What does "optional PGRE" mean at these schools?

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cat_mama
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:07 pm

What does "optional PGRE" mean at these schools?

Post by cat_mama » Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:15 pm

I'm applying to 4 PhD programs where PGRE is optional (among other places where they are not). I'm trying to figure out what this "optional" mean so that I can decide to send my PGRE score or not. My goal is experimental condensed matter physics for all of the schools. I have a score of 760 (60%) which is pretty bad, but everything else is pretty decent, and have good grades in advanced physics coursework. I am a domestic woman, if that matters. The parenthesis is what the school website says about requirement. The schools are:
- CalTech Physics (PGRE is strongly recommended)
- Stanford Physics (PGRE is optional)
- UIUC Physics (PGRE is optional)
- UMichigan Physics (PGRE is optional)
For CalTech, does strongly recommended mean that not sending a PGRE would hurt my application? But I was under the impression that PGRE < 800 also hurts applications, so which is the lesser evil?

geekusprimus
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: What does "optional PGRE" mean at these schools?

Post by geekusprimus » Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:42 pm

I don't really know enough to say where you should draw the line for submitting versus not submitting. However, I think it depends largely on the school. I know a guy who scored sub-800 on his physics GRE and got into Michigan doing computational cosmology, and the implication on their website is that the PGRE isn't considered. I've heard (take it with a grain of salt) that Illinois doesn't particularly care about your physics GRE, either. I would imagine that Caltech's "strongly recommended" means that any competitive candidate will be submitting a GRE score. The information on Stanford's website suggests that this is the first time (or one of the first times) not requiring physics GRE scores, but they'll still consider them for people who choose to submit them, so it's difficult to say for them. It might not hurt to look through the old years and see what the GPAs and research profiles look like generally for people who got into Stanford to see how well you stack up sans GRE.

cat_mama
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:07 pm

Re: What does "optional PGRE" mean at these schools?

Post by cat_mama » Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:56 pm

geekusprimus wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:42 pm
I don't really know enough to say where you should draw the line for submitting versus not submitting. However, I think it depends largely on the school. I know a guy who scored sub-800 on his physics GRE and got into Michigan doing computational cosmology, and the implication on their website is that the PGRE isn't considered. I've heard (take it with a grain of salt) that Illinois doesn't particularly care about your physics GRE, either. I would imagine that Caltech's "strongly recommended" means that any competitive candidate will be submitting a GRE score. The information on Stanford's website suggests that this is the first time (or one of the first times) not requiring physics GRE scores, but they'll still consider them for people who choose to submit them, so it's difficult to say for them. It might not hurt to look through the old years and see what the GPAs and research profiles look like generally for people who got into Stanford to see how well you stack up sans GRE.
I would say the rest of my application is comparable to those I know who went to Stanford or got into UIUC from my school, and I know at least one of my LOR is going to be fantastic and the other is going to be also strong. The third of one is also a good LOR. All from research advisors ranging from freshman summer to my senior year from different institutions. My GPA is a bit lower than those I know who got into top 10 schools (3.7 vs 3.8, but the only advanced physics class I didn't get an A in was biophysics in my 3rd semester where I got a B), though. My school's physics program isn't big, but graduates who pursue PhD usually end up in top programs (UChicago, Stanford, MIT, Harvard are the popular choices from my impression). My impression is that this PGRE score is above the "minimum cutoff" but not by much, so I'm not sure which of sending vs not sending would hurt my application more.

But as you said, CalTech's "strongly recommended" part probably means I should send my score since it's not completely abysmal (i.e. <50%)



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