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Low GPA and High GRE Grade

  1. Jun 1, 2007 #1
    Fellows i dont have a good GPA . Can i have a chance for a PhD in a "good" American University with a good GRE physics grade ?
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2007 #2


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    My understanding is that decisions are based on your GPA, your GRE scores, your letters of recommendation/research experience, and your personal statement. A low GPA can be offset by great GRE scores/good letters of recommendation from your professors, at least that's what I was told. This will surely vary from institution to institution, however.
  4. Jun 1, 2007 #3
    thank you for your kind reply . I hope to have the answer as a very big yess soon from a department :)
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2007
  5. Jun 1, 2007 #4
    Hi Fresnelspot. I actually know someone who was in a similar situation. A friend of mine from college used to be extremely good at physics (I'd ask him for help quite often), but he never exerted much effort, so he got about a 2.5 GPA. Because he was so naturally good at physics, he got a 770 on his physics GRE. Alas, he didn't apply to grad school, and I'm pretty sure it's because professors advised him not to. Grades tend to carry a lot more weight than GREs, so it would be hard to get into a PhD program without a GPA of at least 3.0.

    All hope is not lost, however. There are MS programs that certainly will take you. By all means apply to some PhD programs at good departments (preferably ones which waive the application fee). But you should probably apply to some MS programs at schools that have lower requirements, and you'll likely get accepted. Once you get in, you can start getting better grades, which will allow you to get into PhD programs much easier. And it won't take all that much longer than a direct PhD program either.
  6. Jun 2, 2007 #5
    i dont understand it. Exam results cant show that u are good at physics. Many legendery physics gurus werent much sucsessful in college . I know many nerds who just memorise the equations and previous exams answers and get good notes. But on the conradictory i have a friend who knows quantum physic well and he failed that lesson when he took it first time . Maybe i am retarded but exam grades can only show how sucsessful you are in exams , not physics.at least i think so . Any way this is the order which is still working.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2007
  7. Jun 2, 2007 #6


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    Honestly - you need an explanation for low GPA. And you need to show ability notwithstanding. As in a basic understanding of the subjects. If you have poor grades in lower year subjects but higher grades in upper year subjects, you may be forgiven. But if it's poor grades throughout, you'd better have awesome research and recs or else you won't display any ability to do the work.

    Professors aren't so narrow-minded as to judge admission based on a single good test score
  8. Jun 2, 2007 #7
    Einstein , Leonardo da Vinci .....
  9. Jun 2, 2007 #8
    Well, I certainly wouldn't say you're retarded (by which I think you mean "unintelligent"). Your GRE score demonstrates that you can do physics. But regarding grades, it might seem that there are many people who just memorize facts and and do well. Realistically, though, you're not going to do well in your classes unless you know the material. That's why good grades are a sign of understanding of the subject. Bad grades, however, might not necessarily point to a poor understanding of physics. They might point to bad study habits.

    Anyway, I'm just trying to speculate on what might go through the minds of graduate admissions committees. Either way, grades tend to matter to them more than GREs, which is why I suggest the MS route.

    Well actually, if I remember my history correctly, the notion that Einstein was an idiot savant is not accurate. He did rather well in his classes in college, including his math classes. If you read his works on special and general relativity, you'll see that he was mathematically quite talented. I do recall reading that Einstein did poorly in his math classes in either junior or senior high school. This might be where people get the misconception that Einstein got bad grades. As for Da Vinci, he wasn't a physicist. Not sure how he did in school.

    Incidentally, are you going to be a senior next fall? Because there still may be a chance to improve your grades.
  10. Jun 2, 2007 #9


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    I actually read that Einstein did poorly in all classes except physics/math, but who really knows. I think your letters of rec./research experience would be the most important factor when you have low grades/high gre score because if you're doing good research then it shows the low grades are coming from something besides lack of understanding.
  11. Jun 2, 2007 #10


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    How do you suggest that universities give out degrees then? Come on.. yes you can mess up on one or two exams, but if you are good at a subject, then you are more likely to do better on exams than fail them.
    Ok, so they've learnt how to take exams. Why don't you do some memorising instead of complaining and throwing up these examples of geniuses who failed at school? Yes, there are one or two that one could name, but you are taking anomolies as the norm, and using them as an excuse for poor exam grades.
  12. Jun 2, 2007 #11
    first , thank you for your candid advise

    thats why i am angry. You study in order to learn ,do silly mistakes in (+-*/)
    but a nerd who doesnt know the meaning of that equation gets a head . plus , it is too late for me . i had my last final last week . I think to focus on research would help me prove myself to comitees .

    these that i am writing below is not to argue ,just to chat :smile:
    Einstein learned tensor Calculus in his thirties . He couldnt find a position in any university so he started to work in Patent ofiice . He published his famous special relativity papers then.

