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It's not all about the GRE, I'm proof!!!


stefunny

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Ok let me start by saying I am not an idiot lol, I promise. I have a great GPA, had awesome references, and a few impressive internships on my resume. However, the GRE murdered me. I got a 700Q and a 380V, yes, don't laugh, and no I'm not an international student, it was just a really bad day. On all my practice tests including powerprep I was scoring in the 600s in Verbal but that day something came over me and I just bombed it. When I saw my score for the first time I could not believe it and then I cried for a week. I thought my life was over, I would never get into a grad school. Well guess what?! Not only did I get into my safe school Florida State University but I also got into American University and NYU! I know that might not be impressive to those of you who are heading to Harvard or Yale but this just goes to show you can get into a good school without perfect GRE scores as long as you have other things going for you. I hope my story helps some of you out there :)

*I also want to add I'm not someone who has had a ton of work experience, I'm only 20, straight out of undergrad*

Edited by stefunny
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This forum although very helpful scared me A LOT!!! So many people stating how important GRE scores are and how without a high score your application would get thrown in the trash. Not true people, not true.

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I'm glad you posted this!! I have a very similar story. 650 q, 380v--600v on all the powerprep and all imaginable practice tests. I got into 7 of the 8 schools I applied to despite my so-so GPA from undergrade. When I went in to meet the faculty at the school I decided to attend, they said the deal breaker was my personal statement, as well as my letters of recommendation!

Don't be bummed out by GRE scores,everyone! Stay positive! :rolleyes:

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This forum although very helpful scared me A LOT!!! So many people stating how important GRE scores are and how without a high score your application would get thrown in the trash. Not true people, not true.

I know what you mean! After not doing as well as I had expected given my practice test scores, I went on a forum rampage to read all threads relating to the GRE to find out how screwed I am with my mediocre score; most of them made me hyperventilate, lol. Thank you for posting. I've since calmed down and have a lot of other things going for me, so this post has given me hope. :)

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This kind of advice is relatively meaningless without specifying a discipline. In Political Science, it's fairly common knowledge that the top programs use the GRE as a filtering mechanism. Throwing out all the applications with a V and Q below 700 is an easy way to make your originally huge pool of applicants a bit more manageable.

Even beyond that, it varies widely by subfield and the nature of your research. The standard for the Q section is quite different for those studying theory in a more philosophical way compared to those who do formal theory.

That said, it's certainly not all about the GRE. Again, in Political Science, the GRE is generally just a filtering mechanism. It keeps people from getting in, it is not sufficient to warrant admission.

However, I'm very excited for your success. I only intend to communicate that in some disciplines and their subfields, poor performance on the GRE very well could preclude admission at top programs.

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That filtering technique is dependent on the institutional as well. GRE's are used as a filter at top schools usually. You won't find mid-level PhD programs using it as a filter. They usually take a holistic approach. This is my experience in sociology, anyway.

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I must say I totally disagree with the last comment, sorry Roll Right, no offense :)

From what I know from many graduate students already attending a PhD in Computer Science in the top 30 universities, it is pretty much the absolute contrary:

For every university, the TRUE point is RESEARCH. It's what a PhD is about, right ?

- In CS, #1 universities like CMU consider research experience has an absolute requirement, and BTW the first ( the only ?) criteria of selection.

- University below the top 10 will start to check the GRE if you come from an unknown school, but only AFTER the statement of purpose, the recommendations letters and the transcript.

- Lower rank universities are not so appealing for "good graduate applicants" (meaning applicants with research experience), so they receive application from candidates from more unknown universities, with no research experience. So they use the GRE as their main criteria because of the need to base their decision on something common to every applicant.

stefunny is the perfect example of all of this.

This is not what I know from my "experience", I am just applying for the first time for next fall. But it is what Dr. Mor Harchol-Balter from CMU (in those times, it was in 2004) say in this advice-document : http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf , so I consider this good advices coming from someone who is part of the admission process at CMU.

But of course, applicant good enough to have research experience in top-level schools usually don't have problems to get perfect GRE scores...

In my case, I have no research experience, I am an international and I come from an unknown university... I am applying in universities between the top 20 and top 50, so according to what I said, if it is not impossible, it sounds pretty bad from the very beginning, so I had to sharpen my GRE scores (along with a LOOONG time working on the statement and getting pretty good recommendation letters from my profs) in order to at least balance my application and make me look like an average applicant.

But I agree with Tufnell, what apply for Computer Science can be the opposite for History ...

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This kind of advice is relatively meaningless without specifying a discipline. In Political Science, it's fairly common knowledge that the top programs use the GRE as a filtering mechanism. Throwing out all the applications with a V and Q below 700 is an easy way to make your originally huge pool of applicants a bit more manageable.

