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Did the GRE Physics kill me?

  1. Dec 17, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone,
    i won't be the 1st (or the last) to ask the $1Million question about his GRE score, but i need the opinion of knowledgeable persons.

    First the good sides: my GPA is a nice and pure 4.00; i think my recommendations are good (2 professors who truly praised my work, one friend who is vice president of a really big company and engineer from top-school); finally, i think my own statements of purpose are convincing too, and they'd better be because i really know what i want. Besides, my general GRE should be high enough for any school.

    Downsides: no lab or research experience AT ALL; although i intend to be a theorist, this is probably quite bad.. Then, a ridiculous and unforeseen 670 at the subject test: 61 good answers, 32 bad ones: now i understand why i felt strange being done 25 min before the end.

    What really gets me angry is how irrelevant the questions seemed to be, regarding my abilities and what i want to do: clearly, i don't give a damn about how many screws an interferometer is made of, or if there is a factor of 2 or 1/2 in the equations for a diffraction minimum!.. i'd better like to have 5 challenging problems than a hundred dumb ones.

    So anyway, i think i can kiss goodbye my applications to Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia. Would it be still realistic to attempt places like, say, UC Santa Cruz? Or any suggestions?
    (interests: standard model & beyond, theory of gravity, cosmology)

    Thank you deeply. Sorry for posting about such a common problem.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2009 #2
    No research experience *and* a rather low physics GRE. Yeah, unless you are in a position to donate a new physics building, I think I'd cross the top schools off of your application list.
  4. Dec 17, 2009 #3
    I don't buy your argument that the questions are "irrelevant". The PGRE tests your basic knowledge of calculus-based physics. Someone with a perfect GPA should be capable of mastering this stuff.
  5. Dec 18, 2009 #4
    You should retake the PGRE, since I don't see any downsides to doing that. I found the questions annoying and silly, but there's a lot of annoying and silly stuff that you have to put up with.

    As far as grad school applications. You need to have at least one application that "shoots for the moon" and another one that goes to a school that you are sure you can get into. It's really hard to figure out whether you can get in or not, because there is a lot of randomness in the process.
  6. Dec 18, 2009 #5
    Thank you all for your answers.

    Brian: By "irrelevant", i just meant it was rather silly (so in a sense i feel also ashamed) but i think it tells more about your ability to crack the test than any deep understanding of Physics. I really think there should be 3 different tests, whether you want to be an engineer, an experimentalist or a theoretical physicist (incidentally, i'm totally fine with calculus-based questions; much less with, say, elementary optics or LRC circuits...)

    Twofish: unfortunately, it will be too late to retake the test for next september's term. I already sent 5 applications and the most "reasonable" is Santa Cruz, hence my question about how reasonable it is now.. I don't know about a lot of schools, so i'm trying to get information on this side too.
  7. Dec 18, 2009 #6


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    Also depends on the school you are coming from. A 4.0 GPA from CalTech could keep you in the running even with one low test score.
  8. Dec 18, 2009 #7
    Yes, that would be sweet but it was obtained at Empire State College, NYC... Not very fancy, i'm afraid. I also have a quite unorthodox background, which could be a + or a – depending on factors i don't control.
    I just didn't think the PGRE would be an issue and feel frustrated that the result is given so much importance by most schools..
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