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How Much Do Scores Matter?


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This probably seems like a silly question, but, in the grand scheme of things, does anyone know how much GRE scores actually matter? I am applying for PhD programs in TESOL, applied linguistics, and English. Most of my top schools have their required or recommended scores (all are different - some list scores for each section, other for the overall exam). 


My worry is this: I've been studying and I don't take the exam until August 1. However, I am terrible at math. Absolutely horrible And I haven't taken a math class in 4 years (I clepped out of the one class I needed in college). 


If I have a 3.9 GPA and am graduating summa cum laude, was a full-tuition academic scholarship student in undergrad, have relevant internship and work experience, wrote an undergraduate honor's thesis, and all of my other application materials are solid, will a low quantitative score kill my chances?



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No, a low score probably won't kill your chances. However, it won't help. For what you're applying for, verbal will be more important, so a relatively low quant should not be the end of everything. Exactly how a low score will affect your application is hard to guess; it depends on how low is low and perhaps also what the combined score with the verbal will be. It also matters if there are official or unofficial cutoffs below which your schools might not even look at your application. If those exist, obviously it'll hurt you if you don't meet the cutoff point. This all said, I think when approaching these things it's important not to tell yourself you can't succeed.* The GRE math is formulaic and is something that you can practice and improve on with some tricks and not much actual math. You may not get a super high score, but I think it's reasonable to aim for an "ok" score -- you can do that!


* I teach a mathy subfield within what people normally think of as a Social Science/Humanities field. Lots of students are alarmed the first time I put a variable on the board or talk about sets and functions. But they all make it, and some even grow to like it. It is doable, with the right attitude!

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Hi chloemadigan,


PhD programs tend to be fairly competitive, so anything that you can do to improve your application would likely help your chances. The GRE is one of the few pieces that you can radically improve in a short period of time, but you have to find the right study process that matches your personality AND makes the work easy for you.


Thankfully, with a little over a month until your Official GRE, you still have plenty of time to prepare.


How long have you been studying?

What materials have you been studying with?

Have you taken any practice MSTs? If so, then how have you scored?


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


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Many departments have minimum scores, so if you test below that threshold your application may not even be viewed.


Once you're accepted, your GRE scores may used in making fellowship decisions.


So.....lots of reason to hit the books.

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I'm also horrible at math. The EmowerGRE program has been the most helpful in bringing my practice quant score up (sorry to sound like an advertisement; I'm just grateful I found it. it teaches you to solve the problems with "non math" techniques). Take as many practice tests as you can. I think just being familiar with the test format and types of questions can do a lot to reduce anxiety and improve scores. 

Edited by med latte
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I have the same problem. I'm applying to English (Literature) programs, and I frankly don't care much about math. I basically let it all slide out of my head after I finished my math pre-reqs. Same with science. It's tedious even to think of getting myself to hit those particular books again, but I'll do what I need to do to get good scores on this test.


Good thing we can take it more than once.

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