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Offsetting low Quant Score in PhD PolSci application


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Hello all! Long-time lurker, first time poster here. I have just finished my Master's degree and am applying for fall 2016 admission to a PhD program in Political Science. The crux of my concern is my low GRE Quant score and whether I can offset it with the other parts of my application for entrance to a top 15 (-ish, I know how subjective this is!) American uni.

I have heard that quant is taken a lot more seriously in the US and I am ambivilent at the moment towards it personally. I know I can do it (evidenced by my LSE Quant class grade below), but the GRE Q score doesn't look good, caused largely by me panicking under time constraints and the pressure of knowing I only had one shot at it this application year due to only recently finishing my Master's (i.e. I don't have time to retake this year). Research-wise I am open to both Qualitative and Quant so any advice on less quant-heavy courses would be apreciated too!



Type of Undergrad Institution: Exeter University, UK (2015 QS ranking 51-100 in politics & international studies)

Major: Arabic and Middle East Studies (half languages, half Area Studies/interdisciplinary stuff like Politics, IR, Theology, History, law, etc).

GPA: 68% (3.67/4 as calculated by WES though I think it is more like 3.8 from more accurate sources)

Type of Grad Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science, UK (2015 QS ranking #4 in politics & international studies)

Major: Conflict Studies, quite a theoretical degree but I did do one module of Intro to Quant Stats which taught me basic SPSS and I earned 68% in (70% is a 4.0 GPA)

GPA: Distinction (4.00/4 as calculated by WES)

GRE: v162 q150 aw unknown at the moment, though I feel it went somewhere from fine-very good

Letter of Recommendation: Four avarage/strong letters (they're all keen but have no idea who will be able to write what admissions want) , one from my Undergrad's thesis supervisor, two from undergrad lecturers who taught me, one from a Chaired Professor at LSE who taught me.

Research/related experience: Undergrad Thesis, 80% (70% is a 4.0 by conversion) and Master's Thesis 70%. Recently began working part-time at E-IR an online open-source IR journal as an associate editor (unpaid) and might be placed soon to work on the board revieiwing their first IR textbook. I am looking for local research oppotunities with professors though it is a struggle to find in the UK.

Teaching Experience: I have taught English as a Foreign language abroad briefly but for the past 4 years at a prestigious Oxford Summer chool, might be able to teach IR there this year now I have a Master's. Also worked as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant for a year during my gap year at a local school.

Research Interests: International Relations, Comparative Politics, with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. 

Publication: Submitted undergraad thesis to E-IR (prior to being employed) which I believe might be published. Master's published on LSE's internal servers only.

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If you really want to offset the GRE quant score , retake the exam. You still have a few days if you really believe you can do better and that was a fluke, even if the official scores arrive after the deadline most departments will be ok. Remember you are competing against highly qualified candidates who will potentially have good quant courses AND good quant GREs.

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The brutal truth is that for a top 15 program a quant score of 150 will effectively prevent you from getting admitted. It would prevent you from getting admitted even if you were a theory applicant, but as an Americanist, its even worse. If you want a top program you need to retake the GREs and do better.

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Thanks for the candid replies guys. So you don't think I can point at my A grade in Statstics from Masters LSE as susbtantial enough proof of potential then? Basically I don't have enough time to retake as I need to be doing my statements during the next week rather than revising for GRE again.

Also do you perhaps know any courses that are less Quant orientated/half and half Quant and Qual?

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Of course your good grade in your stats course matters in their overall assessment of your profile, and it can compensate somewhat for a weaker quant score. The problem is that 150 is below the level where compensating is really at hand, and you're at risk of just falling short of cut-offs. Obviously such things are not certain, but since the rest of your profile makes you a good candidate for top-15 programs, it would be such a shame to have this potentially rule you out. Related to that, it would be a shame to pick programs you are less interested in and that are a worse fit for you, purely because you think they are less quant-heavy, especially because it doesn't seem like you don't like or are not good at quant at all.

So all thing considered, resitting would really be valuable. You said the main reason you scored so badly was that you panicked during the test - in that case you don't need to do more studying (you probably know the material), you just need another stab at it. Obviously it's a hassle and expensive and all that, but given all the effort you're putting into applying and the amount of time you'd potentially be spending getting your PhD, it's worth getting it right.

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The admissions process isn't a trial: no one is trying to assess whether you actually have potential or not. Its about selecting the best applicants: and an applciant with good grades and good GREs is going to be more attractive to the committee than an applicant with good grades and a very low quant GRE score, especially when they want to do quantitative work. Your best bet is to simply retake them and reapply. If it means pushing your application season back a year, then so be it. Its worth it in the long run. You need to go to the best PhD program you can get in to. 

Also, having unrealized potential that could be realized if you tried harder is a bad thing. The fact that you got an A in a Master's stat course further confirms that you need to retake the GREs. Adcoms will think the same thing too: why did this applicant, who can clearly do advanced quantitative work, do horribly on this test? Are they lazy and didn't study? Why didn't they retake them? Did they not plan well in advance? There's a lot of uncertainty here, so lets pick someone else!

Good math grades and low math GREs send a signal.

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