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Seeking out any and all advice.

I am scheduled to take the GRE in about two weeks. I intended to spend this summer studying, but was thrown by all things 2020 all while trying to prepare a Fulbright application due very soon too. Standardized tests are *not* my strength. Based on the practice tests I've taken, I'm about average in the quantitative reasoning and slightly above average in the verbal reasoning. I have studied some vocabulary, but nowhere near enough, and need to go through a lot more practice math questions.  My plan was originally to take the test this year, and hold onto it for a few years while I work/fellowship/do a masters. Would apply to doctoral programs before the score expired. 

I eventually want to apply for a Ph.D. in political science studying comparative politics and elections (my dream program is at UCSD). My recommendations are strong, my GPA is very good, and I feel like I will be able to write a compelling personal statement. In other words, I was hoping that with decent GRE scores (155+?) I could be considered at least a competitive applicant at some of the good Ph.D. programs around the country. I just don't want to feel like the score I get in two weeks would preclude me from having a shot at any of these programs.

I *could* cancel my test and plan to take it sometime in the next few years, when I would presumably have time to study and not be overwhelmed by returning to school during COVID, other post-grad apps, etc. But, they would only refund half the cost. I could also reschedule the test, but would have to pay a rescheduling fee. Both seem silly but I don't know what's best. 

I guess my questions are as follows:

  • am I placing too much weight on the GRE when it comes to political science doctoral admissions?
  • would it be totally crazy to cancel the test? (and plan to study for/take it in the next few years) Realizing I'd have to eat the $100 lost which I'd like to avoid, but if everyone recommends this then I might consider...
  • how on earth do I determine which schools to send the scores to, and which schools to withhold them from for now? 
  • what would you do? Feeling l-o-s-t!!!

Thank you for any advice you can offer!

Edited by bibble1998
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You seem to be operating under multiple assumptions, of which are not true, making the logic of your post strange to follow.

You do realize you can take the test multiple times right? And that you only send the scores that you want to send (i.e. a university will have no idea if you did poorly on a past take)? You don't send your scores until you actually apply to the programs, so I don't understand why you ask the last question the way you do. 

Just take the test? If you don't do well, just take it again (or how many times you want). This is especially the case since you aren't applying to programs in the near term.

Edited by polsciguy88
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10 minutes ago, polsciguy88 said:

You seem to be operating under multiple assumptions, of which are not true, making the logic of your post strange to follow.

You do realize you can take the test multiple times right? And that you only send the scores that you want to send (i.e. a university will have no idea if you did poorly on a past take)? You don't send your scores until you actually apply to the programs, so I don't understand why you ask the last question the way you do. 

Just take the test? If you don't do well, just take it again (or how many times you want). This is especially the case since you aren't applying to programs in the near term.

Re-reading my original post, you're right, it's a bit discombobulated! 

I guess I have come to terms with having to retake the test in the next few years. I'm just trying to gauge how important it is to get a score in the range these programs report (typically around 165 for both sections). I didn't realize you only send the scores you want to the programs you apply to... thought you had to send all past scores. Thanks for pointing that out.

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Hey! First off, it'll all be okay! You seem like you have put thought into this and I know you'll make a great decision.

In terms of taking the GRE in 2 weeks or not -- you're either getting your full money's worth by taking the exam, or getting half your money back by not taking it. It is totally up to you, but I think taking it in 2 weeks with the intention of seeing where your scores are at will be helpful practice. Since you need the scores for school a few years from now, there is less pressure. However, you do not want to drag out the process.

Personally for me, my test dates have gotten moved around because of COVID. Without a test date or a "end goal" in mind, it was very hard to study. I recommend getting the GRE out of the way. Whether you take the exam in 2 weeks or not, try to make a plan that is best for you, stick to it, and try to have your final test scores within x months. Make a plan. Tell yourself you will allow yourself to retake it x times and you will study x amount per day. 

The worst thing you could do it drag the GRE studying and test taking process along. It's not fun (everyone can agree to that) so work your booty off to get the scores you want --- and you will have them for when your graduate schools need them.

Also last piece of advice -- Magoosh's GRE package is great! It was truly worth my money. 

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2 hours ago, bibble1998 said:

Re-reading my original post, you're right, it's a bit discombobulated! 

I guess I have come to terms with having to retake the test in the next few years. I'm just trying to gauge how important it is to get a score in the range these programs report (typically around 165 for both sections). I didn't realize you only send the scores you want to the programs you apply to... thought you had to send all past scores. Thanks for pointing that out.

Extremely important. There's been a thousand threads on this. You want at the very least 160+ on both verbal and quantitative sections. Ideally, you want 165+ when applying to top programs, but it's not necessary.

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3 hours ago, bibble1998 said:

Seeking out any and all advice.

I am scheduled to take the GRE in about two weeks. I intended to spend this summer studying, but was thrown by all things 2020 all while trying to prepare a Fulbright application due very soon too. Standardized tests are *not* my strength. Based on the practice tests I've taken, I'm about average in the quantitative reasoning and slightly above average in the verbal reasoning. I have studied some vocabulary, but nowhere near enough, and need to go through a lot more practice math questions.  My plan was originally to take the test this year, and hold onto it for a few years while I work/fellowship/do a masters. Would apply to doctoral programs before the score expired. 

