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Ask your GRE questions here: How important? Are yours too low? When to take?

MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
edited December 2013 in Graduate School
This forum has been inundated with separate threads asking about individual GRE scores, so I thought I'd start an FAQ thread to weed out some of the repetition. I hope that other members will post their thoughts and experiences and that they will answer questions for those who have them.

As people get the percentile ranges for the new General GRE, scheduled to be implemented in a few weeks, they should add to this thread to give future readers context to their scores.

Some points to consider about the GRE:

-- General GRE scores are the least important part of your application package. That's not to say that they are not important but that they are much less important than research experience, your letters of recommendation, your research fit/statement of purpose, and your grades.

-- High GRE scores will not get you into a top program, but low ones will keep you out. So how low can you go? It depends on the field and the individual program. Top math, economics, and engineering programs generally want to see you score at or near 800 on the quantitative portion; they care much less about the verbal. Top life sciences program expect you to get over 700 on the quantitative portion. For the humanities, the expectations are reversed, although few people get 800 on that section; aim for a percentile above 90. For programs outside the top 25, the score minimums are generally lower.

-- The AW section is rarely considered during admissions decisions. Some programs may flag a low AW score (4.0 or below) among native English speakers, but such a score can be easily overcome by a coherent, logical statement of purpose and LORs. Scored well on verbal but not on AW? Don't worry. Not for a minute.

-- Especially for the verbal section, percentiles rule. The raw score doesn't matter; it's where you stand among your graduate-school-bound peers.

-- Some programs only glance at GRE scores while others care more. You cannot tell which programs fall into which camp, especially since the admissions committees change from year to year. As a general rule, however, if you see average GRE scores of admitted students posted on the program's or university's web site, then those programs probably care about those averages.

-- Many programs do not like to see multiple retakes of the GRE. If you bomb the first time, schedule a retake far enough in the future to give yourself enough time to prepare. Two sittings is fine. Three, four, five times . . . well, you're expending too much time on the least important part of your application.

-- The importance of your scores may often be relative to your background. For instance, if you attended a top undergraduate school known for its rigor, then your GRE scores probably will be less important than for a student coming from a lesser known school.

-- International students coming from countries that place students in top universities based on test scores alone need to know that the US system doesn't work that way. Students with lower GRE scores and lower grades will be accepted over some who have higher test scores and higher grades. It all depends on the research experience, letters of recommendation, and research interests. US graduate admissions is holistic.

-- When scheduling your first GRE sitting, allow enough time to retake one time before your application deadline, just in case you aren't happy with your scores. If you plan to apply directly out of undergraduate, then the best time is late spring/early summer after your junior year. This way, you can retake it late summer, before you return to college. You don't want to be studying for a better GRE score while you are trying to fill out applications AND taking classes. Programs with December deadlines recommend that you take your last GRE by the end of October.

-- No one can answer these questions: "If these are my GRE scores, can I get into X university?" or "What GRE scores do I need to get into this program?" If you don't know why this is, reread everything above.

-- Subject GREs are completely different. When a program says that subject tests are recommended, not required, it means that they are optional. Truly. Several posters here have gotten into elite programs without having taken the subject GRE despite their program's recommendation. So when should you take the optional subject test? If you know you can score high and have excellent preparation, take it because it will establish how much you know about your field. If your grades aren't the best, a high score on the subject test might offset them. If you come from an unknown undergraduate school, then a subject test can prove that you know the material. Don't send weak scores to programs that don't require subject tests. This is one score than can actually hurt you.

I hope other posters can fill in information that I may have overlooked.

MWFN
Post edited by Momwaitingfornew on
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Replies to: Ask your GRE questions here: How important? Are yours too low? When to take?

  • scaleupchemscaleupchem Posts: 105Registered User Junior Member
    Undergrad GPA: 3.2
    Research Exp: 7 years (3 undergrad, 4 Industry)
    Pubs: None. Have tech reports w/ company ( 5 first authors out of a total of 8 reports)
    LOR: Will get solid LORs from my mentors and supervisor.
    GRE 610V/580Q

    I have come to the conclusion that I will need a MS before I purse a PhD, but I am still concerned about my scores. Should I apply to MS programs with these scores, or should I apply to some lower ranked PhD programs. The only reason I am posting like this is because I have been out of school for some time, and don't have anyone to consult about matters like these. I am rescheduled to re-take the GRE in October.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    I think you need to retake to get your Q score higher since it's low for a science PhD program. Otherwise, I don't see why you need an MS before applying to PhD programs. Your research experience should offset your GPA, especially if your experience is directly related to your research interests. If you'd feel better, apply mostly to PhD programs but include some MS programs.

