Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Testing Retake Physics GRE?

  1. Jul 25, 2010 #1
    I'm sure this has been posted by, like, a gazillion other people, but I'd also like an evaluation.

    Goal: Physics PhD (the PhD is primarily for my own personal benefit...I know that I could work with just a Masters, but I really, really, really want my PhD).

    Overall undergrad GPA: just a nano over 3.5 (nontraditional student--first bachelor's degree was a completely useless liberal arts degree--entering physics who hadn't done a single math or science problem in over 6 years before starting my physics studies...I started off behind, but caught up towards the end...my upper division physics GPA was over 3.8)

    Physics GRE: 740 :(

    Should I retake the physics GRE this fall? I heard someone recommend at least a 780.


    Goal-wise, as much as I would enjoy being a professor, I'm more than happy to work in industry (especially medicine) or government. My husband is currently a post doc at a really good school (like, #2 in its field). He's just awesome at what he does--he's even PI on a one million dollar NSF grant!--but even he's struggling to find tenure-track jobs (it doesn't help that he's a white male). Personally, I don't care to go through everything he's going through to try and land an academic job; I'd rather take my degree and find a nice, steady job that pays me decently from day one (though I'm rather clueless as to what jobs those would be...there was ZERO mention of non-academic employment opportunities during my undergrad years).

    Advice, folks?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2010 #2
    There is no harm in taking it again although eyebrows may be raised if you retake it over and over again. If you want to get into a PHD program a high GPA and GRE Physics score will help but I think the most important thing is 1) Research experience. The more the better. If you've published then that is ideal. 2) Your three recommendations by your professors should be glowing. This is where 1) can go along ways as well. If you've done research with your professors then they will give you MUCH more than a generic slap on the *** in their recommendation.

    Check these forums out: http://www.physicsgre.com/

    Just make sure to really study for the physics GRE this time around. I've read some of the experiences of the students who scored in the 90th percentile and above and it took them about 2.5 months to prepare for the test. And it was careful, strategic preparation.
  4. Jul 25, 2010 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    It's important to consider the background of the people giving you advice, for example:

    As far as retaking the GRE, is there any reason to think you will do better next time? If so, that would be a good argument. If you are just tossing the dice again, I wouldn't think it's worth it.
  5. Jul 25, 2010 #4
    o_O. How was any of the advice I had given her in any way misleading or bad? It could just be me but I think it's even more important to consider the content of the advice. If someone asked what a challenging and rigorous introduction to calculus would look like and I recommended "Introduction to Calculus and Analysis" by Richard Courant then would my background somehow invalidate my advice? Is Intro to Analysis and Calculus actually a bad book?

    *Shrug* I didn't chime in on the second part of her question because as far as academic careers are concerned I've no clue. But is it not true that the best way to get into a grad program is having a high GPA, scoring in the top percentile of the Physics GRE and especially gaining as much research experience as you can and getting the best recommendations from your professors? Is it not true that the best online resource for learning the ins and outs of the PhysicsGRE, of how to crack it is http://www.physicsgre.com/?
  6. Jul 25, 2010 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I think this issue is with this comment:
    Every graduate admissions committee has its own system of ranking applicants for positions. I don't want to downplay the importance of research experience too much, but it's rarely more important than your GPA. The issue that the above advice creates is that students who take it as gossipal may sacrifice coursework (and hence GPA) to put more hours into a research project that may or may not result in a publication.

    Also the GRE weight can vary considerably. Many Canadian schools, for example, don't require it at all (assuming you received your BSc from a recognized institution).

    My advice on the job front would be not to wait for anyone to bring non-academic employment opportunities to you. When I was in grad school we actually did have a few companies - mainly defence related - approach us as part of a recruitment campaign, but I think those were exceptions. Use your PhD years to develop some marketable skills. Read up on people who have successfully turned their PhD work into spinoff companies. You may also want to consider professional fields like medical physics or geophysics for PhD work.
  7. Jul 25, 2010 #6
    I would totally consider medical physics. Is there much of a demand for medical physicists? I keep getting contradictory information on this. Some sources say that we need more and that employment opportunities are ample; other sources say that the market is already "oversaturated" with medical physicists and that we need more folks to work in industry, etc.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook