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Chances thread and should I retake the GRE? (Rhet Comp PhD)


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Hey everyone! I know this question has been asked before, but I wanted to know if I should retake the GRE and what my chances are for rhetcomp and English PhD programs. In my eyes, you all have a lot of experience with admissions, and I highly value your input. These are my GRE scores:

  • Verbal: 158 (80%)
  • Quant: 153 (50%)
  • AW: 6.0 (99%)

My GPAs:

  • UG: 3.35 (top 10 public university; 3.7 J/S GPA; 3.1 English GPA, 4.0 Writing GPA, 3.8 Psychology GPA)
  • MA: 4.0 (respected program; most graduates who go before PhD adcoms have 3.8s and 3.9s and have been accepted to my targeted programs)

My experience:

  • I work as a university lecturer at my MA college (a top 50 public university). I was nominated for a teaching award (one of only 40 out of 1600 faculty members at my school), and my student evaluations are much higher than department/class/school average (around a 4.8 out of 5.0 with an 80% response rate and glowing qualitative comments).
  • I am an extremely prolific writer. My writing has been read millions of times, and I have won many discipline-specific awards. It is niche online writing, however. I write professionally, but I love teaching more.
  • I have spearheaded the development of a course for the writing program, including drafting syllabi, creating teaching materials, going before councils, etc.
  • My developed teaching materials for FYW are taught as "standard" for the new GSIs at my university.
  • I am working on publishing a chapter for a textbook that will be used for FYW at my college.

Would have extremely strong LORs, a strong WS (my thesis) relevant to the discipline, and potentially a forthcoming presentation at a top conference.

I want to know whether I should spend time on the GRE or put my efforts elsewhere. I would much rather try to publish now and work on conference presentations than try to score higher on the GRE verbal, which just feels like a waste of my time. However, I do not want to get rejected from a school just because I scored an 80% on a verbal score that I took 3 years ago. On some level, I hope that my 99% on the writing would make up for a lower verbal, but I know how important the verbal score can be in "weeding out" applicants. I know that scoring high on the verbal is a rite of passage.

In addition, I do feel that my experience, WS, and LORs will make up for a slightly low GRE.

The programs I am considering apply to are mostly 20-60th ranked programs (depending on ranking system).

I guess really what I want to ask is am I crazy for thinking so much about the GRE? Most of the schools would just love to have me teach FYW on a graduate student pay scale and would marvel at my non-ac writing experience. Also I'm wondering whether I should apply to top 20 programs.

My UG GPA is also low and my English GPA is even lower. I would hope that a high J/S GPA would make up for this and a perfect MA GPA would help. When I look at the results section though, everyone seems to have a perfect MA GPA and a 90%+ Verbal and many get rejected.

Please let me know what you all think.

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12 hours ago, ExileFromAFutureTime said:

I needed a friend to tell me this so I'll tell you: also apply to top-ten programs. Apply to some ivies. Don't limit yourself to the 20-60 range.  

The OP mentioned that they were interested in Rhetoric/Composition in the title of their post. Those rankings differ from English rankings so it's quite possible that the OP is applying to some top rhet/comp programs. I agree though that the OP should apply to a wide variety of schools.

 

17 hours ago, KennethBurked said:

On some level, I hope that my 99% on the writing would make up for a lower verbal, but I know how important the verbal score can be in "weeding out" applicants.

Some programs might weed out applicants and might have a preference for certain scores. However, I think most will look at the entire application process as long as the score isn't very low.  A high score alone won't be the reason someone is admitted to a university.

 

17 hours ago, KennethBurked said:
  • I am an extremely prolific writer. My writing has been read millions of times, and I have won many discipline-specific awards. It is niche online writing, however. I write professionally, but I love teaching more.

Depending on what you write, I'd see if there is anyone who's interested in either that or gender studies. If someone has a dual appointment, I'd heavily consider adding the school they teach at to your list.

 

17 hours ago, KennethBurked said:

I guess really what I want to ask is am I crazy for thinking so much about the GRE? Most of the schools would just love to have me teach FYW on a graduate student pay scale and would marvel at my non-ac writing experience. Also I'm wondering whether I should apply to top 20 programs.

