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Graduate Programs Not Requiring the GRE Good or bad?

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  • #1
Cod
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Main Question or Discussion Point

As I'm researching graduate programs, I've noticed a few well-known universities and programs do not require the GRE for admission. Is this a bad sign? Or just the preference of the admission committees?

I don't want to turn this into a whether or not the GRE is a good indicator discussion. Just curious if a school not requiring it is something I should worry about.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jtbell
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Why do you think it might be a bad sign that you should worry about?
 
  • #3
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Those universities have decided that other criteria more accurately defines a students ability to handle their graduate program.

I don't know how you'd consider it a bad thing unless you did really well on the GRE and not as well on your academic studies. It may mean that you need to provide more things in your application to show your interest, you seriousness and your ability to do the work.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50
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The GRE is a sort of counterbalance to grades. It allows the school to select students whose GPAs were lower than one would expect for the amount of material that they had learned. Without the GRE, they will admit fewer such students - which means there will be fewer such students among your peers. What that means to you is up to you.
 
  • #5
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The GRE is a sort of counterbalance to grades. It allows the school to select students whose GPAs were lower than one would expect for the amount of material that they had learned. Without the GRE, they will admit fewer such students - which means there will be fewer such students among your peers. What that means to you is up to you.
Does this imply that one who has good grades does not need a decent GRE score, or any GRE score for that matter?
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50
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Having both GRE and grades gives two measures. Obviously it's best if both are strong. But if your grades are on the low side, you are better off with a high GRE score than a low one. Or no one.
 
  • #7
Cod
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Why do you think it might be a bad sign that you should worry about?
Two of my reference writers, professor and supervisor/mentor (in industry w/ same credentials I wold like), stated they would be wary of programs not requiring the GRE. I have not taken the GRE yet; however, I was planning too in the spring.

Thanks for all the inputs thus far everyone.
 
  • #8
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MIT doesnt require the GRE for its EE program and thats one of the best programs in the country and then pretty much all the Ivy schools require the GRE. Its all based on the school's own views
 
  • #9
Doug Huffman
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But for the student, good or bad, no GRE is bad. It is quite analogous to letting any and all freshman UG's in and then remediating them by the hundreds after they find out they aren't so smart. Uggh! Winnow the chaff from the grain early and often.
 
  • #10
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But for the student, good or bad, no GRE is bad. It is quite analogous to letting any and all freshman UG's in and then remediating them by the hundreds after they find out they aren't so smart. Uggh! Winnow the chaff from the grain early and often.
Can't disagree more. If you're going to test them, at least test them on something relevant to what they're going to be studying. With a test that actually tests material knowledge and not rote memorization of test-taking techniques written by the same company who charges 175 a pop.
 
  • #11
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MIT doesnt require the GRE for its EE program
I don't believe there is a GRE subject test for EE.
 
  • #12
Vanadium 50
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If you're going to test them, at least test them on something relevant to what they're going to be studying. With a test that actually tests material knowledge and not rote memorization of test-taking techniques written by the same company who charges 175 a pop.
I don't understand the last sentence. Would it be better if it were twice as expensive?

If you want to argue that a better test could be designed, I agree. A two day free-response written exam plus a 1-2 hour oral would be much better. It would also be substantially more expensive. As far as rote memorization, I had to laugh - I am just about the world's worst memorizer. I truly stink at it. But I did quite well on the GRE.
 
  • #13
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I don't believe there is a GRE subject test for EE.
It doesnt require the general GRE i meant.
 
  • #14
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I don't understand the last sentence. Would it be better if it were twice as expensive?

If you want to argue that a better test could be designed, I agree. A two day free-response written exam plus a 1-2 hour oral would be much better. It would also be substantially more expensive. As far as rote memorization, I had to laugh - I am just about the world's worst memorizer. I truly stink at it. But I did quite well on the GRE.
What I meant was that the whole GRE process, especially the general GRE test, is a money-making scheme for the ETS and other "test-review" companies. The GRE is not about having the requisite knowledge for graduate school, not even the subject test. When a student studies for the GRE, the higher scoring student focuses mostly on "strategies" for taking the GRE and not the actual material itself. There isn't enough time to actually work every problem out the proper way you were taught in college. The higher-scoring students use test taking strategies to get most of their points and less emphasis on the actual material.

A better method, in my opinion, would be a decentralized one. If a specific department wishes it's entering students to have a certain knowledge base upon entering the program, then they should administer their own test. This probably wouldn't happen in most cases. Europe gets along just fine without testing their new graduate students.
 
  • #15
Vanadium 50
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What I meant was that the whole GRE process, especially the general GRE test, is a money-making scheme "
What? A company actually makes money? The horror!

Next you're going to tell me that when a student visits the campus the hotel she stays at makes money too.

