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Framing low/high GRE scores

Brian Stevens

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I am planning on applying to Berkeley ERG, Stanford GSB, and Harvard Business School. I have some questions regarding how I should properly frame my GRE testing history.

I've taken the GRE twice. The first time I got 540v, 680q, 4.5awa. Three months later, I took the test again and got 720v, 800q, 4.0awa. I am really happy about the improvement I've been able to make.

First, how should I frame this low awa score? Since taking the test, I've realized I missed some very bizarre requirements for how to write a proper response to their prompts to get a decent score. For instance, at work, pithy writing is hailed. In the awa, they want long verbose sentences.

I've published a number of papers on energy. Do you think that and a well written personal statement can help overcome this low awa score? Also, do you think the 4.5 on my first taking will be beneficial to me?

Second, I had mono (not realizing it) when I took the test the first time. It's one of those things where I got reeeeeally sick, and by the time I took the test I was only kind of sick. In my mind, because of the relative level of sickness, I thought I was better and was willing to take the test. It wasn't until two weeks later that my doctor diagnosed me with mono. Is that worth mentioning, or should I just roll with my low first score? I definitely have an official medical diagnosis to back up my claim.

Thank you for any help on this. I know it's such a specific question, and there is no right answer. It's just good to get input from others.

Best regards

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It's my opinion that adcoms are well aware of how capricious an experience it is taking the GRE, and would realize (looking at the difference between your score sets) that you'd simply had a bad day the first time 'round. I personally wouldn't waste space in my SoP explaining the low scores, but if you choose to do so, a drive-by sentence should suffice ("I feel that my second GRE scores better reflect my potential for graduate work, since I took the exam the first time around while ill").

Others might disagree, but I also think that you probably don't need to explain your analytical writing scores; as you said, your own writing sample (if applicable in your field?) and SoP will better demonstrate your writing skills, and the analytical writing portion is more a measure of meeting certain expectations of the score readers (like your example of sentence style) than actual writing ability.

I think in general, I'm of the opinion that an SoP should do as little "explaining away the bad stuff" as possible. You want your SoP to be a positive document that talks about your potential and demonstrates your fit; taking time to explain things like GRE scores has the potential to drag it down.

Edited by runonsentence
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