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(Early) WAMC: Should I retake the GRE?


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Hi All,

I know it's relatively early for such threads but I just took my GREs and wanted to get some opinion on whether I should consider a retake in light of my other achievements and goals. I  intend to apply for cognitive neuroscience programs (either under psychology or neuroscience departments depending on the school) and I am gunning for top programs. I'd appreciate any helpful advice or feedback from those who've been through the process!

Here are some of my stats:

Female, International Applicant

Undergrad Cumulative GPA: 3.91 at a large state school (not a UC school), Major GPA (Psychology): 3.97

Did a Masters in Neuroscience at a top UK university (especially known for neuroscience). Graduated with Distinction.

GRE scores: 167 V (97%), 161 Q (80%), AW unknown

Publications:

  • 2 peer-reviewed papers (1st author), 1 review paper (albeit in a journal with a pretty high IF), 2 papers currently in the process of being submitted. 
  • 3-4 posters at international conferences (SfN, INS)

Awards:

  • Young Investigator Award at a national conference (oral presentation of poster)
  • Best Undergraduate Honors Thesis Award
  • Tuition Scholarship for Academic Excellence 
  • Multiple Dean's Lists 
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Research Experience: ~5 years including UG honors year+MS. Worked in both labs and research hospital settings (my interest lies in cognitive neuroimaging and disorders). 

Other relevant information/skills: UG TA, relevant technical skills such as familiarity with Linux, MATLAB, use of neuroimaging software.

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Basically I am unsure if my current GRE scores are competitive for top tier programs. I know MIT BCS has mentioned competitive scores fall in the range of >85 percentile for both V&Q and my Quant is a little weaker, though I'm not sure if my Verbal score will make up for it. In addition, the fact that I am not a local applicant and I did my bachelors at a state school makes me a little wary of how my application would stand if I were to apply to top programs (e.g. Stanford, Duke, UC Berkeley etc). I think I am in the range for Duke and Berkeley based on their past admission statistics though again, I'm not sure if the fact that I am international and from a state school in the US would put me at a huge disadvantage. 

Would appreciate any advice/opinions! :)

Edited by neur0cat
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Hi, your stats are stronger than mine were and I got interviews/acceptances at some programs in top 20 for cog neuro.  I applied to 10 schools, got accepted into 4 and interviewed at 5.  My choices were strongly oriented to a specific sub-field and I made more-than-just-email contact with most PIs before writing my personal statements.  I was told by one PI that he considers Q much more important than V, but your Q is not that bad.

If a school posts their GRE stats, it is safe to assume they care about them more than schools that don't.  If you can meet or exceed their admittance averages, you are probably fine.  My opinion is that there is no need for overkill since you have some really good credentials already and you could be working on something of more substance.  I would go with accomplishing something more substantial than spending the time and effort needed to roll the dice for a 4pt increase in your Q score (or whatever you might shoot for).  

I think at your level, you should be rounding out your skill-set and experiences, applying for predoctoral grants, networking, building a website... - not fretting over making GRE cut-offs.  

All that said, I retook the GRE to increase my Q.  My AW went up and my V score went down, but not enough to make me regret retaking (although I did have a "circumstance" for my first score).  It really depends on how much time and energy you have.  I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life!  

Edited by another_time
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On 10 May 2016 at 6:39 AM, another_time said:

Hi, your stats are stronger than mine were and I got interviews/acceptances at some programs in top 20 for cog neuro.  I applied to 10 schools, got accepted into 4 and interviewed at 5.  My choices were strongly oriented to a specific sub-field and I made more-than-just-email contact with most PIs before writing my personal statements.  I was told by one PI that he considers Q much more important than V, but your Q is not that bad.

If a school posts their GRE stats, it is safe to assume they care about them more than schools that don't.  If you can meet or exceed their admittance averages, you are probably fine.  My opinion is that there is no need for overkill since you have some really good credentials already and you could be working on something of more substance.  I would go with accomplishing something more substantial than spending the time and effort needed to roll the dice for a 4pt increase in your Q score (or whatever you might shoot for).  

I think at your level, you should be rounding out your skill-set and experiences, applying for predoctoral grants, networking, building a website... - not fretting over making GRE cut-offs.  

All that said, I retook the GRE to increase my Q.  My AW went up and my V score went down, but not enough to make me regret retaking (although I did have a "circumstance" for my first score).  It really depends on how much time and energy you have.  I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life!  

Hi there, thanks for your advice - I appreciate it! If you don't mind sharing, what scores for the GRE did you eventually get and which schools did you get interviews at? I think I'm just worried I might be prematurely cut from the top programs or if there were no choice but to dramatically reduce the applicant pool.. not sure if increasing the Q by something like 2 points (up to 85 percentile) would make a difference.

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I agree with another_time. Your GRE scores are good, I don't see why you wouldn't have a solid shot at interviews! For the record, my stats were lower than yours and I got an interview at Duke's CNAP program. I'm also international. Best of luck!

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@Gvh Hi, thanks for your advice! Would you feel comfortable sharing your stats (perhaps via a PM if need be) and program interviews you received? I guess I'm just worried my Quant is insufficiently good especially since it seems Cognitive Neuroscience/interdepartmental umbrella programs tend to be a little more inclined to consider Quant scores due to the nature of the field. Stanford, Yale, and MIT are also programs I am aiming for and these programs are awfully competitive. I hope I am not being overly ambitious given my application profile. :wacko:

Edited by neur0cat
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