Poor Physics GRE scores... Is there still hope?

  • 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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Poor Physics GRE scores... Is there still hope?

Postby Wassminaym » Tue Dec 04, 2007 8:46 pm

Alright, this forum seems amazingly helpful so far, but I'm afraid now I must throw my own personal information into the mix. I've almost completed my physics undergrad at GA Tech, a decently ranked school, though not necessarily known for its physics program. I've done what research I can for almost 2 years, but nothing that will get me published. The week leading up to the physics GRE I came down with MRSA, which, being rather life-threatening, brings with it a good amount of stress. Ultimately, I didn't do so well on the test. So now, I'm wondering where I should send applications to for grad school. I'm looking for a program in astrophysics, which is also the field I've done my research in, but I'm not sure who would accept me now that I've seen my scores.

Here's my application info:
GRE Physics: 610 (38%)
GRE General: 600 Verbal (85%), 750 Quantitative (84%), 4.5 Analytical (54%)
Overall GPA: 3.16
Major GPA: 3.17
2 years of research (unpublishable)
Decent letters of recommendation

Does anyone have any suggestions pointing me to where my scores may be accepted?

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Postby fermiboy » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:39 am

I think you should look at big state schools, like Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, etc. These places have big time resources and funds, and not every 990 type person applies there.

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Postby dlenmn » Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:28 am

1) Go here and click "find it" without filling in any other information.
2) Scroll down past "Schools at a glance". 285 programs are listed. Clicking on one will get you to a pdf (or to a page, in which case, click the "view comprehensive details" button).
3) Click away.

Most of the pdfs will give some type of admissions info, like what the minimums and average scores are. Take the average scores info with a grain of salt, because they usually include both domestic and foreign students, and the latter often need significantly higher scores (e.g. at U Colorado, the difference on the physics GRE is 67 points). Some schools don't even require the physics GRE.

I don't know much about astrophysics -- my impression is that it's a small field and that will limit your choices. You should probably talk to a prof who can tell you about different programs. Having a small specialty may not be a bad thing. For example, one of my fellow majors wants to study space plasma physics. Not many schools do it, but it turns out that many of the schools that are good at it aren't as competitive more generally so they're easier to get in to.

For example, there are two profs here who do astrophysics stuff who are, in my understanding, pretty darn good (Caldwell known for the Big Rip, and Gleiser who I saw in a history channel program which also interviewed Brian Greene and some other big names, so he's got to have something going for him). Dartmouth's physics graduate program is not the most competitive (although they may hold a higher standard for cosmology types) -- you may have a good shot at getting in.

Anyhow, best of luck.

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Postby Wassminaym » Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:03 am

Thank you both infinitely for your suggestions. I've been going through gradschoolshopper and I believe I may have found some possible candidates, Dartmouth included. It's an amazing site.

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Mitigating Circumstances

Postby Prodigal » Wed Dec 05, 2007 3:28 pm

I've been out of physics for three years and was worried about doing well on the GREs as well. My advisor from undergrad told me that it was perfectly acceptable to note any mitigating circumstances on your app or in your personal statement if you don't think your GRE score accurately reflects what you're capable of. And, well, if you were worried about dying when taking the test, that seems like a pretty reasonable assumption, so perhaps take a shot at a range of schools you want to go to, including dream schools, note somewhere on the app something about your scores, and hope for the best.

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