There isn't enough time to actually work every problem out the proper way you were taught in college. The higher-scoring students use test taking strategies to get most of their points and less emphasis on the actual material.
When I did my GRE, the only "strategic" things I did were the following:

  • Start with the easy problems
  • Look at the answers - if they all have the same numeric value but different dimensions, don't waste time calculating the numeric value; pick the one with the right units.
  • If I have to guess, don't pick one that is obviously wrong
Apart from that, I just worked out every problem. Just like in school. What you say is completely contrary to my experience.

What puzzles me is that you were not successful following the strategy that you describe, yet you insist that it is the correct one.

A better method, in my opinion, would be a decentralized one. If a specific department wishes it's entering students to have a certain knowledge base upon entering the program, then they should administer their own test.
This won't happen. Writing a test is expensive. Administering a test is expensive - whether you fly them in, or whether you pay someone remotely to do it. Taking a test is time consuming. If you apply to ten schools, now you have ten tests, not just one. The GRE is not popular because it is the greatest of all possible tests. It's a relatively cheap way to get an additional point of information besides grades. This helps students who learned more than their grades would indicate, and it helps students at small schools which have maybe not sent many students to grad school, much less this grad school. It hurts students who learned less than their grades would indicate.
 
  • #16
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Yes, I totally agree. It's not a money making scheme. It's just being fair and practical. Have you ever been offered any free important services that are really all good ?
If you ask someone to cook you a meal, you have to not only pay back the money for the meal but also extra tips for his work put into cooking it for you.
About GRE importance, I think except the US, all other countries can produce generations of students that start out working really good without any sort of certification similar to GRE. The US education is well known for its expensiveness. They double-charge international students but can't pass down much knowledge to them. I have met many previously from USC grad schools who are really bad at work. But they are very good at playing jokes at new comers. Maybe that's all USC and surrounding environment in California taught them. Too bad! and horrible!
 
  • #17
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The PGRE is an artifact of the slow but steady extinction of the rather anachronistic pure physics department. Look at departments which actually have decent funding, and you'll find that they generally do not care anywhere near as much about GRE's. Engineering departments neither demand a subject test (to the point where ETS hasn't even produced one) nor care much about the general GRE, beyond the obvious (i.e. if you score in the 40th percentile on the quantitative GRE you may have some issues).

Physics departments are tiny, and as far as I can tell are either not growing or are getting tinier. The academic job market for physicists sucks compared with engineering (it's not unheard of for engineering PhD's to get academic positions straight out of grad school, no post-docs). Yet engineering/other departments do some awesome physics research, sometimes on the exact same topics as the physicists. The admissions requirements for applied departments like applied physics, biophysics or planetary science seem generally more lax.

That said as Vanadium has pointed out the PGRE is completely beatable; if you really want to run the rat race onto a sinking ship, by all means, try again. I'd shoot for modern, cutting edge science/applied science departments which actually have a hope of growing in the near future.
 
  • #18
Choppy
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Just curious if a school not requiring it is something I should worry about.
I wouldn't worry about it.

If you've done a thorough investigation of the program yourself and found that:
- there are opportunities to do research that is of interest to you (funding, professors in that area who are accepting students, etc.)
- the research appears to be high quality (published in reputable journals, presented at reputable conferences, lots of citations etc.)
- graduates are moving on in directions similar to where you would to go
- at least some of the professors seem like people you want to work with and who would serve as good mentors
- the graduate students you've talked to are happy with the program.

Then something as trivial as whether or not the GRE is required for admission shouldn't matter.
 
  • #19
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What? A company actually makes money? The horror!

Next you're going to tell me that when a student visits the campus the hotel she stays at makes money too.



When I did my GRE, the only "strategic" things I did were the following:

  • Start with the easy problems
  • Look at the answers - if they all have the same numeric value but different dimensions, don't waste time calculating the numeric value; pick the one with the right units.
  • If I have to guess, don't pick one that is obviously wrong
Apart from that, I just worked out every problem. Just like in school. What you say is completely contrary to my experience.

What puzzles me is that you were not successful following the strategy that you describe, yet you insist that it is the correct one.

.
Your sarcasm needs work; also calling a company making money evil is not what Herculflea was saying, and you know that.

What you say trumps most people's experience for the PGRE, trying to work out problems properly (ie deriving from first principles) will not get you anywhere near a top score. Go on any website or pick up any book with regards to the PhysicsGRE and you will get test taking strategies and lots of rote memorization coupled with understanding as advice. Also, that thread you're referencing is in regards to the general GRE, not the subject one.
 
  • #20
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What? A company actually makes money? The horror!
Nothing wrong with companies making money, but the ETS is given monopoly license to be the sole arbiter of graduate entrance examinations in the US. So it's in their interest to perpetuate the status quo of standardized examinations, which does not necessarily help anyone but themselves.

Start with the easy problems
Look at the answers - if they all have the same numeric value but different dimensions, don't waste time calculating the numeric value; pick the one with the right units.
If I have to guess, don't pick one that is obviously wrong
My point proven. Your approach to the test was to immediately look at the answers and in many cases decide on your response based on the units of the choices. How does a test where students have the option of doing this (or should I say the necessity of doing it?) predict a student's future ability to pursue graduate level research, where by nature there are no obvious answer choices?
What puzzles me is that you were not successful following the strategy that you describe, yet you insist that it is the correct one.
Wow, I had actually forgotten about that thread. That post was quite a while back when I was an undergrad. I retook the test later and got a decent score. Though I do think it reflects on your character to be using ad hominems like this in your argument.

