Which programs for my credentials?

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
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Which programs for my credentials?

Post by ggh1213 » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:22 pm

So I just graduated in the spring with a B.S. in Physics and a minor in Math from a state supported school without much in the way of a reputation. I have done about two full years of undergraduate research, no REU's, no publications, and I'm currently working as a Physics tech with some research going on on the side. What I really want to do is to pursue a PhD in experimental physics (probably Biophysics, nuclear physics, or cosmology depending on what research the different groups are getting into). I am thinking of applying to a large school that has a lot of variety in its research groups. My GPA is sound (3.98/4.00), my general GRE is 650V 760Q, but my Physics GRE is lower than the other two (550). I am fairly certain that my score could go up if I took it again, but I'm wondering if it's worth the financial, time, and stress commitment of re-studying for the November exam.

What are some schools that typically accept students with a profile like mine?

As far as letters of recommendation go, I think I could get some very good ones from my lab advisors (PI's). I guess what I'm saying is that the biggest thing against me is my Physics GRE score. How important is that and where should I focus my attention for applications this fall?

My search is not limited to American schools, only English-speaking schools.

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Re: Which programs for my credentials?

Post by zxcv » Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:46 am

Take a look at the profiles thread and judge for yourself: http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=975

For everything some grad schools may say or acknowledge about how meaningless the PGRE is, it is indeed one objective number they can use to compare students from different schools. That means it matters, especially if you're coming from a school without a strong reputation. If your score goes up 200 or more points after taking it again you could argue that the first score was a fluke, and I think that would be a significant advantage in your applications.

It's very hard to guess what programs anyone is qualified because admissions are so random and we have so little to go on. You PGRE may hurt a bit, but extensive research experience says a lot. If forced, I'd guess that all other things equal, you'd have an even chance of getting into schools somewhere in the range between the top 10 and the top 50.

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Re: Which programs for my credentials?

Post by quizivex » Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:41 pm

Yeah, there are plenty of students in the profile thread with backgrounds similar enough to yours - state school students with top GPAs, good research experience who consider the GRE to be the weak point of their record. You could learn a lot by reading where they applied and got accepted to.

When I was at U. Idaho for a REU program, they talked about the GRE at one of our weekly meetings. And most of the talk was not so much about the test itself, but them telling us not to lose hope if we don't do well and that it's not the "only" factor in the admissions process, and that if we do well in "real" research like we were doing in their program, we can succeed bla bla bla...

So basically, even though the GRE is the most uniform, objective measure they have, for all but the top maybe 25 schools it seems they expect all domestic students to score low so I don't think your GRE will keep you out, you could have a good chance at any of them... However, if you think you can improve significantly on 550 by taking it again, I suggest you try.
ggh1213 wrote:My search is not limited to American schools, only English-speaking schools.
There are no English-speaking physics departments even in America. :wink:

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