Concern about GRE quant score for top IR programs

17 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hey all,

I am thinking about applying to graduate school for international relations in the coming year. I'm interested in IR programs relating to China Studies. My goal schools are SAIS, Georgetown, Stanford (East Asian Studies) and UCSD (IR-PS.) I saw the sticky but have a problem specifically as it relates to my quantitative score on the GRE. It's low, and I want to know if it's a big problem for top IR programs given my background in econ and work experience.

My background:

I graduated in 2009 from a state school with a 3.74 in Global Studies (focus on international political economy) and PoliSci, magna cum laude and phi beta kappa, with a senior thesis on Sino-African trade relations. For two years during college I worked year-round almost full time (30-35 hrs a week) with a full credit course load at the US Department of Justice; prior to that I interned as an aide to a lobbyist in state government. I received a State Dept. Critical Language Scholarship to study in China in the summer of 08. After I graduated I worked at a law firm for a year. I applied and received a Fulbright scholarship to study economic development and regional planning in China. I just finished that and will go back to teach English in China at the university level for at least a year. I'd say my Mandarin Chinese is at an advanced level and will improve with another year.

Here's the problem. I took the GRE after I graduated and got the following: 660V, 650Q, 6.0 AW. The verbal score and AW I think are ok, but my quant score is what makes me nervous. I took intermediate econ courses as part of my major in college and also took statistics, getting decent grades and given my thesis' focus on trade and my Fulbright work I think I can handle any math they throw at me, even if my GRE score says otherwise. I'm wondering if a score like this necessitates retaking the GRE given that it's a component that's not weighted as heavily in the application, or if it disqualifies me entirely from those schools I listed. Letters of rec and statement of purpose shouldn't be a problem for me. I can't retake the GRE in time in China for me to apply for this cycle. Should I retake it or take my chances with the score I got and go for this cycle?

Edited by mnboy

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Posted

I'm starting at SAIS this Fall, and I would say that you're fine. Yes, the GRE quant score might be a little low, but mid-600s is still a great score. The rest of your resume more than makes up for it, notably your econ and stats coursework and your China background. Focus on your rec letters and statement of purpose, and you'll be fine.

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Posted

I think you should be ok.

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Posted (edited)

You're a Fulbright. To quote a great film, "Chill, Winston."

(I got a SAIS offer but went abroad instead.)

Edited by balderdash

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Posted

Hi You're Fine. I had comparable GREs. Q650 V680 AW5.5. From my understanding it is in the strike zone as it comes down to quant scores and getting in. However it may be a bit outside the strike zone when it comes to getting funding from them, and that is the only way I'd ever go. Good luck.

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Posted (edited)

I'd like to go to SAIS but now I am concerned for the opposite reason. I got 740Q but 590V and 4.5AW on the revised GREs. I'm trying to decide if it's worth the stress to retake or whether I'm still in the SAIS range.

Edited by converse3

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Posted

Hi, I'm in the exact same boat as Converse - V 590, Q 730, AWA 5.0. I'm also applying to LSE, and they say it's not necessary to send in the GRE but recommend it if you aren't positive that you're academics show quant and writing abilities.

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Posted

At smirrah: the word is your, not you're...

At the starter of this thread: you ought to be completely fine. If it will help your peace of mind re take the gre, but from the point of view of admissions, your experience should vastly outweigh your 30-40 point lower than average gre score.

Agreed. It's never a positive to be worse than average on a application metric, but if you were going to pick one to do so it would probably be the GRE. You can show quant proficiency in many other ways - through quant coursework, work experience, ancillary classes, etc. - that mitigate a low GRE quant score. Work experience, good undergrad GPA, etc. are not nearly as replaceable.

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Posted

In case anyone stumbles across this post for next year's applications wondering the same thing, relatively lowish verbal is by no means a deal breaker if all your other stats are good. In at all I applied to. However, higher scores would have probably made for more room for funding.

Also, boo the forum grammar police.

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Posted

I just want to add to future applicants that I scored 640Q on the GREs and got into SAIS. There is hope!

