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PGRE - A message to undergrads from physics grad school.

by javaNut
Tags: grad, message, pgre, physics, school, undergrads
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jedishrfu
#19
Dec14-12, 08:04 AM
P: 2,949
One thing I've noticed about PF is that newcomers have to get acclimated to the style of discourse presented here. There is a form of ranking going on simply by the number of posts you've submitted.

With respect to JavaNut's post, I liked it. I genuinely liked it. I saw the hyperbole but thought that its a necessary component to get an undergrad to take the test more seriously and to really prep and study for it.

We all know this test has limits on what can be tested and that this shows its superficiality but it is useful to grad schools in sorting through the morass of student applications using a simple number common to all students.

We also see numerous posts from frantic students asking for help because they blew the test and they worry the end of the world is near. So why not try to reach these students earlier and get them to prep for this test and thier qualifiers at the same time.

Go Hyperbole!
javaNut
#20
Dec14-12, 08:08 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by MarneMath View Post
This is not a reply so much to content as tone. Presenting yourself as an expert on grad school admission (intentional or not) and the constant hyperbole irks me. If the message you want to relay is, "If you want to do your PhD in physics, then you should study hard and do well in the PGRE." I think you can do that in less words.
Other than that, I'm failing to see a point behind most of the letters you strung together. Is there a point? I like to think, "study for the PGRE" is a common sense idea.
No, you are right. That is all I had to say. It's too bad more students don't study (hard enough) for the PGRE even though you are right that it should be common sense. The hyperbole is for entertainment so sorry for irking you. And I am certainly not an expert on physics grad school admission, I am sure it varies greatly between departments, and within a department with who is on the acceptance committee for that year. These are only my specific opinions about how to get into physics grad school in the absence of certainty with which most of us operate. I have had too many friends/students, who were (in my eyes) brilliant, not get into programs they deserved (or not go at all) because of that test (and not studying for it properly).
jedishrfu
#21
Dec14-12, 08:22 AM
P: 2,949
Actually you could compare all of this to how we learn to drive. It starts with prepping for a simple written driving test. It doesn't test your driving skills but only your recall of signs and rules of the road.

Your qualifying exam is when you get out on the road and prove to the instructor that you can properly judge the road, drive safe and follow the rules.

Later upon graduation, you can develop your own personal strategy to stay safe, avoid getting a ticket and handle most traffic problems.
javaNut
#22
Dec14-12, 08:23 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by Choppy View Post
Part of academic maturity is learning how to "rank" potential schools according to your own criteria so that you can identify where it is you will perform best.

In any of the search and selection committees I've been on I can honestly say that the rank of of the school the potential candidates come from has not factored into the decision.
I recall making an extremely elaborate formula to derive my best-fit schools to apply to, which I find quite humorous in retrospect. I chose a school that was not the best ranked of my acceptances, but where I felt I would thrive the best (after school visitations). I agree with that (but would I have rejected a top 10 even if I fit in better at a top 30, I'm not so sure).

I'm glad you don't worry about school rank in your selection process. I would claim you don't have to. This has already been accounted for at the post-doc level (and to be fair, I would think that the ranking is not as relevant to experimentalists). I have known people finishing their theory PhDs who apply to 80 or more postdocs...and get nothing, good/publishing people. (I also know a few people who went on to famous places, but they were crazy-far above average.) I don't want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom (hopefully soon to be Dr. Doom and Gloom), but it is my belief that there is a pecking order. Maybe rankings matter more to the average physics grad student at a mid-level program because our futures are much less certain.

80 is a real number in at least one case, not hyperbole. Apparently hyperbole is discouraged here. My apologies.
jedishrfu
#23
Dec14-12, 08:29 AM
P: 2,949
JavaNut you are seriously giving away your identity here with the quote "soon to be".

We have the space component and now the time component. :-)

Now all we have to do is listen for the hyperbolic component.
javaNut
#24
Dec14-12, 08:43 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by jedishrfu View Post
JavaNut you are seriously giving away your identity here with the quote "soon to be".

We have the space component and now the time component. :-)

Now all we have to do is listen for the hyperbolic component.
No not really, ha ha:
http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/arch...p?comicid=1071
javaNut
#25
Dec14-12, 09:39 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by jedishrfu View Post
Actually you could compare all of this to how we learn to drive. It starts with prepping for a simple written driving test. It doesn't test your driving skills but only your recall of signs and rules of the road.

Your qualifying exam is when you get out on the road and prove to the instructor that you can properly judge the road, drive safe and follow the rules.

Later upon graduation, you can develop your own personal strategy to stay safe, avoid getting a ticket and handle most traffic problems.
I think this analogy does capture some essence of what goes on.

So I wonder what would happen if I retook the PGRE are now. You know, I have to admit something. I don't think (even with some prepping) that I could do all that much better. I think I mastered the intro material nearly completely so what was finally measured was my raw intelligence and test-taking ability (and my test-taking ability was maxed out so no room for improvement there). So maybe that explains why some really good students complain that it doesn't measure their physics knowledge. They have a point! I wonder if test-taking ability can be taught, or if it is more of a function of the way a particular person's mind works.

I think my main point in general still stands, that most average students don't prep enough for the exam (and thus don't catch all the holes in their knowledge base as was my case). But then there are certainly excellent students who still do poorly. I guess that is why I like our school's policy, which is to carefully review the rest of an applicant's material even if they received a lower PGRE to make sure someone really good does not get tossed (though the PGRE still does factor in). I think it is wrong to set aside the application entirely just because of the score (though I guess there are some practical limitations involved for schools that get so many apps).
jedishrfu
#26
Dec14-12, 10:53 AM
P: 2,949
Another analogy was my Taekwondo studies. For each belt we would learn two forms that we would practice religiously until we got promoted and then learned two new forms.

Black belt tests were done before the grandmaster during TKD summer camp.Actually he watched you all during the camp and then would do the formal test if you were really ready. If not you didn't get to test and your instructor was hamered for brining you there. So there was a lot of stress all-around.

When it came time to pre-test for black belt we were required to demonstrate all forms learned and of course we all failed miserably. Our instructor instituted a new class policy of randomly calling out the forms to do. So when it came time for the real test we were ready for anything the grandmaster would request.

The take I got from it was that you need to review everything you know as you progress thru your studies on the off chance that someone may assault you with a problem you once knew how to do.

Maybe it'll be a game show or maybe a prof stuck on some arcane problem (I once helped a prof with a circuit design using a truth table, boolean algebra reduction and then drawing the circuit - he'd was totally amazed it was something I learned in a book in 8th grade and just never forgot - priceless)


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