stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
math_stu
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:05 pm

stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby math_stu » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:07 pm

Hi guys, If you or someone you know were accepted to top 10 school with low or mediocre MGRE score, that would be great if you can write about it (and what did you or your friend had to compensate for that score). I think it will be beneficial for many of us

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby Legendre » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:14 am

math_stu wrote:Hi guys, If you or someone you know were accepted to top 10 school with low or mediocre MGRE score, that would be great if you can write about it (and what did you or your friend had to compensate for that score). I think it will be beneficial for many of us


For non-math programmes, you can get into ivy league without even submitting a MGRE score. I was interviewed by one.

For applied-math, I heard it is much easier. In the applicant threads, there are people with 50-60+% scores getting into good schools.

For pure math, I heard in another thread of someone who was waitlisted with 49-50% score (if I recall correctly). Outside of that, I always heard that MGRE score is quite important for pure math. :(

jstanczyk
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby jstanczyk » Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:24 pm

I go to a top math school in the midwest. Top ten according to some rankings. Of the four friends I have in the department and myself ( the first time), all MGRE scores were below 80%. Four of them were in the mid 60's. Granted, this is several years ago. All of these guys are doing great, some with great postdocs (Utah, Berekley). None of these guys, at least they tell me, took the MGRE really that seriously so I am unsure if their scores belie their success. Three of these guys came from very, very good programs with great letters and coursework (non had prior research). But I also know plenty of guys and gals who nailed the test at 97% or above.

From what I have heard from members of our admissions comittee, a good portion say there is a threshold after which scores are not that significantly correlated to success. One member who puts high emphasis on the MGRE said that a score of 700 would neither hurt nor hinder you, but 800 would get your application some glances.

Of course this depends on the school, maybe there is a difference between public and private schools. UPenn's admissions data indicate that the average score of admitted people is 820. That is pretty stiff competition.

So, the MGRE is far from the end-all-be-all. Some people are not that fast on the MGRE, but are still really good and succeed at really good schools. I know people like that but, that is more the execption than the rule. Still, you need to be very honest with yourself about why you are applying to schools (top ten) and what your abilities really are.

Everybody wants to go to MIT or Princeton or whatever, and often this is for the ego stroking. It is very true that going to a top place is almost prerequisite for getting a brilliant academic career, that is just how the market of academia works--it revolves around prestige and honors. But not everybody can go, and if you don't like math enough to go somewhere else than a top 10, or 20 school then maybe you should consider something that can make you more money and/or more happniess.

If anything, the MGRE can help you evaluate what tier of school you would be happiest at. If you can only really score mediocre or don't care to do much better, then Princeton probably isn't the place for you. Over there the people are just that much faster, expeirenced, competitive, and, sometimes, smarter. They have, and have had TEENAGERS doing their Phd's there (fields medalist Terrence Tao). Going to some place like that can be a constant ego bruising, and smart people drop out because of it. One of my letter writers has stories of this.

At less known schools or tier two schools you might find much better fit because because you can stand out your cohort has similar mentalities. Also you can get more money for funding because you stand out.

rmg512
Posts: 97
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:15 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby rmg512 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:46 pm

I have a friend currently at UCLA who got a 690 on the Math GRE. So, it is possible to get into a great school with a less than stellar MGRE score. You just have to have a LOT to compensate for it: he had taken 8 grad courses already when he applied, he did research at his home institution, and he did an REU (I believe he had a publication by the end of it).

kuz
Posts: 42
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:32 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby kuz » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:20 pm

jstanczyk wrote:I go to a top math school in the midwest. Top ten according to some rankings. Of the four friends I have in the department and myself ( the first time), all MGRE scores were below 80%. Four of them were in the mid 60's. Granted, this is several years ago. All of these guys are doing great, some with great postdocs (Utah, Berekley). None of these guys, at least they tell me, took the MGRE really that seriously so I am unsure if their scores belie their success. Three of these guys came from very, very good programs with great letters and coursework (non had prior research). But I also know plenty of guys and gals who nailed the test at 97% or above.

From what I have heard from members of our admissions comittee, a good portion say there is a threshold after which scores are not that significantly correlated to success. One member who puts high emphasis on the MGRE said that a score of 700 would neither hurt nor hinder you, but 800 would get your application some glances.

