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GRE - No Cutoff? What Gives?

jill29jill29 Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
edited April 2011 in Graduate School
Hi -

At some schools I've looked at, there is no cutoff for the GRE. What does this mean, especially for people with low scores? Does this just mean that they don't regard it highly or it doesn't play a big part in their decisions? And if the emphasis isn't on the GRE, what is? thanks for your help!
Post edited by jill29 on

Replies to: GRE - No Cutoff? What Gives?

  • Ouroboros313Ouroboros313 Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    GRE is about the least important thing on the application. Most important would be relevant experience (research, internship, thesis, etc. depending upon your field), then letters of recommendation, the GPA and the difficulty of your course load, then your statement of purpose, then the GRE. The order of the first few things may be moved around depending upon who you ask.

    Low GRE scores raises concerns about your academic ability and may be cause for an immediate denial. They don't stipulate a minimum cutoff publicly because they don't want to limit themselves like that. Conversely, high GRE scores don't really help your application all that much--all it does is show you know what you're doing and shift the focus to the other things in your application.

    What constitutes a "low" or a "high" score depends widely on the field. They're changing the GRE sometime soon, so I don't know how that'll turn out. In the past, however, for math, science, and engineering fields you needed at least a 750+ in quantitative in order to be competitive. GRE verbal is much harder and a 500+ would be adequate.
  • jill29jill29 Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thanks so much for your thorough answer! : ) I have a 3.9 at a Top 20 university (US News & World Report) and have everything else you listed/they're all stellar. unfortunately I did badly on my GRE after studying for months and it's unlikely they'll go up much after I retake it. So obviously I'm a little nervous about this killing my application and when I heard about this policy I was a little confused...
  • Ouroboros313Ouroboros313 Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    Since application season is over for this year, I assume you will be applying next year? This leaves you with 6+ months to retake the GRE. Honestly, it's a checklist sort of thing and as long as you do adequate on it, it'll be fine. I BS'ed the writing part (why does it come first?) in order to save my energy for the quant and verbal, ending up with a 3.5 for the writing. That's like 23rd percentile. But I got in everywhere I applied (though my GRE score was good otherwise). What I'm say, I guess, is don't try for the writing portion. Save your energy for the more important parts.

    Alternatively, you can wait until after August to take the new GRE and see how that goes.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    At some schools I've looked at, there is no cutoff for the GRE. What does this mean, especially for people with low scores? Does this just mean that they don't regard it highly or it doesn't play a big part in their decisions?

    Not necessarily. Sometimes there is an informal cutoff, but the graduate school doesn't want to announce it because 1) they don't want discourage students with slightly lower scores from applying (there is a negligible difference between a 1200 and an 1190) and 2) they want to have the leeway to admit that outstanding student with the 1190 who is a superstar in every other area.

    However, they may still have a target score/range of scores they desire students to score in. I doubt many top PhD programs would take a student with a 900 GRE, score, for example, unless that student had a compelling reason for such a low score and such an outstanding record otherwise that they were impossible to pass up. Even a 1050 may raise some eyebrows, although a really, really, really good record may be able to balance that.

    And if the emphasis isn't on the GRE, what is? thanks for your help!

    Like Ouroboros I think the GRE is the least important thing in your application. I think the most important thing (from my experience talking to the professors in my grad program) is definitely your research experiences, followed by your letters of recommendation and your statement of purpose. I think with GPA, as long as you have a certain level of achievement in your field you're good. I'm not sure that admissions committees regard a 3.9 that much qualitatively different from a 3.8, unless, of course, all other things are equal. I think that a 3.6 with oustanding experiences, a strong statement and excellent letters would get in over many 3.7s and 3.8s with less.

    First of all, what is your GRE score and what kind of degree are you going for. It's pretty standard in my field, and many others, to want a 1200+ on the GRE for PhD programs (what your sections scores may be are variable, but in general they're not going to want to see a 400 math and 800 verbal in a chem or psych program...or other other way around in a psych or English program). There's more variability among master's programs, but a 1000-1100+ is generally cited.

    I agree that you should retake the GRE if you scored low (under about 1200 for a PhD program...or maybe 1150 if you are a really oustanding student) since you have about 3 months before they change the format. Assuming that you are still in undergrad, you have the whole summer to relax and study - go do the GRE Diagnostic Service:


    and find out where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then buy a test prep book and work on those weaknesses. Honestly the best thing is to learn the strategies and just practice the questions over, and over and over again, beginning to time yourself after you are more comfortable with the qs. I don't agree with O that you should not try for the writing - even though most programs don't take it fully into account, a truly abysmal score (lower than a 3.5) can raise some flags. Besides, it's incredibly easy - it's a slightly upgraded version of the high school style 5-paragraph essay and you can make up examples out of whole cloth to support your arguments. Don't think to hard, but don't spaz on it either.
  • jill29jill29 Registered User Posts: 11 New Member

    "First of all, what is your GRE score and what kind of degree are you going for."

    I have a 1060 and I am looking at a terminal masters.

    And thanks so much for your super help juillet!
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    I would definitely retake. A 1060 is going to set your application apart in a negative way - there's going to have to be some real compelling reasons to admit you with that bad of a score, and you likely would not be competitive for any fellowships or assistantships. You should shoot for the 1200 range.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Registered User Posts: 5,821 Senior Member
    The cumulative score is not as helpful to know as the field and the breakdown. For instance, if you are looking at a humanities field and got a 640 in verbal but only a 420 in Q, then that won't hurt you as much as it would if you were applying with the same scores to scientific field. Some fields and some programs care much more about the GRE than others. For example, if you are applying to an engineering program, you absolutely must score 700 or better on the quantitative, even for a low-ranking program; if you want a top program in that field, you'd better score over 750. The current Q format tests accurate and speedy mental calculations but gets no more advanced than the usual high school math curriculum.

    Some programs weigh GRE more heavily than others, even within the same field. Unfortunately, you can't tell from the outside which programs these are -- except, of course, if they publish their range.

    Most programs don't care about the writing score, although some may think twice if it's below 4.0 for a science field or under 4.5 for humanities. Ouroburos's case shows that they will overlook it if you have an otherwise strong application.

    The mantra on CC is this: great GRE scores won't get you in, but poor ones can keep you out. Given your profile, I suspect you're perfectly capable of getting a much higher score as long as you take the time to figure out WHY you scored as low as you did. If you can correct your mistakes with practice tests, you'll be able to do better with the real thing.
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