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GRE Scores for Art History Graduate Programs


manetdejeuner

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Hello,

I'm new to the grad cafe. I'm applying to both MA and Phd. programs in Art History for Fall 2011. I have a strong GPA (3.76), strong recommendations, great research and writing abilities, and tons of professional experience (internship at Yale Art Gallery and currently a director of a photography gallery in Vermont). However, I am a very bad standardized test taker---I haven't officially taken the GRE yet, but my practice scores are pretty average to not great---in the 500-630 range for verbal. I've taken a test prep class, but given that my vocabulary is not the strongest, I'm not sure in the next 3 weeks before I take my test I am going to score miraculously high.

Does anybody have any advice about taking the GRE for art history programs?

Thanks!

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I'm in the exact same boat - Any advice would be appreciated!! I'm just taking the test now to get it out of the way since it will definitely be my biggest hurdle but not ready to apply to programs yet.

Manet, are you looking to focus in Photography? Do you mind if I ask where you're looking?

Hello,

I'm new to the grad cafe. I'm applying to both MA and Phd. programs in Art History for Fall 2011. I have a strong GPA (3.76), strong recommendations, great research and writing abilities, and tons of professional experience (internship at Yale Art Gallery and currently a director of a photography gallery in Vermont). However, I am a very bad standardized test taker---I haven't officially taken the GRE yet, but my practice scores are pretty average to not great---in the 500-630 range for verbal. I've taken a test prep class, but given that my vocabulary is not the strongest, I'm not sure in the next 3 weeks before I take my test I am going to score miraculously high.

Does anybody have any advice about taking the GRE for art history programs?

Thanks!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm in a similar boat concerning stats--strong GPA & recs, iffy vocab and thus highly volatile practice GRE scores. The score always depends on whether or not I luck out and get words I know. The solution: just memorize a lot of words. It's been improving my verbal score enough to where I won't be embarrassed of it (I hope!) when I actually take it. I'm pretty sure most prep courses give you vocab lists, so you should have access to some words already. At the end of the day, this will be the edge you need.

That said, based on everything I've gleaned from the Art History department websites and the many threads I've read relating to the GRE here on gradcafe, I'd say that the 3 main ways adcoms use our GRE scores are:

  1. For screening by the graduate school itself (not the department!). They're generally looking for at least a 1200 composite, so if you're doing well on quant that's a nice plus.
  2. As minimum cutoffs for the initial round of the department's eliminations (again, probably somewhere around 600 or 650 for more competitive programs)
  3. As indicators of potential for receiving fellowships (above 700 seems to put you in the running for the fancy money).

So, since all the programs I'm applying to guarantee full funding with acceptance (they're all PhDs), I'm less worried about going for an 800 and more worried about staying above 650, which I think you can achieve with some vocab study as well. Of course, I don't know as much about the MA situation.

Just get your verbal score up as high as you can, get the test over with, and focus on those SoPs and the writing sample! Those will definitely matter more. Good luck!

Edited by blackshirt
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Hi Photophile,

I just took the GRE last week---my scores were pretty much within the mean for people with majors in the humanities---V: 550, Q: 570. I think it's pretty funny that my math score is higher than my verbal since I haven't done math since high school! I plan to take the test again in early November and hope to improve my verbal score---at least reach 600.

I am looking at the Williams MA program, and PhD programs at Rutgers, Columbia, CUNY, and the University of Delaware. I'm also considering Yale and UMichigan but still on the fence. My area of concentration is in late 19th-century French painting, but I am hoping to study more about photography during the time period, since I am interested in the mechanics of vision and how artists interpret what they see on canvas. My work is also very much based in social and political history. Are you focusing on Photography?

As far as studying for the GRE, I am mainly focusing on vocab right now to improve my score since I feel this is my greatest weakness. I would suggest doing lots of practice questions! I took a Kaplan class, but I don't think it really helped me much, except made me more familiar with the test structure.

Good luck!

I'm in the exact same boat - Any advice would be appreciated!! I'm just taking the test now to get it out of the way since it will definitely be my biggest hurdle but not ready to apply to programs yet.

Manet, are you looking to focus in Photography? Do you mind if I ask where you're looking?

