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American Liberal Arts Applicants and the GRE

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 11:39 am
by cazcazcaz
I got a 680 (55%ile) on the nov 4th physics exam. I want to know how this compares with other American liberal arts students. I know it's *** in general, but supposedly American liberal arts students are given some leeway for the GS admin process for the GRE. Earlier forums said 20-30%ile was fine but I find that difficult to believe.

As well I got a 790Q 630V on the general GRE. How much is the 630 going to hurt me?

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 11:45 am
by astrobio
630 Verbal for a science student is pretty good, so I wouldn't expect that to hurt you much. I was told by an admissions rep at Cornell a couple years back that (for astronomy) no matter what your background, if you get at least 60% on the physics GRE you are golden. This seems to be backed up by the fact that two guys from my program last year with subject test scores in the mid-600s and a 710 were accepted nearly everywhere they applied.

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 12:03 pm
by cazcazcaz
it's nice to hear that your friends got into the places they wanted with those scores. How much do you guys think lots of research experience (5 internships since senior year in HS) and very strong recommendations will balance out these scores? Will they get read? It sounds like yes from what you said, but then again quite a few of the schools say that they consider a competitive score 800. It's not worth my fee to apply if my strengths will end up in the trashcan before they are read.

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 12:46 pm
by PhotonGas
It seems to me that if money is an issue you should contact the schools to which you want to apply and see what they say. To be honest I have been told that it is rather difficult for anyone to get into a top grad school with scores as low as yours. The problem is that liberal arts students are given NO special treatment.

Even though Einstein himself said that the most important college experience was to be had at a liberal arts school, the fact that liberal arts physics students have a more difficult time getting accepted to the top programs is real. The physics gre is intended to gauage the ability of applicants across different populations of students. For example a school with and easy A would produce weaker applicants than a school with more rigorous preparation.

From what I've heard (from a MIT prof and a Stanford prof) they and other top tier schools get enough applicants such that they will generally trash anyone with a score below seventieth-percentile on the first go around. This is excepting the people who have worked with faculty at that institution. You internships may help you there. Good luck.

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 12:56 pm
by cazcazcaz
Oh. Well thanks. It seems like a good idea to wait, work for a year, and make enough money to pay all the app fees comfortably (I was going to take a loan) and study for the test to take it agian. I was really hoping to be out of the "food service industry" next year and working in a lab. Oh well. Thanks a lot for being honest.

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 1:56 pm
by somebody
i also goto a liberal arts school, one of my professors at school you did grad work and postdoc at hopkins said that they were leinient about gre's with liberal arts students, he said he knew people scoring between 40-60 percentiles that were accepted to the program from liberal arts schools. of course maybe some of these people knew faculty members and worked with them.

Posted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:00 pm
by cazcazcaz
Ok, well it seems that there are conflicting ideas. Does anyone else go to an american liberal arts school know what is considered an ok socre to get?

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:49 am
by Ghagnastiac
I graduated from Reed College in 2005 and was in your situation last year. I took the physics GRE, got the exact same score 680 (55%), and failed to get into any of the top places despite good grades and letters of reference. I decided to give it another shot and reapply this time around, so I retook the physics GRE and got an 840 (83%), which (in addition to some research experience in industry) should make things much better this time around.

In general, students from (good) liberal arts physics programs have no trouble getting into top grad schools provided they can score well on the GRE and demonstrate some potential for original research. In fact, quite a few of my classmates (with good scores) have done pretty well for themselves and are now at MIT, Berkeley, Chicago, etc.

Edit: I think the "liberal arts cutoff" is somewhere around 700. Almost everyone from Reed with a physics GRE >700 got into a good grad school. Take that with however many grains of salt you wish.

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:37 pm
by radicaltyro
I'm at a liberal arts school and I got the same score. I was told by my professors here that it shouldn't hurt my applications. Remember, it's just one data point in your application! I think people here think this silly test is more important than it actually is. More important things are research and references. Best of luck.