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GRE and an MPP

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Hey all -

I am going to start the process of applying for some MPP programs to attend in Fall of 2010. As a part of this, I have started to study for the GRE. Standardized tests aren't really my strong point, especially when there will be words on the test I have never heard of before - AKA, I am scared to death of not doing well and not being accepted into a program I want to be.

Perhaps answers to these questions will help ease my tension:

1. Is the GRE mainly used to compensate for someone whose application may not be strong?

2. If the application is strong aside from the GRE score, will admission be denied?

3. I found this statistic from the NASPAA website (direct link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=cwOmCniQQCR_2bkI1C50dEG9OqAMjcXjukcg5F5zz4Mbo_3d) It ranks how much importance admissions places on different aspects.

1 (most) 2 3 4 5 (least)

GRE Score 16.2% (21) 23.8% (31) 20.0% (26) 11.5% (15) 28.5% (37)

Have you found this to be true? That most schools don't place much emphasis on the GRE score? If so, what constitutes a high GRE score for an MPP program?

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I suppose statistics are valuable when it comes to the admissions process, but I wouldn't place too much emphasis on them when it comes to the GRE and admittance into a(n) MPP/MPA program. (Perhaps others who respond to your post will see it differently.) Generally speaking, the GRE is important, but not an application maker or breaker. I have heard stories of students who did well in college, earned a sub-par GRE score -- in the 1050 range -- and still managed to gain acceptance into some top/strong programs. On the same token, I have heard of students doing well on the GRE and well in college, but receiving rejections from some of the top/strong programs. When I applied this past year and met with members of different ad-coms, I was left with the sense that a GRE combined score of 1300 is considered "good". (Again, others may feel differently.)

In my experience, I can't tell you how much or how little my GRE score mattered. I had 5 years of relevant WE, decent-but-not-great grades and a relatively strong GRE (over 1400). I was rejected by 2 of the programs to which I applied and accepted to 8. Furthermore, in my opinion, I don't believe members of ad-coms embrace one particular method when it comes to reviewing applications. For example, I don't think it's highly formulaic, like some academic areas, at all. Most of the programs and schools want to see evidence of a desire to enter the field of public service -- and this can be exemplified in a number of ways -- strong academic marks, and an ability to write and think critically. The GRE shouldn't be viewed as UNimportant because it is clearly used as a factor by which ad-coms measure future students, however loosely or stictly in some cases. I don't think you should believe that the GRE will only be used to compensate for a weaker application. I don't think you should believe that a strong app., save for the GRE score, will be denied admission. And, I don't think you should give too much thought to the NASPAA stats on GRE scores. The GRE is a test for which you can study, prepare. Honestly, you still have a few more months to prepare before you really need to take it.

Finally, if you're looking at WWS or HKS, chances are you're application will need to be exceptional in all areas, GRE included. I hope this helped some. Now...go study :D

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  • 4 weeks later...

I would agree with the previous poster. I don't think it can completely sink your application, nor does a strong GRE score guarantee anything. Your GRE score can be used, however, to cover some application weaknesses, but again the admission councils are looking at the total package.

In terms of preparation, I cannot emphasis the benefit of taking many practice tests to get a strong grasp of what the testing experience is like. I took in the realm of 30+ practice tests before the actual test day.

Good luck on your studying and all of your applications.

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Personally, I think GRE scores are becoming less important in admission decisions. I am a horrible test taker as well and received a combined score of 990 (480 verbal, 510 quantitative, and 5.0 on my analytical writing). Given these scores you wouldn't think I'd be able to get into any grad program! However, I have a masters degree from Yale and was admitted into the Harvard Kennedy School again this year (I declined their offer of admission for a second time in favor of a grad program overseas). I think what worked for me--depsite low GRE scores--was a competitive GPA, strong letters of recommendation, a somewhat impressive C.V., and a well-written statement of purpose that clearly indicated why their program was the best fit for me (probably the most important part of the application). I don't think there is any "formula" that graduate school admission committees come up with when reviewing applications but they DO want to know why you are applying to their program.

I've heard that GREs may be a factor when awarding scholarships. Nevertheless, I was awarded a 50% tuition scholarship at HKS this year but wasn't awarded a scholarship to attend NYU-Wagner (the only other policy program I applied to this year).

Best of luck with your GREs and future educational goals!

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It is probably best to assume that every part of your application (SOPs, LORs, resume, etc...) is terribly important, including the GRE, and you should try to do your best on every portion. The GRE might help overcome a weak GPA; it might help validate a strong GPA from an unknown school; and regardless of what schools say, it is sometimes used as a preliminary tool to eliminate candidates (see link below). And, if it turns out the GRE does not matter, well, a good score won't hurt you.

You might also want to take a look at this posting from another grad school forum; it is a discussion on how the GRE is used, at least by some programs.

http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/t ... 544.0.html

That said, I am not trying to discourage you from applying if your scores are less than stellar. There are many cases on this board, like fes_alum's, where the candidate was so strong that average GRE scores did not matter. You should certainly send in an application, regardless of your GRE scores or other numbers, if you can articulate why an MPP and why a particular program and show a commitment to public service. But, do take the GRE seriously, like you would any other part of your application.

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However, I have a masters degree from Yale and was admitted into the Harvard Kennedy School again this year (I declined their offer of admission for a second time in favor of a grad program overseas).

Fes_alum, which masters program did you do at Yale?

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  • 5 weeks later...

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