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deisdeis

Is my math score going to significantly hinder me?

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Hey folks,

I took the GRE Friday the 15th. I did alright on the Verbal (170) and, as predicted, poorly on the math (142). Percentiles aren't available yet, but I'm pretty sure that my math score will be in the bottom quartile. This is actually a very honest representation of me as a student: I genuinely suck at math.

I'm still waiting on the AW scores to come out, but I have (cautiously!) high hopes.

I'm a double major, I've done plenty of independent work, I've researched abroad and I've given papers at conferences. My GPA is 3.95. My end goal is to get a Ph.D in religious studies. I'm very interested in Brown's program, though I am also looking at Duke, U Chicago, Princeton, Berkeley and Harvard.

Basically, I know I'm a complete dunce in math, but I'm very strong in the areas that I actually intend to pursue. Do you think that my (admittedly horrendous) math score is going to hold me back too much in the application process? It's making me pretty nervous!

Thanks in advance. :)

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Alright on Verbal? Lol, that's the max score!! You did perfect on Verbal, how did you manage that?

We are in the same boat w math so don't feel bad lol.

Math is terrible on the test, just as is verbal but I am sure for what you want to do math is not imporant what so ever. Unless you want to do research?

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I definitely want to do research, but research on texts, not research involving populations or other types of quantitative data. (Or at least, not quantitative data that needs to be analyzed algebraically!) I agree with you - the math was killer! I'm so impressed with the scores people have been getting around here.

Are max scores on the verbal unusual? Maybe it will offset how completely heinous the math score is, haha!

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I definitely want to do research, but research on texts, not research involving populations or other types of quantitative data. (Or at least, not quantitative data that needs to be analyzed algebraically!) I agree with you - the math was killer! I'm so impressed with the scores people have been getting around here.

Are max scores on the verbal unusual? Maybe it will offset how completely heinous the math score is, haha!

Yes lol. At least for my field, psych, people get lower verbal than math scores about 80% of the time.

I think your high verbal wil def offset your low scores.

Do the programs you want to go to have cutt of scores for the gre?

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Here's what the folks over at Brown have to say with regard to the GRE:

"To gauge your qualifications and preparation, we pay particular attention to your recommendations, and your personal statement. We also give considerable weight to your prior academic work, and to GRE scores, particularly the verbal and analytical scores. Students who take the GRE's numerous times should be aware that we usually receive all GRE scores, not just the highest scores. While most students admitted to our Ph.D. program tend to have very strong verbal and analytical GRE scores (650 or higher; 5.0 or higher) we have no absolute minimums for either GRE scores or GPAs, and we consider each applicant's file on its total merits."

So I suppose that bodes well, as the math section isn't even mentioned. Then again, one never knows precisely how they evaluate a score as monumentally terrible as the one I managed to earn.

I'm not having a lot of success finding information on cutoff GRE scores for other programs I'm interested in. It's making me quite nervous!

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Update: percentiles are now out. For verbal, I'm in 99th; for AW, I'm in 96th; for math, I'm in 19th. Yikes!

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I'm pretty sure a religious studies anywhere, math is a non-factor. That said, you might consider studying the math packet freely available on the ETS site for a month or so, then, retaking if the math scores really bother you that much.

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Why not study up on math and retake the exam? Anybody who studies well can get into the 60-70th percentile range despite their natural aptitude IMO.

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I think my main problem with studying and taking the exam again is my unwillingness to lose my extremely high percentiles in the other two sections if the math isn't even going to be a factor. If the admissions folks in my programs aren't even looking at the math section, then it's not worth the money or the potential of losing even a point or two in the verbal or AW in order to gain a point or two in the math. Therefore, I'm really interested in knowing if anyone is aware of exactly how the math is considered by programs in which someone will be doing literally nothing more than arithmetic as part of their study.

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I also did remarkably poor on the quantitative section when I took the test last year. My percentile rank for the verbal section was slightly lower than yours and my AW score was not nearly as impressive, but it was enough for me to get accepted into my first-choice program with full-funding (a package that included a two-year fellowship). What follows is a bit of a cautionary tale. Late in the application process, one of my recommenders advised me to retake the test to raise my quantitative score if only to improve my chance of receiving a competitive fellowship. I retook the GRE and regretted wasting the money as I was only able to marginally increase my quantitative score, and I’m not even sure the scores were received by the schools before the deadline.

