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Let's talk about the GRE (yet again)


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Alright, now that everyone has, more or less, heard back from all their schools (at least acceptances), I am curious: What type of scores do you all have?

 

I currently have a verbal score somewhere around 75% and I am planning on retaking, several times if I have to, to get somewhere (at least) 85%+. 

 

I know there are all kinds of opinions floating around on the board as to the importance of the GRE, but at least in religion/theology,  it seems like you need a fairly competitive score.

 

That said, those of you who received interviews/offers, what scores will realistically get you in?? 

Edited by jdmhotness
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I was told time and time again that I had to hit that 700/166 mark (96th percentile) to be a truly competitive candidate. I only weighed in with a 164 (93rd percentile), and while my application season was not wildly successful, I made my way onto two wait lists. I was first on one list (I'm still on the other and have no idea where I stand) and was subsequently accepted with a fully funded offer. 

 

I feel like I totally lucked out. I think that my overall application was strong, but I knew that there was nothing exactly stellar about it, either. But if I remember correctly, you will have two M* degrees by the time you apply? I'm sure that will be a huge factor in the strength of your application. I would still shoot for the 90s, but obviously there are so many factors that go into admissions decisions. 

Edited by EndlessAshley
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I was told time and time again that I had to hit that 700/166 mark (96th percentile) to be a truly competitive candidate. I only weighed in with a 164 (93rd percentile), and while my application season was not wildly successful, I made my way onto two wait lists. I was first on one list (I'm still on the other and have no idea where I stand) and was subsequently accepted with a fully funded offer. 

 

I feel like I totally lucked out. I think that my overall application was strong, but I knew that there was nothing exactly stellar about it, either. But if I remember correctly, you will have two M* degrees by the time you apply? I'm sure that will be a huge factor in the strength of your application. I would still shoot for the 90s, but obviously there are so many factors that go into admissions decisions. 

 

Yeah, ill have four years of academic M* work (MTS/MA). Honestly I think my application will be very competitive excluding my GRE scores....the trouble is raising them to 90%+. It just sucks that I may not be able to get into one of my top choices (ND, Harvard) because of that damn test. But, we all gotta play the game, eh?  B)

 

Also, I may apply to some ThM's this fall. This would give me another year to try for another 'great' score. Though 5 years of academic M* work may be a bit overkill and admissions may wonder why the hell I did so many years (since I did theology/classics in UG).

Edited by jdmhotness
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My thought here relates to Harvard only, since theirs is the program I know best. Please feel free to disagree with me, but everyone that I have interacted with at HDS and Harvard GSAS has reiterated again and again that the GRE is the last and lowest item of interest for them. If you have solid training, propose an innovative and theoretically nuanced project (in line with POI interests), and have detailed and glowing letters of recommendation from respected (by your POI) scholars (and even better if you develop a meaningful relationship with one of your POIs beforehand), I don't see the absence of a superstar percentile (95, 99) affecting your odds of admission. Harvard is particularly incestuous in their admissions--somthing like 8 or 9 of the dozen or so admitted doctoral students last year came from within. I'd be willing to bet that some applicants with near perfect GREs and solid applications were turned down in favor of students with excellent projects (albeit weakers GREs) that have had 2-3 years to get to know their POIs.

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I suggest that there is no realistic score that will "get you in."  Aside from being a multi-million dollar industry for testing companies, the GRE is required precisely because it creates a simple and (legally) safe way for schools to accept and reject students.  That's why you'll rarely get a clear from anyone about the "right" score.  Schools use the GRE to manipulate entering cohorts to their liking.  If a program wants to accept a student with low GRE scores, they'll downplay the significance of the GRE.  On the other hand, if the same school does not want to accept a student with high scores, they'll say, "Well, your GRE wasn't quite high enough."  If you have perfect scores, and they don't want to accept you, they'll say something like "Your scores raised some concerning questions with the admissions committee," etc.  The point is that there is a clear reason why all the very competitive programs get really cagey when they're asked about the GRE.  They start walking and talking on banana peels.  

 

Also, if you ever want to have some fun with an admissions committee, ask them about the GRE scores of their own professors with European and Canadian doctorates, especially if such a professor asks you about your GRE score.  None of them took the GRE.  You'll get blank stares and uncomfortable glances, because they're not sure how to respond to the hypocrisy of requiring potential students to earn a certain score on a standardized exam that some of their own professors never took.  When they don't really respond to your question, sum up your point by saying something like, "So, your program hires professors who did not take the GRE, much less score higher than the 90th percentile, yet your program also requires that potential students must earn a certain score to be seriously considered for admission?"  

Edited by Perique69
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The sense I get is that most professors don't care about GRE scores - of course there will be the rare prof that thinks they are important. But it is the school of graduate studies and administrators keeping the gate of admission who the professors have to satisfy.

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I was told time and time again that I had to hit that 700/166 mark (96th percentile) to be a truly competitive candidate. I only weighed in with a 164 (93rd percentile), and while my application season was not wildly successful, I made my way onto two wait lists. I was first on one list (I'm still on the other and have no idea where I stand) and was subsequently accepted with a fully funded offer. 

 

I feel like I totally lucked out. I think that my overall application was strong, but I knew that there was nothing exactly stellar about it, either. But if I remember correctly, you will have two M* degrees by the time you apply? I'm sure that will be a huge factor in the strength of your application. I would still shoot for the 90s, but obviously there are so many factors that go into admissions decisions. 

Hey Ashley,

 

I think we applied to many of the same schools. If you wouldn't mind me asking, where did you get a the fully funded offer?

