- 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.
- There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.
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Hi, I am a Chinese Student. I got 990 in Physics Subject Test, but I want to know how important is Subject Test? Do all Graduate School focus on such score? Thank you.
The subject test is pretty important for foreign students, but not so much for American students. You have done very well, so as long as the rest of your application is solid you should get in to the programs you want. Note to American students who might be intimidated like this: no American ever scores this high, and the admissions people know that. Foreigners take 2 to 3 times the physics we take in undergrad, and so committees judge on different scales. Coming from an American institution, you can be competitive at the absolute top programs with 70-80 percentile, or if you are in experiment rather than theory even 50-60. In the US, it is grades and especially rec's and research experience that count. Just make sure you don't do terribly on the GRE and focus on getting the rest of your app to be strong. Sometimes, even just one good rec from a research adviser can get you in to a program that by the numbers you have no business being in! (yeah, this is mostly to any American students who might worry about these crazy foreigners ;p) They score higher as a rule, but come out of graduate school about the same quality of scientist.
Physics graduate schools are more interested in students who have proven that they are capable of doing good research. They get tons of applicants who score highly on the GRE. Famous schools like caltech and stanford have to use the scores as a filter, because of the sheer number of applications they get, but less famous (and still highly esteemed) schools can take time to look at their applicants more closely. Even if you have a high score on the GRE, it does not gurantee that you will be accepted into any particular graduate school. What matters most is how the research that you have already done proves you will fit in there and be able to find research you are interested in at that particular graduate school. This is where getting involved with an advisor and a project in whatever field you're interested in at your undergraduate institution can make or break your application.
I concur with everyone else that suggested a top GRE score *will not* be the only thing that gets you into a good grad school. From the professors I've talked to at my own university and MIT, they've stressed that it's important to score well on the tests to be placed in the "top pile" for consideration, but once you're in that pile it is all the rest of your accolades that will carry your application to the winner's list. And I've heard from people close to admissions committees that it is typical for an admissions committee to "lower" the GRE scores of a foreign student by ~10% when that student's application is being compared to applications of domestic students. This is certainly not protocol, but one rough method employed to level the playing field. Damn liberal arts curriculum, if it weren't for all of the fluffy humanities I've had to take I could have double majored and gotten half way through my graduate coursework in 4 years. Instead I've had to settle with a math minor on top of my physics major, and I'm only beginning to explore graduate classes next semester, which will be my last undergraduate semester.