View Poll Results: What would you consider a "safety school" for their Physics PhD program?
LSU 7 63.64%
University of South Carolina 3 27.27%
University of Alabama 6 54.55%
Miami University 3 27.27%
Georgia State University 2 18.18%
Tufts University 0 0%
Boston University 1 9.09%
Arizona State University 1 9.09%
Vanderbilt University 3 27.27%
University of Florida 2 18.18%
University of Nebraska 3 27.27%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 11. You may not vote on this poll

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I just failed the Physics GRE, now what?

by undergrad_phy
Tags: failed, grad school, gre, gre physics, physics
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stevenb
#55
Nov22-10, 11:42 PM
P: 697
Quote Quote by AndersonMD View Post
Having gone through undergraduate at one of the only two schools that use that grading system I am quite familiar with the interpretation of the marks, and trust me schools don't "round up" to a B, a 2.7 is a C+, in the same way a 3.9 is a B+. The conversion on this chart is a bit strange as you generally use a GPA at those schools out of 4.5. A+ = 4.5, A = 4.0, B+ = 3.5 B = 3.0, C+ = 2.5, etc.

This clarification is even more important for most graduate students who are applying with a GPA between 3.5-4.0, even though often your percentage marks coming out of courses could be mid 80's you CGPA could be say, 3.7 which is ineligible for federal funding (NSERC, etc). While other schools that use a % based system will be eligible with identical marks.

Anyways, long and the short of it, as much as I would love them to "round up", this is simply not the case, a 2.7 is a C+, and you won't get into grad school with it (while at a 3.0 you might). Also, a 2.3 would be considered a C not a C+.

I'm quite confounded by your statements. I agree a 2.7 should not be rounded up to a B. The charts clearly show it as a B-. This agrees with any standard I've been under (4.0 scale). My undergrad school used the letters to report grades and showed a GPA number scaled to 4.0. If a student at that school got a B- in every single class, his GPA would be 2.7. It also agrees with the reference you cited. A scale based on a max of 4.5 would of course be different, but I'm assuming the OP is measured on a 4.0 scale (EDIT: yes, I checked and that's what he said).

Anyway, it's hardly a battle worth fighting, but it seems to me the OP should be comfortable (and would be accurate) saying he is a B- student. Even saying he is a B student, while clearly saying his GPA is 2.7 out of 4.0 is not "disingenuous" in my book because he is clearly not trying to hide anything.
Vanadium 50
#56
Nov23-10, 12:55 AM
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People aren't getting the hint. Discussion of whether a 2.7 is a C+ or a B- is not helpful to the OP. What matters is that 2.7 < 3.0, and 2.7 << 3.5.
johng23
#57
Nov23-10, 01:04 AM
P: 292
Quote Quote by AndersonMD View Post
I was being a little facetious, though I do admit I after finishing a 12 hour in class exam with no breaks, where no one in the class could reasonably finish even half of it, I sometimes dream things could be just a little bit easier (this was not a qualifying exam, it was just for a single class).
WHAT? That's utterly ridiculous. How is that even allowed? Why don't people laugh in the prof's face and refuse to do it?

Undergrad or grad?
stevenb
#58
Nov23-10, 08:00 AM
P: 697
Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
People aren't getting the hint. Discussion of whether a 2.7 is a C+ or a B- is not helpful to the OP. What matters is that 2.7 < 3.0, and 2.7 << 3.5.
With the number of times this fact has been pointed out, I'm absolutely convinced the OP had been "helped" by this hint.

What isn't helpful to the OP is telling lies about obvious facts and insulting him with words like "disingenuous".
G01
#59
Nov23-10, 08:24 AM
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Quote Quote by stevenb View Post
With the number of times this fact has been pointed out, I'm absolutely convinced the OP had been "helped" by this hint.

What isn't helpful to the OP is telling lies about obvious facts and insulting him with words like "disingenuous".
We've now spent close to two pages debating the differences between a B- and a C+! It's not the original purpose of the thread.

Who's telling lies to the OP?
stevenb
#60
Nov23-10, 09:32 AM
P: 697
Quote Quote by G01 View Post
We've now spent close to two pages debating the differences between a B- and a C+! It's not the original purpose of the thread.

Who's telling lies to the OP?
If you are implying that I lied about something, then at least have the decency to point it out so that I can realize it, acknowledge it and apologize for it.

If you want to say I'm annoying for belaboring a point, then fine, I'm guilty as charged. Certainly this is not the first time a PF member asked that an inaccuracy be corrected.
G01
#61
Nov23-10, 10:34 AM
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Quote Quote by stevenb View Post
If you are implying that I lied about something, then at least have the decency to point it out so that I can realize it, acknowledge it and apologize for it.

