hear you on the geographic preference, not much you can do when you're surrounded by corn crops and pastures from horizon to horizon!

VT
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Postby VT » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:22 pm

Yes we did! :)



Princeton deadline Dec 15
(gotta hurry up to waste my money! )

I will see you in the fall there! oh well, we are in the diff program!

VT
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Postby VT » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:28 pm

How many of the princeton undergrad finish graaute level courses in thier undergrad and apply to grad school! Does everyone there do this?

VT
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Postby VT » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:42 pm

IS 720 a * bad* score for MIT, Princeton and Berkley, Stan ford and similar ranked schools!! This question is for EVERYONE in the forum. Please feel free to say what you all think!!! Plz don hesitate.
It doesnot really matter to me now coz there is not much I can do. I did what I am really good at (I am very good at makin 16 mistakes in freaking GRE. When I am tutoring Physics to freshman and sophmore, they come with all these GRE problems and even much harder problems n I don feel like solving them now!)

If only I could solve the freaking problem related to supersolidity in Helium OR prove that Harvard' prof's calculation is WRONG!

Ps# I have pretty much memorized all the name of the professors,deadlines, average GPA, Gre scores, fin aid, TA RA thing from gradschoolshopper. So plz don ask me to check that book again. I only want to hear what you all think !

I will be applyin to those schools even if you guys say my scores are *bad*, SO PLZ FEEL FREE to ans!! Don hesitate!

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:54 pm

OK, schmit.paul, you sold me on UIUC, I'm adding it to my list. I think I should have a good chance of being admitted. I decided people with average GRE scores such as myself should not be so picky on location.

So know I think my list is

No chance: Caltech

Long shot: Stanford Berkeley

Fighting chance: Cornell, UCSB, UIUC, and Yale

Safety: Arizona, Oregon

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:03 pm

VT, in my opinin, yes it is a "bad" score for top schools like MIT and such, but not *SO* bad that you don't have a chance if the rest of your application is great.

To answer your other question, sure, some students take graduate physics courses as an undergraduate. For example, I'm currently taking a graduate math methods in physics class.

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will
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Postby will » Sat Nov 17, 2007 8:25 pm

don't tell people to go to uiuc!

the smaller the pool, the better my chances. :P

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sat Nov 17, 2007 8:32 pm

I do'nt even know what uiuc stands for... so I won't be applying :roll:

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Nov 17, 2007 9:51 pm

quizivex, if you want to do fusion, then you won't need to worry about the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne (UIUC), as they don't do it there to the best of my knowledge...UW-Madison is the big midwest fusion powerhouse (there are several plasma physicists at Princeton and MIT that got their Ph.D's from UW, so it's not a shabby program at all). But UIUC is nearly consistently neck-and-neck with UC Berkeley as being the best public school in the nation, with Berkeley usually edging them out, but that's not anything to scoff at.

will- haha, sorry about that. I just hope people aren't simply throwing lists of schools together based on general reputation rather than for the quality of individual research programs, and I know that when it comes to condensed matter research, UIUC is one of the best in the country, so it surprised me to see nobody mentioning it (particularly because I recall a number of students mentioning applying to it during last year's application season).

VT- I think it's on the border, esp with MIT. But this isn't universal...give your application your all and make sure you *balance* top programs with good programs. Almost no university outside the top 10-15 has grounds to apply such a filter to its application pool. Why? Because if they only accepted people with top scores, the likelihood that all of those people would attend that school following their admission into the program is extremely low, and the incoming class would wind up much smaller than they intended. Even the top schools know they're sharing first-year candidates with many other top programs, which is why they will often accept twice as many students as they can truly handle for an incoming class.

VT
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Postby VT » Sun Nov 18, 2007 12:58 am

MIT sucks!

@grae313,
I was talking about courses like QFT, string theory and non equilibrium stat mech, coz these classes are usually offered to MIT undergrads( I saw this in MIT opencourse ware!!

Your math must be coool too!goodluck.

