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Top student with low GRE score?


Alexrey
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Okay a quick bit of background for context before I get onto what's worrying me.

 

I'm a mathematics graduate from a good university in South Africa, where I graduated top of my class in my 3rd and 4th years (we graduate after 3 years and do an additional honours year before we can continue with master's study) and was also fortunate enough to graduate top of the science faculty for my 4th year as well. Currently I'm working as an analyst for a financial firm in London but I'm looking to try and get into some good aerospace engineering programs for 2015, such as Stanford, Purdue, Princeton and Boulder Colorado. There's one problem: I'm completely petrified about having to get a very high score for the GRE!

 

Although it may look on paper that I should be able to ace the GRE and am some sort of gifted student, I'm not; whenever someone says "wow you must be really smart" I tell them that I just work hard, because that's exactly what I do and I honestly don't feel smart and never have felt smart. But all this talk of top schools requiring near perfect GRE scores has really got me scared. I'm not the sort of person who usually worries too much about things, but for some reason thinking about the GRE has worked me up so much that I wake up in the morning with the most horrible burning skin sensation (which I've read is to do with excess adrenaline due to an over-reactive "fight or flight" response). I think it may be that since the GRE is supposed to measure intelligence, and I don't feel naturally intelligent, this implies I'll do badly (even though I'm studying my arse off and I've been told repeatedly that the GRE can be studied for).

 

So, if worst comes to worst and I somehow flunk the GRE, but have very good university grades, and great SOP and good references, but a horrible GRE score, will top schools throw my application on the rejection pile or will they still consider me for entrance? 

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There are some programs out there which will use GRE as an initial screening tool, but not all of them do this and graduate programs try to take a holistic approach to candidates. Also, a good GRE score is lower than what you may think it is, in all reality getting above 75th percentile puts you in very good shape.

 

Also, for an engineering program the primary GRE score you need to be concerned about is quantitative. Analytical writing means nothing. Verbal is something where you mostly just don't want to score low.

 

You can also see about if the websites for the different universities have made public the GRE scores of the accepted students in the previous years. You can also check out the results search on this website and see what different schools have accepted from previous students.

Edited by Vene
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you will need to likely score ~160 on Q to get past many top screen process OR have a professor pull you application before the screening process. 

 

That being said, smaller departments tend to care less about GRE screening, and some small departments are very high ranked. I think you will be OK, but you should try and get to score a 310 total. If you score under 300, it is very likely you will be rejected. 

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You can train yourself to do well on the GRE. I used magoosh and majorly increased my scores. Memorize vocab, practice the math and you will be just fine. You said that you know how to work hard and let this result in great results... well then do that here. Take some practice tests to see where you stand instead of freaking out. Look at where you stand currently and what scores you want and then create a study plan. If you do poorly the first time on the test then you can just retake it.

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Regardless of what the GRE is 'supposed' to measure, it does not measure your natural intelligence or personal worth, and you can study for it. Stop freaking out and start studying. Once you're thinking about the application process in a constructive way and making tangible progress you should calm down a little bit.

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Okay a quick bit of background for context before I get onto what's worrying me.

 

I'm a mathematics graduate from a good university in South Africa, where I graduated top of my class in my 3rd and 4th years (we graduate after 3 years and do an additional honours year before we can continue with master's study) and was also fortunate enough to graduate top of the science faculty for my 4th year as well. Currently I'm working as an analyst for a financial firm in London but I'm looking to try and get into some good aerospace engineering programs for 2015, such as Stanford, Purdue, Princeton and Boulder Colorado. There's one problem: I'm completely petrified about having to get a very high score for the GRE!

 

Although it may look on paper that I should be able to ace the GRE and am some sort of gifted student, I'm not; whenever someone says "wow you must be really smart" I tell them that I just work hard, because that's exactly what I do and I honestly don't feel smart and never have felt smart. But all this talk of top schools requiring near perfect GRE scores has really got me scared. I'm not the sort of person who usually worries too much about things, but for some reason thinking about the GRE has worked me up so much that I wake up in the morning with the most horrible burning skin sensation (which I've read is to do with excess adrenaline due to an over-reactive "fight or flight" response). I think it may be that since the GRE is supposed to measure intelligence, and I don't feel naturally intelligent, this implies I'll do badly (even though I'm studying my arse off and I've been told repeatedly that the GRE can be studied for).

 

So, if worst comes to worst and I somehow flunk the GRE, but have very good university grades, and great SOP and good references, but a horrible GRE score, will top schools throw my application on the rejection pile or will they still consider me for entrance? 

I felt the exact same way.  Don't worry.  Schools make a big fuss over the GRE, but it really is mostly used as a tool to thin the herd of applicants. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I felt the exact same way.  Don't worry.  Schools make a big fuss over the GRE, but it really is mostly used as a tool to thin the herd of applicants. 

Yes you are right, GRE is not a predictor of how good you are in your field, it is mainly for international students to check their grasp on English language.

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Yes you are right, GRE is not a predictor of how good you are in your field, it is mainly for international students to check their grasp on English language.

I thought that was toefl's purpose.
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