    In the case of Leonardo da vinci , he wasnt admitted by any school because he didnt have a legal father . He was a left handed . If he was admitted he wouldnt have been let to write with his left hand . It was seen as an illness in those times . But in a book i have read (The first scientist,by michael white) He mentioned the wawe phenomena like the move of the weeds in the wind .he studied mathematics in his late thirties . He made mechanical devices , he offered a scuba diving suit . My point is he was working on physics even he didnt know he was doing it .
  13. Jun 3, 2007 #12


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    Stop complaining, calling (successful) people nerds, and do some damn work :grumpy:
  14. Jun 3, 2007 #13
    I m not complaining. I am still on my work . But i just cant digest this kind of injustice . I know it seems like i am a talker not a worker . It is not true . Physics is my passion .I am a hard worker but not a nerd . I appreciate sucsessful people who knows what he is doing . I said my problem is with the nerds not with their sucsess .They dont differ from a "library card". At least i think so.
  15. Jun 3, 2007 #14


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    Injustice, hardly......hard work, definitely.

    Passing a test is not just about memorizing equations. I can guarantee you that physics is not like this. Physics test dont ask, for example, to state the Law of Conservations of Energy, you must be able to mathematically apply it. This requires both a conceptual and mathematical understanding.
    Also calling someone a nerd because they have the ability to recall complex questions is morally wrong. And what is your concept of a "non-nerd" ?
  16. Jun 3, 2007 #15
    listen this : In the department where i am currently studying. I know many people who cannot explain you the uncertainity principle , or duality or why entrophy cant be negative . But they have high grades. Why ? because they have damn memory . They memorise the equation , they put variables in it, they find an answer . there are many of them who just memorise neither live a life nor understand what he is doing.
    You study to understand . You study methodically , regularly but it doesnt matter in this system . Any small four operations(+-*/) mistakes takes you behind them .

    My criteria is that:If somebody doesnt have the notion of Physics when he graduates, he is a nerd.

    do we still differ in thought?
  17. Jun 3, 2007 #16


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    Well like I said, physics tests won't really ask you to define concepts. No one pays you for what you know, but for what you can do with what you know. Everything thats known is published somewhere.
    Taking high level undergrad courses and passing them, demonstrates that you understand the concepts as well as how to apply it. I can't understand how someone can pass a course in EM by simply memorizing mathematical equations (unless your review tests and actual tests are disgustingly similar). Its either a case where test similarity comes in, or you're misunderstanding these "nerds".

    So I'd suggest that if you wanna graduate summa cum laude along with your peers, you should become a nerd :biggrin:
  18. Jun 3, 2007 #17
    Well shouldn't it depend on which gpa we are talking about? Let's say someone's cumulative GPA was a 3.0, but their math or physics major GPA was a 4.0. Wouldn't the major GPA be of more importance?
  19. Jun 3, 2007 #18
    Yes, I agree with people who said that exams DO matter but, your overall intellectual achievment from school and other activities matter more. IMO. Because some people are good at taking exams but others are not due to pressure...
  20. Jun 4, 2007 #19
    yeah man - thats like saying that high school drop outs became self made millionaires. Thats a dime a dozen. Just because they made it - doesn't mean anyone else can.

    Still have hope and apply to various places - just don't be too shocked if you do get rejected because of your grades. Take it in your stride and move on to another application.

    On a side note - you have to realize that the students that just memorize or just study the past year problems - still study. They may be good at taking exams but you need a certain level of understanding to get a good mark in an exam. Have you ever considered the possibility that some of us have done so many different kinds of problems that we know the exact procedure to solve it and what string of formulas to use instead of delving too much on understanding the question?

    Though there are a group of students that I absolutely hate - and those are the freeloaders / free riders - that copy homework, copy assignments, pay and upper year student to do their assignments, sit behind the smart guy in an exam and copy his paper, and they end up getting a better mark than you. This has happened to me countless times. In all honesty these guys don't deserve their degrees.
  21. Jun 4, 2007 #20


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    high gre, low gpa, suggests smart but lazy, which impedes chance of admisssion to grad school, but suggests success if you learn to work hard.
  22. Jun 4, 2007 #21
    what did make you think i didnt face those kind of difficulty ? Who told you i dont have such a level of understanding ?Did i say i cant understand? no i didnt. One must understand the concept. That is the way i am looking now. But it is more easy and painless to memorise the equations (u know they are generally with complicated coefficients) . But is this the very best way of sucsess ib Physics ? Who will ask us to make multiplication ? Mathematica does it already. We shall learn the concepts .
  23. Jun 4, 2007 #22
    You are not in grad school yet. You need to learn a foundation. What are you going to do when Mathematics doesn't just solve what you want?

    If you want good grades, why don't you reach a compromise with yourself. Spend 60% of the time studying concepts, and the other 40% memorizing those formulas, so when you get plug 'n chug questions, you can spit out the answer. All those use-this, use-that type of problem is not a complete waste, as it allows you to see patterns in more complicated problems.

    I understand where you are coming from. I was the same way about integration - why learn it, when it can be done with a computer? Well some things cannot just be explained with concepts, you need math for it to make sense. The intuition will come from the math, not just explaining and drawing pictures. And guess what? Not being REALLY familiar with all integration techniques has bit me in the butt a few times, since it was expected that they would be known, as it helps to explain the theory.
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