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So what the hell is a GRE?

  1. Jul 6, 2011 #1
    I am an undergraduate at a UK uni and was talking to a prof at Northwestern and he encouraged me to apply there for a PhD as I was doing a pretty interesting placement.

    He then says "oh, you'll need to do a GRE" and then said that it was "just another piece of data they look at" during admissions.

    what is a "good" GRE score?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2011 #2


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    Science Advisor

    "GRE" is the "Graduate Record Exam" given by the Educational Testing Service and used by many graduate schools in the United States as part of their admissions assesment.

    Their web site is at /[PLAIN]http://www.ets.org/gre[/URL] [Broken]

    It is scored out of 100 (although any score above 900 is reported as "900" because at that level the statistical significance becomes moot) and 800 would be a pretty good score.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Jul 6, 2011 #3
    you mean 1000?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  5. Jul 6, 2011 #4
    Actually, there are many GRE tests. One is the "general" test, which gives you three scores:
    - Verbal Reasoning (currently 200-800, soon to be 130-170)
    - Quantitative Reasoning (currently 200-800, soon to be 130-170)
    - Analytical Writing (0-6)

    This is usually required, but no one seems to care about it all that much.

    More important are the subject tests (in this case, the subject is physics), and that's out of 1000, capped at 900. (There is probably a low-end cap too.)
  6. Jul 7, 2011 #5
    So if they say I need a GRE score, it's just the general test?

    Or is this perhaps a question I should be asking the university?
  7. Jul 7, 2011 #6


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    If you're applying for physics PhD programs in the US, you should take both the "general" GRE and the physics GRE, unless you're sure that all the universities that you're applying to need only one or the other. Check their Web sites or contact them directly, to be sure.
  8. Jul 7, 2011 #7
    Usually the school administration wants the general GRE, and the department wants the subject test, so you probably have to take both. But as jtbell says, check with the particular university you are planning on applying to, because they all have different requirements.
  9. Jul 7, 2011 #8
    In terms of how the GRE affects your application: it honestly can only hurt you. A low GRE looks bad on your application while an average/high GRE does little to help your application.

    I'm sure even if you scored perfectly on both the GRE and the subject, it would do little to sway the admissions (unlike the MCAT, SAT, etc., which make a bigger difference). Research and other components have a far greater impact, and like what your prof. said, it's "just another piece of data they look at".
  10. Jul 8, 2011 #9
    Yeah, I got the impression that he didn't attribute too much significance to it but was more obliged to review it.

    *sigh* ok thanks guys. Guys I better buy a practice book.
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