Of course this depends on the school, maybe there is a difference between public and private schools. UPenn's admissions data indicate that the average score of admitted people is 820. That is pretty stiff competition.

So, the MGRE is far from the end-all-be-all. Some people are not that fast on the MGRE, but are still really good and succeed at really good schools. I know people like that but, that is more the execption than the rule. Still, you need to be very honest with yourself about why you are applying to schools (top ten) and what your abilities really are.

Everybody wants to go to MIT or Princeton or whatever, and often this is for the ego stroking. It is very true that going to a top place is almost prerequisite for getting a brilliant academic career, that is just how the market of academia works--it revolves around prestige and honors. But not everybody can go, and if you don't like math enough to go somewhere else than a top 10, or 20 school then maybe you should consider something that can make you more money and/or more happniess.

If anything, the MGRE can help you evaluate what tier of school you would be happiest at. If you can only really score mediocre or don't care to do much better, then Princeton probably isn't the place for you. Over there the people are just that much faster, expeirenced, competitive, and, sometimes, smarter. They have, and have had TEENAGERS doing their Phd's there (fields medalist Terrence Tao). Going to some place like that can be a constant ego bruising, and smart people drop out because of it. One of my letter writers has stories of this.

At less known schools or tier two schools you might find much better fit because because you can stand out your cohort has similar mentalities. Also you can get more money for funding because you stand out.

I got into Princeton, and my score was "only" 770 (77%). I think most of my peers did better, however; I had the advantage of some research and a Masters degree. But there are indeed teenagers here (there's a second year math PhD student who only turned 19 this month), and it can be pretty intimidating here.

math_stu
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:05 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby math_stu » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:37 am

Hi kuz, I'm actually wondering about that. How is the social atmosphere in such place like Princeton? Are people nice to each other, or do they mostly compete against each other?

kuz
Posts: 42
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:32 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby kuz » Mon Oct 22, 2012 2:25 pm

math_stu wrote:Hi kuz, I'm actually wondering about that. How is the social atmosphere in such place like Princeton? Are people nice to each other, or do they mostly compete against each other?

It's good. Much more nerdy than my former university, but all the students are quite friendly and not at all competitive against each other; there's lots of mutual help for study for the general exam, and I know of a couple of the later year students who've written joint papers together, so it's great for discussing research. The intimidation comes from the fact that a lot of my fellow students are IMO gold medalists or have really impressive achievements. Outside of the maths department, graduate students seem to be a bit less nerdy (most of my friends are engineers), but similarly friendly. I haven't really gotten to know any of the professors properly yet; it can be pretty intimidating to talk to some of the big names in modern mathematics (especially some of the guys at the IAS). But I've spoken to a couple and they're all reasonably friendly (especially the younger guys).

math_applicant
Posts: 157
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:15 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby math_applicant » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:57 am

I wonder if the personal statement plays any role at all to remedy low gre scores or any other deficiencies on the application. I mean does one have to show knowledge of details of faculty research for example to convey being a good fit despite what the gre score says?

ReneMagritte
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby ReneMagritte » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:00 am

math_applicant wrote:I wonder if the personal statement plays any role at all to remedy low gre scores or any other deficiencies on the application. I mean does one have to show knowledge of details of faculty research for example to convey being a good fit despite what the gre score says?


If you think that your GRE score is poor and that it doesn't do justice to you, then you could mention it. Suppose you just messed up on the day, you could mention that and point to other parts of your application that perhaps show that the low GRE isn't reflective of your general mathematical strength.

I would be careful though. First, this takes up precious space on your statement. What makes a satisfactory GRE score is institution independent (Berkely > 80; Duke < 80), so even if you've a "bad" score relative to Berkely, your application to Duke might not need to mention it. Second, the GRE is tough for everyone. When we all (inevitably) do less well than we want, we hit out at ETS -- but the exam is the same for everyone. So just having a gut feeling that you didn't do as well as you should have wouldn't cut it, in my opinion. App committees will be aware that everyone had to deal with GRE-crapness equally.

Finally, the importance of the GRE is generally overexaggereted, particularly (in my opinion) on this forum. People tend to get too hung up on it.

colldood
Posts: 41
Joined: Wed Dec 01, 2010 11:45 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby colldood » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:59 am

ReneMagritte wrote:
math_applicant wrote:I wonder if the personal statement plays any role at all to remedy low gre scores or any other deficiencies on the application. I mean does one have to show knowledge of details of faculty research for example to convey being a good fit despite what the gre score says?


