Physics GRE

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danpilon54
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Physics GRE

Postby danpilon54 » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

Hey I just got my physics GRE scores and I wanted some people's opinions. I am applying to top schools including MIT, Harvard, Yale, and UC Berkeley along with 1 or 2 not so top schools as safeties. I have good research experience (published twice), a gpa of 3.87 with a physics gpa of 3.97. On practice tests I was scoring in the 80th-87th percentile (really good for an american) so I expected to do the same on the real thing.

I just called, and I did well, but not as well as I wanted. I got a scaled score of 800 which surprisingly was 74th percentile. On the practice tests I took 800 was about 79th. I may have heard wrong about the percentile but I am fairly sure. Is this good enough to get into top schools? Are any of you going to any of these schools or have gone for physics graduate work? What were your scores? I just want to know if this will significantly hurt my chances.
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asad137
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby asad137 » Wed Dec 10, 2008 4:56 pm UTC

Here's my data:

I went to Berkeley as an undergrad (go Bears), graduated in 2000. Did research for 2.5 yrs but nothing published. GPA in physics was something like a 3.7, IIRC. Scored 890 on the physics GRE, which at the time was 89th percentile.

I applied to Berkeley, CalTech, U Chicago, Princeton, and Harvard (I was going to apply to UCSB as my 'safety' school but I got lazy). I got into Princeton and Chicago, rejected everywhere else.

Asad

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ThinkerEmeritus
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby ThinkerEmeritus » Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:25 pm UTC

You can get statistics for each school's admissions from 2008-2009 at http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/. Look under "admission requirements" for average GRE scores of admitted students. The averages of course vary from year to year but you can get a general idea of where you stand. @danpilon: I suspect that the rest of your record will be looked on as rather better than your GRE, but obviously I am no longer involved in admissions and never was at the level of school you should be interested in.
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Klotz
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby Klotz » Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:18 pm UTC

I'm applying to some of those places as well. A 3.97 physics GPA is pretty solid though, should take you far.

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Gammashield
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby Gammashield » Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

Oh, and just to mention: having done the Physics grad school application process myself a few years ago, will say from the applicant's side of things there may be a sort of 'dart board' feel about the results. Acceptances for oddly prestigious places. Refusals from what you considered safeties. Maybe it's because of the smaller applicant pools for grad school, but there's a *lot* more deviation from the average scores, etc, than there was in the college process; at least that's how it felt to me. (I had the situation where my safeties said no, and one of my *reaches* said yes. That left me scratching my head, sure enough)

Sounds like you've got that well-covered, by having a decent number of schools, so any individual odd refusals shouldn't be too much of an issue. And yeah, that gradepoint and GRE sounds more than adequate to me, especially with the papers under your belt (Being published, I can't help but feel, makes one stick out from the average "Did four years of courses and did well" applicant far more than 70's vs. 80's on the GRE percentile.

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telcontar42
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby telcontar42 » Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:21 pm UTC

One thing to consider about the physics GRE is that there is a large difference in scores from students in the US and international students. International students tend to do much better and schools expect better scores from them. If you find the average Physics GRE scores for a school you have to consider that it is not representative of the average scores of American students that they accept.

800 isn't a bad score. It won't stand out as an exceptional score, but as long as the rest of your application is strong, I don't think it will hurt you. (At least I sure hope not, as I'm currently applying to physics grad schools and got a 760, 67%)

asad137
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby asad137 » Thu Dec 11, 2008 4:38 am UTC

As counterpoint, I offer the example of a guy my year. He was (is) much smarter than I was, got better grades, had published papers (two or three, IIRC), and I'm sure did better than I did on the GRE (though I never asked, just assumed). He got in almost nowhere he applied (which were mostly top-tier schools). I think it had a lot to do with the particular subfield he wanted to do (particle phenomenology). So...choose wisely.

Asad

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danpilon54
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby danpilon54 » Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:31 pm UTC

that reminds me. Asad, were you applying for theory or experiment? Im going for condensed matter experiment, which I have heard is the easiest to get into. Particle theory is the hardest. This might make sense how somebody (you) with such high scores etc could get rejected by so many places. If you were for experiment, that just doesnt make sense to me. Out of berkeley with a 3.7, research experience, and an amazing gre score for an american, and you only got into 2 places? That just scares the crap out of me...
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asad137
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby asad137 » Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:46 am UTC

Experimental cosmology (CMB). It probably didn't help that 4 of the 5 places I applied are THE top schools for CMB experiment, and the 5th (Harvard) didn't have any to speak of so they probably didn't know what the hell to do with me.

Asad

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danpilon54
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby danpilon54 » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:52 am UTC

ok that makes a little more sense. I added Chicago and U Illinois urbana-champaign to the list. Really all of them are still top 10, but I just need to get into 1.
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aiy1tm
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby aiy1tm » Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:09 am UTC

I got rejected from the top-tier (Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, didn't bother with Caltech or MIT).

I had a similar GPA, two publications and a higher GRE score (not much higher, 80 something percentile). (Also domestic student).

I got accepted into all schools I applied to that were as good as UCSB or worse. I basically applied as "undecided experimentalist", if you feel that matters.

This was for entering class Fall 2007.

joeleitz
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby joeleitz » Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:35 pm UTC

danpilon54, I'm wondering how you made out and what school you finally got into? I'm studying for the GRE right now and I'm really concerned that I might not do well enough either. I really want to get into a top tier college but my undergrad grades weren't that great so I'm really focusing on doing well on this exam. I found a really good gre practice test here that has helped me identify my weak areas and I'm also going to study from some prep books.Do you have any suggestions on the best study materials?

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Kobayashi_Maru
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby Kobayashi_Maru » Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:49 am UTC

If you want to see what sort of scores get you where, check out the Applicant Profiles threads at physicsgre.com. Specifically, go here and browse the past three years worth of 'Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results' threads (scroll about a third of the way down, they should be stickied), or go here and look at all the results in a table. Just don't drive yourself crazy by spending countless hours trying to see how you stack up, like I did.

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Izawwlgood
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Re: Physics GRE

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:09 am UTC

For what it's worth, I work in a biophysics lab at UChicago under a Harvard graduated physicist with a number of graduate students who applied to places similar to whats been mentioned; It is my understanding that a percentile ranking >50 on the Physics subject test reflects a strong applicant. There is a tremendous amount of inflation due to foreign students (this is common across all subject tests; apparently cheating on the subject test is very commonplace in China).

I ranked in the 70th percentile for the Bio subject test (I think?) and got into my top choice (preeeeeeen). My boss, a crazy brilliant woman, pulled a 50th percentile or so on her Physics subject, and the geekiest of physics grad students I work with didn't pull better then a 70th. The subject tests are supposedly all whacked.
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