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Low GRE score and High GPA


Bacchae

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Hi all,

I'm an international student who came to the US in 2009. I got a full scholarship from the school I'm studying now and I'm almost done with the program. I just submitted my applications to PhD programs in Religious studies in 4 different schools (Harvard, Yale, Emory, Boston Univ.). My GRE score is pretty low (V-390, Q-420, and AW-4). I have had 2 master degrees from Asia, and currently I'm working on one more master degree in a leading school in my field in California. My GPA was 3.97 in my previous masters (both with honor summa cum laude), and 3.92 in my current MA program. I am preparing a chapter for a forthcoming book and I will be presenting a paper in an academic conference this March. My recommendations should be very strong. However, this low GRE score has troubled me a lot and I do not have strong confidence in my applications.

Do I have a chance to get into those schools? Thank you.

Edited by NyongAmbon
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These forums are all about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, so I hate to say anything negative about your chances. I'm no fan of the GRE nor a great believer in the test's ability to predict future success at graduate school. But, a combined 810 is a very poor score. Being that it is a religious studies department, your verbal is going to have more of an influence than your quantitative score. The average verbal GRE score for those admitted to the schools that you've applied for are as follows:

Boston University: 540.

Harvard: 578.

Yale: 582.

Emory does not publish an average of GRE scores for admitted students but does post a range of scores of students that were admitted (500-800V), so you can take from this that your scores will probably exclude you from Emory.

Unfortunately, the GRE 50th percentile mark on the verbal was 456, which means you scored in the bottom half of those who took the test. And even though you are applying for a religious studies program, it is only fair to warn you that even if your verbal score was sound, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can neglect your quantitative score. Your quantitative score alone is low enough to exclude you from every program that you applied for. I had a friend who learned this the hard way who tried to enter Ancient Near Eastern studies with a Q<400 and found out that it excluded him from 5 out of the 6 programs that he applied for. The truth is few departments want a PhD candidate that can't read a graph. For most PhD programs, you really need a combined score in at least the 1200s. But for high demand programs like what you've applied for, you will probably need at least 1350.

It's too late for you to do anything about it now. So, just relax until the results come in. If you don't get in anywhere, take the GRE again. But give yourself plenty of time to not only to study and take the test once but twice. A score that is an improvement of over 200 points can trigger ETS' anti-cheating mechanisms, forcing you to have to write it a third time.

Best of luck...

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GRE aside, from what I've heard (and read and seen), master's GPA is usually, if not always, higher than undergraduate GPA. One of the grad students in my lab even goes so far to say that straight A's in a Master's program is normal, B's are rarely given. So, not to freak you out even more, but your summa cum laude, though impressive, may be more common than you think (again, in graduate school). Also, if you weren't sure about your GRE, why did you only apply to what seems to be the top 4 schools? I'm not in your field, so I'm only judging by the name of the institution. Good luck.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I have a 3.9 GPA and an 1180 composite GRE. I am looking at MA programs for Latin American Studies at UT Austin, NYU, Georgetown, etc., but I am worried my GRE score will pull me down. I hope more weight is given to GPA...

I just finished a double MA in Spanish and French with a GRE score of: 490v 580q 6.0aw. When I originally applied, I applied to two MAs (got into both, ended up going to the school that gave me full funding and TAship), and one PhD (ivy league), but was rejected. I honestly think that I was rejected at the PhD school not only for GRE but for a VERY unfocused SoP (it was literally all over the place, I just reread it..eek) as well as a total lack of teaching experience. Now, as I wait to hear back from PhD programs in Spanish for Fall 2011 admissions, I think that my GRE is MUCH less important (I didn't retake it!) as I have improved everything else 10 fold (I have several semesters of teaching experience now, international exposure as a travel assistant on undergrad study abroad programs, was awarded for a paper and also received a summer travel grant to Paris, much mroe focused research interests, et.c). This theory of mine was just proven today as I got into the number 1 ranked Spanish program in the country (2010 nrc rankings) at a 'public ivy league' school. I haven't heard back from the other 3 schools I applied to yet, but my point is that all isn't lost if you have a lower than avg. GRE (my verbal is terrible for a PhD in humanities, although there's quite a disparity considering I got a 6.0 on aw..). Some will try to tell you that all is lost if you have a GRE score like yours or mine, but I really think you're fine if the rest of your application package looks solid - particularly for MA programs where I think GRE might be less important (NYU in Madrid was one of the schools I got into the first time around, by the way ;) So I did go through 2.5 years of a double MA, but clearly it was what my PhD applications needed because this time around I feel a lot more confident overall.