VT
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Postby VT » Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:12 pm

I am having a hard time writing my CV. do any of you know of any resources that i can look up on to get an idea on how we write a CV? I did this when i aplied for a summer internship. Will the similar format work for gradaute application too!

Any help will be greatly appreciated!
Thanks

VT
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Postby VT » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:13 pm

Ok I figured it out!
GOOGLE!

mathlete
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Postby mathlete » Sun Nov 18, 2007 11:51 pm

Wow, fermlboy you are like my application twin! Same type of school (though mine had a physics grad program), same GPA, same exact general GREs across the board. Only I scored lower on the subject GRE, so I guess your fighting chances are my long shots :)

VT
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Postby VT » Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:15 pm

Here is the CONCLUSION TO THis post!

GRE matters a LOT!

Its like SALT !, You cannot make curry of salt alone,and a curry without good amount of SALT is NOT TASTY at all!
this is a typical Asian metaphor that my teacher told me in my high school when I asked him what math was!

So here is the Conclusion:
GRE= Math= Salt.
I hope you all get it now!

moshecohen
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Postby moshecohen » Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:52 pm

hi.
i got only one response for this question so i thought i might try it under a different topic.

i'm an international student applying to graduate school in the u.s.

my problem is that my gre subject test score is not so hot: 800 (76%)

my background is the following:

i have 2 average recommendation letters and one good one.
my bachelor degree g.p.a is 88 (out of a 100 scale) and my g.p.a in the important courses is 96 (out of 100).
i have done research in the form of a summer project but have no publications.
i do have experience in lecturing as i volunteered as a lecturer on popular science in my city.

the universities i am applying to are:

1)caltech
2)berkeley
3)stanford
4)santa barbara
5)san diego

do you think i can be accepted to these universities with such an average gre score?

vicente
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Postby vicente » Mon Nov 19, 2007 5:30 pm

That's not how an internet forum works.

What you're doing is hijacking someone else's thread.

aanaa
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Postby aanaa » Mon Nov 19, 2007 6:30 pm

grae313 - what do you mean with

"
http://web.mit.edu/uwip/grad.htm

This is for women so disregard the part about 70%, but the general idea is good.
"

are you saying the GRE scores matter differently for men and women?!?

vicente
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Postby vicente » Mon Nov 19, 2007 8:45 pm

Statistically, women score lower on the GRE than what their GPA would suggest.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:33 pm

That's not how an internet forum works.

What you're doing is hijacking someone else's thread.


Hahahaha... I thought that was so funny that I'll try my best to answer the original question even though I typically avoid subjective questions, since as we know, this question is debated back and forth and every imaginable answer is given at one time or another.

But the best way to describe the importance of the GRE is that it varies by school. For instance, on Caltech's website, it lists a strong performance on the Physics GRE as the first item they look for in successful applicants. Other schools officially, or in one way or another, state that the GRE carries very little importance. UPenn is one I've heard of. They're ranked ~20th and have an average GRE of 780 (same as Yale, ~12th) but several schools ranked well below have much higher scores, (Rice for instance, ~32) lists an average of 830. Also, Stanford/Princeton are ranked the same but have averages of 810/880.

As for the question whether the GRE carries more or less importance for women, I don't know. I'd imagine it carries the same relative importance compared to the rest of the app as it does with men.

However, the scores needed for admission may be less. There are plenty of guys out there with a perfect or near perfect GPA who applied to 8 or so REU programs and got accepted to one or none of them. I went to the one that accepted me and met a girl who had a 2.7 GPA and no research experience.

Draw your own conclusions.

But again about the GRE importance, I think it's best to apply to a lot of schools because there's no way to tell, even with statistics, who values what most. It could vary from year to year with who ends up on the admission committee and whatever.

Similar confusion would occur if I dared to ask whether it's better to apply to grad schools with a BA or a BS degree.... If we asked 100 people we'd get a 50-50 split in answers with a wide variety of rationales, none better or worse than any of the others... but no I'm not asking this question, haha...

