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Retake the GRE?

j bre

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I recently took the GRE and received: 560 V, 640 Q, and 4 AW. Not so good, I know. I've never performed very well on standardized tests--I am a complete head-case. So, the question is: should I retake? If so, when? Any study suggestions?

(I plan on applying to several environmental/applied anthropology MA/PhD programs for the Fall of 2011. I have some related research experience, as well as TAing experience. I also wrote an undergraduate honors thesis, for which I received competitive grant funding. I have an undergraduate GPA of 3.7 and expect to have great LORs.)

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I'm not quite sure about environmental anthropology, but I looked into various departments (higher-end) for anthropological archaeology and they all seemed to say that so long as your GREs aren't abominably low and everything else is strong about your application they don't put a lot of weight on it. Showing that you can write successful grant proposals definitely boosts your application by a lot - most applicants have never needed nor had the opportunity to apply for grants, let alone be successful at it. It also helps on the job market.

However, for anthropology and many other fields, this year was particularly competitive due to the economy. People in the demographic "fresh out of college" have had a terrible time on the job market, which means many are trying to apply for graduate study to wait out the recession, which means that you might be competing against an extra 100 candidates. It's hard to say if next year's application season will be much different considering. I would probably try to retake them and shoot for 1300+ just to ensure that your application can compete with the added pressure and higher volume of applicants.

Also, it helps to contact the departments you're interested in applying to and ask them what the mean GRE score for admitted applicants is. The top anthropology programs like Berkeley, Michigan, and Yale are likely going to be higher, but I've heard of people getting in (with funding even) who had GREs lower than 1200 and sometimes sub 3.0 GPAs.

The one score that I think is easiest to raise is your AW, however since that's a relatively new feature of the GRE many schools don't really consider it. I raised mine from a 4 to a 6 the second time I took it by following the formula the graders are looking for - a simple 5-6 paragraph essay. They aren't grading you on anything else but whether you can churn out a logical essay within the hour they give you to write it. Otherwise, I would make flashcards for the verbal, and also try to read things that use GRE words frequently, nineteenth-century literature, New York Times, the Economist, and, surprisingly, Star Trek: The Next Generation uses a lot of words that appear on the GRE. Immersing yourself in these words and constantly exposing yourself to them will help you remember them better. And although many say that you only need those words to take the GRE, you'd be surprised how often they crop up in texts and articles in anthropology. For the quantitative section, all I can help you with on that is to practice, practice, practice. Get a couple books and work through them beginning to end, and make sure that you're familiar with geometric formulas. You've taken the test, so you know what to expect.

And always remember, experience, strong LORs from recognizable individuals in your field and those who know what a great student you are, and a strong SOP will carry you further than the GRE ever could - especially in anthropology. Best of luck!

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I would suggest you retake it. Improving the math and AW scores will be easiest. As others suggested - get a book, take some time to review, then retake the exam. Your current scores aren't bad, but they aren't going to help you stand out. Good luck!

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I agree with the others: go ahead and retake it. Your current scores may not hurt, but they won't help either. Private tutoring (Princeton Review offers good stuff, can't vouch for other companies) would probably be the quickest way to raise your scores....and also the most expensive. Cheap methods that I found useful were studying lots of vocab words (LOTS.....there are lists online of in excess of 4000 words....) and just taking free practice tests.

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