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Need advice (GRE-related)


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Let me start off by saying that I have read over many threads already that seemed relevant to my question, but felt that I still would prefer to receive direct answers from those who are in similar situations as I am or from those who have more knowledge/experience than I do.

I have taken the GRE once this past Friday and have received unofficial scores of 440V and 720Q. I was told by a couple of professors that many people receive similar GRE scores as their SAT scores. Now, I received a score that was much better than a mere 1160 on the SAT. I'm just confused as to how it was possible for me to get 650V on the SAT without studying all that much the second time around (1st time, I got 560V), but received this lousy 440V on the GRE with much more prep.

As many of you know, most grad school application deadline for the 2010 Fall semester is around December or so. I'm just wondering if it would be prudent for me to study for the GRE again so that I may retake it early November. I was hoping to have received around 1300 at the very least and start working on my applications from now until they're due. Now, I'm just not sure if it's worth it for me to retake the test this late into the year, especially since I'm risking a lower or same GRE score and losing time away from applications/SOP. As far as my AW score, I would assume it to be at least 4.5, hopefully 5+, but I also thought I was going to receive a higher verbal score...

A little more information about me:

undergrad GPA: 3.3, graduated in 2009

major/minor: psych/chem

research exp: none (but plan to do research this coming spring semester)

related work exp: none (previous jobs not related to psych)

goal: Ph.D

gre preparation: completed PR's "Cracking the GRE 2010" and Kaplan's "GRE Verbal Workbook" + "GRE Math Workbook" (approx 400 new words memorized, 2 of which showed up on my GRE)

With that being said, do you guys think I should retake the GRE again with more preparation in early November? That leaves about 3 weeks for me to study while doing the applications/SOP.

Or, should I just suck it up and go on with my original plan of working on the applications/SOP and not risk getting a lower score on the 2nd GRE?

Also, is it possible for me to still be accepted into Ph.D programs? Or, should I work on getting a Masters first and then focus on getting a Ph.D?

Any and all relevant and informative posts will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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BTW, given my lackluster GPA of 3.3, pitiful GRE verbal score of 440, and non-existent experience in research..

-what is the likelihood that I will be even accepted into Ph.D programs?

-what is the likelihood of receiving any scholarships/grants (read: free money)?

Of course, I'm not looking to get into any Ivy League or top-tier schools, but I am aiming for those mid to upper-range schools. I haven't decided (or even researched) on which schools they might be, though.

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I don't think there is much similarity in terms of SAT and GRE scores. I got a 1450 combined gre, but my sat (in 1993) was something like 1100. The verbal is essentially a glorified vocabulary test and the vocabulary is much harder on the GRE than it was on the SAT because you've presumably had 4 years of undergraduate education.

A 440V is honestly pretty low. I don't know about psychology, but if you're targeting any competitive programs then you need to get it up. Most competitive schools have minimum cutoffs where they toss the application if you haven't met it. Take it again. Even with no additional preparation, you'll do better from being more familiar with the format and pacing. Almost everyone goes up by taking it a second time. To prepare: learn more words/roots, take practice tests to get the pace down/get used to the format (I suggest the powerprep software), and learn the tricks (like focus more on getting the first 5-8 answers correct).

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Natofone, thank you for your honest and quick reply.

I've been doing a lot more reading on this forum and it looks like the general consensus (unsurprisingly) is that a score in the 400s is not desirable.

I honestly don't know if taking the test with only 3 weeks of additional preparation will help all that much. I think my problem when taking the test was that I took too long to answer reading comprehension questions so I didn't even finish the section, the vocab on the test was completely different from those that I studied, and most likely I missed the first few questions. I'm going to take some practice tests (just the verbal) to see if I improve any over the course of a week or so. At that point, I will decide whether or not to retake the GRE.

Another question I have:

-Would it be more prudent for me to hold off another year (already taking this current year off) rather than working on Masters if ultimately my goal is to get a Ph.D? That would also (hopefully) allow more time for me to stack up on experiences, which I am currently lacking.

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I hate to say it, but if you're looking at mid- to upper-level programs, I'm not sure your application is strong enough for a Ph.D. program. From everything I've heard/read/seen, research and/or related work experience is really important for admission to Ph.D. programs. Combine that with your GPA and GRE scores and.... yeah. IMHO I think you have a better chance of getting into a master's program. And I also think you should retake the GRE in November- I agree with natofone that it really can't hurt you. That verbal score is too low for a psych program.

Sorry :(

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Thanks guys for your honesty. I don't need anything sugar coated and I prefer honest answers. :)

As far as the GRE goes, I'm going to take some practice GREs (focusing almost entirely on the verbal portion) for about a week or so. If I score higher on the practice GRE (just the verbal) than I did on the actual GRE, then I will retake the GRE in November (after studying more). If not, then I'm going to focus more on my applications and worry less about the GRE.

Regardless, I will apply for the Fall semester of 2010 and at the very least see which schools accept me (Masters or PhD).

Of course, I want to get into a PhD program without having to get a Masters first, but I do realize that research experience is almost crucial for most of the doctoral programs. That's why I've been thinking of taking another year off, in addition to my current year off for a total of 2 after undergrad, so that I can get more research experience. That should also give me some time to take extra courses and time to work on improving my verbal score.


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Yes, you should still apply to PhD programs. Just be realistic about the schools that you apply to and you'll get in. The various program websites should give you an idea of average GPA/GRE to tell you how competitive you'll be at each school. Don't lose hope. Your verbal score will certainly go up and then you'll definitely be competitive at mid-level schools.

Use the powerprep (available from ETS's website) as your test because that is an actual GRE.

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Most of the test prep books will have a list of 'high frequency' words. These are the ones that have shown up many times on actual GRE tests in the past couple of years. Definitely review those and memorize a few if you have to. A lot of them will also have lists of latin and greek roots, knowing those can be very helpful as you can figure out quite a few of words through their etymology without ever having seen them before.

I honestly didn't feel that the GRE was that different from the SAT. the only thing I kept thinking when I took it was 'this is the SAT except I'm 4 years out of practice'. the SAT feels easier because to a certain extent, it covers material that you're learning in high school. No college curriculum I know of looks anything like the stuff on the GRE (which makes you wonder what its actually testing).

In the end, how heavily an admissions committee ways a GRE score is highly dependent on the field and the school. From personal experience, the admissions committees for engineering and the physical sciences basically just go "high quant score, check, moving on". I don't know what psychology programs look for, perhaps some of the other forum members has insight into this area.

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I took my GRE in Sept and got a pathetically low score in Quant. I am taking it again mid November and the first deadlines are Dec 15, so I guess I would say, yes it is worth taking over.

Honestly, if I were in your shoes I would take an extra year, study like mad for the GRE and retake maybe next summer. In the meantime, get those grades up and does as much research as you can. See if you could get a winter break and summer gig as well as spring.

Good luck!

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