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:07 am

Aanaa:

Read this link: http://flux.aps.org/meetings/BAPSMAY96/ ... 50004.html

Remember this is the applicants for UT Austin, only 10% of the women applicants had GRE scores over 700, and only 10% of the total applicants were female. Of course, the scores of the women applying to MIT will be higher than the scores of the women applying to UTA, but the fact that the women applicants to UT Austin had an average score 100 points lower than the average male applicants is likely to be somewhat consitant from university to university.

I'm sure some universities judge GRE's from men and women somewhat equally, but I imagine that's where CalTech's gender ratios originate from.

I heard one university that does it like this: if X of the applicants are male and Y of the applicants are female and they have enough spots to accept 10% of their total applicant pool, they will accept 0.1X males and 0.1Y females, so the top 10% of each gender are admitted (these numbers are made up, I'm just describing the methodology). In this case, the women are only competing against other women, if your score is 95th percentile for women, even if it's like 85th percentile overall, you're probably in good shape (if you are a woman, that is)
Last edited by grae313 on Tue Nov 20, 2007 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Nov 20, 2007 3:30 pm

This data clearly shows the test is biased towards males. Declaring that "women are only competing against other women" does not make the test any less biased. This in itself should be cause to reconsider the GRE as an admission requirement.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Tue Nov 20, 2007 5:42 pm

Um, maybe the test just shows that physics is biased towards males. I'm female and I've gotten the highest grade in my class on my midterms more than 50% of the time throughout my undergraduate career, so I'm not saying women can't be as good as men at physics, I'm just saying it is more rare. On the other hand, there are way, way more men in the world who are much better at physics than me than there are women. Period. I'm sure a good portion of this is cultural, but on the other hand, it is not sexism to acknowledge that there are inate, physical differences between men and women. Women will never run as fast, jump as high, or throw as far as men. I think there are less differences between men and women's brains than between men and women's bodies, but there are still differences.

At 14 years old, my mom was tested to have a math IQ of 172 (and a verbal IQ in the 120s or something like that--the largest gap the proctor had ever seen). Exceptions to any rule exist. I would imagine that aside from cultural influences, women may, on average, have less math/spatial ability than men. Tests show that men and women use their brains differently, and that there are other differences in the brains of men and women. That doesn't mean that women can't be as good as men in physics, it just means it is much more rare. I've also read that the standard deviation of IQs is higher for men, thus there is more of a spread and more men at higher (and lower) IQs.

vicente
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Postby vicente » Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:32 pm

We should stop labeling ourselves as male / female and ascribing characteristics to each group like men = logical, women = emotional, etc. We should think of other people as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:59 pm

Works for me. :)

I would also like to point out that until we, as a society, stop valuing characteristics like "logical" over characteristics like "emotional," there can never be true equality of opportunity.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:31 pm

@ Twistor

This data clearly shows the test is biased towards males.


I respectfully disagree completely. The simple fact that women score lower on average does not necessarily mean there's anything wrong with the test.

Other tests, like the SAT and stuff, were under scrutiny for cultural and financial biases, especially for the use of certain vocab words... but seriously, an electron moving through a magnetic field does not discriminate.

"Which of the following is true of leptons?" Come on...

If women score lower then so it is. Men and women shouldn't have to score the same on everything. There could be plenty of other factors at play here.

Is there anything specific about the test you really think favors males?

Regards

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will
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Postby will » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:26 pm

Other tests, like the SAT and stuff, were under scrutiny for cultural and financial biases, especially for the use of certain vocab words... but seriously, an electron moving through a magnetic field does not discriminate.


Actually, in a very subtle way it might. Almost all of the women I know doing physics at my school want to do astronomy or very applied experimental stuff. In both of those directions the material covered on the GRE, surprisingly, isn't all that important. If you're going into astronomy then quantum mechanics isn't terribly important. If you work on semiconductors all day, it doesn't bother you if you've forgotten rotational dynamics.

The physics GRE is biased towards theorists, so a better question than the GRE or physics in general, is why do I see theory biased towards men?

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:47 am

the physics GRE has a strong bias against people who don't understand physics.

Now, I am not saying that if someone scores low that they definitely don't understand physics. I just think that there is no way to score high without having a pretty good understanding of the fundamentals. The converse, however, is not so certain.

