GPA more important than GRE?

  • 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.

vicente
Posts: 195
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:24 am

GPA more important than GRE?

Postby vicente » Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:58 pm

Hey everyone,

In your opinion, is GPA more important than the GRE for graduate school admissions?

I'm worrying about this because my undergrad physics department keeps class averages really low (~2.4- 2.5). I do considerably better than average in my physics class but I'm not one of the best. But my physics GPA looks really crappy (3.4-3.5), and my math GPA is horrible (2.4, around average), to most other North American graduate committees. Nobody in my program has a 4.0 average, the best students get 3.7 to 3.9. Consider that 4.0 is awarded for a course whenever the average grade for coursework is only 85%! (not 95%+ for most schools in the U.S.)

However, I scored an 880 on the physics GRE.

So am I doomed because I chose a harsh-marking school? Just think about what you yourself would do with a 3.3 overall average.

- Vince

User avatar
quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Postby quizivex » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:05 pm

I don't have a complete answer, but I suggest you ask (at least one) of your profs to mention in their recommendation that your school has an unusually harsh grading policy, and then give praise to your GPA.

I recall hearing an Ivy admissions lady say the following, "There's a school in New York in which the highest GPA of any student was a 3.2, and there's a school in Texas where there were 110 valedictorians. We take everything we can into consideration."

Schools understand that grade scaling varies, so just make sure they know what it's like at your place, either through your SOP or recs.


Incidentally, where's RG? Haven't heard from him in a while!

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Postby grae313 » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:49 pm

Exactly. Have your recommenders mention it. Make sure they know what the class average is, and if you were top 5 out of xx students in your class, make sure they know that too.

User avatar
will
Posts: 399
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:26 pm

Postby will » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:22 pm

With no context, a low GPA and a high GRE tend to suggest a lazy genius, and most grad schools would rather have someone a little less talented who will actually work. Having the relative difficulty and the lack of grade inflation explained in a letter of recommendation will carry a lot more weight than in your personal statement. That said, a 3.5 physics GPA is far from tragic, so don't worry too much about that. You might want a note from the math department, however.

vicente
Posts: 195
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:24 am

Postby vicente » Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:39 pm

The problem I have is that two of my three recommenders are not from my school :(

The recommender from my school only wanted to explain to the graduate schools I was applying to that my school's 4.0 was 85% and not 95%. Which is true, but doesn't explain how the average is 69%. Is he trying to make me look bad?

My math GPA is terrible because I only took theoretical pure mathematics courses that weren't needed for the physics program. I took them because I was thinking of doing math as well, in case it would help my grad school chances if I wanted to get into theoretical physics. But my plan backfired. However I tried to explain the situation in my SOP.

How high is a 3.0 GPA at most other schools anyway? In my school that would indicate an above average physics student, approx. one standard deviation above the mean.

User avatar
butsurigakusha
Posts: 293
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:05 pm

Postby butsurigakusha » Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:48 pm

At my school, most of my colleagues in the physics department have pretty high GPAs, partly because they tend to do real well in their GE and other non-physics courses. I am tempted to say that most of the people I know have physics gpa between 3.5 and 4, but at the same time, most of the folks I spend time with are among the top students. I believe the median grade in a typical physics class here is a B or B-. Usually the top 10% or so in each class earns an A, and pretty much anyone who sticks the course out and does the majority of the homework and passes the tests will earn at least a C-. So, I would guess that the average physics gpa for all physics majors is probably around 3.0, maybe a little higher. Among those who are seriously planning on grad school, probably 3.5. These aren't much more than guess, though.

User avatar
will
Posts: 399
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:26 pm

Postby will » Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:52 pm

A 3.0 GPA (for your entire undergrad career, not just physics courses) seems to be the absolute minimum for all the schools I've looked at to even consider you. I suppose that means that, on average, a 3.0 implies a compelling student, but not necessarily a great one.

At my university, it looks like well more than half of all students who graduate do so with a GPA above 3.0.

You should definitely talk with the recommender from your school about your concerns with his letter.

User avatar
twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Postby twistor » Thu Nov 29, 2007 12:23 pm

I can honestly say I've never heard of a school requiring > 95% for an A, and I think even 85% might be a bit high for physics.

User avatar
twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Postby twistor » Thu Nov 29, 2007 12:25 pm

Also, I don't think you're under any obligation to explain your schools grading policies. I wouldn't complain if your school has lower standards than you think they should, because in that case the fact you didn't get a 4.0 average looks even worse.

vicente
Posts: 195
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:24 am

Postby vicente » Thu Nov 29, 2007 5:58 pm

That's not what I wanted to say. Although the standard to get an A is only 85%, the class average in physics is 69%.

User avatar
twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Postby twistor » Thu Nov 29, 2007 9:23 pm

I still wouldn't mention it. Don't draw attention to your shortcomings and blotches on your application. Rather, highlight the good things you've done.

As far as I know, 69% is a typical physics average. I've seen averages in my classes a lot lower, in the 40s and even the 30s.

cancelled20080417
Posts: 482
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 6:30 pm

Postby cancelled20080417 » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:45 pm

@ quizivex,

"Incidentally, where's RG? Haven't heard from him in a while!"

I was busy having fun( !!). I am jus chilin out! coz I m goin to Princeton! yeah :D

Don get surprised, I am jus kiddin!
Actually, one of the Prof. there is really impressed by my independent work, I don know how much this will affect my chances of getting in there! I think he was simply encouragin me!

So how are things coming up for u quizivex!

looks like many CMT are out there!

User avatar
quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Postby quizivex » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:54 pm

Ah that's good you have a fan at Princeton now.

In fact, my prof <deleted for anonymity>.

I thought I'd be able to have some fun after the GRE was done and I caught up on the classes, but it's been a bit stressful cuz I'm clueless what to write for my SOP and none of my profs have submitted my rec.

Maybe this is my weekend to catch up on applications... that is, after sunday football :lol:
Last edited by quizivex on Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Postby twistor » Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:01 pm

quizivex:

I too am in the process of writing SOPs. I just a send a bunch to my letter writers for proofreading. I had no idea what to put, so I just talked about why I picked the field I did, why I chose my field of research and what I'd accomplished, and then I spent some time sucking up to the admissions committee about how they have the best program in the whole-wide world and wouldn't it be great if blah blah, yada yada, you get the drift....




Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest