GRE's for Physics Phd's

  • #1
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Hi, I'm a UK student who wants to do a Phd in a year (after I finish my MSc). I'm a little bit puzzled about the status of the GRE in physics at US institutions. Looking at some webpages it seems as if the GRE is always mandatory, and that they use it as a major way of discriminating between candidates. I can understand this attitude towards US applicants, because I believe the methods of assessment for undergraduates are less formal (for example the lecturer giving students a grade based on their coursework assessments). However in the United Kingdom people are formally assessed (and ranked) among the others in their department every single year in university wide examinations. This means at the end of your course you have a full transcript of marks and rankings which could be used to determine your suitability for a Phd. If a person has a very high first class degree (plus a high ranking), or a good mark in an MSc from a good UK university (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Durham etc.), it seems a bit unnecessary to get them to spend weeks revising material for an extra examination when they have already provided so much evidence of their suitability for a Phd.
I was very keen to apply for Phd study to the US until I realised how much work was needed for the GRE. In particular I would not want it to interfere with my MSc work, and I am now probably just going to apply to UK institutions.
 

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  • #2
ZapperZ
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Hi, I'm a UK student who wants to do a Phd in a year (after I finish my MSc). I'm a little bit puzzled about the status of the GRE in physics at US institutions. Looking at some webpages it seems as if the GRE is always mandatory, and that they use it as a major way of discriminating between candidates. I can understand this attitude towards US applicants, because I believe the methods of assessment for undergraduates are less formal (for example the lecturer giving students a grade based on their coursework assessments). However in the United Kingdom people are formally assessed (and ranked) among the others in their department every single year in university wide examinations. This means at the end of your course you have a full transcript of marks and rankings which could be used to determine your suitability for a Phd. If a person has a very high first class degree (plus a high ranking), or a good mark in an MSc from a good UK university (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Durham etc.), it seems a bit unnecessary to get them to spend weeks revising material for an extra examination when they have already provided so much evidence of their suitability for a Phd.
I was very keen to apply for Phd study to the US until I realised how much work was needed for the GRE. In particular I would not want it to interfere with my MSc work, and I am now probably just going to apply to UK institutions.

But you also need to understand that many institutions throughout the world are not that well-known, and therefore, it is difficult to evaluate the "quality" of the graduates. The GRE gives various US institution a ball-park evaluation of the ability of that particular candidate based on a scale that is well-known to them.

You have the same thing too. Anyone who wants to enroll in a UK university at the undergraduate level needs to have A-level exam grades, no matter where they went for their secondary education. The universities want to make sure that whoever they admit has the knowledge at the level that they require.

Strangely enough, the GRE subject isn't THAT required in many US universities if you graduated from US institutions, especially if it is a well-known institution. So this is actually contrary to what you think above.

I would say that you should look at the sample GRE Physics exam. It should have been something that you have already covered for your undergraduate education. If you have to make THAT much of an effort to prepare for it that it that it interferes with your school work, then there's something not quite right here.

Zz.
 
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  • #3
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You mentioned something interesting; do departments ever grant exemption from GRE's for candidates with well recognised qualifications (for example an MSc from Cambridge or Imperial? If so, then it might be worth me contacting individual departments to see their policies.
 
  • #4
ZapperZ
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You mentioned something interesting; do departments ever grant exemption from GRE's for candidates with well recognised qualifications (for example an MSc from Cambridge or Imperial? If so, then it might be worth me contacting individual departments to see their policies.

Such a thing is never available officially. Either they say it is required, or they'll say it is "recommended". If I were you, I'd take it.

Zz.
 
  • #5
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You'll need to take it.

However, I would argue strongly against the assertion in the OP that the GRE is a major way of choosing between candidates. The GRE is simple minded slop that doesn't test any important skill necessary for scientific research. Instead, it is used to judge whether someone is willing to jump appropriate hoops to get into school. They'll definitely look at the score, but any reasonably insightful person won't place too much weight on it.
 

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