Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that a reasonably good student (GPA > 3.7 in math, physics, a couple publications and research experience in both solid state and theory) expects (from '96, '01 practice test scores) to do quite terribly on the physics GRE (like ~600), but wants to go to a second-tier school. Is it better to cancel the test altogether, take a whole year off following graduation, study exclusively for the PGRE, do well and then apply to graduate schools? Or, better to stay at the same institution and complete a 1-year master's degree in math or physics and then apply? And if the student takes the test and it does go as badly as imagined, should they still take a year off to study and retake it (as in, does the first failure followed by a year off look bad)? Or see if the bad score will get them in "somewhere" and go "somewhere" even if the "somewhere" is not a highly ranked program? This is all assuming the score is so bad that the student is rejected from all second tier schools.