 

Each grad school has a different way that they expect FYW to be taught. Some find it easier to train students with no prior experience; others find it preferable to have students with prior experience. Neither will make a difference if you don't fit within the department. What fit means to you might be different with what each department considers to be a fit.

 

17 hours ago, KennethBurked said:

When I look at the results section though, everyone seems to have a perfect MA GPA and a 90%+ Verbal and many get rejected.

I'm not sure if the results section represents an accurate representation of all results though. I think the sample we get often ends up being from a very specific crowd. 

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13 hours ago, mandelbulb said:

this is easy: nope, don’t retake. your grades in your MA show you’re ready for graduate level work. what will higher scores tell them that your writing sample, sop, lors, and grades don’t already? :) 

Thank you! I do agree that the other parts of my application certainly show my worth. The GRE appears to me, for a lot of adcoms, to be more of a box-checking thing.

 

12 hours ago, ExileFromAFutureTime said:

I needed a friend to tell me this so I'll tell you: also apply to top-ten programs. Apply to some ivies. Don't limit yourself to the 20-60 range.  

Thank you! I will. I had always thought about it, and my thesis advisor certainly thinks I could do it.

 

3 hours ago, kendalldinniene said:

I wouldn't retake it.  I think you've proven how capable you are in far more accurate ways than that silly test. 

Yes, I agree. Thank you for your comment.

 

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Thank you for your comments, Warelin! I have some questions, and if you wouldn't mind replying, I would really appreciate your thoughts.

3 hours ago, Warelin said:

The OP mentioned that they were interested in Rhetoric/Composition in the title of their post. Those rankings differ from English rankings so it's quite possible that the OP is applying to some top rhet/comp programs. I agree though that the OP should apply to a wide variety of schools.

I am. I was considering applying to both Rhet/Comp programs and also English programs that have a specialization in Rhet/Comp. What I want to know is, what ranking list are you referring to for rhet/comp? I want to make sure we are both pulling from the same places. Finding English PhD rankings is quite easy, but rhet/comp is more difficult. I am relying, mainly, on who publishes in the big journals, who is at the conferences, and who has made major contributions to the field. I am also focusing on schools with professors with similar research interests. To me, it is almost as important, although from what I've seen, placement is largely based on how high ranked you attended.

3 hours ago, Warelin said:

Depending on what you write, I'd see if there is anyone who's interested in either that or gender studies. If someone has a dual appointment, I'd heavily consider adding the school they teach at to your list.

Yes, I have looked through the academic journals and professor interests for many programs and intend to apply to schools with professors who will appreciate my non-ac prolific writing. Thank you for reinforcing this! I did not do this as much when applying for my MA, but it turns out that the professors who will provide me my strongest LORs now are the professors who are really impressed by my prolific non-ac writing and who have academic interest in it.

3 hours ago, Warelin said:

Each grad school has a different way that they expect FYW to be taught. Some find it easier to train students with no prior experience; others find it preferable to have students with prior experience. Neither will make a difference if you don't fit within the department. What fit means to you might be different with what each department considers to be a fit.

 

This is extremely important; thank you so much for bringing this up. Such an excellent point! Yes, I do suspect that I will need to be highly adaptable for FYW at my PhD program. When I apply, I do have to highlight my strengths as a teacher, but I also have to show that I will teach FYW to their expectations and that I can adjust to their expectations. I have had two very different writing program experiences from a student at my UG to a teacher at my MA program; they both taught FYW and writing in general totally differently. Maybe highlighting that will help? My UG taught writing more as a general program and a WAC model, while my MA program (where I teach FYW) teaches strictly rhetoric and writing. I do not really have a preference, although I do teach the rhetoric and writing extremely well according to senior faculty members and my students.

3 hours ago, Warelin said:

I'm not sure if the results section represents an accurate representation of all results though. I think the sample we get often ends up being from a very specific crowd. 

Yes, I do suspect is it is more of a sample size issue. Also, the results section typically does not have many important parts of the application (LORs, WS, experience, etc.). Still, it's kind of scary seeing so many rejections with 4.0s and 95%+ verbals.

Thank you so much, Warelin!

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6 minutes ago, KennethBurked said:

I am. I was considering applying to both Rhet/Comp programs and also English programs that have a specialization in Rhet/Comp. What I want to know is, what ranking list are you referring to for rhet/comp? I want to make sure we are both pulling from the same places. Finding English PhD rankings is quite easy, but rhet/comp is more difficult. I am relying, mainly, on who publishes in the big journals, who is at the conferences, and who has made major contributions to the field. I am also focusing on schools with professors with similar research interests. To me, it is almost as important, although from what I've seen, placement is largely based on how high ranked you attended.

I think that's a good strategy to have. I mention my earlier post because people in Literature often think that USNews rankings (and their response rate) extend to Rhet/Comp. It doesn't. I would also like to note here that some rhet/comp programs are considered to be "top" programs for Communication and/or Digital Media. I'd caution you here to carefully explore your journals to ensure that they're producing work that you're interested in. It does sound like this is something you've given thought to. As far as I'm aware, there is no "official" ranking list in Rhet/Comp but some programs are given more publicity through publications than others. This could be due to the size of a cohort, influenced by your adviser, or be driven by one's motivation to publish. Some universities might be more active in encouraging you to publish.

 

15 minutes ago, KennethBurked said:

I did not do this as much when applying for my MA, but it turns out that the professors who will provide me my strongest LORs now are the professors who are really impressed by my prolific non-ac writing and who have academic interest in it.

I don't think the MA has to be as focused on one very small area of study; I think the MA allows someone to gain a better understanding of what they're interested in so they could better focus on what they're interested in with a Ph.D.  It is always nice to have professors who are supportive in your pursuits though.

 

19 minutes ago, KennethBurked said:

Also, the results section typically does not have many important parts of the application (LORs, WS, experience, etc.).

I think the results section is considerably more helpful for programs that place a heavy importance on test scores. I think it's more helpful in the humanities with providing when acceptances/rejections/waitlists have gone out in the humanities.

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37 minutes ago, Warelin said:

I would also like to note here that some rhet/comp programs are considered to be "top" programs for Communication and/or Digital Media. I'd caution you here to carefully explore your journals to ensure that they're producing work that you're interested in.

Yes, I've looked at rhet/comm programs, and I do intend to apply to a few that mesh particularly well with my scholarly interests. I just wonder, though, whether it would hurt me on the job market vs. an English or Rhet/Comp PhD. The Rhet/Comm and Rhet/Digital Media programs actually produce exactly the same scholarship that I would like to do, so they are arguably a better fit. I have seen professors transition from having an English PhD to doing rhet/comm and digital media, but I do not know about the opposite.

My scholarly interests are the teaching of writing, history of rhetoric, rhetorical theory, video game studies, and new media studies. The last two certainly apply more to comm and digital media, while the former three are more relevant to rhetoric and English/

Another point is that I really do want to teach FYW, and some of the Digital Media and Comm programs focus more on RAships than TAships for FYW.

Edited by KennethBurked
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Most adcomms LOATHE the GRE. If the program hasn't already abolished it as a requirement, then they would likely be delighted to have a well-qualified candidate with low to mediocre scores (not saying yours are) to use as proof that the college should get rid of it in application considerations. 

GREs continue to be less important, and more of an embarrassment, to schools that still use them in admission decisions. See: this recent study demonstrating STEM students who score in the lowest quartile either (for men) outperform or (for women) show no difference from their counterparts in the highest quartile when measuring rate of degree completion.

Do not waste your time, money, or energy giving the GRE one additional thought.

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I hate the GRE as much as anyone, and while anything can happen, a verbal score at or above 160 would look much better.  Most schools that post average scores tend to show verbal around 164.  I'm not saying committees like the GRE, but they do get to be picky.  You should assume that most good candidates will have good letters, a good sample, and a good statement.  What if they have a good verbal score too?  Is it worth a lot of studying?  If I were you, I would probably crack the practice manual every few weeks and schedule another test in early October just to see if you could pull that 160.  You can always decide what scores to send later. 

