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Some advice needed

  1. Oct 3, 2006 #1

    I am applying for graduate school to study for a phd in mathematics and would like some advice from those who have been through the process.

    I am currently at a smallish University in Scotland, I have a GPA of 4.00 and have had research experience there for the last two summers also I have 3 top notch references lined up.

    I am planning on applying to Berkeley, UCLA, Rutgers, Chicago, UCSD, UT Austin and Stanford.

    My problem lies with the GRE and what weights the admissions boards will assign to them.

    I have been revising for the Maths Subject test for over two months and feel moderatly confident with the core subjects and have scored above 94 percentile on each of the practise test I have taken (GRE 97,93,87). I understand they rescaled the test, has it now become more difficult? or is it merely a 'fanning out' of the top 18 percentile?

    I also am due to take the GRE General, the Quant (800 straight) is fine, however I am regularly scoring 450ish in the verbal, will this be a problem (re cutoffs)? or are the admissions board going to pretty much only be bothered with the subject test?

    I know this is a physics forum but any info would be greatly appreciated,

    Many thanks

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2006 #2
    Having served on admissions committees... most schools have a formula into which go all kinds of scores from your application, weighted in strange unknown ways (frequently unknown even to the committee members -- I deciphered ours from an EXCEL spreadsheet last year -- and believe me, it was fairly insane and not a simple linear equation in all the variables). Every schools is different, so there is no one answer. The main variables are the various parts of the GRE (Subject, verbal, Quant --- that new writing thing is probably not a concern), the school ranking of your undergrad institution, your GPA, some rating from the committee members who read your letters of recommendation and personal statement (and maybe looked on your transcripts to find F in theatre that pulled down your GPA).

    Basically - it's numbers, and you have very little you can ultimately do about them after loads of GRE studying except for the committee rating. (Although I'll say our formula rated subject much higher maybe 5-10x higher, than the verbal GRE). Although I'm in physics and therefore pretty pragmatic, I'd say the committee members don't give a d#$% that your fascination with your shoestrings made you want to study string theory. They want to know that you have the requisite coursework, that you've maybe done research, that you've maybe taught a bit... that you can come and be productive in their department, then graduate and get a job. In your letter/statement, talk about your research, and make sure your recommendations back up what you say about your research experiences in their letters. If one of your references knows one of the groups you specifically want to work for and can call that group... that's really good.

    If you are concerned about a particular aspect of your aplication, try to be sure you apply to grad schools make sure you have at least one back-up/ sure-admit, if you're afraid of not getting in top-top choices (not sure about how all those places rank in you particular area of interest).

    Good luck.
  4. Oct 18, 2006 #3


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    i have never talken a GRE or even seen one, but my impression is they are so elementary that they count fopr very little at super top places such as stanford, chicago, ect, that you have listed. I.e. if you are worried about the GRE you are probably barking up the wrong tree with that list of places.

    those places are some of the best in the world, and they only take the very strongest applicants. you may be extremely good, but I think you should have a few more places that are easier to get entry to.

    I.e. what I am trying to say is, the GRE test is so easy it is unable to distinguish between people who should go to stanford and those who should not, so it will not be the deciding factor. we get people here at University of Georgia who have perfect GRE scores, and it does not even mean they will succeed here, much less at stanford.

    i have a phd in math, from Utah, in 1977, and a former graduate coordinator at UGA, and current member of the graduate committee. You sound as if you have no knowledgable advisors.

    as a young student i myself never bothered to take the GRE. In 1974 I just walked into the math department at Univ of Washignton and passed their phd prelims. that was enough for them to offer me a fellowship. But Utah offered me a better one sight unseen based on one recommendation from a Utah professor who knew me.

    that is how it is really done. you say you are in scotland. do you have a letter from Atiyah? that will get you in, if you should indeed get in.:smile:
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2006
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