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The GRE will be the weakest part of my application... what are my chances?


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Hello there!

I am a senior anthro. major, hoping to get into graduate school for SW archaeology. I am taking the GRE on Saturday, and I know know know it will be the weakest portion of my application. My practice tests put me around V:154 and Q:144. At this point, I've done everything I can do to prepare and standardized test taking is not my strong suit. 

Otherwise, I think I have a pretty strong application. 

  • My GPA in major is 4.0, in general it is 3.8
  • My letters of recommendation will include three well-ish known SW archaeologists: one is my internship advisor, the second my senior thesis advisor/field school instructor, and the last a professor I am currently working with
  • I have done two directed research projects in my minor (linguistics): one doing research on SW languages to help create content for a SW linguistics class and the other making quizzes for a general linguistics class
  •  I have received excellent feedback on my writing sample
  • I am doing independent senior thesis research
  • I intern at a museum
  • I work as an undergraduate research assistant in an archaeology lab

If I account for my sub par GRE scores in my statements of purpose, will it be enough? My goals do not really include top-tier schools but rather schools that will mesh best with my research interests. Obviously retaking the test is always an option but it causes me so much anxiety I think I might throw up...

Thanks for all the help! :)

Edited by nmpps
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Honestly, your GRE scores aren't that bad. I did about the same on mine and I still got in. It really depends on the school and if it's a PhD or MA program. I'm doing my MA at Mississippi State and they only wanted to see that you did it but didn't care about the scores really. Most departments don't anymore because they understand how horrible of a test it is and it doesn't show how well a student will do in a department. 

Where are you planning on applying to?

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It all depends on where you're planning to apply to and the department's score ranges.

I'd take a look at this Magoosh GRE score ranges for "top" universities. For example, NYU's range for sociology (OK, that's not anthro, but still), is 149-153 and verbal is 156-160. NYU is ranked 16th by US News and World Report, while 39th-ranked USC's sociology GRE scores are exactly the same range.

Those are the ranges for applicants with mediocre to good to stellar undergrad records.

Of course, GRE is not everything, not even close. For people with stellar undergrad records like yours, it probably matters even less than for others (like me :unsure:) who need to make up for their undergrad records with their GRE scores.

Unless retaking the GRE is absolutely out of the question, I'd choose the right schools, do my best to explain the difference between my undergrad record and my GREs, then apply. One thing you might want to account for is why you didn't try to improve your GRE by retaking it.

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On 9/16/2016 at 2:24 AM, nmpps said:

My goals do not really include top-tier schools but rather schools that will mesh best with my research interests.

Hey, yeah, it sounds like your GRE scores will be fine, but I wanted to flag that you should not pose these as mutually exclusive categories. Yes, absolutely, apply to schools that will mesh best with your research interests: but don't figure out those schools by first eliminating the top 10 or 20 anthropology programs in the country and then figure out where fits you best among the rest. People do do that, but it's starting the race by shooting yourself in the foot. I would advise that you avoid that pitfall, especially given the randomness of the application process and the depth of your research experience. I am very much not convinced that any of the applicants who get into Berkeley, e.g., are automatic admits at any other program in the country: fit really is that important. If the best program in for your interests really is ranked a little lower generally, that's obviously fine, but don't do the thing where you eliminate all the programs with the best placements and then choose from among the rest.

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  • 1 month later...

What everyone else says, GRE really doesn't matter. I took mine while wrapping up my post-bac by taking 6 courses at the same time and thus, didn't have time or energy to invest in studying for it...I still got into 4 out of 5 programs!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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