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Grad. School with 650 in PGRE

  1. Oct 16, 2009 #1


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    Hi, I am an international student studying in US. I have a Physics GPA of 4.0 and cumulative GPA of ~ 3.9. I recently took a PGRE and haven't obtained my scores yet. I am guessing that I should get a score of about 650 or so. I have pretty good research experiences in reputed places. I have one publication as well. I have also done/am doing Physics tutoring, Lab TA and grading in my college. I want to get into one of the top graduate schools in particle physics program. It would be highly appreciated if someone could give me some idea if it's totally illogical for me to expect to get into good grad. program with my present qualification/scores.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2009 #2
    If you are talking somewhere like Harvard/MIT/Etc... then the most important thing for an international student is that you speak english (which doesn't seem to a problem for you so no worries there).

    In terms of your GRE scores, while I can't speak on places other than Harvard/MIT, for them the scores mean little when you have other material to put in your application. The fact that you already have a publication puts you in a much better position than 90% of the applications. Its only when they have no other metric to go by do they start looking at your GRE scores with any real scrutiny.

    So the really important thing is to give them other things to look at, becuase if its down to scores you really need to be in the 95%+ percentile on your General GRE, and 90%+ on your physics GRE to help keep you at the top of the pile.

    The other thing that you must get are good letters of rec. The person/people you published with (unless you did it alone in which case you are golden) would be excellent resources for that. Grad schools like people who are ready to research when they step foot in the door, so having evidence that you know how to do that is a big plus. If you can then get someone to tell them you not only know how, but that you are actually good at it... well you get the picture.

    Finally, with Harvard/MIT (and other tier 1 schools I imagine) they put a HUGE emphasis on the personal statement. Usually they give you 1000 words and thats it. Its not easy to cram all the important things about yourself into 1000 words, but thats part of the process really. You let them know why you are passionate about physics, what you want to do in grad school, and a big plus is telling them WHO you want to work with. Nothing worse than someone who doesn't know what they are going to do once they get accepted.

    Finally, if you can manage to get a fellowship from an external source (NSF or equivalent) then that puts you in a tremendously good position. Coming with your own money means you don't cost the school a penny (well maybe a few pennies here and there ;) ) but really with a fellowship you can work for whoever you want since you don't cost them anything to do the research.

    There is nothing keeping you from going wherever you want, if you are determined enough and can demonstrate that to them they will accept you :)
  4. Oct 17, 2009 #3
    Unfortunately, with a 650 you will most likely not be able to get into a top school. The people who get into those schools have very high GRE scores along with high GPAs and publications. I had very similar qualifications as you, but a 700 on the GRE. I got rejected from Boulder, Wisconsin and Washington. I did get into plenty "top 20" and below schools though and they are fine schools.

    So you certainly will get into a good school, make your choice based on research groups not school prestige.
  5. Oct 18, 2009 #4
    I disagree with this, mainly becuase as I already said, most top universities don't think the GRE is a good metric to quaify their applicants. They only use it in cases when they have nothing else to go by. If you have supplemental material supporting your ability to research (like publications) your GRE doesn't matter much to them. That and strong letters will keep your GRE from ever becoming a factor.

    Also lets be honest, the PGRE tests absolutely nothing when it comes to your abilities as a physicist. It tests your ability to memorize formulas and textbook problems. And the people at top universities know this.

    That said, if you are interested in experimental physics most Applied Physics programs don't even ask for a PGRE since for applied stuff you can come from any background in the physical sciences. And the applied programs usually have dual appointed profs (in phys and applied phys) who need theoreticians in their groups. So if thats what you want to do (so long as it isn't String Theory) you can always go for an applied program and join such a group.

    Don't get discouraged by your GRE score, given what you have told us about yourself, you have other things to look at in your application. Certainly don't let someone tell you NOT to apply becuase of your score, becuase you know what the number 1 reason people don't get into top universities is?

    They Don't apply!

    (Though this does make a good point, if you don't believe you belong there it will show through in your personal statements... so if you are going to apply to a top school then you should really know why you are going there, and what you can offer them.)
  6. Oct 18, 2009 #5


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    Thank you both for your responses. I am not trying to get into applied Physics program, so I have to submit PGRE score anyway. I am not completely concerned about the school's prestige but usually prestigious schools tend to have good researches and faculties. I will apply to some top schools and also some not so renowned schools but with good researches. Thank you keniwas for the motivating message.
  7. Oct 19, 2009 #6
    Where do you get this idea? All universities use the GRE as a metric, otherwise they wouldn't require it.

    I know anecdotal evidence is highly suspect... I had a friend who did an REU at MIT and was told by the prof he would like to have him as a grad student. Unfortunately for my friend he scored only in the 50% and the admissions committee automatically threw out his application. Top schools often have a GRE litmus test. They have many dozens of people with 4.0s, publications and >800 scores to choose from.

    Go to http://www.physicsgre.com/ and you can see for yourself how many people with GREs in teh 600s get into top ten schools.
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