# I just failed the Physics GRE, now what?

• Testing

## What would you consider a "safety school" for their Physics PhD program?

• ### LSU

Votes: 7 63.6%
• ### University of South Carolina

Votes: 3 27.3%
• ### University of Alabama

Votes: 6 54.5%
• ### Miami University

Votes: 3 27.3%
• ### Georgia State University

Votes: 2 18.2%
• ### Tufts University

Votes: 0 0.0%
• ### Boston University

Votes: 1 9.1%
• ### Arizona State University

Votes: 1 9.1%
• ### Vanderbilt University

Votes: 3 27.3%
• ### University of Florida

Votes: 2 18.2%
• ### University of Nebraska

Votes: 3 27.3%

• Total voters
11
• Poll closed .
Will do.

Can you stay at your university a year longer? If you stayed on and did well (3.5+ really like 3.8) in an extra year of math/physics courses you could show your potential to dop well. This would also give you time to work on raising your PGRE (a 2% does not look try to get to 60%).

Can you stay at your university a year longer? If you stayed on and did well (3.5+ really like 3.8) in an extra year of math/physics courses you could show your potential to dop well. This would also give you time to work on raising your PGRE (a 2% does not look try to get to 60%).
That's not a bad idea. A few "A"s or even "A-"s would probably get that 2.7 to a 3.0. But they can't be easy classes. You'd have to take difficult classes.

symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
Pengwuino's comments caught my attention. How could someone who is uncompetetive for a PhD program be any more acceptable for a Master's Degree program? The two kinds of programs both are graduate programs or advanced degree programs. What is the logic at work about these two different graduate or advanced degree programs? Both of them would require a few additional courses; and both would require some independent knowledge investigation or research.

Also there is a big difference between test scores and grades. There are tests in which you can make a 65/100 on the test and get an A. Something that worries me a little is the statement that you've never made below a 78 on a test. The grading policy in some of the physics programs is to give you killer tests in which you are expected to make a very low score, with the notion that if you are given killer test after killer test that you will do well on the PGRE's.

That's true. I guess what I've thought until this point was that graduate level classes would be more independently oriented and less test-based.
That's not the case. Graduate-level classes are more intense than undergraduate courses. Once you get out of the first two years of grad school, you the get into research.

I've done quite a bit of independent research and I've excelled at it. (I've always been able to write better than take tests). I guess that's why I felt like I would do better at grad school.
The problem is that in order to do research you have to have literacy in the research, and have both low GPA's and GRE's will hurt you a lot here. If you really want to go to physics grad school, you really should take another year.

I suppose underlying my thinking until this point has been the notion that there was a complete "curve" of grad schools, with a few very good ones, lots in the middle, and a few that would accept you if you had points on your resume but low gpa and test scores. Is this line of thinking false?
It doesn't work that way. There really isn't a huge difference in quality between the "big name" physics schools and the "no name" physics schools.

Pengwuino
Gold Member
Pengwuino's comments caught my attention. How could someone who is uncompetetive for a PhD program be any more acceptable for a Master's Degree program? The two kinds of programs both are graduate programs or advanced degree programs. What is the logic at work about these two different graduate or advanced degree programs? Both of them would require a few additional courses; and both would require some independent knowledge investigation or research.
Example: California

The UC's get most of the better students, they pretty much all have PhDs in physics. The CSU system, however, does not have any universities that grant PhDs and infact, it is the second tier school system. Plain and simple. I go to a CSU and we have someone in our masters program that actually got a 0% on his physics GRE. We have people come in with 2.5 GPAs. Some universities just aren't research universities where they have entire fractions of their department solely running research labs.

Also there is a big difference between test scores and grades. There are tests in which you can make a 65/100 on the test and get an A. Something that worries me a little is the statement that you've never made below a 78 on a test. The grading policy in some of the physics programs is to give you killer tests in which you are expected to make a very low score, with the notion that if you are given killer test after killer test that you will do well on the PGRE's.
Well, one of my professors gives more partial credit than I would. When I looked over the last Classical Mechanics exam, I would have given myself about a 70, but the professor gave me an 83 with generous partial credit. Highest grade in the class was 84, median was 67. The 83 was considered an A.