Standardized test math is not my forte, but I know from high school (4 on the AP Cacl exam) that with hard work I can do well in quantitative arenas. I took International Political Economics in college and while working after graduation took Principles of Micro and Principles of Macro at night at The Graduate School in DC. It sucked, but I made As. I doubt I would have been accepted to SAIS without these classes, which showed them I can do the work, even if it takes me a bit more effort than those of you more quantitatively-gifted folks :)

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Posted

Yeah,, youre GRE are okay! Mine is 155Q (700) 155 V (500 something) and worse 3.5 hahahah.. But i really make sure that my SOP and analytical essay are written perfectly to make up for my terrible AW... And i managed to get through, even though GW waitlisted me.

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Posted

I just found this thread through google, it basically adressed all of my concerns. I took the revised GRE yesterday, and both of my scores were, to put it mildly, less than satisfactory (verbal 156, quant 144). Hoping to be partly excused by the fact that English isn't my native language. I haven't found out my score for the argumentative writing section yet though, still hoping that went better, I know it's probably my strongest side when it comes to GRE. Anyway, I'll be applying to Stanford (East Asian Studies), SAIS (DC), Princeton (Korean history) and SIPA, and I can't help worrying about my low scores. I am thinking that maybe I should take the GRE again (application deadline not before Feb next year so there's time), but at the same time I feel like the practicing is a waste of time. I know that standardized tests aren't my strong side anyway and I don't regard the GRE as an important part of my application anyway. I have had papers published in academic journals within my field, (without even having completed my undergrad studies yet), spent three years working part-time as a free-lance journalist writing analyses on my country of focus for major newspapers in my home country (Sweden), spent the past summers working as a political editorial writer for one of the two nationwide papers back home, etc. And I have been living in my intended country of study (Korea) for 1 1/2 years, learning Korean up to a level where I can read books and newspapers when putting a little effort into it. And when it comes to my application for SAIS, a big advantage will be that I already have internship experience from one of the institutes affiliated with my intended department of study.

I'm not writing all of this down to brag about myself, but more for self-affirmation. My question to those of you who already went through the application process successfully is whether you would recommend me to re-take the GRE or to just accept my scores and hope that they will do. Thanks a lot for your help.

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Posted

To SwedeinKorea - You have time. The quant section rewards hard work in preparation. Everything on it can be mastered.

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Posted

To SwedeinKorea - You have time. The quant section rewards hard work in preparation. Everything on it can be mastered.

Thanks. So you think I should take it again?

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Posted

Thanks. So you think I should take it again?

I think it depends on you. If you think you prepared your best for the quant and 650 was where you immagined yourself scoring, you should keep your scores. Keep in mind, your verbal and writing are impressive (way higher than mine). However, I do feel like most programs focus on the quant. It sounds like you're on track to being an elite candidate. You could take the time and focus on your SoP...you could split the difference and study a bit more for quant and crack the 75th percentile...you could do a number of other things. The scores won't disqualify you, but if you think you could get the quant higher, it's really easy to do (and it's early in the application season). You'll have to think about it and make a choice.

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Posted

Again, thanks a lot for your input, it really helps. I will definitely consider re-taking it. Math wasn't my strongest side from the start and what I imagined when studying for the GRE was to just get a quant score that wouldn't automatically disqualify me from the programs I am applying for, but I wasn't exactly hoping for any strikingly good result. I've seen some posters mentioning the economics requirement in connection with the GRE quant score. I studied two full semesters of only economics (equivalent to 1/3 of my BA), with pretty good results (70th percentile). Do admission committees look at the quant scores for GRE in the same context as the economics requirement? In other words, can good grades in econ classes at least partly make up for a poor GRE quant score, in your opinion?

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Posted

Again, thanks a lot for your input, it really helps. I will definitely consider re-taking it. Math wasn't my strongest side from the start and what I imagined when studying for the GRE was to just get a quant score that wouldn't automatically disqualify me from the programs I am applying for, but I wasn't exactly hoping for any strikingly good result. I've seen some posters mentioning the economics requirement in connection with the GRE quant score. I studied two full semesters of only economics (equivalent to 1/3 of my BA), with pretty good results (70th percentile). Do admission committees look at the quant scores for GRE in the same context as the economics requirement? In other words, can good grades in econ classes at least partly make up for a poor GRE quant score, in your opinion?

Sure. I mean, this is a very holistic application. They're going to be looking at you from a number of lenses. I just looked at the conversions - (156 V = 550) (144 Q = 520). I would study over the summer (look at books by Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc) and retake the test. You can get higher results with more preparation.

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