Even beyond that, it varies widely by subfield and the nature of your research. The standard for the Q section is quite different for those studying theory in a more philosophical way compared to those who do formal theory.

That said, it's certainly not all about the GRE. Again, in Political Science, the GRE is generally just a filtering mechanism. It keeps people from getting in, it is not sufficient to warrant admission.

However, I'm very excited for your success. I only intend to communicate that in some disciplines and their subfields, poor performance on the GRE very well could preclude admission at top programs.

It is a filtering mechanism, but sometimes it's used to decide who gets fellowships as opposed to who gets in. I know at Catholic University of America, for their Politics PhD program, they have a GRE cut-off for fellowships but not for admission into the program. True that it's not a tip-top program but it is still rated pretty well when it comes to poli-sci programs.

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First let me say congrats. Second your story did help. Last, thank you.

Ok let me start by saying I am not an idiot lol, I promise. I have a great GPA, had awesome references, and a few impressive internships on my resume. However, the GRE murdered me. I got a 700Q and a 380V, yes, don't laugh, and no I'm not an international student, it was just a really bad day. On all my practice tests including powerprep I was scoring in the 600s in Verbal but that day something came over me and I just bombed it. When I saw my score for the first time I could not believe it and then I cried for a week. I thought my life was over, I would never get into a grad school. Well guess what?! Not only did I get into my safe school Florida State University but I also got into American University and NYU! I know that might not be impressive to those of you who are heading to Harvard or Yale but this just goes to show you can get into a good school without perfect GRE scores as long as you have other things going for you. I hope my story helps some of you out there :)

*I also want to add I'm not someone who has had a ton of work experience, I'm only 20, straight out of undergrad*

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This may just be attributed to WHERE you bomb the GRE as well: I know that for many PhD programs (probably not all, but most), the quant part is much more important than the verbal because let's face it -- the verbal is really just a combination of luck and who can memorize the most vocab words. So, maybe some programs just don't care how you do on verbal because they realize that memorizing words is not the best gauge of who will succeed in grad school. Just an idea, but congrats nonetheless!!! :)

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Even though I use GMAT, my test results were terrible as well. I hope what has happened on you will happen again on my application!:rolleyes:

Yes, I have done well with all other aspects but GMAT. It now seems that mid-low ranked schools could be flexible in their admission decisions.

Edited by wendychina
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I'm actually applying for International Development/Global Affairs/International Affairs/MSFS/MAAS programs as well at American, NYU, New School, and Georgetown. I scored a 450 V and 470 Q...yea not so good. I took it again, and I got the same thing!! ohmy.gif

Now the rest of my application is very competitive: coming out of undergrad

Overall 3.45 GPA Major GPA 3.75

BS Internationals Studies and BA Political Science awarded in May 2011

minors French and Leadership

2 internships - One with the U.S. State Department abroad

fluent in Spanish/French and beginner fluency in Arabic

a lot of volunteer/leadership activities

several honor societies

great letters of recommendation

studied abroad in France over the summer

lots of traveling to the Dominican Republic

what are my chances?!

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  • 1 month later...

This may just be attributed to WHERE you bomb the GRE as well: I know that for many PhD programs (probably not all, but most), the quant part is much more important than the verbal because let's face it -- the verbal is really just a combination of luck and who can memorize the most vocab words. So, maybe some programs just don't care how you do on verbal because they realize that memorizing words is not the best gauge of who will succeed in grad school. Just an idea, but congrats nonetheless!!! :)

This is preposterous advice for anyone applying to anything in the humanities. It's just bad advice. For any field in which you will be doing work that does not involve intensive math skills (most of the humanities), the quantitative section of the GRE is just a sort of "retard check" - they want to make sure that you have the basic cognitive and study skills needed not to bomb the math section - as long as you perform decently on it, (500+ I would say) then it's simply glossed over. A good score surely won't hurt you, but is not that important. Whereas a good verbal score DOES NOT INDICATE THAT YOU MEMORIZED VOCAB LISTS! That is ridiculous. No one who is trying to prepare for the GRE by memorizing lists of words in the last months before the test is going to boost their score by this method by more than 50 pts. And while luck plays some role, making the verbal portion of the test out to be a crap shoot is not only illogical (and would defeat the point of any standardized test, period), it also is insulting to everyone who did well on the verbal. You want to do well on the verbal? Start reading books at as young an age as possible, and keep reading them your life until you take the test! Read the canon (Especially Dickens)! That Is EXACTLY what the verbal section is testing you on - how many works of canonical literature you have read in your life, because if you have been an avid reader your whole life, you will do well on the test. If not, then...maybe (probably) not. This is why the verbal section matters - because it shows the faculty that you must be able to write, since you damned obviously know how to read (you know what I mean).

