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GRE and Grad School Questions

  1. Jan 19, 2008 #1


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    First Question,
    About how far in advance of applying to graduate school should one take the GRE test(s) [General + Subject]?

    I am currently planning on graduating in a year (Spring 2009), which would probably mean applying to grad school this fall. Therefore, I am thinking that I am closing in on the time I should start thinking about taking these tests, at least the General GRE, right?

    In speaking with an academic advisor at my school on the subject, I was given as answer which seems to conflict with the general order of events I was expecting. Essentially, the impression the advisor gave me was that I have plenty of time to wait and that I might as well wait until after I applied before taking the General GRE. Furthermore, the advisor pretty much said not to worry about the Subject (Physics) GRE since, if the school requires it at all, I could wait until after I have already been admitted and taken course work at the grad school for X amount of time before taking it. This does not make sense to me since these scores seem to be an important (to varying degrees) factor in admission…why would I, or any school I apply to, want to wait until I am so far long the application process to get the results.

    Of course, I could always take the tests sooner rather than later, there is nothing wrong with that. But I have gotten the impression that the GRE, unlike the SAT / ACT, is something you only take once (or very few times), so that waiting until one has learned most of what will learn for their degree might be advantageous.

    Second ‘Question’,
    I have gotten the impression (mostly, but not exclusively, from this forum) that it is generally advisable to attend a different institution for graduate school than one did for their undergraduate degree, in particularly if one intends to pursue a PhD.

    I mentioned this impression when speaking with the same academic advisor who bluntly told me that this was ‘just not true’ and she did not know where I could get such an idea.
    So does she know what she is talking about? Who is right here?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2008 #2
    You are right to question your adviser's advice. Most grad school admission committees will consider your application incomplete if you do not submit the necessary exam scores before the application deadline. Not all universities require the Physics GRE, but many do, and most require the general GRE. You can take the general GRE at any time, but during the prime application season, the Physics GRE is only offered in October and November. I wouldn't worry about either test right now, but it's good to keep it in mind. This application process timetable may help you: http://www.astromiror.org/guide.html#time .

    That being said, I submitted my general GRE scores after being admitted into my grad school. Applying was a last-minute decision and I didn't have time to take the exam before I submitted my application (they actually made the decision to admit me before my test date). My case was a special circumstance and I would not recommend it.

    There is some disagreement about your second question, but I think the consensus you'll get is that it's best to go elsewhere for your advanced degrees so that you can have different experiences and make more contacts. Your adviser is hiding under a rock if she's never heard this debate before.
  4. Jan 19, 2008 #3


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    Thanks, Laura1013, your answer was very helpful, as was the link you provided.
  5. Jan 20, 2008 #4


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    Hello MrJeffy, in my opinion as someone who has applied for Fall 2008 to graduate school. I believe the best is to take at least the general GRE as soon as possible (consider a time before you apply when you're comfortable with taking it). I know the general GRE is valid to upto 5 years which is good to know, i don't know about GRE Subject, but you can always check on the link. Good luck!
  6. Jan 20, 2008 #5


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    Thanks Cyclovenom.

    I had not realized that the General GRE test was administered so often. I can almost take that test at my convenience any time between now and when I apply.
    On the other hand, it looks like they only administer the subject test 3 times a year (once in April and then again in October and November), so it is that test I am going to have to make a decision about. Laura1013’s link says to consider taking the test in April, but if not then (of course) take it in the fall.
  7. Jan 21, 2008 #6
    I took general GRE during the winter break of my Junior year. Year later, while my friends were busy studying for both GRE general and GRE physics, I was able to focus studying GRE physics only. I recommend you do the same~ ^^

    BTW, I took GRE physics on November. But if you can, I suggest you take it on October. That you can retake it on November if you feel like you need to. I didn't have that option, and suffered through deep pressure.

    Lastly, there are 4 sets of GRE test you can easily access through web search. They are previous tests published through ETS. Knowing every single problem on that 4 sets of test will prepare you really good. Most of problems WILL reappear on your actual exam. I've spent about 2 months to study 400 problems from such previous tests. So make sure you give yourself a minimum of 2 months to study. Good luck!
  8. Jan 21, 2008 #7

    Ben Niehoff

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    As HungryChemist says, you should take the GRE Physics in October. If you're not confident in your performance, then you can retake it in November. Note, however, that the score turnaround time is not fast enough for you to actually see your score between October and November, so you'll have to judge your own performance.

    Different schools handle multiple GRE scores in different ways. Some of them take only the most recent; some of them take whichever is higher; some of them take an average. So this is mainly what you need to consider, in regards to retaking a test.

    In order to reduce stress and improve performance on the Physics GRE, I would suggest spending the entire summer to review all of your undergraduate physics. ETS provides 4 previous exams for practice, which is not many, so use them wisely.

    Besides the 4 ETS practice tests, there are really no decent test-prep materials for the Physics GRE at all. There is no single reference that has all the material you need to know. You'll need to make do with your undergrad textbooks (I hope you didn't sell them back?), the list of topics ETS provides on their website, and the experience of the practice tests themselves. It's not much to go on, which is why you should give yourself the entire summer to organize yourself and study it all.

    The General GRE can be taken practically any time. I'd suggest doing it at a time of low stress, such as during the summer.
  9. Jan 21, 2008 #8


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    Sounds like good advice.
    I will plan on taking the Physics GRE in October then, after taking the General test probably this May.
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