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Very High Verbal Scores and Very Low Quant Scores


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Here are my scores:


Verbal: 165

Quant: 144

Writing: 5

GPA: 3.8


I wish to go to a top 10 grad program dealing with public policy or international relations in which math/stats will not be the emphasis. Will admissions consider my low quant score that much of a detractor given my other high scores? I will also be a Peace Corps volunteer so I imagine i'll have a pretty strong application. It's just that quant score that looks bad.


Any recommendations about what to do? Should I retake it?



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If you're looking at Fall 2016 attendance, then yes, definitely take the time to improve your quant score.

It might not matter all that much, but you could get stopped at the door with a quick cutoff due to not reaching a baseline/cutoff number.


Background is nice, sure, but they are really going to want to see some strong LOR's, especially if you don't bother to take the time improving your score. 

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Thanks for the quick response!


I actually do foresee getting very solid LORs from certain respected professors in their fields. Given all these other positives should I really stress about this one score that doesn't even really bear on my field of study? 


Thanks again! 

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Being numerate is important in your field of study (whatever the precise focus of the programme), so the question I would ask is whether you feel you could improve your score by prepping more and retaking the test. Is maths something you find particularly difficult (something you consider to be a natural weakness) or were you just rusty when you took the test? I would advise retaking it if you think it doesn't reflect your potential, as you are aiming for very competitive programmes.


When I took my GRE, I hadn't done any quant for nine years (!), so I really had to re-teach myself all the things I'd once known how to do when I was in high school. However, maths was never something that I found difficult so although the test prep was time consuming, it meant I was able to get a good score. There were lots of things I did wrong when applying for grad school, but studying for (and achieving) high GRE scores was not one that I regret. There are so many other things to worry about when applying, why add another one by submitting an application that you know includes a weak point that you could probably have done something about?

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Most (if not all) MPP programs are much heavier on the quant than I had previously thought. I scored a 153 on the quant (164 verbal and 5 on writing), and I think my low quant skills were some of the main reasons I wasn't accepted into certain programs.


Do you have any math/econ/stats skills on your resume either from previous courses or employment? That would help.


Otherwise, I would definitely take the time to retake the test, or re-evaluate if you want to pursue the MPP/IR route.


For what it's worth, I will most likely be starting at the Maxwell School this summer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi jordancannon,


I'd like to know more about how you studied before you took the GRE:


1) How long did you study?

2) How many hours did you study in an average week?

3) What resources did you use?

4) How were you scoring on your practice MSTs?


The GRE is a predictable, standardized Test, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. We just have to figure out what you were missing during this first round of studies.


GRE masters aren't born, they're made,


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  • 1 year later...

Hi Jordancannon - 

I have an MA in International Environmental Policy, BA PoliSci and Eng Lit. I didn't foresee the need to have a really strong math foundation because I didn't really need it in undergrad and I assumed it would be pretty similar in grad school. However, I found that Quantitative Policy (basically stats), three different types of econ courses (micro/macro/natural resources) and a science class were required at my program. I managed to get through them, but you should see what the programs you're interested require. At my MA institute, all but the natural resource econ course were required for ALL policy students be it Nonproliferation Studies or International Development (we had a lot of Peace Corp volunteers). I didn't go to a top school so they were lenient with GRE, but for more competitive schools, I imagine that you'd need a score that lands you at least above the 55% mark. Even if there isn't a cut off line, other students will be applying with good verbal and quant scores and judging from the relatively large community of policy/ international relations people I'm part of, pretty much everyone has an interesting story to tell in terms of life experience. Since you did so well in verbal/writing, maybe just a tiny bit more work on the quant.. :) (I'm in the same boat as you currently as I plan to apply for phd programs)

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