So, there's a little of what you talk about in my school, but not to the extent a 65 is an A. I kinda wish we did have exams like that, though.

while they do have concrete requirements, another 30 schools that I've looked at don't.
Apparently, you didn't bother looking at the admissions requirements to the "safety" schools that you posted. Lets go down the list one by one, shall we?

LSU: http://www.phys.lsu.edu/newwebsite/graduate/faq.html#question7

We require a GPA of better than 3.00 (the equivalent of a B on the American system). GPA minima vary with country of the college as other places have different systems; so for example our limit corresponds to 60 in the Indian system and 80 in the Chinese system.
University of South Carolina: There is no admissions requirements information on their website, but the other science and engineering programs require a 3.0. I'd be surprised if the physics program had lower standards than the others.

University of Alabama: http://physics.ua.edu/grad/UA_AIP_profile.pdf [Broken]

Admission requirements: For admission to the graduate programs,
a Bachelor’s degree in physics is required with a minimum
undergraduate GPA of 3.0/4.0 specified.
Miami University: http://www.muphysics.org/prospective-students/graduate-programs/admission-requirements [Broken]

An undergraduate cumulative grade point average of at least 2.75 (on a 4.0 scale).
I've got to run to class now, I'll finish doing your grad school research for you later.

Last edited by a moderator:
If you fail a test on a fluke, you can recover. I got the median score (around a 50) on a classical mechanics once, only to turn around and get the highest score in the class on the next test (96 when the median was 40). Because of determination I was able to flip my grade in the class from a potential B to an A. Getting bad grades over and over, however, is more of an indicator.

undergrad_phy your GRE scores are actually really great for verbal and writing. I'm not saying that you need to give up, but maybe you want to take a step back and look at the larger picture. Maybe you there are some jobs out there that deal with physics public relations. Maybe you don't need to go to physics grad school. If you are struggling now, you might get into grad school only to have to drop out. If grad school really is your ultimate dream, you may want to hit the books hard for a year or two and retake the PGRE. physicsforums is a great place to get help if you get stuck, so you know of at least one resource that can help you after graduation. If you do well on the PGRE a year or two after graduating I'm sure some universities will reward your independent study skills and let you into their program.

Lots of interesting ideas here. First of all, I've done the math and to achieve a 3.0 I'd have to stay in college for a full 6th year, taking a full load each semester, and make A+'s in every class. I can't really afford to stay in school another year, and even if I could I think it's unreasonable to think that I get by with B's and C's and then suddenly just decide to make A+'s in everything.

I think what I'll probably do is apply to some PhD and MS programs, but also to some jobs, and when I graduate if I get a job and not into a graduate school, I'll continue to study for and take the PGRE, and hopefully get back into school down the road.

Apparently, you didn't bother looking at the admissions requirements to the "safety" schools that you posted. Lets go down the list one by one, shall we?

LSU: http://www.phys.lsu.edu/newwebsite/graduate/faq.html#question7

University of South Carolina: There is no admissions requirements information on their website, but the other science and engineering programs require a 3.0. I'd be surprised if the physics program had lower standards than the others.

University of Alabama: http://physics.ua.edu/grad/UA_AIP_profile.pdf [Broken]

Miami University: http://www.muphysics.org/prospective-students/graduate-programs/admission-requirements [Broken]

I've got to run to class now, I'll finish doing your grad school research for you later.
Jack I don't know what I did to you to make you so abrasive towards me, but I didn't put those schools up because they were my safety schools- I put them up asking if they were considered safety schools by anyone else. Secondly, I'm not asking you to do my grad school research for me, I'm asking you to keep your opinions to yourself, if you don't mind- because every time I get on here you put me in a bad mood.

Last edited by a moderator:
Lots of interesting ideas here. First of all, I've done the math and to achieve a 3.0 I'd have to stay in college for a full 6th year, taking a full load each semester, and make A+'s in every class. I can't really afford to stay in school another year, and even if I could I think it's unreasonable to think that I get by with B's and C's and then suddenly just decide to make A+'s in everything.

I think what I'll probably do is apply to some PhD and MS programs, but also to some jobs, and when I graduate if I get a job and not into a graduate school, I'll continue to study for and take the PGRE, and hopefully get back into school down the road.

Jack I don't know what I did to you to make you so abrasive towards me, but I didn't put those schools up because they were my safety schools- I put them up asking if they were considered safety schools by anyone else. Secondly, I'm not asking you to do my grad school research for me, I'm asking you to keep your opinions to yourself, if you don't mind- because every time I get on here you put me in a bad mood.
I'm trying to save you time and money in application fees.

As for your poll, I don't think I was the only one under the impression that you were asking which of the "safety schools" you listed might accept you.

You'll probably make more money by going right into industry than you would by going to grad school first. Even if you did get accepted somewhere, based on your undergrad record (at least as it looks on paper), you won't survive through grad school. By all accounts, grad school classes are harder than undergrad classes. In undergrad, you had freshman-level classes to "pad" your GPA up to 2.7. Now, you'll need to get a MINIMUM of 3.0 to barely pass grad school in harder classes without any easy classes to "pad" your numbers. If you were capable of that kind of quality schoolwork, I suspect you would have done it in undergrad.

So, based on all of that, you're going to spend money on application fees, and if you do get accepted somewhere, you likely won't make it to the end, costing you money and time that you could have spent doing well in industry.

If me telling you that you can make a ton of money in industry puts you in a bad mood, then I don't know what to tell you.

If it makes you feel any better, I do think that if you applied to enough programs, you probably could get in *somewhere.* I just don't think that you'd make it past the first 2 semesters even if you did get in. Here, you said it yourself:

I think it's unreasonable to think that I get by with B's and C's and then suddenly just decide to make A+'s in everything.
Likewise, I think it's unreasonable to think that you could get by with B's and C's in undergrad and then suddenly just decide to make A's and B's in grad school.

G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Lol, you placed Tufts and BU as "safety cards".
I'm a physics Ph.D. student at B.U. I know for a fact our department won't even look at an application with a GPA less than 3.0. That is graduate school policy here. I don't even think the website will allow you to submit an application with a GPA less than 3.0.

Most people in my year had undergrad GPA's ~3.5-3.9. From PhDs.org: Our departments average QGRE is 797/800. PGRE was not listed but from personal experience, it seems the average in my year was around 800 for domestic students.

B.U. is not a safety for you. It's not even a possibility. Sorry.

My advice to the OP:

1. You need to realize that a 3.0 undergrad GPA is not "average" for those applying to grad school. 3.0 is a bare minimum at most programs.

2. Get schools that are ranked in the top 50, (even the top 100) off your list. You will only waste $50-$70 on an application fee if you apply to these schools.

3. I have seen friends with low PGRE's get into programs. Consider applying for masters at the following programs:

SUNY Binghamton

University of Kentucky

Consider applying at programs that aren't ranked in the top 100. They exist, they are probably your best shot, and they don't necessarily have bad programs.

4. Don't expect to get a TA/RA. If you are admitted, the department may want you to focus on your courses full time, given your course record. You may have to fund yourself for at least a semester/year.

5.Take real job applications seriously. Don't take this for granted. Your chances of getting into any program are low. Your in a position where no school should be considered a safety. You need to have a safety plan that is outside academia.

Last edited:
I've never gotten a 78 or below on an exam, but if I did, I would not feel like I barely passed. I would feel like I failed. But that's just me; I hold ridiculous standards for myself that I don't hold for other people.
It must be nice to go to a school that marks so generously, has easy tests, or bell curves high. Where I am most graduate classes are curved to mid 70's (so more than half the class will be given below 75%) and anything about an 80% is first class honours (4.0). The best and brightest may get close to 90, or low 90s but not likely, and you are happy to have anything about 80, so 78 wouldn't be that bad (average). Clearly where you are 78% is a much lower relative grade so I imagine your average is 90+?

It must be nice to go to a school that marks so generously, has easy tests, or bell curves high. Where I am most graduate classes are curved to mid 70's (so more than half the class will be given below 75%) and anything about an 80% is first class honours (4.0). The best and brightest may get close to 90, or low 90s but not likely, and you are happy to have anything about 80, so 78 wouldn't be that bad (average). Clearly where you are 78% is a much lower relative grade so I imagine your average is 90+?
As I've stated before, I'm not in grad school yet. Also read where I stated that in one of my classes, an 83% is an A.

I like how the OP was successful in derailing his own thread. Surely you're not agreeing with him that a 2.7 GPA is anything but "barely passing."

No, of course not, what I don't understand is how he gets a 2.7 GPA with 78%. Perhaps I quoted the wrong statement. I also agree that the OP should probably not attempt graduate school, and that the chances of getting in with a 2.7 are basically 0. Even if you can get in with that the chances of being successful are next to nothing.

No, of course not, what I don't understand is how he gets a 2.7 GPA with 78%. Perhaps I quoted the wrong statement. I also agree that the OP should probably not attempt graduate school, and that the chances of getting in with a 2.7 are basically 0. Even if you can get in with that the chances of being successful are next to nothing.
I don't think he does. He was just equating a 2.7 GPA with getting a 78% on a test. I consider both "barely passing," he thinks they're both great. He calls a 2.7 "closer to a B- than a C+" which simply is NOT the case. It's on the low end of C+, near a regular C.

I don't think he does. He was just equating a 2.7 GPA with getting a 78% on a test. I consider both "barely passing," he thinks they're both great. He calls a 2.7 "closer to a B- than a C+" which simply is NOT the case. It's on the low end of C+, near a regular C.
Maybe there are different standards out there, but my experience says the following.

4.0=A
3.7=A-
3.3=B+
3.0=B
2.7=B-
2.3=C+
2.0=C
1.7=C-

http://www.collegeboard.com/html/academicTracker-howtoconvert.html

The 2.7 should be a B-, but the 78% is like a C+

G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
The debate over whether 2.7 is a B- or a C+ is beside the point.

Either average will be considered deficient by most graduate programs. The moral is that passing through undergrad does not immediately mean you are ready for graduate school. A C+ does not scream "grad school material." Neither does B-.

Wow, I've never seen a conversion like that before:
Here is one inclusive to Canadian Universities

http://careers.mcmaster.ca/students/education-planning/virtual-resources/gpa-conversion-chart [Broken]

2.7 ~ C+ to B- ~ 65-70%

Last edited by a moderator:
The debate over whether 2.7 is a B- or a C+ is beside the point.

Either average will be considered deficient by most graduate programs. The moral is that passing through undergrad does not immediately mean you are ready for graduate school. A C+ does not scream "grad school material." Neither does B-.
Yes, I agree with this statement, the conversation has wandered way off course and I second this assessment.

Wow, I've never seen a conversion like that before:
Here is one inclusive to Canadian Universities

http://careers.mcmaster.ca/students/education-planning/virtual-resources/gpa-conversion-chart [Broken]

2.7 ~ C+ to B- ~ 65-70%
You're misquoting your reference. Your reference identifies 2.7 as B- not as a range of C+ to B-. The percentages are the things that seem to be more nebulous.

The label may not be that critical, but we might as well be accurate with what we say of the scale.

Last edited by a moderator:
Yes, I was referring to column 9, where C+ is inclusive of 2.7 and B starts at 3.0, though labels really aren't that important.

Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
The debate over whether 2.7 is a B- or a C+ is beside the point.

Either average will be considered deficient by most graduate programs. The moral is that passing through undergrad does not immediately mean you are ready for graduate school. A C+ does not scream "grad school material." Neither does B-.
Exactly.

Yes, I was referring to column 9, where C+ is inclusive of 2.7 and B starts at 3.0, though labels really aren't that important.
I don't interpret it that way at all. The space is blank which should mean it is half way between the C+ at 2.3 and the B at 3.0. Those schools don't give grades of B- for courses, but the effective average of 2.7 can only be interpreted as a B-. Note also that 2.7 is closer to 3.0 than it is to 2.3, so if you want to round off, then round up.

It's amazing how unimportant the labels suddenly become when people get them wrong. Above Jack a calls a clear solid B- "on the low end of C+, near a regular C". Physicists are usually a little better at correctly classifying things than I see here.