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Hi Photophile,

I just took the GRE last week---my scores were pretty much within the mean for people with majors in the humanities---V: 550, Q: 570. I think it's pretty funny that my math score is higher than my verbal since I haven't done math since high school! I plan to take the test again in early November and hope to improve my verbal score---at least reach 600.

I am looking at the Williams MA program, and PhD programs at Rutgers, Columbia, CUNY, and the University of Delaware. I'm also considering Yale and UMichigan but still on the fence. My area of concentration is in late 19th-century French painting, but I am hoping to study more about photography during the time period, since I am interested in the mechanics of vision and how artists interpret what they see on canvas. My work is also very much based in social and political history. Are you focusing on Photography?

As far as studying for the GRE, I am mainly focusing on vocab right now to improve my score since I feel this is my greatest weakness. I would suggest doing lots of practice questions! I took a Kaplan class, but I don't think it really helped me much, except made me more familiar with the test structure.

Good luck!

I used a Princeton Review book and it made a world of difference. Obviously, you'll want to learn as many vocab words as you can, but the book also teaches techniques for when (god forbid!) you don't know the words in the questions or don't remember how to compute with exponents, etc. It was really helpful and was only like $20.

Also, definitely aim for a 600+. Although it was mentioned numerous times that GRE scores don't necessarily make or break you, I think most programs consider a 600V or combined 1200 to be a "good enough" score...

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I have been using the Princeton Review book, the Kaplan course book, and a Kaplan build your vocab book. I think I have enough GRE books to build a library by now! Yeah, my goal is to reach above 600---I have on a practice test, but most of the time I'm in the mid-to-high 500s. Testing is very hard for me, but at least I'm trying!

Good luck to you all!

I used a Princeton Review book and it made a world of difference. Obviously, you'll want to learn as many vocab words as you can, but the book also teaches techniques for when (god forbid!) you don't know the words in the questions or don't remember how to compute with exponents, etc. It was really helpful and was only like $20.

Also, definitely aim for a 600+. Although it was mentioned numerous times that GRE scores don't necessarily make or break you, I think most programs consider a 600V or combined 1200 to be a "good enough" score...

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Thanks everyone for your help!

I took the GRE a few weeks ago and ended up with mid-low 600s V and low 700s M (Manet - I was shocked with the higher math too! but I think this was a result of the Princeton review class I took which was much more geared toward the math) and a 5 on the writing. I don't think I'm going to take it again because I'll never replicate that math and my verbal will likely only go up a few points - or down if I'm unlucky. Either way, my GRE was never going to make my application.

I am looking to study Photo mostly, but am having a hard time figuring out the best places to look as I think I'm going to stick to a masters rather than a PHD - I'm not looking to go into academia/museum so a PHD would likely be overkill, but I'm having a hard time finding scholars at non-PHD schools.

Good luck all!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I recently took the GRE and at first I felt pretty good about my 660v/730q since my scores started out so much lower on practice tests. However, I just got my essay scores and even though I felt good about it after the test, I only got a 4. Is a low writing score going to reflect really badly on my overall score? Do you think it's worth taking the test again if I'm applying to top tier schools?

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Hi Guys,

I am hoping that someone could give me some advice---I've taken the GRE twice and my scores are in the 500 range (both quant. and verbal). My scores the first time around were better and I managed a cumulative score of 1120. I am concerned as to whether I should take the test a 3rd time---I am especially worried about getting funding. I am not sure why I am so average on these tests---I took a kaplan class and I have been studying since August. It's just very difficult for me.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

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  • 1 year later...

This is probably the most helpful info I've seen regarding GRE scores, so I'd also like to know what anyone here thinks of my situation.

I'm applying to Williams College for their Graduate Program in Art History: I graduated with a BA in Art History in May with a 3.94 GPA and with University Honors since I completed the Honors Program contract, and I graduated in only 3 years instead of 4 and fit in a semester abroad on top of that. That said, my GRE scores were pretty lame. I got around a 155 for both verbal and quant on the last practice test I took, and the last time I actually took the test I got around a 150 on both (I had an anxiety attack in the middle of it - yikes). I plan on taking the test again in a couple of weeks, but I'm not sure if I'll even reach my goal of at least 160 for the verbal this time around. I guess I'm just a terrible test taker.