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I think the issue would be if those schools have cut off points and then your application will not be reviewed.

Can I ask why you did 3 master's degrees? Are the first two concurrent?

I also will echo the advice that is already posted that there is not much you can do about it now since your applications are submitted. At this point, I would hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. As a second time applicant myself, there is no shame in having to apply again to PhD programs. You may want to look into other programs as well and expand you list a bit if these are all top tier programs.

I wish you the best of luck!

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GRE aside, from what I've heard (and read and seen), master's GPA is usually, if not always, higher than undergraduate GPA. One of the grad students in my lab even goes so far to say that straight A's in a Master's program is normal, B's are rarely given. So, not to freak you out even more, but your summa cum laude, though impressive, may be more common than you think (again, in graduate school). Also, if you weren't sure about your GRE, why did you only apply to what seems to be the top 4 schools? I'm not in your field, so I'm only judging by the name of the institution. Good luck.

That might be normal in the US - but in many countries it isn't. Where I come from, As are possible, but not at all normal. Bs are good and Cs are normal for a master's student. Maybe it's the same in Asia.

Anyways, I hope adcoms know about this difference and take it into consideration when seeing a GPA from another country.

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Guys, I just got a great news today. I have been admitted to a decent PhD program. I'm really excited, but still waiting for the news about funding though. I think I will get at least full tuition scholarship. It is either the school does not take GRE seriously or my GPA helps to show my academic performance that gets me in, I really have no idea. I'm happy... :-)

BTW, beside having published some articles, I also have studied New Testament Greek for many years, Classical Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Sahidic Coptic, and German. So, my language preparation is not bad at all.

Edited by Bacchae
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Hi all,

I'm an international student who came to the US in 2009. I got a full scholarship from the school I'm studying now and I'm almost done with the program. I just submitted my applications to PhD programs in Religious studies in 4 different schools (Harvard, Yale, Emory, Boston Univ.). My GRE score is pretty low (V-390, Q-420, and AW-4). I have had 2 master degrees from Asia, and currently I'm working on one more master degree in a leading school in my field in California. My GPA was 3.97 in my previous masters (both with honor summa cum laude), and 3.92 in my current MA program. I am preparing a chapter for a forthcoming book and I will be presenting a paper in an academic conference this March. My recommendations should be very strong. However, this low GRE score has troubled me a lot and I do not have strong confidence in my applications.

Do I have a chance to get into those schools? Thank you.

Hey brother. I believe that your excellent GPA for your two graduate degress will aid greatly in the application process. However, not to be the harbinger of bad news, I know that Boston University explicitly says that they require a 1300 just to apply to their PhD programs in Religion (one reason why I did not apply there myself!). Harvard and Yale are very selective, but I am not positive that they have a hard GRE cut off for admissions. If nothing turns up this time then do not be dismayed. Consider broadening your options, and [possibly] retaking your GRE after some tutoring to improve your chances. Again, the fact that you have two graduate degrees, and you are publishing puts you in the game. I wish you the best of luck!!

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Guys, I just got a great news today. I have been admitted to a decent PhD program. I'm really excited, but still waiting for the news about funding though. I think I will get at least full tuition scholarship. It is either the school does not take GRE seriously or my GPA helps to show my academic performance that gets me in, I really have no idea. I'm happy... :-)

BTW, beside having published some articles, I also have studied New Testament Greek for many years, Classical Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Sahidic Coptic, and German. So, my language preparation is not bad at all.

Awesome, congratulations!!! Care to tell which school? :)

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Awesome, congratulations!!! Care to tell which school? :)

I heard this news from my conversation with the professor of this school. The official letter is on its way to my address. I probably should wait until it is official first before sharing it to the public.

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