I eventually want to apply for a Ph.D. in political science studying comparative politics and elections (my dream program is at UCSD). My recommendations are strong, my GPA is very good, and I feel like I will be able to write a compelling personal statement. In other words, I was hoping that with decent GRE scores (155+?) I could be considered at least a competitive applicant at some of the good Ph.D. programs around the country. I just don't want to feel like the score I get in two weeks would preclude me from having a shot at any of these programs.

I *could* cancel my test and plan to take it sometime in the next few years, when I would presumably have time to study and not be overwhelmed by returning to school during COVID, other post-grad apps, etc. But, they would only refund half the cost. I could also reschedule the test, but would have to pay a rescheduling fee. Both seem silly but I don't know what's best. 

I guess my questions are as follows:

  • am I placing too much weight on the GRE when it comes to political science doctoral admissions?
  • would it be totally crazy to cancel the test? (and plan to study for/take it in the next few years) Realizing I'd have to eat the $100 lost which I'd like to avoid, but if everyone recommends this then I might consider...
  • how on earth do I determine which schools to send the scores to, and which schools to withhold them from for now? 
  • what would you do? Feeling l-o-s-t!!!

Thank you for any advice you can offer!

Before I say anything I should make clear that it looks like very many programs will not be requiring the GREs this year. Apparently to take the GRE prospective students are now required to do them at home under a certain conditions, and since this dramatically increases the chance that the applicant cheats programs have simply decided not to rely on the GREs. It's not true for all programs, I presume, but for many it is.

As a long-term member of this forum, I would definitely not take the GRE if I was you and expected that I'd do around 155+. I think the consensus is that most programs have minimum GRE thresholds of what is necessary to be seriously considered for admission. No one knows where that threshold is, and it undoubtedly depends on the program, but in general, I'd say that a V of 165+ and a Q of 163+ will make you competitive for any program. For reference, the average at UCSD was 165 & 164 last year but I'd highly doubt that I top program would even consider an applicant with scores below 160. What this means is that you would be better off taking some time off a study seriously for the GREs (especially since you are not applying right away). The preparation is stressful and the exam is tough, but everyone struggles with this and you can do it!

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21 minutes ago, Theory007 said:

Before I say anything I should make clear that it looks like very many programs will not be requiring the GREs this year. Apparently to take the GRE prospective students are now required to do them at home under a certain conditions, and since this dramatically increases the chance that the applicant cheats programs have simply decided not to rely on the GREs. It's not true for all programs, I presume, but for many it is.

As a long-term member of this forum, I would definitely not take the GRE if I was you and expected that I'd do around 155+. I think the consensus is that most programs have minimum GRE thresholds of what is necessary to be seriously considered for admission. No one knows where that threshold is, and it undoubtedly depends on the program, but in general, I'd say that a V of 165+ and a Q of 163+ will make you competitive for any program. For reference, the average at UCSD was 165 & 164 last year but I'd highly doubt that I top program would even consider an applicant with scores below 160. What this means is that you would be better off taking some time off a study seriously for the GREs (especially since you are not applying right away). The preparation is stressful and the exam is tough, but everyone struggles with this and you can do it!

Since I've already paid to take the test, do you think there's any harm in taking it now? I'm not applying for another few years and have come to terms with having to re-take it if I don't get a score >155. If it can't hurt me, I figure I might as well... but I must admit I'm a little confused.

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Just now, bibble1998 said:

Since I've already paid to take the test, do you think there's any harm in taking it now? I'm not applying for another few years and have come to terms with having to re-take it if I don't get a score >155. If it can't hurt me, I figure I might as well... but I must admit I'm a little confused.

It will not do any harm to take the test now even if your score is low; you decide which of your tests to report to graduate programs. But I'd rather save half (?) the fee and take it when it was likely I would get a high score. If you are going to retake it in the future, and from what I understand this is likely, you would have to go to an actual test center and do it there. So I dont even think that taking the test now prepares you well for the second round if that makes sense. I don't think that 155+ should be your aim. 165+ is realistically what you need for a top 10 program.

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You can prep somewhat in two weeks. The best practice is learning the strategies to take the test, taking the free practice tests ETS has online, and getting comfortable with the format. That is doable in two weeks. You’ll see your scores go way up each time you take it and get more familiar. Even if you don’t use these scores it is good to experience what the actual GRE is like because it is a somewhat grueling in my opinion. 
 

Also, don’t listen to anyone about these “arbitrary“ cutoffs. Do your best and aim for 160+ but don’t let people freak you out about just not being competitive for good programs if you don’t get 160. I had more than my fair share of luck with a section below 160 and plenty of people have gotten rejected with perfect scores. 

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On 7/26/2020 at 2:55 AM, bibble1998 said:

am I placing too much weight on the GRE when it comes to political science doctoral admissions?

No you are not. 

GRE may not be that important if you read one person's application only. But if you put it in a pool with 200-300 students whose score averagely are V155-170, you will know how important it is. 

I have a professor who worked as a student helper in PhD admission in a Top6 school, (you know which 6 :) ). She told me facing hundreds of applications, student helpers are firstly asked to narrow the pool to less than 100 , or even 50. They look at GPA and  GRE mainly.  Finally people who entering the smaller pool almost all have a nearly perfect GPA and GRE. (both V and Q are over 160). 

So it's not GRE per se is important. It is important that everyone else has a very good GRE score. That is what makes us all have to work super hard to get it as high as possible. (Again, I took it 4 times.) 

If it is only your first time, dont be afraid and frustrated. You got plenty of people like me who failed many times before the last shot. 

 

Good Luck! 

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