Bottom line: if you want to be considered for competitive fellowships at top-tier universities, then retaking the test to improve your quantitative score may be beneficial, esp. for the ivies. However, and this is important, I think your scores are strong enough that I wouldn’t even consider retaking the test until you’ve produced an exceptional writing sample and SOP. I did not apply to the same program as you, but I applied and was accepted into a humanities program at one of the schools on your list (not an ivy) and they made it clear during the admitted students’ reception that the GRE scores have very little weight overall. The keynote speaker was literally laughing at the notion that the GRE played any role in our acceptance, but then he started to back-pedal when his laugh became too derisive, because let's face it, scores are obviously somewhat important in funding decisions—that said, every university and every department’s standards are different. Sorry for the mixed advice, but that's the way it goes.

Edited by I'm a fact.

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Thanks for the great advice. It is good to hear that the GRE has little weight overall. So long as it shows the admissions folks that I am very strong in the areas they are interested in and gives them a metric by which to compare me to other students from different institutions, I'm happy. Hopefully my writing sample and SOP will be enough to offset the terrible quant score.

I emailed a potential advisor to ask about how they weight the scores in the admissions process, and this is what they had to say:

"We pay considerably more attention to the verbal and writing test scores than the math scores. But mainly, we look at the whole package--the letters, your essay, your transcript, etc--and not just focus on test scores."

So that seems to echo what you're saying - that it's a total package deal. In my whole package, the math thing is the one weak spot.

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I also did remarkably poor on the quantitative section when I took the test last year. My percentile rank for the verbal section was slightly lower than yours and my AW score was not nearly as impressive, but it was enough for me to get accepted into my first-choice program with full-funding (a package that included a two-year fellowship). What follows is a bit of a cautionary tale. Late in the application process, one of my recommenders advised me to retake the test to raise my quantitative score if only to improve my chance of receiving a competitive fellowship. I retook the GRE and regretted wasting the money as I was only able to marginally increase my quantitative score, and I’m not even sure the scores were received by the schools before the deadline.

Bottom line: if you want to be considered for competitive fellowships at top-tier universities, then retaking the test to improve your quantitative score may be beneficial, esp. for the ivies. However, and this is important, I think your scores are strong enough that I wouldn’t even consider retaking the test until you’ve produced an exceptional writing sample and SOP. I did not apply to the same program as you, but I applied and was accepted into a humanities program at one of the schools on your list (not an ivy) and they made it clear during the admitted students’ reception that the GRE scores have very little weight overall. The keynote speaker was literally laughing at the notion that the GRE played any role in our acceptance, but then he started to back-pedal when his laugh became too derisive, because let's face it, scores are obviously somewhat important in funding decisions—that said, every university and every department’s standards are different. Sorry for the mixed advice, but that's the way it goes.

Thanks for that! It is great to hear when certain schools basically shun the gres. I took a practice test from the ETS book last night in my GRE course and I pretty much flunked it so I have been feeling horrible since.

It is weird because I took a practice test from kaplan on Sunday and got a score of about 155 on both sections!!!

Hopefully some nice professor out there has mercy on my soul and pays attention my credentials rather than to this test.

Deisdeis, that's awesome that you emailed a potential advisor asking that! I've been too scared to do that lol!

I don't know if you know this, or if it has been mentioned but your letters of rec writers can also mention and reason for a low GRE score. That may help as well.

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I think my main problem with studying and taking the exam again is my unwillingness to lose my extremely high percentiles in the other two sections if the math isn't even going to be a factor. If the admissions folks in my programs aren't even looking at the math section, then it's not worth the money or the potential of losing even a point or two in the verbal or AW in order to gain a point or two in the math. Therefore, I'm really interested in knowing if anyone is aware of exactly how the math is considered by programs in which someone will be doing literally nothing more than arithmetic as part of their study.

I retook the GRE to boost my verbal score. I had a very high math score and was worried about losing ground on that if I focused on verbal. I actually boosted BOTH my verbal and math scores. And we're not talking a few points...we're talking like from 70th to 85th percentile in verbal (big difference IMO). I have a feeling that if you invested more time in studying for the math section your score would improve dramatically. And then you wouldn't be as nervous for applications. I'm just playing devil's advocate though. Good luck!

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IMO it's not worth being rejected and waiting for another cycle when you have plenty of time to retake the GRE and get an acceptable quant score. With a 170V it's unlikely you will do worse.. and most schools will look at your 170 score anyway.

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So when a school only states the necessary/minimum verbal scores for entrance into the program (I'm talking English Lit programs), it is the unspoken agreement that we can all throw up our hands and not even do the quantitative section? Because I would love that.

B) <-- sunglasses to hide the fact that I haven't done math since grade 12, and not well since.... who knows when.

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