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April 4 PGRE Cancellations: Local, US, or Global?

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Dr. Courtney
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Some students I mentor in the SE US have reported that their local PGRE has been cancelled, but additional info is hard to come by. They are trying to find out if it is still being offered on that date at other locations.

What do y'all know? Anyone know of a location in the US where it is still happening?
 

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  • #2
Dr. Courtney
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The info I have now is that all GRE Subject Tests scheduled for April 4, 2020 have been cancelled. This is second-hand information, but I have it from multiple sources that I consider reliable. I have not been able to confirm with ETS directly.
 
  • #3
CrysPhys
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Just curious, what students would be taking the GREs around this time? Too late for those entering grad school in fall of 2020. Early for those entering in fall of 2021. Are there special circumstances?
 
  • #4
Dr. Courtney
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Just curious, what students would be taking the GREs around this time? Too late for those entering grad school in fall of 2020. Early for those entering in fall of 2021. Are there special circumstances?
I encourage students I mentor to take the subject test for the first time in the Spring of their junior year. If they hit a home run, they can stand pat and focus on strengthening their grad school applications in other ways the Fall of their senior year. If there is room for improvement, results from the first try can be used to identify areas to focus on in the months before the second try in the Fall of their senior year.

Taking it for the first time in the Fall of their senior year gives fewer options. The outcome is what it is, and if insufficient for their grad school applications, their option is to accept admission to a school other than what they were hoping for, or tread water for a year while they take it again and strengthen their application.
 
  • #5
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I took my GREs in "spring". (It snowed) At the time, the advice was to do the general and subjects on different days. Since the subject test was after the general, I figured it would be a good chance to take a look at one, and if I did well, great, and if not, I only lost the $75 or whatever it was. As it happened, there was not enough room for improvement for me to bother doing it again in Fall.
 
  • #6
Dr. Courtney
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I took my GREs in "spring". (It snowed) At the time, the advice was to do the general and subjects on different days. Since the subject test was after the general, I figured it would be a good chance to take a look at one, and if I did well, great, and if not, I only lost the $75 or whatever it was. As it happened, there was not enough room for improvement for me to bother doing it again in Fall.
That was my experience also, except for the snow.
 
  • #7
StatGuy2000
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I'm puzzled as to why at this stage there are not options available to take the GREs (both the general and subject) remotely, either online or through a delivery of the paper test.

Especially with the current pandemic -- I would have figured that now would be a great opportunity to roll out such an option for students.
 
  • #8
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I'm puzzled as to why at this stage there are not options available to take the GREs (both the general and subject) remotely, either online or through a delivery of the paper test.

Especially with the current pandemic -- I would have figured that now would be a great opportunity to roll out such an option for students.
Students I mentor tell me there is for the general but not the subject (physics, unsure of others), but I'm not sure if the online option for the subject requires it to be proctored at some testing center. I remember students telling me of going to the testing center to take various proctored tests online, but I don't recall just now if this was one of them.

Being robust against cheating is much easier in a proctored exam. There is too much money to be made taking unproctored online tests for others. For all those physics majors dreaming of a top 10 school, the PGRE is a high stakes event.
 
  • #9
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@StatGuy2000 , the potential for fraud is very, very high. One country in particular is notorious for this fraud. There are companies that will guarantee a particular score (with corresponding prices) by sending in a "hired gun" in your stead. The fees they charge are well in excess of what it costs to make a fake ID. Imagine how much worse it would get without a proctoring center.
 
  • #10
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I'm puzzled as to why at this stage there are not options available to take the GREs (both the general and subject) remotely, either online or through a delivery of the paper test.

Especially with the current pandemic -- I would have figured that now would be a great opportunity to roll out such an option for students.
Why? Testing Conditions, control and monitoring. Supervision.
 
  • #11
StatGuy2000
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@StatGuy2000 , the potential for fraud is very, very high. One country in particular is notorious for this fraud. There are companies that will guarantee a particular score (with corresponding prices) by sending in a "hired gun" in your stead. The fees they charge are well in excess of what it costs to make a fake ID. Imagine how much worse it would get without a proctoring center.
I understand that under ordinary circumstances it would not be advisable to administer the PGRE (or other similar subject-based GREs, such as for mathematics) remotely or online given the issues you've raised.

However, we are not under ordinary circumstances. Given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, where 3 states (California, New York, Illinois) have issued states of emergencies and ordered mandatory self-isolation (essentially ordering people to stay in their homes) -- not to mention similar directives across multiple countries, including my home country of Canada -- it is irresponsible to force students to gather in a single building to take the test, possibly exposing them and their families or friends to COVID-19.
 
  • #12
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ETS may decide to delay, they may decide to change the rules, they pay decide to cancel. Lots of things they might want to.

The outcome will be that some people who otherwise wouldn't get in will, and some people who otherwise would now won't. (How could it be otherwise?) One of ETS's goals will be to minimize the number of people in these categories.

But there's more. With universities shut down, the existing pool of graduate students will make less progress. That means the number of grad students that universities can accept will drop for the next year. That will surely factor into decisions of ETS and the universities.
 
  • #13
StatGuy2000
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ETS may decide to delay, they may decide to change the rules, they pay decide to cancel. Lots of things they might want to.

The outcome will be that some people who otherwise wouldn't get in will, and some people who otherwise would now won't. (How could it be otherwise?) One of ETS's goals will be to minimize the number of people in these categories.

But there's more. With universities shut down, the existing pool of graduate students will make less progress. That means the number of grad students that universities can accept will drop for the next year. That will surely factor into decisions of ETS and the universities.
First of all, are universities actually shut down in the US? In my home province of Ontario, Canada, in-class teaching has been cancelled and moved entirely online and large conferences have been cancelled, along with lab-based research in areas outside of COVID-19 and time-critical research, but the universities themselves continue to stay technically open.
 