This won't happen. Writing a test is expensive. Administering a test is expensive - whether you fly them in, or whether you pay someone remotely to do it. Taking a test is time consuming. If you apply to ten schools, now you have ten tests, not just one. The GRE is not popular because it is the greatest of all possible tests.
I know it's unlikely to happen, but it's just a suggestion. Students are already paying ridiculous application fees to these schools, and some of that money could be put towards administering a departmental test. Students could pay for their own transportation to the test. But if the GRE is abolished it's not likely to be replaced by anything. Already many schools don't consider it to be that important. Brown's applied math program is one of the top in the US and it does not require it, neither does Wisconsin's math program, among others. You can get your PhD at Oxford without ever taking the GRE, does that invalidate your career?
It's a relatively cheap way to get an additional point of information besides grades. This helps students who learned more than their grades would indicate, and it helps students at small schools which have maybe not sent many students to grad school, much less this grad school. It hurts students who learned less than their grades would indicate.
I don't see the point in fishing for extra information which has no bearing on the actual position being applied for. I disagree. It helps students who have been taught how to attack standardized tests and it hurts students who spent their time in undergrad pursuing more important things like undergraduate research.
 
  • #21
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I have a feeling that the GRE/no GRE requirement will tell you more about the admissions department than it will about the quality of education available at the school.
Could this be an 'uphill both ways through the snow' moment for your advisers?
 
  • #22
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People talk about the PGRE as if it is impossible. Firstly, to get into most schools I don't think you need more than 75th percentile? I have a friend who got into Cornell with such a score. If you're obsessed with top 10 schools the PGRE is going to create anxiety, but when you realize top 10 schools aren't as relevant as you give them credit for, you're anxiety should dissipate because the "requirement" drops precipitously. Into the 20's and above on the rankings I would imagine 50-60th percentile is probably enough (based upon anecdotal evidence).
 
  • #23
Vanadium 50
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Though I do think it reflects on your character to be using ad hominems like this in your argument.
How exactly is that an ad hominem? You made a comment that you followed a particular path, and that post is where you said that path didn't work for you. One could argue that I am making a hasty generalization, but it's not an ad hominem. Since you're not on an admissions committee, still being a student (also not an ad hominem) you can argue from personal experience, but not expertise. If you post a personal experience that points in the other direction, it is not ad hominem to point it out.

I don't buy the argument that one scores well by "tricks". Looking at a problem to see what is important and what is not was certainly an element of my undergraduate education - and one that has proved useful again and again in my career as a physicist.

I don't by the argument that the PGRE is anticorrelated with research ability or what schools are looking for. I've pointed out examples when it's important - you get a student from St. Cletus College who's said to be the best student ever there, and you need to put that in perspective.
 
  • #24
Choppy
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I have to agree with Vanadium50 on this one.

The purpose of the GRE is to serve as a means of levelling the field with respect to GPA. In Canada, most universities dont' require the GRE if students are coming from a Canadian undergraduate program. This is because by-and-large the undergraduate physics programs aren't too different from each other in terms of curriculum, difficulty and grading. In the US, you have a broader spectrum of such dimensions if nothing else than because of the sheer number of schools.

The GRE serves as a common exam, the results of which can mitigate for issues of grade inflation or more challenging aspects of different programs. And there's an imporant distinction here. It is NOT an examination to determine how good of a researcher you are going to be. It can't do that. Most of the examinations that make up a student's GPA have been done under time constraints. Most of the physics questions will have (or should have) been covered in an undergraduate physcs curriculum. So what it does is take a sample of questions that should have been covered and gives them to everyone under as close to identical conditions as possible.

I think it's also important to keep in mind that the argument that it rewards those who "study for the test" by focusing strategies for maximizing one's score, can be applied to just about every examination that exists including all of those that led to the GPA.

The results are not perfect. I don't think anyone on an admissions committee seriouslty believes that they are. But I do think that admissions committees will often conclude the benefits of knowing the result outweigh the criticisms of it.

Something that might be worth thinking about though, is what it could mean for an applicant, when a department that doesn't use the GRE. If the applicant has attended a smaller liberal arts school that doesn't graduate too many physics majors... does he or she really have a shot at all?
 
  • #25
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I find Vanadium/Choppy's responses to be really bizarre in light of the fact that if you look at, say, an engineering program at Stanford, they do not require a subject GRE, because no such thing exists.

Clearly the existence of the PGRE is a result of the poverty/obscurity/irrelevance of the physics department, since departments which are well funded and relevant can drop such requirements. Other departments which require a subject GRE such as biology do not take them seriously at all, from what I hear (a friend of mine was told by his adviser to take the BGRE drunk since it is so absurdly easy).
 

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