GRE Scores

Main Question or Discussion Point

How high should my GRE scores (Math and Verbal) and in Physics (subject) need to be to get a good graduate school program?

mathwonk
Homework Helper
When I was grad coordinator for our math grad program, I found GRE scores not too enlightening. I do recall that at one time it seemed no one succeeded who had less than about 780 or 790 out of 800. Or maybe the hopelessly weak student with 740M just disillusioned me.

The verbal score meant essentially nothing, as the best students were non resident asians who scored near the bottom in verbal.

it all depends on how useful the test is now. When I was a young student many good programs did not even require the test because it was so trivial. I never took it. My friend who went to a weakier program, took it and said there were only two abstarct math questions on it. They were so easy I have asked them to people over the years who knew no math at all, and no one has ever missed one.

group theory question: which of the following numbers is possible for tyhe order of a subgroup of a group of order 12? answers: 5,6,7, or 8?

topology question: which of the following sets is "connected"? answers: the interval (0,1), the disjoint union of two intervals, or a two point set.

Is this is what is like today? If so these tests are a joke. or was my friend putting me on?

I consider the GRE and all standardized tests worthless. They are a money making scheme. I only got a 1190 on my SATs and have done extremely well, even better than the students who got full scholarships for having good SAT scores and grades from highschool. I took the GRE got about 450 verbal and a 750 math. Those scores aren't anything impressive at all, but my transcript of all the challenging math courses I have taken will speak a 1000 fold more of my capabilities than the GRE. Some people are just good at taking standardized tests, I am, however, not one of those people.

gravenewworld said:
I consider the GRE and all standardized tests worthless. They are a money making scheme. I only got a 1190 on my SATs and have done extremely well, even better than the students who got full scholarships for having good SAT scores and grades from highschool. I took the GRE got about 450 verbal and a 750 math. Those scores aren't anything impressive at all, but my transcript of all the challenging math courses I have taken will speak a 1000 fold more of my capabilities than the GRE. Some people are just good at taking standardized tests, I am, however, not one of those people.
Nothing you say is inconsistent with the fact that your verbal skills are lacking, as indicated by your low verbal GRE score.

But I did just read an article somewhere (WSJ?) about how smarter people are more likely to choke in high pressure situations, and that can hurt them in standardized testing. Unfortunately, I cannot find the article right now.

its a message board, i am not concerned with proper syntax and grammar when i post. I am not writing an research paper when i post. On that note, it is funny how i score horribly on the grammar section yet get all A's on my paper I write for english and philosphy etc. The reason i score so low--vocab. Sure i don't know "sophisticated" words by heart, but hey thats what a thesaurus is for.

I wasn't even referring to the quality of your writing in your post, actually.

In your previous post, all you said was that you did well in your challenging math courses. And that statement was consistent with the fact that you did well on the math portion of your GRE. You did not mention in that post how well you've done in humanities courses, therefore there was nothing about your low verbal score which was inconsistent with the evidence you presented. Does my logic make sense?

But as I recall from my own test-taking experiences, lack of knowledge of "sophisticated" words shouldn't be the sole reason that you scored a 450 verbal on the SAT. I don't buy that.

mathwonk
Homework Helper
graveneworld, just because they do not accurately measure your own abilities to perform, why are they therefore worthless? In combination with other measures they have proved their value for decades.

And based on my experiences at elite dschools, I think it nonsense that bright people are more likely than others to choke under pressure. Performance under pressure is partly based on confidence which bright people seem to have in spades.

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mathwonk said:
And based on my experiences at elite dschools, I think it nonsense that bright people are more likely than others to choke under pressure. Performance under pressure is partly based on confidence which bright people seem to have in spades.
Point taken, but since we are all believers in the scientific method, the best route would be to read the paper of the study and criticize the authors' methodology.

With ancecdotal evidence, such as what you are describing, there is always the danger of selection bias.

I did get 750 on math which is pretty good but not outstanding. The math portion doesn't even have any math you learn in college on it. It is only highschool algebra and geometry, not even trig or above.

I let you ponder on this one:
my GRE score

450 verbal, 750 math, writing section 5.5/6.0--So how can someone score so low in verbal and score pretty well in writing? I will let you figure that one out for yourself.

gravenewworld said:
I did get 750 on math which is pretty good but not outstanding. The math portion doesn't even have any math you learn in college on it. It is only highschool algebra and geometry, not even trig or above.

I let you ponder on this one:
my GRE score

450 verbal, 750 math, writing section 5.5/6.0--So how can someone score so low in verbal and score pretty well in writing? I will let you figure that one out for yourself.
Maybe, you should've asked the ETS people to rescore your verbal section. They might've made a mistake. The GRE's reminds me a lot like the SATs. Studying for it such a burden. I don't know how it can determine how well you're going to do in graduate school.

mathwonk
Homework Helper
juvenal, your criticism is valid, but of course anecdotal data is easier to compile than actual scientific data. but just to please you, i tried the link provided above, and in ym view there is very little in it that is solid science.

perhaps if i read the originjal rticle summarized there but i do not have access to the psychology today artcile.

fore instance the link above does not explain how the "bright" people were chosen, althoug it says they were chosen to be "high working memory" undergraduates at michigan i think.

but just how was high working memory measured? and how does it correlate with other measure of "smart"? no comment on that.

and none of the actual data was provided, merely the statement that the performance of the hwm group declined to the same level as the lwm group under the "stress" of being told their performance would determine a team prize.

but the actual measures were not given, so they may not have been statistically significant, and perhaps even the performance of the lwm group was so low that their performnace was incapable of declining further; so all in all it is a rather unscientific summary of an article whose merit i cannot gauge without more access.

frankly i am not motivated to try further, and i even am tempted to believe that intelligently gathered anecdotal data is sometimes superior to some so called scientific data.

by the way, since you are a believer in the scientific method, did you read it yourself, or were you just trying to be argumentative?

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I got a combined score of about 1380 (not impressive, I can't remember the math/verbal score details) with a 6 on the essay part, and I got into an ivy league grad college (they may not be the hardest to get into though). I however double-majored in math and physics and I have two papers lined up for publication this year. I think the research experience counts more than the GRE scores.

It's also an issue of "fit and match" - if the physics group you're looking at in the grad school needs a student who has taken X1, X2, X3 ... Xn classes and has done research in a closely related field, they may be willing to relax the "good grades criterion".

I am currently a double major in Physics and Math, I have also been doing research for almost a year now in Astrophysics. Which GRE subject test do you take? Can I take both Physics and Math?

In other threads around here it says that especially for going to graduate school in theoretical physics, the GRE physics subsection and your research experience are the two most important things followed by recommendations and oddly enough, only after these things, your GPA.

Yeah.. I would guess GRE physics is very important because it gives balanced report, without the grade inflation unique to each school

I think what gravenewworld was trying to say is that not all students may do well on standardized tests, different students have different methods of learning, and IMO no single test can accurately measure any sort of success in a student. There are those who may have a difficult time at standardized tests but do extremely well in the regular classroom setting.

I find that one of my greatest strengths academically is my passion for the subjects, ie I constantly try to learn new things whenever I get the chance... and in my experience with standardized tests nothing even remotely close to this is even tested. Unfortunately the criteria that I mentioned is not quantifyable, hence there probably will never be a standardized test to cover it.

Sure, standardized tests may work for the majority of students, but it shouldn't be used as an omniscient gauge for success.

When should I take the GRE's? I thought I was supposed to take it during the fall of my senior year.