My main concern is whether or not a score around 155 would hold me back from getting accepted to Williams even if I back it up with my GPA, a good sample research paper, etc. I also have completed two internships at a couple of very reputable museums, one in Curatorial and one in Conservation. I am also a strong writer.

Does it sound like I be concerned about getting in? Or is my overall app good enough to get accepted but just not good enough to get a lot of financial aid? Would it come down to the recommendations as the tipping point?

Sorry for the rambling - any thoughts would be hugely appreciated! Thanks!

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Don't sweat the GREs, seriously -- My understanding (after having gone through the process successfully twice -- MA and PhD) is that they're all but a formality. Especially at Williams -- since your application isn't being vetted first by some big, anonymous graduate admissions office (art history at Williams is one of only two very small grad programs, apps go straight to the art history department). Much more important to blow them away with a killer writing sample and compelling personal statement.

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Hey.

I just took the GRE and read all your comments. I think my case is pretty bad...

I got 148 on both verbal and quantitative. I know this is very low but some of my deadlines are 1st of December so too late to retake it. Some are 1st January so still ok. But I really don't have time to study intensely in the next month, or if I do it will postpone the researches for my master's thesis... I am applying for phd programs in contemporary art history. mostly in big school (which I think now was a bad idea). My gpa is strong: 3.8, I have good letters and all the rest is good too I think. my toefl is 108, which is good but not incredible. Also, I am french so it explains my score partly. oh yeah and I had to take that test while we still don't have any power (I live in New York).

I guess my question is: should I retake it? I am not even sure that I can improve my score that much, I am just very bad with standardized test.

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  • 4 weeks later...

You could also read a novel. If in the next three weeks you read something like the Bronte's or some other 18th-early 20th century novel written in English you'd probably hit 90% of the vocab you need for the test and also become comfortable with old syntax. If it wasn't originally written in English, try to find an older translation. Example: I read older translations of Brother's Karamazov and Dante, because of the antiquated language the translators used.

I'd also recommend looking at a prep book - not for strategies but simply to become familiar with technical passages that come up in reading comp. This way you won't be intimidated when an article on "photopsypothalic recessive transmissions" or something comes up - this is especially helpful for humanities majors! We're trained as readers and writers, so its no help (and probably a poor indicator!) when our GRE verbal is sunk by a passage about physics or seismology.

Once you've got this stuff down, I'd go back an look at lists of vocabulary, because after you've trained yourself as a critical reader, the vocab can be *brushed up* from the annals of memory, as opposed to crammed and memorize. I nudged my practice scores up a few points to the 97th percentile by looking through a few sets of "most important 600 words" from different companies. If there's a Barnes and Noble nearby, go have a coffee a few times a week and skim through these lists. This alerts you to the words that are important, but I'd say knowing them in context will help much more. That's why I'd recommend the novel first of all. I didn't study very much but made a point of reading a lot of novels in the run up to the test. I literally started think about grad school two yers ago, so in the mean time read some real tomes - Moby Dick, Brother's K, East of Eden, etc...Also, READING FICTION IS FUN. Its like a philosophical movie in your mind!

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Oh, final point: the LSAT is loads harder than the GRE. I had some old study books lying around from back in the day when I considered that an option. If you can do well (missing say 3-4) on the reading sections from those, you'll def get a 165+ on the real GRE. That's just because law schools put so much weight on their test in admissions, so they make it much tougher. My idea in suggesting this is something like how pro athletes train. One might run 5 miles a day, even though the race is only 2 miles. That way when it comes time to run 2 miles it feels like a breeze.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am probably the unluckiest person when it comes to standardized tests, something always happens, (two toefl two crazy experiences, like I took the first one with the flue), so this new GRE, I forgot my passeport and got in 5min lates, spend the 30minutes before crying because they told me if my bf did not make it on time I would not take it that day (meaning not ever considering the deadlines). Anyway, improved my verbal to 154, and I talked to teachers it is apparently acceptable because I am french so that's cool :)

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  • 1 month later...

I am a foreigner, though I am graduating from an American university.  I got 159V, 153Q and 2.5AW.  I was very ill during my GRE test and decided to focus on the verbal only.  I figured that since I would have to submit a writing sample, SoP, and so forth, they would get a real idea of what my writing is like through those, so I only wrote two short paragraphs for each writing section.  I guess that "sort of" explains my very poor score, though not my bad decision.  Obviously, I regret now!  But it's too late to retake it.