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In speech-language pathology, most schools just want you to punch the 1000 point line. Some of the more competitive and highly ranked schools might even ask for 1100, which I don't consider to be outrageously high or difficult for anyone to achieve with studying. Even still, people with below 1000 get accepted and people with way above 1000 get rejected.

In this field, at least, it's about WAY more than GRE scores. I even had a professor on the admissions committee of the department at my school tell me that the GRE takes last priority in his consideration of applicants. Personal statements and recs came first for him. Everyone's different and every school's different and every field is different.

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This is preposterous advice for anyone applying to anything in the humanities. It's just bad advice. For any field in which you will be doing work that does not involve intensive math skills (most of the humanities), the quantitative section of the GRE is just a sort of "retard check" - they want to make sure that you have the basic cognitive and study skills needed not to bomb the math section - as long as you perform decently on it, (500+ I would say) then it's simply glossed over. A good score surely won't hurt you, but is not that important. Whereas a good verbal score DOES NOT INDICATE THAT YOU MEMORIZED VOCAB LISTS! That is ridiculous. No one who is trying to prepare for the GRE by memorizing lists of words in the last months before the test is going to boost their score by this method by more than 50 pts. And while luck plays some role, making the verbal portion of the test out to be a crap shoot is not only illogical (and would defeat the point of any standardized test, period), it also is insulting to everyone who did well on the verbal. You want to do well on the verbal? Start reading books at as young an age as possible, and keep reading them your life until you take the test! Read the canon (Especially Dickens)! That Is EXACTLY what the verbal section is testing you on - how many works of canonical literature you have read in your life, because if you have been an avid reader your whole life, you will do well on the test. If not, then...maybe (probably) not. This is why the verbal section matters - because it shows the faculty that you must be able to write, since you damned obviously know how to read (you know what I mean).

I think you have a point but I'm not sure I totally agree with you. Yes you will do significantly better without studying if you have been an avid reader your whole life because you learned the vocabulary in the context of those books. The vocab used in writing is different than in speech so an avid reader would have come across the words found on the verbal section of the GRE. However, if you do not have the vocabulary knowledge from reading you can study and learn the definitions of the words. The test can be learned. There is a reason its a multimillion dollar industry i.e. Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.

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Ok let me start by saying I am not an idiot lol, I promise. I have a great GPA, had awesome references, and a few impressive internships on my resume. However, the GRE murdered me. I got a 700Q and a 380V, yes, don't laugh, and no I'm not an international student, it was just a really bad day. On all my practice tests including powerprep I was scoring in the 600s in Verbal but that day something came over me and I just bombed it. When I saw my score for the first time I could not believe it and then I cried for a week. I thought my life was over, I would never get into a grad school. Well guess what?! Not only did I get into my safe school Florida State University but I also got into American University and NYU! I know that might not be impressive to those of you who are heading to Harvard or Yale but this just goes to show you can get into a good school without perfect GRE scores as long as you have other things going for you. I hope my story helps some of you out there :)

*I also want to add I'm not someone who has had a ton of work experience, I'm only 20, straight out of undergrad*

I feel ya. I can beat that though. My total score doesn't add up to yours ( not by a long shot) and I got into a PhD program. The math section was my undoing. I HATE math and never did well in it. I took the GRE three times and my score got lower each time. Fortunately I am in a field where math is like a third cousin (you think about them sometimes, but you NEVER see them). I like to think my letters of rec about my sparkling personality and stand -up guyish demeanor got me into my program.

Also, I just completed my taking class portion of the program with a 4.0 GPA. GRE.. Pshhh!

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This is preposterous advice for anyone applying to anything in the humanities. It's just bad advice. For any field in which you will be doing work that does not involve intensive math skills (most of the humanities), the quantitative section of the GRE is just a sort of "retard check" - they want to make sure that you have the basic cognitive and study skills needed not to bomb the math section - as long as you perform decently on it, (500+ I would say) then it's simply glossed over. A good score surely won't hurt you, but is not that important. Whereas a good verbal score DOES NOT INDICATE THAT YOU MEMORIZED VOCAB LISTS! That is ridiculous. No one who is trying to prepare for the GRE by memorizing lists of words in the last months before the test is going to boost their score by this method by more than 50 pts. And while luck plays some role, making the verbal portion of the test out to be a crap shoot is not only illogical (and would defeat the point of any standardized test, period), it also is insulting to everyone who did well on the verbal. You want to do well on the verbal? Start reading books at as young an age as possible, and keep reading them your life until you take the test! Read the canon (Especially Dickens)! That Is EXACTLY what the verbal section is testing you on - how many works of canonical literature you have read in your life, because if you have been an avid reader your whole life, you will do well on the test. If not, then...maybe (probably) not. This is why the verbal section matters - because it shows the faculty that you must be able to write, since you damned obviously know how to read (you know what I mean).