  • #14
Dr. Courtney
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The integrity of the process is more important than the convenience of the students.

I appreciate ETS protecting the integrity of the tests. If the PGRE is not rock solid, then students from schools with reputations for grade gifting have no chance to prove themselves.

I've encouraged the students I mentor to prepare for alternate possible entrance exams, in case the September offering is cancelled also.

As for grad school demand - good students will always be in demand. Classes have moved on line. But if you're not writing your thesis by mid-March, you're unlikely to graduate in May. If there is a bottleneck on the output, it's further down the line.

Be among the best. Never worry.
 
  • #15
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universities themselves continue to stay technically open.
"Technically" is the key. Research has slowed or stopped. That means fewer students will graduate. That has implications down the road.
 
  • #16
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First of all, are universities actually shut down in the US?
Yes, some. I'm a grad student at Cornell. Grad students were prohibited access to labs, and keycard access was revoked.
 
  • #17
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Yes, some. I'm a grad student at Cornell. Grad students were prohibited access to labs, and keycard access was revoked.
That is why I made the comment of somewhere down the line, some later time, students should be given some method to gain what they are missing and what during the next several months will be missing (lab time, research work, other instructive and development experiences).
 
  • #18
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Yes, some. I'm a grad student at Cornell. Grad students were prohibited access to labs, and keycard access was revoked.
Yikes! Free the science!

In grad school, when technical difficulties shut the experiment down, I became a theorist (more of a computational physicist, really). Published several papers which were probably enough to graduate. Eventually got the experiment to work.

Fast forward to 2003 +/-. The institution employing me said they didn't appreciate my research. (Defense dept. related.) I moved forward in the basement and back yard. Even the Air Force Academy had too much overhead and red tape. No thanks. I'll find alternate facilities.

My advice? Control the key card. Don't let anyone lock you out. Free the physics. Marie Curie did it this way. Lots of the great ones.
 
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  • #19
StatGuy2000
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Yes, some. I'm a grad student at Cornell. Grad students were prohibited access to labs, and keycard access was revoked.
I can understand limiting access to labs to enhance social distancing, but revoking key access is excessive IMHO. This will obviously impact those students involved in certain experimental areas of physics.

I presume you and other students at Cornell still have access to online library access, as well as remote access to computer network servers to conduct, say, computational resources (e.g. simulations).
 
  • #20
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I presume you and other students at Cornell still have access to online library access, as well as remote access to computer network servers to conduct, say, computational resources (e.g. simulations).
Indeed! Students were not allowed remote access to some computational resources before, but that has been waived. If grad students have nothing to do during the shutdown, they really aren't trying hard enough.

Also, I should say... our lab has physical keys ;) I know some of us have become night owls. Unfortunately, the cleanroom is also closed until further notice.
 
  • #21
Dr. Courtney
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I can understand some cancellations in cases where the people in the room exceed headcount guidelines, or where social distancing protocols are difficult to assure. One-time meetings of strangers like the PGRE may fall into this category.

But closing science laboratories seems to suggest a lack of trust for the scientists themselves to follow a few extra protocols that are, in many cases, much simpler than essential safety and scientific protocols the scientists are already following.
 
  • #22
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I had two responses. One is "we have to deal with the world as it is, not as you wsih it would be". The other is that maybe the scientists can be trusted to follow protocols, but once you open the labs for the scientists, you need to bring back the guy who moves the dears, and the janitors, and maybe the librarians, and they have to eat, so the cafeteria, and, and, and...
 
  • #23
Dr. Courtney
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I had two responses. One is "we have to deal with the world as it is, not as you wsih it would be". The other is that maybe the scientists can be trusted to follow protocols, but once you open the labs for the scientists, you need to bring back the guy who moves the dears, and the janitors, and maybe the librarians, and they have to eat, so the cafeteria, and, and, and...
I'm getting feedback on two approaches in most labs from students I mentor. One is that a higher authority (university or department head) mandates widespread lab closures. The other is that the higher authority delegates this decision making to the PIs with the understanding that there will be little or no support staff. In many cases, the PIs have considerable leeway right now for how their research moves forward.

In the case of mandated widespread closures from a higher authority, we deal with the world as it is. In the case of PIs retaining some decision making, we can make our own choices about how to balance the social distancing requirements with the needs of our research and the students working on our projects. My whole career as an experimentalist has focused on small scale experiments, with rarely more than three people in a room when the experiment was running. If the closed labs only last a couple weeks - it is no big deal to work from home on computer tasks for the duration. If experimentalists are locked out of their labs for long periods, the impact on careers, student training, and possibly science itself might be significant. I'm extending offers now to students I've mentored in the past whose labs are closed.

Of course, we should be encouraged by Isaac Newton's example. He left London for a rural home in Woolsthorpe due to an outbreak of plague in London and the closing of Cambridge. He both set up a laboratory on that property as well as made some of the theoretical advances for which he is legendary. Some times a change of scenery can prompt great progress.
 
  • #24
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But closing science laboratories seems to suggest a lack of trust for the scientists themselves to follow a few extra protocols that are, in many cases, much simpler than essential safety and scientific protocols the scientists are already following.
I'm not sure that is correct, but it sounds/reads as very logical and good.
 
  • #25
symbolipoint
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you need to bring back the guy who moves the dears, and the janitors, and maybe the librarians, and they have to eat, so the cafeteria, and, and, and...
Let us not be too quick to mistrust the care that janitors may use.
 

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