Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

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Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2015 6:20 pm

Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

Post by CsmcSekr » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:08 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm an international student majoring in physics who studied at Stony Brook University for three and half years. I'm graduating next year and currently filling out applications toward graduate school. Sadly, among all the requirements I found verbal GRE is the biggest downside which might ruin my application.

Some background:
Top 5% in the class.
GPA: 3.96 out of 4 (Got a B in optics and A for the rest---will mention the reason in P.S.)
PGRE: 970 out of 990 (92%) :lol: good news when I'm continually getting around 150 VGRE scores on practice tests :P
QGRE: 170 out of 170. The content of this part of GRE is way too easy for me. Finishing within 40% time allowed. Capable to reproduce the same score anytime.
AW: 3 out of 6. (Well, I think it's below average, but it does not hurt me so much as the verbal)
One very good letter. Two better than average letters. Extra letter writer available for the 4th letter~ (also very good)
One year supervised reading on Lie Algebra.
One summer + one autumn research project involving extensive usage of Matlab to revise code used by my professor's AMO group. Will be giving a talk on it next week.
Dean's list every semester. Membership of SPS at Stony Brook and Golden Key. Physics tutor for two summers.
VGRE: 146 on previous test. Spent about 120 hours afterwards. Results on 8 practice test are not optimistic. (Mean: 151.5 Standard Deviation: 3)
No in-lab experience (if it counts...well I'm applying to theoretical so~). No publications. (Simply too many people have)

Targets: 12 schools out of top 25 graduate schools based on US news ranking (physics grad), of which my home institution occupies the lowest rank.
Area: theoretical Physics (string theory if need specification, yet other theoretical areas still apply)

Alright, I admit I spent almost all my undergraduate years on math and physics courses only. (Will study for the rest (selective courses on other aspects like humanity or art) in the last semester to graduate in time) Consequently I did not make use of any resource at hand to boost my English as many of you would. Worse still, I totally underestimate the verbal GRE. My study plan turned out to be not as effective as I thought, and there are only three days before my last GRE assignment. (Nov. 25)

Anyway, I'm not daunting and I will utilize every second to improve my score. But let me just ask as a "backup": would you think it's still worth to apply top 10 schools if I will get a verbal score like 150? (I'm very confident to shot over 150 not below at least). How badly do you think it's going to hurt me for those tiers?

Thank you for your reading this. Besides what I'm asking, any comments (whether for VGRE or application) will be appreciated.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by CsmcSekr on Tue Nov 24, 2015 2:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:28 am

Re: Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

Post by Explorer33 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 9:06 pm

I don't think your verbal score is limiting at all. If you do get above 150 I think you totally should try the top 10 :) ( Even 146 is decent since your other scores make up for it).

Posts: 354
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

Post by Catria » Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:17 pm

The only real reason universities care about VGRE would be for awarding discipline-independent financial aid.

Physics depts usually don't care much because it's rather disconnected from the verbal skills required to succeed in physics research. Now, don't get me wrong, they are important, just that vocab and VGRE-type of readings is not the order of the day.

I know, an autumn research project is better than no research experience at all...

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Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2015 6:20 pm

Re: Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

Post by CsmcSekr » Tue Nov 24, 2015 2:38 pm

Thanks for your guys replying~ :)
Just got my PGRE took on Oct. 24 yesterday, which is 970 (92%).
Nonetheless, I did 4 more practice tests with 5 hours on vocab memorizing. These last four tests constitute a set with median 150.5 :cry:
Considering my last assignment is just 5:30 pm tomorrow and it will be my last chance on it (most physics programs have deadlines at Dec. 15), I hope it won't hurt me so much on top 10 on US news. (Combined with 3.96 GPA, 170 on QGRE, 970 on PGRE...) :| :| :| :|

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Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:15 am

Re: Low-than-expected Verbal GRE & school selection

Post by Conga11 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:20 am

This reply probably comes a bit too late but I just want to share my thought on this to help future applicants.

Context: I also have a good profile, perfect PGRE, top(ish) in class, some publications. But I used to have 151 on Verbal GRE.

During an interview for a fellowship with two professors from top 5 universities, my 151 on VGRE came up. They told me something like the score was too low, and that they were not sure if I was able to communicate well in English, and that only till the end of the interview did they know that I was capable of explaining my research well.

So I guess a low VGRE means a risk to the school and probably weigh down your application. One obvious but not so easy way to fix this is to get a higher score. After the interview I registered for another test and manage to raise my score to 155, although still low but certainly better than 151. Totally a waste of time though. Another way is to use your SOP to convince schools that the VGRE does not reflect your ability to communicate. And if possible, ask for an interview.

Anyways, good luck to all. I have to check my email now

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