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15 minutes ago, MetaphysicalDrama said:

I hate the GRE as much as anyone, and while anything can happen, a verbal score at or above 160 would look much better.  Most schools that post average scores tend to show verbal around 164.  I'm not saying committees like the GRE, but they do get to be picky.  You should assume that most good candidates will have good letters, a good sample, and a good statement.  What if they have a good verbal score too?  Is it worth a lot of studying?  If I were you, I would probably crack the practice manual every few weeks and schedule another test in early October just to see if you could pull that 160.  You can always decide what scores to send later. 

you really think it's worth it to pay $160 for a two point increase? wow lol

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3 hours ago, MetaphysicalDrama said:

I would prefer to think of it as $160 for a better chance at a generous fellowship. 

or you could apply to one or two more schools and increase your chance of being accepted somewhere.

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21 hours ago, deka said:

which programs are you considering? Which programs do you want to apply to but maybe feel out of reach? (I know a bit about new media and game studies programs)

Ironically, the programs you were accepted to in your signature. What schools would you consider applying to? I am looking mainly at who publishes in the academic journals for games studies (Games and Culture, DiGRA, and the other digital rhetoric journals) and where they are located.

10 hours ago, MetaphysicalDrama said:

I hate the GRE as much as anyone, and while anything can happen, a verbal score at or above 160 would look much better.  Most schools that post average scores tend to show verbal around 164.  I'm not saying committees like the GRE, but they do get to be picky.  You should assume that most good candidates will have good letters, a good sample, and a good statement.  What if they have a good verbal score too?  Is it worth a lot of studying?  If I were you, I would probably crack the practice manual every few weeks and schedule another test in early October just to see if you could pull that 160.  You can always decide what scores to send later. 

I know! That is really the issue and why it tears at me. Two small points and I am 6 percentile ahead. I practice tested 3 years ago anywhere between 156 and 163. Part of the issue was I spent way too much effort on the writing portion. I wrote two 1,000 word essays because the writing score was what my MA program was going to look at mainly. I was so drained when I got to the actual test afterward. I needed to better prepare for stamina than I did. Also, I put more than enough effort into the math. I also had some sleep deprivation. However, I think that these are mainly just excuses. If I look at my SAT and ACT scores, I do score in the high 90s in writing portions and in the 80s in verbal portions.

 

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12 hours ago, rhetoricus aesalon said:

Most adcomms LOATHE the GRE. If the program hasn't already abolished it as a requirement, then they would likely be delighted to have a well-qualified candidate with low to mediocre scores (not saying yours are) to use as proof that the college should get rid of it in application considerations. 

GREs continue to be less important, and more of an embarrassment, to schools that still use them in admission decisions. See: this recent study demonstrating STEM students who score in the lowest quartile either (for men) outperform or (for women) show no difference from their counterparts in the highest quartile when measuring rate of degree completion.

Do not waste your time, money, or energy giving the GRE one additional thought.

Thank you! I do certainly agree that performing well on the GRE really does not "prove" much and my time would be better spent writing and teaching than taking the test.

I still think that my scores would be considered mediocre for some programs and low for the elite programs. As you said though, there is really just so much more to a PhD applicant than GRE scores.

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16 hours ago, mandelbulb said:

you really think it's worth it to pay $160 for a two point increase? wow lol

Gonna pop in here and add that I had atrocious GRE schools and got into two great programs with full funding.  Focus on WS and SoP and use the money to apply to more schools rather than a retake. 

Edit to clarify also that my scores were lower than yours (with exception of Verbal, I scored 158V, but I was lower in Q and Writing). 

Edited by The Wordsworthian
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Thanks everyone!

Two of the schools I'm planning to apply to don't even want the scores, but then a few others expect a higher score than what I have.

My GRE scores are honestly bizarre and I tried too hard on the AW and Q.

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