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High GPA/Low GRE


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Hey there!

I have been scanning the internet for advice but alas, no luck! I have a high GPA/low GRE score and I am losing a lot of sleep over here, so, I was hoping to find someone in a similar predicament.

Here are my details:

  • My field is in the Social Sciences and I specialized in it throughout my undergraduate and MA.
  • I received my undergraduate from a top 20 university globally (i.e., according to QS, Times High Ranking, ARWU etc.). It is also usually ranked top 10 for my area of studies.
  • I am currently an MA student in a top 5 university globally (i.e., according to QS, Times High Ranking, ARWU etc.) in the UK - arguably, the best university in the UK (but I am biased!).
  • My current research includes a collection that is relatively famous in an area that is historically understudied but politically relevant. For my PhD, I have proposed further study in this area.
  • I have: 1) a strong writing sample, 2) 3 strong LoR by two leaders of the field and one unknown. One of the "leaders" has only known me for a short period of time, however, I have made every effort to be in contact with the faculty where it is appropriate. 3) A specialist GPA of 3.88 and an CGPA of roughly 3.80 - it cannot be properly calculated as I completed a one year exchange during my undergraduate in a country with a different grading scale (i.e., in the UK at another top 5 university).
  • Perhaps of relative importance: I didn't take the classic route to academia. I left high school at 15 due to personal issues. I ended up traveling quite a bit and then returned to university when I was 19.
  • So, here's the big issue: I have extremely low GRE scores. V: 157/Q: 147/Written: 4. I had issues with the GRE for a number of reasons but mostly because I was unable to secure the my proper accessibility requirements in time for my PhD deadlines. All ETS disability arrangements are done by mail and can take up to 12 weeks to do. Previously, I had made testing arrangements but when I rescheduled my test, I lost those arrangements. I ended up taking the test - my first ever standardized test - without my usual extra time. I panicked and I didn't even finish the "Analyze an Issue" task. I wrote one paragraph and somehow managed up with a 4. It should also be noted that my field requires very little mathematics and what we are required to know, I have taken courses in and received A's.

I have applied to 8 top 15 programs in the U.S. What do you think? Have you ever gotten into a program with a high GPA/low GRE score? Moreover, do you believe that the prestige of an institution makes a difference in these things?


Thank you so much

Edited by abkb18
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Cool! I have heard of people admitted to non-quantitative programs with very low quant scores –– of course this does not mean that you will be admitted. I think you might stand a chance, but you need to check with people in the field of archaeology.  I would also apply to a couple of lower ranked programs if possible (and if you want to do that).

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I think you will probably be okay. The only issue really is if your quant score gets you automatically disqualified anywhere - seems unlikely for archaeology, but what do I know. The verbal and writing scores are not so bad and the rest of your application should outweigh them. Some people flop standardized tests, and I think your profile will show that it's not the norm for you.

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I could be wrong, but most grad programs of any field look at the entire application. What I mean by that is that though you have lower GRE scores your GPA might offset them. 


If you come from a well-known, respected school then that will stand out, moreover your high GPA will be very impressive considering the rigor of the program you are coming from.


Don't panic. I think you will get into a program of your choice without any issues!

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It will probably vary from school to school, but like others have said, I think that a high GPA/low GRE can offset each other. Your GRE scores are not out of the ballpark, but they are not terrible either. I got a 159 on verbal and an atrocious 143 on quantitative; I was most proud of my writing though, which was a 5. I've heard from many people that committees often view the GRE as a formality more than anything. It is obviously considered among all the other things, but I don't think it's tantamount unless the rest of your application is weak and/or you are applying to Ivy League/super selective schools.


At one of the schools I applied to, I was surprised to see that their average GRE scores for their MA/PhD students were on par with mine and even lower in some cases; for example, their PhD students had an average score of 4.5 on the GRE writing section— I scored a 5, so I did better than the PhD students, and I'm only applying to their Master's program. I guess my point is that the GRE is not everything. As long as you didn't score ridiculously low across the board, it's not going to totally dismantle your entire application.

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It seems like it would depend on the program. I did quite horrible on the GRE, and was disappointed in my score. But most of my programs (MA-International Affairs) indicate that there is no "set score" for acceptance because other aspects are taken into account.


There are many "hope stories" out there on Google...about people getting into schools such as NYU or Harvard with a low gre and high gpa. Search around on this site and you will find that it can happen lol.

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