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Masters in Math from non-math Background but w/ good GRE subjec

  1. Mar 4, 2012 #1
    Hey guys, first post.

    I graduated with a AB in Econ with a 3.8 from an Ivy League and would really like to get into a math Masters program - preferably applied/computing oriented

    But my math background is sophmore level - all the Calcs, Linear Algebra, 5 stats courses, and the typical "introduction to proofs" course. These sum up to a 4.0 gpa, and this is where my letters of rec would come from

    Before you tell me to do a search on the boards, there is one thing that spices this up that I haven't seen on the forum: My GRE math subject test score (on PRACTICE TESTS) is in the 85th-90th percentile.

    I self-study a ton which is how I've gotten so far in the GRE subject test with only sophomore math, but I feel that I would have to spend 1,000++ hours to get into the 95th percentile.

    My question is twofold: Do I have a shot at a top 25 MA program w/85th percentile GRE subject test? And would it be smart to practice for another year to get into the 95th percentile? Of course, deep down inside I actually want to go to a top 5 or top 10 school -- is this possible if I got a 95th percentile or would I just be wasting my time?

    Oh and there's always a chance that I *don't* score in the 95th after studying 1,000+ additional hours...definitely a chance.

    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2012 #2
    Just so you know, I copy-pasted this from another thread I just commented on ... but it still applies to your case as well:

    I'd say you've got a good chance to get into a decent program for applied math ... top 5-10, probably not due to your preparation and lack of upper level pure math courses, but Econ is pretty hardcore so who knows. You seem a LOT more accomplished than I am and I got into a few top 10 applied math departments (as well as biophysics MD/PhDs). All I have to show for my math and science abilities are excellent letters from three profs (PhD'd from U Michigan, Princeton, and MIT), and very good general GREs, math GREs, physics GREs, and MCATs ... but no formal coursework in math/physics/biochemistry (only auditing, self study, and youtube).

    I may have a little bit of an edge since I have a uniqueness that most programs haven't seen in their applicants before (masters in trumpet performance and bachelors in musicology). I sensed that there was a bit of novelty to my application. I was asked to bring my trumpet to an interview, haha. I wasn't sure if it was a joke or not, but I did anyway and ended up playing a bit for them in the one classroom, lol.

    Math GRE scores are kinda hit and miss, so I'm not sure how much weight different programs actually put on the test scores vs your undergrad GPA. I know loads of very gifted young mathematicians who already have an extensive knowledge of algebra, analysis, and topology (enough to pass quals at top institutions) but might not have the "fast twitch" math muscle to beast out 66 multiple choice calc/algebra problems in 3ish hours.

    As far as the return on investment for the math GREs goes: if you're already getting 85-90th % as your estimated score, then I'd imagine you're much better off acquainting yourself with algebra, analysis, and topology instead of additional prep for a single test that has a lot of performance variability. Most applied programs require you to take at least a couple of the "pure" core and usually to take PhD qualifying exams in one or two of them in addition to your thesis and applied classes.

    Best of luck.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
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