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Need opinion(s) on whether to retake the GRE

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:25 pm
by Smattacus
Hey guys,

I've lurked on this forum a bunch and I'm coming to a head in my graduate school application process right now. But first of all, thanks to everyone who has posted informative posts on the Physics GRE! At one point or another it's been very helpful to me while studying for the PGRE.

I have a question, and this is whether I should retake the Physics GRE to improve my score. My scores are as follows, currently:

GREV: 640
PGRE: 760
Writing: 4.5

I'm unhappy with my normal GRE scores, especially my verbal, as I normally do a lot better than this and I quite frankly checked out during the test. I'm going to retake that and I'll pull a 700+ verbal 800 Q easily.

I went to Caltech undergraduate and got a double option in Physics and Business Economics and Management, while doing 3 separate research projects - 2 SURFs and one independent study. My GPA is only a 3.0 (boo) but I think it'll be fine, it's right at most unofficial cutoffs I believe. I graduated from Tech in 2008, and since then I've been working in the Astronomy department at Caltech doing a combination of technical work and astronomical research. In addition, I'm taking a course this year in Plasma physics, again at Tech, with the professor who I did one of my SURFS with. I'm getting more and more focused on this as my avenue of research in graduate school. So, I haven't exactly wasted my time since undergrad, and indeed I've spent it to find what I'm interested in again.

I'm looking at pretty prestigious schools, mainly: the UC's (ALL of them with PhD Programs), Caltech, UT@Austin, Rice, UIUC, Stanford and (these are iffy) Princeton, MIT, and Rutgers, Uchicago, and Columbia.

Do you guys think I need to improve my PGRE score, for these particular schools? EDIT: I'm a domestic student.

Part of me wants to retake it because I'm scared ****less of not getting in this year, and I want to do everything in my power to avoid that, because then I'll be out for 2 years! But, on the flip side, I am up to my eyeballs in work and research that I'm doing right now.

Thank you in advance for your help, I just want to hear some opinions on my individual situation.

Re: Need opinion(s) on whether to retake the GRE

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:10 pm
by noojens
Couple random thoughts:

- Your general GRE score is fine; this is just a box that gets checked off by the admissions committee. With the possible exception of certain external fellowships, nobody really cares about your verbal score
- GPA is also probably fine - the Caltech curve is notorious
- Your research is solid (any papers?) and it sounds like you'll have a couple strong recommendations from your SURFs, etc.
- A 760 PGRE isn't great but it isn't terrible. You'd definitely be a competitive applicant with your current profile at places like Rice, UTA, most of the UCs, and UIUC. The top schools will be a crapshoot.
- If you're dead set on a Stanford/MIT/Princeton/Chicago admittance, then the PGRE is the area you should work on. Not only is it the area you stand to make the biggest improvement on with the least effort input, but at this point it's really the only application stat you can improve significantly before the deadlines.

Finally, a PhD is a marathon not a sprint. An extra year or two spent doing research in a field you enjoy at an institution like Caltech will only help your prospects -- for PhD admittance and beyond.

Best of luck.