 

Everything else in my application [i think] is very strong: perfect GPA, honors, fellowships, research awards, several languages, etc.

 

Should I count myself out of the competition?  By the way, I am applying to the top 10 Ph.D. in art history programs in the country.

 

thanks!

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i think the big problem with a low AW score as a non-native english speaker is that even if your sop, writing samples are amazing, they might suspect that someone else wrote them...

That is what I would assume too.

 

My GRE scores are generally pretty low with a AW of 3.5 and 4. But while visiting schools they told me that they look at it as "a foreigners' score", so they don't expect a 6. But anyway don't stress out too much about it, it is not at all the most important criteria in admission.

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After talking to two POIs and several professors at my college, they said that really the only score the adcoms care about is the verbal. Quant and AW only comes in for university fellowships. This might be, of course, university specific, but it goes to show that AW as many have said is far from the most important criteria.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm a German native and studied in Germany and these are my scores.

 

165 V / 155 Q / 5,5 AW for the GRE

119 for the TOEFL

 

I wouldn't be worried at all, if Columbia hadn't written "students should aim for 167 V, 160 Q, and 5 AW" on the website of the "Masters in Critical and Curatorial studies" program I applied to. 

I've since been wrecking my brain about whether or not "aim for" means that it's a cutoff?!

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You scores are very high and passable.

 

Columbia's numbers are inflated.  Admitted students don't have GREs that high, especially on the math section.  A 160 Q on the new scale is supposedly a 760, or near perfect score, on the old scale.  What art historian has ever scored that high?  Hopefully none, because that means an excessive number of hours spent studying for the most pointless part of the test.  Those hours could have otherwise been spent developing a component of the app that has real sway for your fate: getting to know some old profs, revising the SOP or rewording that one irksome sentence in your writing sample.

 

The numbers you actually need to be in the running at a top program are more realistically something like 165 V (~700 old scale), 148 Q (~600 old scale) and a 4 on the writing (but if you have a writing score below 5 make sure to have a strong writing sample to make up for it).  After that, its all gravy.  I spoke a few years ago to the coordinator of admissions at Stanford and she told me I shouldn't study for the math section because I'd be wasting my time.  They quite simply don't consider it.

 

Columbia just converted the numbers incorrectly before posting to the website.  Probably just a clerical error.  Don't let it get to you and just apply.

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The Educational Testing Service which administers the GRE has a new option called ScoreSelect which allows you to obtain your test results (from several tests) and then choose which scores you want them to send to the graduate school.  Look for this option when you register for the GRE.   

 

I looked at several GRE review books and found GRE for Dummies to be very clear.  It certainly presents information in a logical learning sequence.  I believe you can improve your score significantly with diligent review.  Keep at it.  

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Columbia just converted the numbers incorrectly before posting to the website.  Probably just a clerical error.  Don't let it get to you and just apply.

 

 

Dear Stu,

 

thanks for the encouraging words... I did apply, so we'll se what comes of it. :) It's actually somewhat interesting for me to read Americans rage about the uselessness of the GRE. Coming from an academic background that avoids standardization whereever possible (who knew Germans would ever be like that), it was actually somewhat refreshing for me to have to think in very narrow, goal oriented boxes... Weird right?

 

I write about art for a living right now, so I'm somewhat comfortable with my skills in that department, but the extremely narrow specifications fo the task required me to think very differently about writing.

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  • 8 months later...

Hi guys, 

 

I just took the GRE for the first time and my unofficial scores on the screen at the end of the test were 166 Verbal, 150 quant (no essay scores yet). (According to ETS, this is equivalent to 700 V, 630 Q in the old scoring system.) I'm currently a senior at UCLA with a 4.0 in the honors program, and I expect to have strong recommendations. Do you think my scores are okay, or should I try to raise my quant score? I, too, was a little put off by Columbia's desired 160 Q score... and hope ProspectStu is right about it being a clerical error! I've noticed that U of Chicago doesn't even mention math scores on their website so that makes me feel a bit better. I'm thinking of applying to PhD programs at Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Chicago, U Michigan. 

 

Any thoughts would be much appreciated! 

 

:) 

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