i mean... some of what you say is true. but i will just say, i don't read much, i studied with a book of flashcards from one of the major test taking companies, and i got an 800 on the verbal. some of my studying came a few months before the test, but because of a work situation, most of it came in the last week before. i DO have a solid vocabulary, what i do read IS at a decent level, but i am not a voracious reader of the 'canon.' i just studied for it, hard. and i got a little lucky. it's possible.

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This is preposterous advice for anyone applying to anything in the humanities. It's just bad advice. For any field in which you will be doing work that does not involve intensive math skills (most of the humanities), the quantitative section of the GRE is just a sort of "retard check" - they want to make sure that you have the basic cognitive and study skills needed not to bomb the math section - as long as you perform decently on it, (500+ I would say) then it's simply glossed over. A good score surely won't hurt you, but is not that important. Whereas a good verbal score DOES NOT INDICATE THAT YOU MEMORIZED VOCAB LISTS! That is ridiculous. No one who is trying to prepare for the GRE by memorizing lists of words in the last months before the test is going to boost their score by this method by more than 50 pts. And while luck plays some role, making the verbal portion of the test out to be a crap shoot is not only illogical (and would defeat the point of any standardized test, period), it also is insulting to everyone who did well on the verbal. You want to do well on the verbal? Start reading books at as young an age as possible, and keep reading them your life until you take the test! Read the canon (Especially Dickens)! That Is EXACTLY what the verbal section is testing you on - how many works of canonical literature you have read in your life, because if you have been an avid reader your whole life, you will do well on the test. If not, then...maybe (probably) not. This is why the verbal section matters - because it shows the faculty that you must be able to write, since you damned obviously know how to read (you know what I mean).

Ok I have to say I am an international student, and I had not seen most (80% up) of the words in the GRE in my life before I encountered this test. I got 350 on my first try. It is "fun" to guess the relationship between two words that could mean anything in the world. I read plenty of books, Dickens what not but hey it was in my native language. (I bet not many people could beat me in vocabulary there....) .. So there you go. I got the 3000 words' list and I sat down and memorized as much as I could. I got 650 verbal, which is not brilliant but good enough to get me through the initial tresholds. So yes, you can just memorize a huge list of words that you will never use and get a passing mark on the GRE. I bet reading helps but what the test really tests is your ability to concentrate, do memorization for an extended period of time and to perform under stress imho.

Edited by kalapocska
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No one who is trying to prepare for the GRE by memorizing lists of words in the last months before the test is going to boost their score by this method by more than 50 pts. And while luck plays some role, making the verbal portion of the test out to be a crap shoot is not only illogical (and would defeat the point of any standardized test, period), it also is insulting to everyone who did well on the verbal.

I scored 480-490 on my first few practise tests. I memorised 2200+ words that were totally new to me in two months and ended up with a 740 verbal score. Just sayin!

I also think i've retained about 40% of my new vocabularly. One of my (science) programs at Berkeley plainly said your GRE+GPA is 50% of your decision...for local and international students.

Edited by surprisecake
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What about Analytical Writing? Does programs care about your AW ?

This may just be attributed to WHERE you bomb the GRE as well: I know that for many PhD programs (probably not all, but most), the quant part is much more important than the verbal because let's face it -- the verbal is really just a combination of luck and who can memorize the most vocab words. So, maybe some programs just don't care how you do on verbal because they realize that memorizing words is not the best gauge of who will succeed in grad school. Just an idea, but congrats nonetheless!!! :)

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There are those strong on the verbal side who "got an 800 and barely studied" and therefore think everyone can memorize some vocab the night before and ace it. There are those on the flipside who are great at math and got a top 3% score without studying, but struggled on the verbal. Some (seemingly many on the forums) magically get 800 on both. Chances are, each of those folks are applying to programs that favor their strengths. To say that one over the other is easier for everyone is silly. To say that one matters more across all, even most, disciplines is downright ig'nant.

:)

I personally would not ever use these forums as a reliable indicator of how much GRE matters. One person's anecdote is hardly "proof".

Edited by Gunner24
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What about Analytical Writing? Does programs care about your AW ?

I bombed the AW (3.5) but did pretty well on V & Q. I didn't think it was something I needed to study for. I took the chance and kept the score, and I'm doing pretty well on the acceptances front so far.

I'm sure it depends on the program and the school.

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