1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Finding it hard to prove myself.

  1. Aug 24, 2013 #1
    A recap for those that missed my past threads: I am a physics major with 1 course requirement to graduate. Last year I applied to a few grad schools and several dozen internships, research programs and any and all remotely technical jobs that would assist me in getting experience, which would help me get into a grad program, but was unsuccessful on all accounts.

    I just recently retook the general GRE but despite having prepared much more this time around, I still got roughly the same score as last time (150/150 V and Q, then 155/149), which I am aware is deemed unacceptably low for a physics major, especially on the quantitative part. It is not an issue of lack of quantitative ability, but I seriously lack speed. I have completed several untimed practice tests with very little in the way of flaws but I just cannot for the life of me get to all 20 questions in the allotted 35 minutes every quant section has. I either get locked up rereading questions or my vision tires from staring at a screen(similar problem with the RC questions on the verbal section), I just never seem to get enough time, even getting enough sleep and downing unhealthy amounts of caffeine before the test.

    I will be retaking the PGRE again both in Sept. and Oct. and have done much more preparation, so I predict my score will improve over my last attempt (650), but I'm not sure if I should expect anything amazing (my senior adviser said registering for both was a clear indication of lack of confidence, which I agree with in part but I am also generally excessively prudent).

    Being unfruitful in my job search and having to retake my last graduation requirement, I am returning to my faculty to complete the course and I had also arranged with one of last year's rec letter writers to conduct some research to gain additional experience (did a senior thesis) in the fall, in anticipation of applying to around 15 grad schools. However after 3 emails in the last month asking for something to get started with on my own, I have lost contact with him and now I'm afraid I won't be getting to do any research at all. I will almost definitely be living off of my savings in lieu of the terrible employment situation where I live so this is particularly hard, and the pressure of getting into a grad program this time around is really high for me, as I know that at my age it's not getting any easier.

    I am not terribly ambitious as far as the reputation in most of the grad schools I'm applying to is concerned, I researched what most of them were strong in and intend to tailor my apps to their strengths, and will be reapplying to a small but prestigious program that did consider me to the point of having me on their waitlist(actually was the highest ranked school I applied to). But will it be hard to convince grad programs I am capable of being productive with such lackluster test scores on basic math? I feel like anything I say about my performance on the GRE is bound to come off as whiny. Perhaps the exams are accurate depictions of my ability and I'm not cut out to do this? I don't know what to think anymore. It also seems like any and all other "escape hatches" outside of physics with just physics a bachelors are complete dead ends unless I get an unrelated masters degree(which I have no way of paying for). My lack of success in getting even called for an interview for even most basic of entry level jobs is thoroughly disheartening. I am thoroughly disillusioned with life in general and am at a complete loss at what to do: waste the remainder of my savings chasing down a prof to do some research, take both PGRE's, retake the GRE and go ahead and apply or cut my losses and slave away at whatever manual labor job I can find or continue pursuing tutoring work (I had a brief stint recently).

    tldr: What does not being able to score higher than a 150 on the quantitative section of the GRE mean for an aspiring physics graduate student? Is this the last nail in the coffin?
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2013 #2
    What do you want to do in physics? Have you considered a grad degree in engineering?
  4. Aug 24, 2013 #3
    I have more than one area in physics that interests me hence why I have a variety of programs in mind, would the research focus make any difference? They are all largely academic, not similar to engineering as it is practiced outside of maybe accelerator science, which might find its way on my grad school list if I can find programs that aren't out of my league like Stanford (need to research this).

    As I stated, I have no way of paying for a graduate degree myself, so getting an engineering masters it out of the question for me. Even if it was a possibility, I have a sibling and a few more acquaintances working in engineering and I really do not like anything I have heard about their daily job experience, nor do I think I would fit in in such an environment (nor do they, tacitly). I also wouldn't think the engineering job market would take well to a 'failed physicist' if good ones have such trouble breaking into basic engineering jobs as documented as it is...
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  5. Aug 30, 2013 #4
    I would really appreciate some input. Should I really retake the GRE? I am not sure if I can really score much higher, but I really want to go to grad school... Is there any hope?
  6. Aug 30, 2013 #5
    You gotta answer people's questions to get good advice. First, what are your research interests? And do you want to do theory or experiment? What schools did you apply to?
  7. Aug 31, 2013 #6
    Broad: astrophysical fluid dynamics, stat mech applications, instrumental optics, solar physics, traditional astrophysical subjects excluding cosmology and lately accelerator physics. I have not yet applied this year.
  8. Aug 31, 2013 #7
    Make a decision on what you specifically want to do and make sure you do your homework and understand exactly what will be in store for you in that specific field. Are you someone that leans more towards the practical side of things or are you an academic?

    Before you do all of that , you must take time out - go jogging or in the gym, hang out with people, tire yourself out properly, have a good night's sleep and then look at the situation with a clear head after a week's time.

    In the state you are in, you will burn yourself out for nothing.

    If you want to improve your results, think less about the "what ifs" and focus more on what you need to do. Learn how to study so you would actually learn not cram.

    Something random as "registering to the same exam twice is a sign of lack of confidence" holds true only if you react to it unconfidently. Being cautious has nothing to do with confidence, perhaps he wasn't the confident one for saying something like that?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook