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Testing Is my physics GRE score strong enough?

Hey! So I got my physics GRE score back. Got a 780, which I'm happy with, but I'm wondering, is it strong enough for the most competitive programs? Here's my profile:

3.76 GPA
4 years of research experience, 2-3 publications
URM: racial minority, first-gen, low-income
Majoring in math and physics at an Ivy
 

ZapperZ

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Hey! So I got my physics GRE score back. Got a 780, which I'm happy with, but I'm wondering, is it strong enough for the most competitive programs? Here's my profile:

3.76 GPA
4 years of research experience, 2-3 publications
URM: racial minority, first-gen, low-income
Majoring in math and physics at an Ivy
You are at an Ivy League school. Ask your advisor or one of your professor. He/she should be able to tell you.

Zz.
 

Dr. Courtney

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Hey! So I got my physics GRE score back. Got a 780, which I'm happy with, but I'm wondering, is it strong enough for the most competitive programs? Here's my profile:

3.76 GPA
4 years of research experience, 2-3 publications
URM: racial minority, first-gen, low-income
Majoring in math and physics at an Ivy
I've got a couple students I'm mentoring aiming for the "most competitive programs." One student I mentored was recently admitted to Harvard. Another student's profile is:

Top 30 school
4.0 GPA
4+ years of research experience
7 peer-reviewed publications, first author on 6
Physics major, Math minor

If their PGRE score were only a 780, I'd recommend they take it again after preparing diligently and addressing weak areas. A 780 puts one in the 64th percentile, which may or may not get one into the "most competitive" schools. An 860-880 would be my cut-off for the student I'm mentoring with the above profile to stand pat. And I know what is in this student's recommendation letters and that they are excellent - probably the strongest recommendation letters in their department in the past 20 years.

The goal is not just to barely get into one of the most competitive schools, it's to get into all the ones you apply to and to have several research advisers all eager for you to join their groups at each school, so you get to pick what you'd really want to do.
 

berkeman

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I've got a couple students I'm mentoring aiming for the "most competitive programs." One student I mentored was recently admitted to Harvard. Another student's profile is:

Top 30 school
4.0 GPA
4+ years of research experience
7 peer-reviewed publications, first author on 6
Physics major, Math minor
Zowie... :smile:
 
Thank you everyone for the advice! I guess I'll retake! I know to do practice tests and read conquering the pGRE. Any other advice?
 

Vanadium 50

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A 780 is the 64th percentile. That puts you in the top 7200 test-takers. There are 3500 students entering grad school every year.
 
A 780 is the 64th percentile. That puts you in the top 7200 test-takers. There are 3500 students entering grad school every year.
Thank you for the information! So you're suggesting retaking?
 

Vanadium 50

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I'm not suggesting anything. Furthermore, retaking will only help you if your score goes way up. Any reason to believe that will be true?
 

StatGuy2000

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I'm not suggesting anything. Furthermore, retaking will only help you if your score goes way up. Any reason to believe that will be true?
@Vanadium 50, the GRE (including the subject-based GREs like the pGRE) tests for acquired knowledge. So presumably the more someone reviews the material required and practices with mock tests, then the greater the likelihood that individual will improve their score, all else being equal.

You seem to be suggesting otherwise. Any reason to back that up?
 

Vanadium 50

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I've seen people who have retaken it do better. I've seen them not do better. In general, the people who do better spend serious time working on it and don't simply "retake" it.
 

Dr. Courtney

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The other thing that tends to improve scores on retakes in addition to focused preparation is that if a semester has passed, many undergrads will have several additional physics courses under their belt (complete or nearly so). One student I'm mentoring won't have had Quantum Mechanics, E&M 2, or Statistical Mechanics when they take the pGRE for the first time, but they will by the second try.
 

ZapperZ

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The other thing that tends to improve scores on retakes in addition to focused preparation is that if a semester has passed, many undergrads will have several additional physics courses under their belt (complete or nearly so). One student I'm mentoring won't have had Quantum Mechanics, E&M 2, or Statistical Mechanics when they take the pGRE for the first time, but they will by the second try.
Then why did they take the test the first time around?

Zz.
 

Dr. Courtney

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Then why did they take the test the first time around?

Zz.
Cause the best practice (in my view) is the real thing, and there is not enough time for additional takes after Quantum Mechanics, E&M 2, and Statistical Mechanics are complete and before scores are due for the grad school applications. I can't in good conscience recommend a student only take the PGRE once when the stakes are so high. There are many undergrad Physics programs that backload key coursework and put students in this position.
 

StatGuy2000

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I've seen people who have retaken it do better. I've seen them not do better. In general, the people who do better spend serious time working on it and don't simply "retake" it.
I am operating under the assumption that people who are retaking the pGRE are doing so specifically to improve their scores, and thus are actively and seriously working on improving the understanding required to do just that, instead of simply "retaking" the test.
 

Vanadium 50

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That's not a bad assumption, but many folks underestimate the work to make a substantial improvement. I've seen substantial motion - but it took a year of solid work.
 

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