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will
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Postby will » Wed Nov 21, 2007 4:52 am

to be fair, the test isn't incredibly difficult; there wasn't much on that test that wasn't a quick application from the first three semesters of most undergrad physics programs. God help the souls who fill in the bottom quarter percentiles, but it's not like that's the average for women. The issue isn't that all women do horribly, but that the very top percentiles tend to be filled out by men.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Wed Nov 21, 2007 2:45 pm

I would agree the problems are not difficult per se, but some times they can be a little tricky. Moreover, when you add the time limit, and the additional pressure of knowing that the test can be a big part of determining your future, then these extra factors make the test more difficult. I can guarantee I could solve 95/100 GRE test questions if I had a couple more hours.

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will
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Postby will » Wed Nov 21, 2007 4:16 pm

Oh, what I'm saying isn't that the test is outlandishly trivial; that was just me agreeing with the test being biased against people who don't understand physics. I think that's not a very strong assertion though.

As vincente said, women seem to score lower on the GRE than their GPA would suggest. Since I sincerely doubt that grade inflation is a gender biased phenomenon, that makes this discrepancy notable.

So, I guess my point is that no one seriously argues that specific topics in physics are gender biased, so that's kind of a straw man; however, if there's an existing gender distribution throughout subfields of physics, it's not impossible to imagine the GRE being able to play to certain strengths.

To reiterate what I said before, most of the female students I've known in physics do astronomy and experiment; while this hardly constitutes data, it's an interesting thing because the GRE isn't viewed as being as relevant in those areas, because it doesn't really ask for real experimental or astronomical knowledge.

By the way, something that should have occurred to me sooner is that I'd like to see the standard deviation in scores as well. Maybe the average score for men is higher, but almost all women score above 40%, and are just densely packed.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Wed Nov 21, 2007 4:24 pm

I went to the ETS website and the std. dev. on the subject test is 153. Interestingly, this is the highest value for all the subject tests, so I guess our test has a lot more spread in scores than others.

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:56 pm

This is just from my observation in my physics department, which is one of the largest in the US and also has a pretty decent sized physics education program, so there is a decent share of women, but my observations are the same as will's. Pretty much all of the women I know are in experimental groups or astronomy. And even more specific, women are more common in optics than in condensed matter. I don't know if these observations are significant. It could just be that at my school, perhaps some of the experimental groups started to have more women than others, and from there, other women were attracted to the group, and thus the imbalance has been self-perpetuating.

I have also noticed that the women in the program are usually among the "better" students in my classes, but never the top. When I say top, I mean the guy (or guys) in the class who always get the top score, without seemingly even trying, and even when there is an exceptionally hard test, and the whole class as a whole scores 10 to 20 points lower than on previous tests, this guy still somehow manages to score near perfect. I don't know, maybe this phenomenon is unique to my classes, but it always seems that this person is a guy. There are women who score near the top, but they always seem to be more human.

And as for women's GRE scores being lower than there GPA would suggest, I think it is because grades are not based purely on understanding of the material, but there are other factors, like diligently turning in assignments, attending lecture and taking notes, etc. I think women are on average better students. That's why valedictorians are usually women (at least at my high school, this was usually the case). So I am not surprised at all that women have higher GPAs than Gre scores suggest.

I apologize, there was a lot of generalization there, based on little more than a few of my observations, and very little substance.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:26 pm

I think a lot of your observations can be attributed to simple statistics: 1) There are a lot more men in physics. 2) The standard deviation in IQ is higher for men than it is for women.

#2 has been tested many times and is generally accepted.

Optics and CM are more popular fields, so if you have a handful of women in your department, chances are, they are going to be in those fields. It's awfully hard to make good comparisons when you have 50 men and 3 women. In my department, there is one other woman besides me. As a few people have already said, the top (and the bottom) of the IQ ladder have more men than women.