If you want to say I'm annoying for belaboring a point, then fine, I'm guilty as charged. Certainly this is not the first time a PF member asked that an inaccuracy be corrected.
Steven, I have no complaint with you, just about the direction the conversation is going. I'm sorry if I "sounded" disgruntled or belligerent. I did not intend for that.

I wasn't implying anything about you personally.

I was wondering about your statement:

What isn't helpful to the OP is telling lies about obvious facts and insulting him with words like "disingenuous".
My question was serious and not implying anything about any of your statements. I didn't see anyone in this thread say anything blatantly false to the OP.

I seriously wanted to know, "Who told lies in this thread?"
stevenb
#62
Nov23-10, 11:59 AM
P: 697
Quote Quote by G01 View Post
Steven, I have no complaint with you, just about the direction the conversation is going. I'm sorry if I "sounded" disgruntled or belligerent. I did not intend for that.

I wasn't implying anything about you personally.

I was wondering about your statement:



My question was serious and not implying anything about any of your statements. I didn't see anyone in this thread say anything blatantly false to the OP.

I seriously wanted to know, "Who told lies in this thread?"
No problem. I'm not offended or anything. I'm not accussing anyone specific of lying in the sense of "deliberately trying to deceive". I just said "telling lies" as an a general way of saying several innaccurate statements were made which don't really help the OP. Poor choice of words on my part, and appologies for that.

I actually see 4 innaccurate statements, but I'm not going to expand on that for two reasons. First, I don't want my poor choice of the word "lie" to carry over and seem to accuse a particular person, and second because the most blatent innacuracy (2.7 equals C+ or C) is aready deemed as irrelevant and acknowledged by Jack as incorrect and an inadvertant mistake.
undergrad_phy
#63
Nov28-10, 08:52 PM
P: 13
Hey everyone, thanks for the input- some constructively worded, some not so much, but all helpful nonetheless. I wonder if there is a way to label a thread as 'closed' or 'complete'- because I think we may be getting off topic. I'll try to figure this out- if you have any idea, message me.

However, to reiterate, I do appreciate everyone's thoughts and I feel like I have a much more realistic idea of my goals and my options now.
flyingpig
#64
Nov28-10, 11:51 PM
P: 2,568
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
I think it's really a bad thing. I went to a school with absolutely *brutal* tests in which people were sometimes lucky to get 60 on tests. There are a lot of good lessons that go with tests like that.
Wait, then does that mean only like 5 people in the whole university actually even considers applying to grad school since their gpa so darn low?
Ryker
#65
Nov28-10, 11:59 PM
P: 1,088
I think their GPA isn't low, because they're graded on a curve. So even though there weren't as many 90's as you would perhaps expect, there were probably still as many A+'s.
flyingpig
#66
Nov29-10, 12:05 AM
P: 2,568
Not in my university...

The other section in my physics class had an average of 45% on the midterm and no scaling because someone got 90% on it lol. But they believe there was an error in the question, so who knows.
panzival
#67
Feb12-11, 01:56 PM
P: 5
Quote Quote by flyingpig View Post
Not in my university...

The other section in my physics class had an average of 45% on the midterm and no scaling because someone got 90% on it lol. But they believe there was an error in the question, so who knows.
Happening at my school too. 49% average on a math exam and no curving because someone got 89%.
Ryker
#68
Feb12-11, 02:53 PM
P: 1,088
When you say no curving, what exactly do you mean? For example, at my university, professors look for gaps in-between student scores, so that those gaps represent cut-offs for different grades. Of course it's probably not always as clear-cut, so that they have to "force" the cut-off and look at the scores themselves, as well, but if the average was 43% and, say, one person got 90% and the next best one got 50%, then the latter wouldn't get a C or a B.
pongo38
#69
Feb12-11, 02:56 PM
P: 696
Have you considered doing Engineering in some form? That way, you will be applying physics, and it could lead to a research degree in Engineering.
twofish-quant
#70
Feb12-11, 09:19 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by flyingpig View Post
Wait, then does that mean only like 5 people in the whole university actually even considers applying to grad school since their gpa so darn low?
Since the tests at MIT are heavily curved, you get decent GPA's even if the tests scores are low. Most of the physics and math courses are A-B centered which means that roughly half the class will get A's, half the class will get B's, and a few people will get lower than that, but that's only if you did something really wrong.

They post the distribution of test scores, and if you are at the tail, there is always one or two major tests before drop date, so that you can get out if you have serious trouble. Also the fact that MIT gives horrendously difficult tests is part of the culture. Because I know that I can get a 50% and there is still the possibility of getting an A on the test, I start enjoying horrendously difficult tests. It's part of the "drop you in the ocean and watch you struggle to swim to shore" philosophy of MIT. One thing that MIT teaches you is that if you are getting 90% and 100% on tests, then your standards are too low.

