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Mrs. Potter

Will a 5.5 AW score make up for a 600 Verbal?

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I got my score report in the mail today and was very relieved to see that I got a 5.5 AW, after completely blowing the verbal section. I'm someone who PANICS during timed tests, and 30 minutes+4 sections of reading comprehension made me a complete mess, hence the 600. What are people's thoughts? Does the GRE verbal really matter for History programs? They all require lengthy writing samples, plus an SOP, and in any case how important is knowing the words "obsequious" and "parsimonious" for Historians? (my UG GPA was 3.65/3.76 (cum laude) in history from an Ivy University, I think my letters will be pretty strong, and my writing sample uses a lot of primary source, but I'm afraid the admissions committee will see my GRE score and not even bother looking at the rest of my application!) I have a HUGE fear of not getting in anywhere, even thought I am applying to 8 or 9 schools...anyway, just wanted to see what the consensus was regarding the GRE for History PhD programs- dealbreaker or mere formality?

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I think for any of us who have not been on any admissions committee it's very hard to predict how much weight they give to these individual components of an application. From what I understand, the Verbal and Writing sections are fairly important, especially at those programs that receive 300-400 applications per year. I took the GRE twice, the first time scored 550 on Verbal and 5.5 on AW, the second time I scored 720 on Verbal and 4 on AW. My advisors claim that this should not be a huge problem for me, since I've demonstrated my potential to succeed on these sections at least once. I suggest that you also talk to your professors and advisors, and see what they say. I do think, though, that you are wrong about the need for historians to know advanced vocabulary, because extensive good writing inevitably uses advanced words.

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how much the GRE matters varies with each adcom at each school, so no one can give you a concrete answer. the score may sink you at some schools and may not matter at all at others.

if there is any general trend regarding the GRE, however, it is that the AW section is meaningless. those sections are graded by masters students looking for extra work, and they spend 2.5 minutes reading each essay before assigning a grade. in light of that information, most schools put very little, if any, emphasis on the AW section, especially since (as you mentioned) they get writing samples and an SOP from each applicant.

i have heard of some schools that use the GRE verbal score as a cut-off. people below a certain number are automatically chucked out. i think 600V beats that first round cut-off at most schools, who are probably throwing things below 550V out instead. you mentioned you got your score report, so what were your percentiles? that's far more important than the actual number. if you broke the 85%ile, you're in decent shape. if you didn't, then your score will be a concern at some schools, though by no means at all of them.

you just need to make sure your sample and SOP are damn near perfect. your GPA is solid. if you have a lot of language preparation, then you should be okay, for the most part. the score may cause you to miss out on some additional funding, however, since many schools do use the GRE to measure applicants across disciplines when awarding university-wide fellowships.

so, in short... the AW doesn't matter, and the verbal score won't keep you out of every school, but it might keep you out of some. really, though, in theory we only apply to schools where we would want to get our degrees from, so all you really need is to get into one of them with funding and you'll be fine.

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My verbal score was 86%, hopefully enough to make it past that first round. Good point about AW writing though, I can understand why it wouldn't be weighed heavily or if at all.

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I don't think the AW will "make up" for the 600, but the 600 might not matter if the rest of your application is strong enough. It is a risk, though, and history students have some of the highest Verbal scores out of all disciplines.

When I had similar scores and consulted professors who were writing letters for me, I was advised to retake.

At this point, it's probably too late for you to take the GRE again and get your scores in by the deadline, so maybe don't worry about it.

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