    Your GRE scores do not determine whether you should apply to a PhD or MS program. Your experience, preparation, and goals do.
  • scaleupchemscaleupchem Posts: 105Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the feedback. I was thinking of going after a MS, because it will allow me to become stronger in PhD admissions. Also, I have been out of school for some time, and need to brush up on some things. My current research is not in the area that I intend to go into, and I would like to discover that area more. I am rescheduled to take the GRE in October, and will hope for the best, but I think going after a MS, then doing well in that program and possibly getting a publication, will make me a better candidate for PhD admissions.
  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 Posts: 2,394Registered User Senior Member
    My daughter took the GRE a couple of weeks ago and froze up. Lack of sleep and the first time taking a computerized test, but excuses aside she just had a terrible experience and didn't perform up to her capability (she scored about 300 points below her SAT M & CR). So now she has to take the test again, but in the new format. She feels much more comfortable taking the paper test, but that won't be offered until October 15. Would it make any sense for her to take the new GRE at a test center in late August or September for practice? If she doesn't meet her score objectives she could then take it on paper on October 15. But would taking it 3 times harm her chances at Top 20 grad schools?

    The rest of my daughter's application should be competitive: Double major in biology and history (with corresponding GPAs of 3.8 and 4.0) at a top 40 LAC; overall GPA in the 3.6 -- 3.7 range; strong recommendations, great writing samples; research experience in both biology and history; TA experience; demonstrable campus leadership.

    Any suggestions as to what course of action she should take?
  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 Posts: 2,394Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, it would probably help if I mentioned what sort of graduate program she is interested in: PhD. in the History of Science, Techology and Medicine.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    I should amend my first post: taking the test three times isn't horrible, but it is usually a waste of time. The admissions committee can see that it took three times to get good scores (or to barely raise them), so they prefer to see one or two tries. Still, the GREs are not that important except when it comes to unstated cut-offs.

    I wouldn't recommend taking a real test as practice, especially since admissions committees will see the scores of all attempts. A test should be a test. Isn't ETS providing PowerPrep software in the new format? If so, those should be her practice tests.

    Almost all GRE tests in the US are administered through the computer. I don't know how the new format will work, however, since I believe ETS is now going to allow test-takers to return to previous answers/questions.
  • dntw8updntw8up Posts: 1,594Registered User Senior Member
    She feels much more comfortable taking the paper test, but that won't be offered until October 15. Would it make any sense for her to take the new GRE at a test center in late August or September for practice? If she doesn't meet her score objectives she could then take it on paper on October 15.

    The paper test is only available in certain countries, and not in the U.S.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Posts: 3,230Registered User Senior Member
    Actually, it's available in the U.S. - if you're in Alaska, at least.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    A couple of years ago, the paper test was available two or three times a year and only at certain testing centers. The computerized test can be taken at any time that the center has openings -- all week and throughout the day.
  • dntw8updntw8up Posts: 1,594Registered User Senior Member
    The general exam paper test is only available in areas where computer-based testing is not available, which is the vast majority of the U.S.: GRE General Test: Find Your Format The subject

    GRE subject tests are all paper exams given three times each year (October, November and April): GRE Subject Tests: About the GRE Subject Tests
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    I hope that people add their input, both questions and answers, here to minimize clutter on the forum as a whole.
  • joelunixjoelunix Posts: 12User Awaiting Email Confirmation New Member
    Hi! I took the new GRE today. I have never taken the GRE before, but it didn't seem any different from other standardized tests I have taken. My SAT scores were 700 V/710 Q/640 W and the results screen at the end of the test said that I got 750-800 Q/660-760 V (for some reason my results page gave me the 800 scale rather than the new 170 scale). I'm guessing around a 5/5.5 on my essays. Otherwise, it seemed pretty normal. I did notice one V section that was *much* harder than the other ones. I'm guessing that that was due to it being experimental. Any guess what percentile these scores will be?
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    You received a RANGE of scores, rather than actual scores?
  • joelunixjoelunix Posts: 12User Awaiting Email Confirmation New Member
    @Momwaiting:

    Yes. This was the results page at the very end of the test, where they give you your unofficial results. I suppose that I received a range since they are testing out the new test and have to decide what questions are worth what and so on.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Super Moderator Senior Member
    Congratulations on your scores. Even if the official scores are at the bottom of each range, you'll have strong results. I'll be curious to see how those scores translate to the 170 range. Maybe ETS will send both scales out for a year or so to give graduate programs time to see what the 170 scale means.
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