If you think that your GRE score is poor and that it doesn't do justice to you, then you could mention it. Suppose you just messed up on the day, you could mention that and point to other parts of your application that perhaps show that the low GRE isn't reflective of your general mathematical strength.

I would be careful though. First, this takes up precious space on your statement. What makes a satisfactory GRE score is institution independent (Berkely > 80; Duke < 80), so even if you've a "bad" score relative to Berkely, your application to Duke might not need to mention it. Second, the GRE is tough for everyone. When we all (inevitably) do less well than we want, we hit out at ETS -- but the exam is the same for everyone. So just having a gut feeling that you didn't do as well as you should have wouldn't cut it, in my opinion. App committees will be aware that everyone had to deal with GRE-crapness equally.

Finally, the importance of the GRE is generally overexaggereted, particularly (in my opinion) on this forum. People tend to get too hung up on it.
ReneMagritte wrote:
math_applicant wrote:I wonder if the personal statement plays any role at all to remedy low gre scores or any other deficiencies on the application. I mean does one have to show knowledge of details of faculty research for example to convey being a good fit despite what the gre score says?


If you think that your GRE score is poor and that it doesn't do justice to you, then you could mention it. Suppose you just messed up on the day, you could mention that and point to other parts of your application that perhaps show that the low GRE isn't reflective of your general mathematical strength.

I would be careful though. First, this takes up precious space on your statement. What makes a satisfactory GRE score is institution independent (Berkely > 80; Duke < 80), so even if you've a "bad" score relative to Berkely, your application to Duke might not need to mention it. Second, the GRE is tough for everyone. When we all (inevitably) do less well than we want, we hit out at ETS -- but the exam is the same for everyone. So just having a gut feeling that you didn't do as well as you should have wouldn't cut it, in my opinion. App committees will be aware that everyone had to deal with GRE-crapness equally.

Finally, the importance of the GRE is generally overexaggereted, particularly (in my opinion) on this forum. People tend to get too hung up on it.


What would you say to me, if my reason is "our undergraduate course was highly theoretical from day 1 (Spivak 1, Calc on Manifolds for 1st and 2nd year calc) and so the questions we did didn't resemble the GRE material that much (and the stuff we did study/learn was not tested by the GRE)" Or is that just like "congrats, you and everyone else"? Do you think that's worth mentioning / a legitimate excuse? I did mediocre, probably 60-70, but it's just not what we focused on in school.

jstanczyk
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby jstanczyk » Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:32 pm

You shouldn't be making excuses in your statement. Anyone could say the same thing, but there is nothing to corroborate it. What you CAN do, is have your letter writers address that fact if they believe it to be true. Admissions committees will listen to their peers from good institutions. If your letters and grades say that you are good, but were not prepped for the MGRE in your curriculum, then that can help. I would avoid mentioning your MGRE in your statement.

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby Legendre » Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:42 am

I agree. It is only useful if your profs explains it.

I have the same problem: I have an UK applied math undergrad and didn't take the usual USA math courses. Also, I spent the last two years doing a specialized applied math masters and research. Basic undergrad "games" like those are a distant memory lol. They are easy to solve given time and textbooks/internet but I find myself too out of touch to compete under time constraint.

But alas, I wouldn't be stating these in my personal statement.

Also, some would say we take the mgre score too seriously. But how can we not given the evidence? E.g. UC Berkley says they want >80. Various admissions stats show high mgre etc.

marco
Posts: 263
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:27 am

Re: stories of success with low or mediocre MGRE score

Postby marco » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:08 am

I think it is an important factor in one´s application but not at all definitive. I have a friend that got into Cornell with a percentile of 69. As I understand his letters of recommendation did the trick. I guess a good conclusion would be to say that if one does not have any solid recommenders than the MGRE becomes a lot more important.
On the other hand if one writes a great SOP and has solid recommenders than the MGRE is still important but a percentile like 70 would suffice. This is my opinion.
Also I do think that getting into schools like Princeton or MIT does not define one; it is the work that one does in Mathematics that does. So, while I would be honored to get into an ivy league school this would most definitely not make me a better mathematician.




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