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As everyone has said, it varies widely. I think I posted this on the previous GRE thread, but I had a 161 verbal (89th) with a 5.0 on the analytic section and got into Northwestern (for 2012.) When I initially got the call from my POI, she wanted to congratulate me on my strong writing sample and mentioned that I came highly recommended, so I know that's how I got in. When I was researching programs in 2011, I spoke to Paul Jones and Kevin Hart from UVa, and they both stressed to me how important the GRE is--while also making sure I knew that they didn't like it (neither are American, so no surprise there), but some of their colleagues felt it was indispensable. UVa is a really complex department though (as many posts on other threads have attested), so I'm sure my GRE score wasn't the only thing that kept me out of there. The POIs I contacted from Marquette, Drew, Duke, and Syracuse all stressed different things.

 

Since the PhD application process is so incredibly political and complex, I think the best wisdom is not to blow off any of the components. Try to make every piece as competitive as you possibly can. You don't want to give a committee a tangible reason to reject your application--because even the most competitive applicant on paper could still be rejected from a program for any number of intangible reasons. 

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As everyone has said, it varies widely. I think I posted this on the previous GRE thread, but I had a 161 verbal (89th) with a 5.0 on the analytic section and got into Northwestern (for 2012.) When I initially got the call from my POI, she wanted to congratulate me on my strong writing sample and mentioned that I came highly recommended, so I know that's how I got in. When I was researching programs in 2011, I spoke to Paul Jones and Kevin Hart from UVa, and they both stressed to me how important the GRE is--while also making sure I knew that they didn't like it (neither are American, so no surprise there), but some of their colleagues felt it was indispensable. UVa is a really complex department though (as many posts on other threads have attested), so I'm sure my GRE score wasn't the only thing that kept me out of there. The POIs I contacted from Marquette, Drew, Duke, and Syracuse all stressed different things.

 

Since the PhD application process is so incredibly political and complex, I think the best wisdom is not to blow off any of the components. Try to make every piece as competitive as you possibly can. You don't want to give a committee a tangible reason to reject your application--because even the most competitive applicant on paper could still be rejected from a program for any number of intangible reasons. 

 

That's great advice, thank you!

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Despite all of what is stated above, no school has a "requirement" for GRE and they state it time and again. Most top tier schools don't look at apps under 90-91% and end up admitting 94-99%ers. This is in reference to PhD programs. Partially funded Master's programs of any type will admit anyone who seems like they can halfway "hack" it, because these students are a revenue source (in any academic department, this applies).

Edited by MBIGrad
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Most top tier schools don't look at apps under 90-91% and end up admitting 94-99%ers. 

 

That's just plain false. It varies from school to school, but I would imagine you would have to have a mediocre score for them to not bother looking at the rest of the app. 

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That's just plain false. It varies from school to school, but I would imagine you would have to have a mediocre score for them to not bother looking at the rest of the app. 

 

Good to hear. I was a bit concerned reading this....Actually looking at the 'average' scores listed for top programs I'm not terribly worried. Seems like 80%+ is 'good enough' (though not ideal).

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What about the analytic score? Just ignore it? Please God let some one say yes to that.

 

For what it is worth, I ended up near the 70% verbal, 30% analytic, 73% writing. I did not submit it to any of the masters programs to which I applied except UChicago (MDiv). Definitely irremarkable scores that would not hold up in 1st tier program applications unless other elements of my application outshined my scores adequately.

 

Just a side note: as a former education major one thing I heard just about every class period from teachers in my education department (which was the highest rated department in the state; this state has one of the highest education standards in the US), standardized testing (and most forms of testing for that matter) is a total farce. All these tests can reasonably do is inaccurately your ability to take that particular test. Same goes for the ACT, SAT, IQ score, etc. So don't take it as if it is a measure of you, our minds are thoroughly beyond what we can measure through these limited tests.

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The writing section is pretty worthless, I think. Without studying it seems like most folks get 4+. I got a 4.5 and I was pretty surprised. I figured I would get a 5+ with all the GRE words I dropped...though who knows?

 

I'm actually curious about the math, too. I have been working more on the math lately (but also memorizing words as I walk to class everyday). I know some programs associate math with language ability (though if they look at my transcript that should not be the case...). What did some of you score in doctoral programs? It's sad, but I'm not sure if I can go much beyond 50-60% without spending a ton of time on the damn thing...time is always the problem. And I'm going to Middlebury this summer (German) so I don't think I will have much time for that (nor do they technically allow you to read non-German materials...)

 

thoughts?

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This is a constant point of conversation, but I have to say that the math section is pretty worthless for religion/divinity. I say this because I'm actually pretty solid in Math, and it didn't seem to do too much for me, really. I was usually 5% below most of my real competitors on verbal, but 20+% better in Math, and this did not usually offset in my two application rounds, even though I had a higher "combined" score.

Honestly, get to a point where you think you can get in the 60% range on math, and then forget about it in your studying. Focus on verbal, focus on verbal, focus on verbal.

And very jealous of you doing Middlebury! I got into the intensive German summer program a few years ago, but ended up getting married instead. Glad I got married, I guess, but still dying to go through a program like that.

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This is a constant point of conversation, but I have to say that the math section is pretty worthless for religion/divinity. I say this because I'm actually pretty solid in Math, and it didn't seem to do too much for me, really. I was usually 5% below most of my real competitors on verbal, but 20+% better in Math, and this did not usually offset in my two application rounds, even though I had a higher "combined" score.

Honestly, get to a point where you think you can get in the 60% range on math, and then forget about it in your studying. Focus on verbal, focus on verbal, focus on verbal.

And very jealous of you doing Middlebury! I got into the intensive German summer program a few years ago, but ended up getting married instead. Glad I got married, I guess, but still dying to go through a program like that.

 

Thanks mate. Gives me some sense of relief...I'm going to start doing reading comp stuff now. And yeah, I am pretty stoked (scared?) about Middlebury's program. It should move my German along nicely!

 

cheers

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