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GRE scores for PhD Program?


Andrea P

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My GRE scores are abysmally average, but I'm cautiously optimistic about my applications for Master's programs due to an otherwise strong application. My question is this: how important is the GRE in PhD applications if a person already has a master's (specifically in psychology)? Any testimonials? 

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I did a terminal MA before applying for PhD programs, but in Anthropology. From what I've seen, the GRE is still important. However, I retook my GRE after a year in my M.A. program and my scores increased across the board without studying (most notably from 4.5 to 5.5 in Analytical). So give yourself a year in the Master's and then take the GRE again. Maybe study if you know what areas in each subject need the most improvement.

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I think it is the classic answer to every question about PhD applications...it depends. I also have a Masters, and I'm 35. I will say I resisted applying to PhD programs for several years because I hated the idea of having to relearn Math. But in the end I studied my butt off over the summer and bit the bullet. That being said, of the 6 schools I spoke to before applying (three are top tier), I was told that in my case the GRE would probably not be a significant factor if I had a strong application in general. But that's me, and I have a LOT of time away from college to have done other things that render the GRE somewhat irrelevant.

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If you're data inclined, here's an interesting article that attempts to use data to answer your question: adas.com/writes/the-grad-school-statistics-we-never-had/. It provides a pretty good analysis of data self-reported by students here on the Grad Cafe. The takeaway I got from the article is that if you are applying for top-level programs, GPA and GRE scores are highly correlated with admittance to these programs. However, the author of the article also does a good job qualifying his/her results by mentioning potential factors that could make the results misleading. Anyways... very good read to get started.

Edited by DharmaBum25
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Are you referring to the average of students who took the GRE, or average of previously admitted students within your prospective programs? If you meant the former, it would be good to look up program cutoffs and averages by program and gauge from there. Most psych subdisciplines have a central site that lists this info (e.g., HFES).

I don't think average within-program GRE scores are going to hurt your application if you have other strong materials and apply to schools with a good fit as reflected in your SOP. One situation in which GRE scores could be more important is if you have deficiencies in other quantitative areas. For example, it would be good if you had a higher than average quant score if you also have a math/stats grade on your transcript that isn't commensurate to your ability.

For what it's worth: I have an MA in Psych, high grad GPA, average undergrad GPA, strong letters of rec, a lot of lab experience in my field with a few publications, and a SOP that reflects a good match. I don't know the outcome of my applications yet, and there's many other factors besides application quality and fit that influences outcome (funding, etc.), but I've been told I have a good shot.

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