Bad Physics GRE Score

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Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:32 am

Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by MrTurnipHead » Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:41 am

Hi all!

I recently took the PGRE and scored really low: 17%-ile. I'm a really good student at my university: a small liberal arts state school. I have 3.9 Major GPA in physics, and an overall 3.84. I have research experience in theoretical GR(I took the 2nd year graduate class) for my senior thesis at the Honor's College, an REU, and some hands-on experimental work. My General GRE is 167 for math, 159 for reading, and a 3 on writing. I want to go into theoretical gravity, like causal sets or something of that nature(really math heavy). I just really bombed the PGRE.(I haven't taken Thermo, Quantum or Classical at the time. The reason is because the department decided to not offer it until Senior year). Now I'm lost because I don't meet the minimum requirements for many schools. Am I just dumb? Should I just quit physics?

A really, really bummed student

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Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:43 am

Re: Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by adamyos » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:37 am


No, I don't think a low score on the PGRE makes you dumb or anything. I just reflects that you didn't practice/prepare for the test as required. Also, you mention that you hadn't taken QM, Stat mech or classical mech courses (which constitutes about 40% of the questions of the PGRE). Coupled with the fact that it seems you hadn't done any 3 hour simulation practice tests before hand, no wonder you didn't do well. PGRE usually requires basic knowledge of the material, time management and reducing silly errors in the first attempt of a question (as you rarely have a chance to go through the question again due to limited time). Time management and reducing silly errors can usually only be achieved by attempting and then analysing your attempts of the previous question papers. Hence, don't feel that you are dumb. You just need to prepare in the right manner as this is an objective exam instead of a subjective one. Therefore, the stakes are different. You either get the answer or you don't. There are no marks for the method or steps. Hence, this usually requires prior practice.

Don't give up on physics. Instead, take this challenge head-on and learn from this. Grow beyond how you've usually prepared for this exam and prepare in a different way by practising previous years' papers, analysing your shortcomings after each paper and then filling in the gaps. All the resources are easily available online.

All the Best!

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Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:41 am

Re: Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by cwr » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:43 am

Here's the bad news:

You're not going to get in anywhere that you want to go this year, especially not for theory, with these scores. Now, that is the bad news.

Here's the good news:

You seem like a very strong student, and your score certainly does not reflect your ability considering that you haven't taken courses that amount to about 50% of the material covered. I don't doubt that, after taking these classes, you can do well on the pGRE if you study. So, your plan of attack should be this: finish strong this year, prepare for the physics GRE like your life depended on it this summer, and reapply next year.

So basically... focus and do well this year, study your ass off over the summer (it works, I boosted my score by 200 points), and then reach out to potential advisors once you get your score and indicate your interest in the work. You can also make yourself more attractive by applying for things like the NSF or other fellowships. Above all, don't give up; your pGRE score is by no means a fair indicator of your knowledge given that you hadn't seen ~50% of the content!

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Re: Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by TakeruK » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:07 pm

If you are able to spend the time and money though, I would suggest you apply to your top choice programs this year anyways. I don't think you have much to lose, especially if you explain your university's course ordering. Don't "settle" for a non top choice program this year I guess, since the rest of your profile looks very strong. Also you might want to consider taking the April 2016 PGRE (and letting your schools know you will be doing this, in case they want to give you a conditional acceptance based on your April 2016 results).

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Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:32 am

Re: Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by MrTurnipHead » Wed Oct 28, 2015 5:39 pm

Thanks for the replies! I have some idea of what to do now. I will be applying to some places without a PGRE requirement(in fact some good schools) as well some that do with no minimum requirement. I really appreciate all the support :D

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Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:28 am

Re: Bad Physics GRE Score

Post by Explorer33 » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:39 am

You have a pretty strong application other than your Physics GRE so you are certainly not dumb ! I would apply to a few colleges this time anyway like you are thinking and consider retaking Physics GRE again and prepare for the next time.

In all honesty I think your score on the Physics GRE is quite low and most good schools would not likely accept you because whether we like it or not they do give weightage to your Physics GRE performance. So some kinda minimum they do require ( 600 + ) .

But it's not a deterrent to your future. This exam does require rigorous preparation and what I like to call special preparation ( past papers , notes etc ). Am sure you can do very well on the next one !

Don't quit Physics , you are good !

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