Harvard also has pretty inflated grades. I took one course in humanities there, and once I got a B- even though I was unable to answer practically any question on the test.

The classes in the engineering departments tend to be B-C centered, because employers really care less about GPA than grad schools do.

People put a lot of thought into grading policy. Most physics departments will deliberately set up their grading so that most physics majors will end up with about a 3.5, so that they can get into graduate school. The flip side is that if you get a 3.0 or 2.7 then people assume that you did something really, really wrong.

This causes some interesting issues when you have international students. The Chinese educational system for example is set up so that people do extremely well on standardized tests, but have really low grades. For example, if someone graduates a Chinese undergraduate university with a GPA of a 2.5, that might be outstanding, or not......
twofish-quant
#71
Feb12-11, 09:33 PM
P: 6,863
At MIT when I was an undergraduate, things were done statistically in which X% of the people were likely to get A's, Y% were likely to get B's. Setting things against the highest score wouldn't work, because you would be dead if you happen to be in a class with a future Stephen Hawking or Terrence Tao. Also part of the reasons the tests at MIT are so hard, is to come up with something that would challenge a future Stephen Hawking.

At UT Austin, the grading policy was very different. First MIT very strictly controls admissions, whereas UT Austin can't. Second, at MIT if you totally bomb physics, you have to leave the school since physics is a required course for everyone. At UT Austin, if you totally bomb physics, there are a lot of other majors that you can do. There's also the cost element. Spending an extra year at MIT is extremely expensive, and even if you don't pay, someone else has to. Spending an extra year at UT Austin isn't as painful so if you totally mess up, you can hit the reset button and start over.

So what ends up happening at UT Austin is that you have weed out classes freshmen and sophomore year to try to convince people that they really don't want to take physics, so they set things up so that a large fraction of people end up effectively failing the class so that leave physics. At MIT and Harvard people are weeded up at the admissions stage so the grading is set up so that most people end up getting decent grades. There's also some internal politics. Over the last thirty years, the focus of MIT has moved from physics to EECS to biology, which means that you a department that was designed for 300 undergraduates that is teaching 70, so MIT tries to make physics attractive. At UT Austin, you have a department that can't teach many more undergraduates then they have, so they try to get people NOT to major in physics.

And then there is history. One reason that I think US and other countries have different grading systems is the impact of the Vietnam War. I've been told by people that lived through the 1960's, that professors would deliberately inflate grades because having a low grade meant that the student had a good chance of losing their college deferment and being shipped off to Vietnam.

Also the way that MIT grades is more similar to the way that US grad schools grade. The courses are usually A-B centered, but they can A-B center it because they are really picky about the people that they let in. Grades in US Ph.D. programs are bogus. What grad schools really do not want is for them to admit you and have you drop out after a year.

However, in the end most US schools set things up so that 3.0 is a hard cutoff for getting into graduate school. If you get below 3.0, and then have a stellar PGRE and letters of recommendations that say "we grade really hard here" then you might be able to get in, but the OP doesn't so that doesn't look good. However what universities in the US tend to do is to just change their grading systems so that physics majors get through with more than a 3.0.

Also US graduate schools have to make allowances for international students. A GPA of 2.7 from a Chinese university might be excellent. The way that Chinese schools get around the limit is to report the transcript, but not calculate the GPA since what you get when you take a Chinese transcript and calculate the US GPA is really something different from a US school.
twofish-quant
#72
Feb12-11, 10:02 PM
P: 6,863
To the OP:

1) Take the PGRE again after studying your rear end off. You might get a higher score. You might get a lower score, but you really have nothing to lose.

2) Talk with you recommenders. If you can get your recommenders to say "ignore the 2.7 since we grade really hard here" that will help. It's going to be a difficult discussion because unless you have absolutely excellent recommendations, you are not getting in.

3) Consider taking an extra year. If you take some hard graduate level courses and do well that will help a lot. Also if you take some graduate level courses and you are struggling, that may mean that graduate school is not for you.

What you need to convince the admission committee (and that applies to *ANY* admissions committee) is that will not admit you and then after spending time and effort on you, you will drop out. You must realize that as a graduate student you will be a serf. You will be asked to do the grunt work so that the university can exploit your labor and crunch out papers. If the university puts more into you than the work that they get out, then it doesn't work for them to admit you.

Stop thinking about "safety schools." It's a different system. As an undergraduate, even if you totally crater, you are still paying tuition and you are putting resources into the university. As a physics Ph.D. student, if you can't do the work, then you are taking away resources from the university.

Also ask your yourself why you want to go to graduate school. As a physics graduate student, you are going to be used and abused, unless you are a weird intellectual masochist that enjoys being abused, you aren't going to survive it. After you get out, its worse because you'll find that the jobs that the Ph.D qualifies you for are also ones in which you have to be an intellectual masochist.


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