VT
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Postby VT » Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:18 pm

GRE is a *** but it matters a lot AND SHUD MATTER A LOT!
Now nobody is gonna ask this question again, alrite! I am jus kiddin

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Postby schmit.paul » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:36 am

almost every woman i know in physics is a theorist, so I can provide some exceptions to this generalization that's being tossed around. In any case, I agree with grae's point about there being a small statistical sample for women at each institution. Princeton's entering graduate physics class had 1 woman for 20 total new students, and plasma didn't do much better with 1 out of 8. What I find more interesting in seeing the composition of the graduate student body at a few institutions that I've had the chance to survey, is that most of the female physics grad students are international (I can say with confidence this is currently the case at Princeton, ASU, and Brown). The 2 new female physics grad students at Princeton are international (Lebanon and China), the 1 new female physics grad student at Brown is from Croatia (and I just hung out with a female string theorist from Portugal who's finishing up at Brown), and when I took a couple graduate physics courses at ASU prior to graduating, there was a handful of females in the class, most of whom were from China or neighboring regions, one was from Germany, and only one to my knowledge was born in America. This trend seems to hold with the older grad students I've met as well, with the exception of my group in Princeton Plasma Physics, where there are 4 American women who are in or have very recently passed through the program.

So what I think would make for a better topic for discussion is why the physical sciences seem to hold some sort of stigma for females in American culture, which discourages many from even trying the field out in the first place, whereas almost every other industrial or post-industrial nation in the world is able to produce a distribution of talented physics students that doesn't lean so heavily towards male domination.

And btw, many of the approximation techniques used to solve physics GRE problems are vital tools in the daily rigors of experimental physics, and my friend in experimental particle astrophysics would back me up on this one, as he's been hounded many times by his research adviser for rough estimates and orders of magnitude during their discussions. Pulling out back-of-the-envelope order-of-magnitude calculations quickly is a regular part of the discourse between collaborators on big experimental projects. So I would not say the physics GRE has a theory bias at all. As was said by a few others, it is framed around the fundamentals in a way which challenges you to use basic analytical tools every physicist should be able to utilize in their own respective fields. You're never going to be asked to calculate a Green's function or an elaborate multipole expansion on the GRE!

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will
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Postby will » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:24 pm

I don't remember a single numerical approximation problem on the test I took. Everything was analytical or had nice, whole number solutions. I know it was common on the 4 practice tests available, but it seems like those techniques are something they're phasing out.

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Importance of GRE scores

Postby MSU_fizz » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:06 pm

Most schools now realize that good GRE scores are not indicative of a successful graduate student. However, poor scores are often correlated with poor performance in grad school. The more applications a school receives, the more likely they are to use GRE scores to make the 'first cut'. If your score is good enough to get on their radar, research experience becomes very important.

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Postby schmit.paul » Mon Nov 26, 2007 2:25 am

my current research adviser also informed me that they've observed a strong correlation between success on the GRE Physics and success on departmental preliminary/entrance exams, which are common to many good graduate physics programs...one of those necessary evils that must be overcome before one can move on to more fulfilling pursuits

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Postby quizivex » Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:33 am

Yeah, and a grad student at my school told me that passing the qualifier exam is much more a matter of memorizing all past problems and all problems similar to those and crossing your fingers on the day of the test than it is about learning the material.

While I think the GRE is a good test, if the GRE were not a good test, and was simply an exercise of brute force memorizing, trick techniques and speed, then so is the exam that comes about two years afterward, which determines whether or not we'll get the PhD we've been aiming the last 6 years for, and thus the GRE is still good preparation in that perverted sense.

I don't remember a single numerical approximation problem on the test I took. Everything was analytical or had nice, whole number solutions. I know it was common on the 4 practice tests available, but it seems like those techniques are something they're phasing out.


Me neither. I'm glad I didn't get any of those tedious computations. Anytime there's a problem where we need to evaluate a big fraction that includes hbar, electron mass and epsilon 0, I'm guaranteed to screw it up haha.

I didn't use dimensional analysis or order of magnitude estimation at all. None of the problems on my test lended themselves to that. However, I used limiting cases to answer about 3 difficult problems without much effort. While all of these tricks are all good to have going into the test, the best preparation always will be to learn/review everything in undergrad physics.




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