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Kinkster

Should I address weak GRE scores in statement?

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Hey guys,

I am applying to grad school in psychology. There seems to be two sides to this. My app is solid for the most part: relevant experience, decent GPA (however, there is one particular grade I am worried about), solid (if not formidable) LORs, I had the opportunity to work in a famous professor's lab in my field of study (although he never writes any LORs for any undergrads), wrote an honors thesis, and graduated with departmental honors in psych; however, the exception being a weak GRE score, which is probably more like a cut-off score and it can be detrimental.

I know they look at GRE scores and there may be questions or concerns, especially on the verbal section. I admit I am not a really good standardized test taker because it was a pattern with the SATs. Okay basically... I submitted two already with a paragraph on how GRE scores are not truly indicative of of my ability to do research and backed it up with a few specific examples of why it doesn't accurately portray my ability and potential in empiricial research in psychology . Now I am also reasoning that I could easily do without explaining it at all because some discourage it. Is it a good a idea to explain weak GRE scores in the SOP in my case? Is it like making an excuse? I think of it as presenting a compelling reason why my GRE scores can't explain the rest of my achievements and doesn't tell the larger story. It also gives me a chance to preempt their concern. I am really really worried about being rejected for this... it sucks because I truly want to attend one of the programs I already sent it to. On top of all that, I kept capitalizing my area of interest in the SOP... =(

Edited by Kinkster

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I am from the "keep the SOP focused on strengths" school of thought and would not mention it. You have limited space to give information about yourself and they already have the gre scores. So give them something interesting to think about in the SOP.

Edited by hubris

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I had similar concerns, and my professors told me to concentrate on the positives of my profile in the SoP. Don't bring extra attention to poor scores, rather focus on the strong parts of your application.

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And for the last time, capitalized research interest = last thing anyone reading your SOP would ever notice :P

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How low are the GRE scores?

The math score is kind of okay for the most part... not too much of an eye sore but the verbal is around the 55 percentile =( I feel that there will likely be a concern over that portion of my app. I have a feeling that if I don't address the issue, then admissions may just assume the worst if I don't try to sort of dampen the full force of a sub-par score. Unfortunately, I don't know the conventions in this situation. If anyone happens to have experience in this matter, please let me know.

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I really wouldn't mention it. Admissions committees have heard it all about standardized tests, and they have already come to their own conclusions about what they are or aren't indicative of.

If you feel it's a gigantic issue sometimes you can have a LOR address your strengths with other kinds of tests or evaluations. Or you can point out examination in which you've excelled without having to worry about it seeming like you're excusing anything. It sounds like it's going to be very difficult for you to say much about the scores without wasting precious space in the SOP railing against the system (a system, for better or worse, that these committees are using)

You talked about telling a larger story about yourself, and I think that's great. I just think you should stick to that and not worry about the GRE scores anymore. Think of it as painting a portrait of yourself -- you wouldn't stick a giant wart in the middle of your nose if you didn't have to, would you? There's no need to draw more attention to flaws that the committee already knows about.

You have a TON of positives in your application: lab experience under a well known researcher, and good LORs and GPA...and that's just what I gleaned from a little paragraph you probably wrote rather quickly! There are so many great things about your profile that you can play up and I wouldn't let the GREs take the wind out of your sails.

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One of my schools recommended that we address low GRE scores or GPA in our personal statement. How does one do this? (More specially a low verbal GRE score for social science. dry.gif) I want to say in real life I will be able to use a dictionary, antonyms don't really matter in the real world, have a bit more time to analyze essays, and can change my answers on tests, but I don't think that's the explanation they are looking for.

Edited by whereiscarmen

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One of my schools recommended that we address low GRE scores or GPA in our personal statement. How does one do this? (More specially a low verbal GRE score for social science. dry.gif) I want to say in real life I will be able to use a dictionary, antonyms don't really matter in the real world, have a bit more time to analyze essays, and can change my answers on tests, but I don't think that's the explanation they are looking for.

I think you are right that criticizing the test is not the best way to do this. Instead, you might want to explain why other features of your profile show that this score isn't indicative of your ability to write excellent papers. For example, you might point out high marks in writing classes, an excellent AW score, an enclosed writing sample, or other things that demonstrate strong facility with writing (awards, publications, etc.).

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A friend told me that you might sound too desperate if you talk about your GRE in the Personal Statement.Don't bring too much attention to your scores in your SoP.If you still feel that you should address this issue you might just want to say that these scores are not a true reflection of your abilities.

Good luck!

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I didn't use the Personal statement, but one of the schools had an essay-style question section to determine TA/RA and other funding opportunities where I was able to mention that my scoring in the 25% percentile (NOT a typo!) on the math portion of my GRE is NOT indicative of my abilities. I noted that I had successfully taken grad level math, scoring A's. My verbals were fine, was in the 90% percentile there.

Hope that works for me...

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I didn't use the Personal statement, but one of the schools had an essay-style question section to determine TA/RA and other funding opportunities where I was able to mention that my scoring in the 25% percentile (NOT a typo!) on the math portion of my GRE is NOT indicative of my abilities. I noted that I had successfully taken grad level math, scoring A's. My verbals were fine, was in the 90% percentile there.

Hope that works for me...

Hey Mocha,

I have a similar problem. I also wouldn't make a GRE score reference in my personal statement but would like to make a comment about it in the RA application because my 460 in math (all that damn geometry!!) has nothing to do with my capabilities and proficiency in research. May I ask how you phrased your explanation?

Thanks for your help!

gobatsch

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I don't understand how people can just shrug off poor Q scores, especially if you are in a quantitative or technical field. How does scoring in the 25th percentile not raise a personal red flag?! I would be very worried about having self-delusions of my own ability if I scored that low. A score like that should stop you dead in your tracks, not something you just say "meh" to and then figure out the best excuse to give to an AdCom.

It is basic middle school algebra and geometry. There is absolutely nothing anyone in a STEM field should not be able to handle relatively easily.

What??

I'm not in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math field, so the Q score matters less. Most of my work requires writing and the math that IS required is stats based and hey, I got an A in both times I took the course, once in my UG and once in an earlier Grad program. I dunno, I just test poorly in that subject. Got a 90% on the verbal though. So I'm not broken up about it and have a whatever attitude about it. Or as you put it, Meh...

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Hey Mocha,

I have a similar problem. I also wouldn't make a GRE score reference in my personal statement but would like to make a comment about it in the RA application because my 460 in math (all that damn geometry!!) has nothing to do with my capabilities and proficiency in research. May I ask how you phrased your explanation?

Thanks for your help!

gobatsch

One of the RA questions asked what kind of research I have conducted either academically or professionally. I referenced some of my projects and then worked in "and despite what my Quantitative GRE score might indicate, I have a sound background in statistical methods including successful course work at both the UG and G level."

That's it. No other GRE references were made

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I had a pretty awful GRE score. 33 percentile in quantitative, but a 98 percentile in verbal. I only mentioned it, in statements when weaknesses were asked for, by saying "Due to my lower quantitative score, I enrolled in a graduate level course in Quantitative Methods in Anthropology for the Spring 2010 semester." I feel like weaknesses are okay as long as you can address them/show that they won't be awful for you, which it sounds like you are able to do by describing your experience!

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This is what I've heard. According to a professor at my undergraduate university, if you are applying to a normal school (ie - NOT top tier and likely not tier 2) any GRE score over 1000 is good enough to prove that you're not an idiot. He said that more competitive schools you need over a 1200 total. And of course for the highest schools, a 1300 or above is ideal.

However, this past fall I spoke to 6 different departments (of anthropology) for PhD (Johns Hopkins, Brown, NYU, Stony Brook, BU, and Columbia). All of them said that they aren't concerned with GREs, so long as they aren't abominably low. Columbia and Stony Brook said that if they are between two potential candidates, and everything else is equal, that's when they turn to the GRE.

My fiance got into NYU's PhD program with an 1100 GRE, to give you an idea. Everything else on his record was excellent, and he even got his BA from an essentially no-name school. I'm not sure if psychology would be different, but at least for a lot of liberal arts school, I would shoot for a good score, but not get too bummed so long as it's over 1200. If you're really concerned, taking it again might help, but I would suggest taking a class on how to take it before you do.

I would not dwell on it too much in your SOP. I really feel like the GRE only measures you ability to take the GRE, and so long as the score is not totally dismal (I knew a guy in undergrad who got a 760 on it! that's dismal!) the other aspects of your application will stand out. Focus on the many positive things that make you an attractive candidate. Some programs will have cut-offs, and there's nothing you can do about it you already sent the application in.

Best of luck!

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One of my schools told us that we should address low GRE scores in our essay and I did.

Another school said they required a certain GRE score that I didn't meet, so I addressed my weak GRE score in my statement.

So if a school is really hung up on GRE scores, I would address it.

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You will get two schools of thought on this whole 'address weaknesses in SOP' thing. My issue was GPA.

I had some profs aghast at the idea that I address it, but my main mentor -- the biggest name -- said that I absolutely must do so, even if only with a cursory acknowledgment of its existence. His position is that he's read many of these over the years and the SOP should clarify ANY concerns that the numbers, alone, present. He says if he still has questions after the SOP its easy to put it in the no pile because you are either 1) trying to hide something or 2) not qualified.

In the end, I judged the value of the advice by the success of the prof. You may want to do the same with someone in your field.

Now, how best to address that is the thing. I believe that everything can and should be positioned as an example of your growth, even a negative. If the GRE score is weak say something like, "and despite what my standardized verbal score may indicate my demonstrated experience with publishing research articles, crafting engaging conference presentations and serving as an editor for such and such are more indicative of my graduate ability." Or, something along those lines. Acknowledge it only to the extent that you completely mitigate it with documented proof of its failure to adequately reflect your ability. But for god's sake do NOT spend more than one paragraph on it or use negative language (it subconsciously communicates that this is a negative thing) or make excuses -- all thing I have seen in statements. Mention it briefly, address it with proof, use positive verbiage and move on.

If you don't have that evidence then take an opportunity to get it if you have an opportunity. If not, the other thing I suggest is to have one -- or more -- of your letter writers address the issue. Their opinion of your ability will be better recieved than any reasons you give anyway.

Think of your SOP as your only opportunity to tie all the pieces of data about you -- GPA, GRE, experience -- into a compelling narrative. Just like you can make a rogue in a novel lovable so, too, can you flip a negative into something more positive.

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On 03/03/2010 at 9:33 PM, lily_ said:

This is what I've heard. According to a professor at my undergraduate university, if you are applying to a normal school (ie - NOT top tier and likely not tier 2) any GRE score over 1000 is good enough to prove that you're not an idiot. He said that more competitive schools you need over a 1200 total. And of course for the highest schools, a 1300 or above is ideal.

 

However, this past fall I spoke to 6 different departments (of anthropology) for PhD (Johns Hopkins, Brown, NYU, Stony Brook, BU, and Columbia). All of them said that they aren't concerned with GREs, so long as they aren't abominably low. Columbia and Stony Brook said that if they are between two potential candidates, and everything else is equal, that's when they turn to the GRE.

 

My fiance got into NYU's PhD program with an 1100 GRE, to give you an idea. Everything else on his record was excellent, and he even got his BA from an essentially no-name school. I'm not sure if psychology would be different, but at least for a lot of liberal arts school, I would shoot for a good score, but not get too bummed so long as it's over 1200. If you're really concerned, taking it again might help, but I would suggest taking a class on how to take it before you do.

 

I would not dwell on it too much in your SOP. I really feel like the GRE only measures you ability to take the GRE, and so long as the score is not totally dismal (I knew a guy in undergrad who got a 760 on it! that's dismal!) the other aspects of your application will stand out. Focus on the many positive things that make you an attractive candidate. Some programs will have cut-offs, and there's nothing you can do about it you already sent the application in.

 

Best of luck!

 

 

 

Hey,I am extremely interested in the NYCEP programme,so am planning to apply to NYU and CUNY for Biological anthropology. My Masters and Bachelors score is fine and I have decent research experience,and have a couple of really good internships in the recent future in the subject of my choice,that is,primatology. My GRE score was sadly not very good, 311,153Q and 158V,AWA 5.My research interests are absolutely in line with a couple of professors there.
Do you think I have any chance of getting into the programme ?

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