1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Should one do GRE?

  1. Mar 30, 2009 #1


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper


    A friend of mine just did the test exam in physics on GRE homepage today, his ambitions are to receive a PhD-studentship at Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, etc in Theoretical Physics.

    He said that he only got scaled score = 640 {36.5 raw score} and he was wondering if there is any point doing this GRE exam, which he has on saturday, since he is afraid that these universities will care since they will be noticed if he gets a bad score on saturday since he is quite unprepared.

    The Q is, should he skip GRE now on saturday totally and do it someother time, or can he "at least try"? Is 640 really bad, or is it "ok"?

    Best regards,
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2009 #2
    If your friend is thinking about Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, etc., 640 is *really* bad. While all statistics need to be taken with a dose of salt, www.gradschoolshopper.com claims the *average* GRE physics scores for admissions to Harvard back in 2003-2004 was 892, for Stanford in 2008-2009 the average was 803, and for Berkeley in 2007-2008 the average was 900.

    If he feels like trying, I think most schools only look at your highest score, so there is probably little harm in taking it besides the expense of the test.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  4. Mar 30, 2009 #3
    There aren't many good reasons to take it in April. He can't apply anywhere until late fall, so he may as well just take it on one of the two test dates in the fall and study in the mean time.
  5. Mar 30, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    ok thank you for your answers, my friend really appreciated them.

    He adds that he has top grades in physics and math classes at Swedish Universities (top-100 ranked) and was wondering a bit how different American universities scale such grades with GRE-grades?
  6. Mar 30, 2009 #5
    Graduate admissions committees are interested in four things: grades, GRE scores, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Different schools weight these factors differently, and if there is an explicit formula, they don't publicize it.

    I will add one more thing though... international students are held to a higher standard GRE-wise than American students.
  7. Mar 30, 2009 #6


    User Avatar

    This is true plus 640 isnt close to cutting it for a domestic applicant. Your going to need a Nobel to get into those schools with that score as an international regardless of your GPA.
  8. Mar 30, 2009 #7
    Hey everybody! I am Camel_Jockey! I am the friend Malawi_Glenn was talking about - I managed to find my account details =) Thanks a lot for your replies - I am taking them all into consideration. This is kind of a long post but I really need help! Please help!

    My main follow-up question is : what is considered an "unremarkable" or "quite normal" GRE physics score? In other words, at which point are top universities more likely to ignore my GRE results and focus on my other merits?

    I made some tactical mistakes when writing the practice test, so I believe that without further study I could hit 670. I of course have no idea if that makes any difference. Right now it seems to be too late to study more - although I will be making some other tactical changes and I will write a new test tomorrow if I can find one (there is only one on the GRE homepage - any links to relatively modern GRE-like practice tests would be much appreciated!). If I obtain a new test to write - perhaps I can report back with my score tomorrow.

    I would also like to say that this is very important for me on a personal level! I have a lot of pressure from friends and family to write this test. So please specify if you are 100% sure, 60% sure or X % sure etc. I welcome all answers and I will take them all into consideration - but I need to know WHO knows what they are talking about in detail and who just wanted to casually read a thread and drop some remark.

    If I get a *really* bad score such as 640 can the universities forgive me if I rewrite decently in october?? Do ALL the universities MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Princeton, Santa Barbara and Berkeley use the GRE score so much??? Perhaps some person with some insight into these specific universities can shed some light. It is true that I am an international student - as someone pointed out - but Sweden is not Bangladesh and should be more trusted perhaps? Perhaps Europeans in general are held by an easier standard for the GRE?

    I see I have written many separate questions - feel free to answer any or all of them! Thanks again! -Camel out-

    Nota bene : the GRE fee is already payed, but with issues this important (affecting my future career) I have absolutely no problems letting the money go to waste.
  9. Mar 30, 2009 #8
    There are a few reasons international students are held to much higher standards than domestic students. It generally costs universities MUCH more money to fund international students than domestic students. Also, it is much more unlikely that professors on the admissions committee will know the recommenders, or be familiar with foreign grading systems, so it's much harder to judge how good a student is. Another reason is lack of English skills can be real pain. So, most universities just play it safe and only accept the very best foreign applicants.
  10. Mar 31, 2009 #9


    User Avatar

    As an international you need about 950+ for the schools listed.
  11. Mar 31, 2009 #10
    The main problem I see is that if you are 670 now, you will still be hard-pressed to beat 900, or even 800, in October. If you *do* get a good score though, I think you'll be OK...

    Edit: I'm 100% sure that 670 is way too low, especially for an international student. I'm 85.7% sure that you'll be fine if you do get a much higher score in October.
  12. Mar 31, 2009 #11
    Where did you read this? Do you have the original link still? Or is this something that you've heard, common knowledge so to say...

    Its very difficult to say what I will get on Saturday, but I am quite sure I should be able to reach the 75% or 80% percentile NEXT TIME if I prepare 'properly'. So my question would be if you think it is directly detrimental to write on Saturday. The way it looks right now I will get maybe 670 on Saturday, and perhaps aim for 780 in October. It can however go better, and it is of course a good experience to have written it once.

    Anyone here who has been able to greatly improve their GRE score over a 4 month period??
  13. Mar 31, 2009 #12


    User Avatar

    For the schools you listed 780 is not going to cut for an international either. To be competitive you need in the high 900's ie the 94+ percentile scores. Schools seem to like to use foreign students to raise their PGRE average. 780 would be iffy for a domestic student.
  14. Apr 1, 2009 #13
    Ok, so I will have to aim higher in October, although I will write the GRE on Saturday also to get some experience. Thanks a lot for your advice :)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook