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Hi everyone,

I took the GRE on Friday and got a dismal (unofficial) score:

159 V 143 Q

I studied for two months, signed up for Magoosh, and really tried my best, but I’m almost 38 and haven’t done any math since my last year of high school almost 20 years ago.

My undergrad GPA is more or less 3.2, graduate GPA 3.92. I have over a decade of experience working as a foreign correspondent and editor in Asia, and waiting to publish a paper on conflict management in the South China Sea in a peer-reviewed journal.

I am not planning to apply to any of the top schools, but do you think I still have a chance at any school at all? I’ve considered retaking the test but I really doubt I’ll be able to improve my quant score that much.

Please be brutally honest with your advice.

Thank you!

 

P.S. Applying to PhD programs to focus on IR (geopolitics, not much quant analysis needed)

Edited by csantamir
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Do you still have a chance at any school at all? Yes. That being said, your current score will probably not make it past the first cut at many places. From what I've heard, admissions committees often use stats like GRE/GPA to make a long list out of the initial application pool, and a very low Q score might lead to your app being thrown out before they even see your application materials. Your GRE score is not the defining element of your application by a long shot, but the truth is that many programs have score cutoffs/quotas/etc., and you don't want to be rejected simply because you fell on the wrong side of these. There are a lot of good arguments out there about why the continued use of the GRE in graduate admissions is problematic, but for now it's still part of the dance. You should retake the test if it is within your means to do so. I would recommend purchasing/renting/obtaining the Manhattan Prep series on the quantitative section, as they really try to provide a complete understanding of the mathematical/logical concepts that underlie the questions on the test.

One last thing: I disagree with your postscript. Political science is a pretty quantitative discipline, and IR is probably the second most quant-heavy subfield behind American politics. Everyone who studies IR at the graduate level will at least be required to read and understand quant research, and admissions committees will be looking for signals of quantitative literacy regardless of your specific research interests. Of course you can do qualitative IR research, but I just wanted to make the point that it's probably best to get comfortable with quantitative analysis instead of writing it off.

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11 hours ago, dagnabbit said:

Do you still have a chance at any school at all? Yes. That being said, your current score will probably not make it past the first cut at many places. From what I've heard, admissions committees often use stats like GRE/GPA to make a long list out of the initial application pool, and a very low Q score might lead to your app being thrown out before they even see your application materials. Your GRE score is not the defining element of your application by a long shot, but the truth is that many programs have score cutoffs/quotas/etc., and you don't want to be rejected simply because you fell on the wrong side of these. There are a lot of good arguments out there about why the continued use of the GRE in graduate admissions is problematic, but for now it's still part of the dance. You should retake the test if it is within your means to do so. I would recommend purchasing/renting/obtaining the Manhattan Prep series on the quantitative section, as they really try to provide a complete understanding of the mathematical/logical concepts that underlie the questions on the test.

One last thing: I disagree with your postscript. Political science is a pretty quantitative discipline, and IR is probably the second most quant-heavy subfield behind American politics. Everyone who studies IR at the graduate level will at least be required to read and understand quant research, and admissions committees will be looking for signals of quantitative literacy regardless of your specific research interests. Of course you can do qualitative IR research, but I just wanted to make the point that it's probably best to get comfortable with quantitative analysis instead of writing it off.

Hi dagnabbit,

Thank you for your feedback. I guess I should try again, and will check out Manhattan. It’s not what I want to write off quant completely, just keep it to a minimum.

Cheers  

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6 hours ago, Comparativist said:

To be honest, if you can't get above 150 on the quant section I would question your ability to survive a first year quant sequence.

Thank you for being brutally honest. I appreciate it. You're right, I need to work harder on this.

Edited by csantamir
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Hey I'm applying this cycle so I can't really exactly give you advice on your chances but I did want to say two things:

1) Don't be discouraged! I think it's awesome that you spent a lot of time working professionally and are now considering graduate school. Use your statement of purpose or have your recommendation writers help explain this weakness in your application. Contextualizing it is the best thing you can do :)

2) That being said, do try and work on that! I know you mentioned you did Magoosh but have you considered retaking the test and doing a one or two month math-intensive study plan? That might be more helpful. Or since you have had a steady income for many years maybe take a GRE math class? I think getting your score up 10 points will really boost your chances and is definitely doable.

All the best!

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On 7/25/2017 at 9:36 PM, zereg said:

Hey I'm applying this cycle so I can't really exactly give you advice on your chances but I did want to say two things:

1) Don't be discouraged! I think it's awesome that you spent a lot of time working professionally and are now considering graduate school. Use your statement of purpose or have your recommendation writers help explain this weakness in your application. Contextualizing it is the best thing you can do :)

2) That being said, do try and work on that! I know you mentioned you did Magoosh but have you considered retaking the test and doing a one or two month math-intensive study plan? That might be more helpful. Or since you have had a steady income for many years maybe take a GRE math class? I think getting your score up 10 points will really boost your chances and is definitely doable.

All the best!

Hi Zereg,

Thank you for your advice and encouragement. I will point that out in my SOP and tell my recommenders. I’ve already decided I’m retaking the test, probably in a couple of months after working harder on the math. I’m using the Princeton book now and it seems to work better for me than Magoosh. Do you think 160/155 will make the cutoff for UMD/UVA?

Cheers
 

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2 hours ago, csantamir said:

Do you think 160/155 will make the cutoff for UMD/UVA?
 

This is from UVA's political science admissions page: "We weigh the GRE less heavily than other factors, though very high scores will help your application. Scores below the 60th percentile in Verbal and Math and below the 80th percentile in Analytic will reduce your chances of acceptance."

According to ETS, 60% in verbal is a 153. A 60% in quant is around a 155.

This is from UMD's political science admissions page: "With respect to GRE scores, the most competitive students generally have scores in the 70th percentile or above." 

Again, according to ETS, a 70% in verbal is around a 155. A 70% in quant is a 158.

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2 hours ago, deutsch1997bw said:

This is from UVA's political science admissions page: "We weigh the GRE less heavily than other factors, though very high scores will help your application. Scores below the 60th percentile in Verbal and Math and below the 80th percentile in Analytic will reduce your chances of acceptance."

According to ETS, 60% in verbal is a 153. A 60% in quant is around a 155.

This is from UMD's political science admissions page: "With respect to GRE scores, the most competitive students generally have scores in the 70th percentile or above." 

Again, according to ETS, a 70% in verbal is around a 155. A 70% in quant is a 158.

Thanks

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd encourage you to reach out to professors if you have a low score but think you are otherwise qualified. The GRE is a very noisy signal of applicant quality and what we really need are students who are willing to take on our grueling stats sequence... and win!

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13 hours ago, saudiwin said:

I'd encourage you to reach out to professors if you have a low score but think you are otherwise qualified. The GRE is a very noisy signal of applicant quality and what we really need are students who are willing to take on our grueling stats sequence... and win!

I don't encourage this as they have no real say in admissions process.

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16 hours ago, saudiwin said:

To be successful in political science, you need to learn how to network. Starting now is a great idea in general regardless who has say in what.

I wouldn't personally classify cold emailing POIs as a prospective student networking. 

The key for the OP at this point, if he wants to apply this cycle, is to do significantly better on the GRE.

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Thank you both for your comments. I have already decided to retake the test to improve my score. 

Regarding emailing profs, I would do so only to get a better idea of if my research interests are a good fit for the department or not. I do not expect any prof to weigh in on my application, especially if they don’t know me at all.

Since I have several research interests and am quite flexible with the topic as long as it’s in IR and focused on Asia, I plan to tailor that part of my POS to each particular school.

Thoughts?

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14 hours ago, csantamir said:

Since I have several research interests and am quite flexible with the topic as long as it’s in IR and focused on Asia, I plan to tailor that part of my POS to each particular school.

Thoughts?

I highly advise against this. It's hard enough to come up with a coherent and interesting proposal, doing multiple is extremely difficult. It's fine to have broad interests but that portion of the SOP is designed to show the committee that you can come up with something interesting that speaks to academic political science. Spreading yourself too thin may come across as incoherent.

Develop a strong, interesting, and tight research statement and tie it to the relevant faculty at each school. POIs do not have to be perfect fits.

Edited by Comparativist
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12 hours ago, Comparativist said:

I highly advise against this. It's hard enough to come up with a coherent and interesting proposal, doing multiple is extremely difficult. It's fine to have broad interests but that portion of the SOP is designed to show the committee that you can come up with something interesting that speaks to academic political science. Spreading yourself too thin may come across as incoherent.

Develop a strong, interesting, and tight research statement and tie it to the relevant faculty at each school. POIs do not have to be perfect fits.

Thanks for the advice. Maybe I didn’t express myself properly. I do have a very clear research interest (future balance of power in Asia) but I wanted to tweak it a bit to fit each department. Maybe it’s better, like you said, to come up with a good idea and hope they find it as interesting as I do.

 

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Hi Csantamir,

Your overall score is really good, but your Quantitative score is not that good. I am still taking the GRE this 2018 and aims to get at least 155 for Quantitative and another 155 for Vocab. 

There are still Universities that will take your score, but I believe not the top one. Since you have already tried Magoosh in your first GRE Exam, I suggest this two test companies:

https://www.kaptest.com/gre

https://www.preped.com/find?exam=gre

Hopefully, they can help you. I have been trying out their free practice tests and lessons (you can find free lessons in their youtube channel), and so far it helped me regain my Math memories :D

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21 hours ago, JohnKim said:

Hi Csantamir,

Your overall score is really good, but your Quantitative score is not that good. I am still taking the GRE this 2018 and aims to get at least 155 for Quantitative and another 155 for Vocab. 

There are still Universities that will take your score, but I believe not the top one. Since you have already tried Magoosh in your first GRE Exam, I suggest this two test companies:

https://www.kaptest.com/gre

https://www.preped.com/find?exam=gre

Hopefully, they can help you. I have been trying out their free practice tests and lessons (you can find free lessons in their youtube channel), and so far it helped me regain my Math memories :D

Thanks. I’m using Princeton now to review and seems to be going better. Cheers

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8 minutes ago, csantamir said:

Thanks. I’m using Princeton now to review and seems to be going better. Cheers

I'll try using Princeton as well, will check of the free tests they have or any trial! Thanks Csantamir. :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am in the same boat. I will be applying on Polsci PhD's. However, I am terrible at quant. I have not seen any math lesson for 6 years and I was not good at maths back high school as well, usually getting C or D in the US equivalance. Unfortunately, due to quantitative research concentration of the most of US PhD's, the universities require mostly 155+ quant for polsci PhD's.

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  • 5 weeks later...
7 hours ago, csantamir said:

After two months of reviewing and taking a zillion practice tests, I improved my score (marginally) to 158 V 151 Q. Should I even bother applying to places like Virginia or UMD? I’m definitely NOT taking the test again. Thanks

I actually think a 143 -> 151 is a substantial improvement, though you're right that the scores will not likely be the strongest aspect of your application.  I would go ahead and apply if you feel that UVA or UMD is a really good fit for your research interests and the application cost is not a serious burden. 

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On 9/28/2017 at 5:11 PM, hj2012 said:

I actually think a 143 -> 151 is a substantial improvement, though you're right that the scores will not likely be the strongest aspect of your application.  I would go ahead and apply if you feel that UVA or UMD is a really good fit for your research interests and the application cost is not a serious burden. 

Thanks! I'll probably still try UVa but not UMD

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  • 1 year later...

Hi, I wanto to apply to various Ph.D's in Political Science (UCLA, UCSD, USC, UCI, UCSB, PITT) but I don't know how horrible are my scores to be accepted in those universities.

I scored :

145 V

154 Q

I also have an horrible TOEFL of 88 

I'm going to take the TOEFL again in november and I am also planning to take again the GRE.

 

Help, please

Edited by PolSciStud
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