GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
currentstudent
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GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby currentstudent » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:42 pm

I'm currently a graduate student at a top 5 mathematics department according to US News, and I just wanted to give you some information regarding admissions to our graduate program now that the 2017 cycle is a distant memory (so hopefully I won't get in trouble for this). My adviser was part of the admissions committee last year, and I talked to him a bit about the admissions process out of curiosity. In particular, I asked him whether there were any '"cutoffs" with respect to the subject test scores. What he told me was that while there are no hard cutoffs, admission into the program becomes very unlikely with a score of 750 or below (I believe he used the words "750 or below is very very bad"). He also told me that with a score from 760 to 800, there must be some another aspect that really stands out in the application in order for there to be a compelling reason to admit the applicant. Finally, he said that with scores significantly higher than 800, they really don't distinguish the applicants on the basis of GRE scores anymore, and they use transcripts, letters of rec, etc instead. With regards to the regular GRE, he said that he doesn't care about those scores at all, unless the quantitative section scores are "catastrophically" low.

Now, this is only the criteria used at one of the 'top' programs, and I'm not sure if the other top programs do things differently. However, I wouldn't be too surprised if they used a similar standard. I saw a list of all the incoming students with their subject test scores at the end of the school year, and I can confirm that there were very, very few students with a score below 760 (like maybe one), as well as less than 5 students with a score from 760 to 800, so I think what my adviser told me is plausible. This isn't to say that you have no chance of getting into a top 5 program with a score less than 760, but if you did score in that range, you should perhaps consider retaking to try to get a better score. I just wanted to give you all this information before the applications open up for the 2018 cycle. Hope you find this information helpful, and best of luck with your applications!
Last edited by currentstudent on Thu Aug 24, 2017 5:06 am, edited 7 times in total.

DDswife
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby DDswife » Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:16 pm

Thanks!

kennethahah
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby kennethahah » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:45 am

Thanks for sharing.

Galen
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby Galen » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:40 am

Dear All,

I would like to ask for your advice, I am a bit insecure here. I would like to apply for a terminal master program in Mathematics or a Phd program. My problem is that although I love Mathematics very much, my GPA is 2.82 because I did my bachelor's degree beside a full-time job. I also have a master's degree in Macroeconomics so as research I have the bachelor and the master thesis. I am from Hungary so I plan to take the GRE General and the GRE subject tests in October. What do you think my chances are to get in to Math programs? Since we have just moved to Princeton I am considering the colleges/universities available in the area, like University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, New York University and Princeton University. Could you please give me some advice? I just do not want to throw money away. I study really hard for the upcoming exams and I am just wondering if I can take those exams with a pretty high score do I have a chance?

Thank you for your help!

math_hopeful
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby math_hopeful » Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:26 am

Thanks for the information! Can I ask you what school you're at? I'm asking this because it's presumably not Berkeley? I've seen people on this forum get accepted there with scores as low as 660 (Check the 2016 Applicant Profile thread, although granted they were waitlisted before being accepted).

lambert
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby lambert » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:58 am

math_hopeful wrote:Thanks for the information! Can I ask you what school you're at? I'm asking this because it's presumably not Berkeley? I've seen people on this forum get accepted there with scores as low as 660 (Check the 2016 Applicant Profile thread, although granted they were waitlisted before being accepted).


I think top 5 is restrictive enough, if the topic creator wanted to say their school they would've done so.

Berkeley specifically state on their website that for scores below 800 you probably need to have some outstanding aspect in your application to be considered. It's not a hard cut-off by any means though.

Scores as low as 660 I doubt it though, unless you happen to be a domestic female applicant, Berkeley seems to set the bar much lower for those demographics. For most people on the forum (aka asian / white males), a 660 will likely get your application trashed in the first round where they narrow down the pool.

math_hopeful
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby math_hopeful » Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:15 pm

lambert wrote:Scores as low as 660 I doubt it though, unless you happen to be a domestic female applicant, Berkeley seems to set the bar much lower for those demographics. For most people on the forum (aka asian / white males), a 660 will likely get your application trashed in the first round where they narrow down the pool.


I just went over the most recent applicant profiles (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017), and it seems that out of the top programs, Berkeley is the most likely to accept you with a lower GRE subject test score (lower as in mid to upper 700s), although it seems that you are correct that that they set the bar a lot lower for domestic female applicants. Granted, you are probably right that the average applicant with a 660 is not going to get into Berkeley, but I've seen a few male applicants with scores in the mid to upper 700 range accepted there. I think that if you have a very high GPA and an okay GRE subject test score, Berkeley is the best bet to apply to out of the top math schools, even though their website may say otherwise.

Tianma799
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby Tianma799 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:49 pm

Thank you so much!! I don't think I will apply to any top 5/top 10 except Berkeley, but still this is very useful :D

currentstudent
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby currentstudent » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:32 pm

math_hopeful wrote:Thanks for the information! Can I ask you what school you're at? I'm asking this because it's presumably not Berkeley?


I can neither confirm nor deny this claim. I also realized that because of how US News handles ties in their rankings, there are actually six schools in the "top 5" graduate programs.

In addition, I wanted to make an update because I forgot to mention something in my original post. In terms of the regular GRE test, my adviser also told me (a little jokingly) that he thinks that the Verbal section is actually more important than the Quantitative section. His reasoning was that the Verbal score is more informative for the admissions committee, since "everyone who applies to this program will have a good Quant score, but the Verbal score lets us know who actually knows English." I don't know how serious he was being when he said that.

I will also say that my department likes to claim that their standards for admissions is the same for both domestic and international students, so the benchmarks for subject test scores should be the same for both groups. I don't know how true this claim is, but maybe that gives it away that I'm not at Berkeley since apparently you guys seem to think there is a gap between expectations for domestic and international students there?

math_hopeful
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby math_hopeful » Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:59 pm

Thanks again. I have a question that wasn't quite answered by your posts. Is there a significant difference between getting an 800 and a score much higher than 800, say about 900? Or does it not matter as long as your scores are about 800? I got a 790 on the September exam, and I don't know if this score will make me competitive for the top programs. I've been really busy with school lately, so I haven't had time to study for the October exam, but I will probably spend the next week going all out studying for it if my current score will preclude me from being accepted to the top schools.

sevenfive
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby sevenfive » Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:27 am

I find this puzzling, since in this forum's own results thread, its seems like 170 V on the general GRE is a big predictor for top 5. Are you at Berkeley?

djysyed
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby djysyed » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:10 pm

Deleted
Last edited by djysyed on Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

math_hopeful
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby math_hopeful » Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:34 pm

Ugh... I just got my October scores, and I got a 780. I got a 790 on the September exam, so I barely missed the 800 threshold on both exams. I'm kinda bummed right now since my dream school is Berkeley. Will they really penalize me that much for just falling short of an 800? I have a 3.8 Math GPA from a lower Ivy (i.e. not HYP), as well as 2 summer REUs. Do I still have a shot at a top 5 program?

Banach-Steinhaus
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby Banach-Steinhaus » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:32 pm

I came across this post while googling about expected Math GRE subject test scores for PhD programs. Does anyone know how accurate this information is? Is the expected cutoff really that high? This is really intimidating...

djysyed
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby djysyed » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:35 pm

Berkeley and UCLA are considered the most lenient and have cutoffs as mentioned by the OP. It wouldn't surprise me if OP attends Berkeley. From what I know about Harvard, MIT and other such places, they want above an 850 but won't be too hard on you if you maintain at least an 800. Almost everyone that got into Princeton broke a 900.

math_hopeful
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby math_hopeful » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:21 pm

As a personal anecdote, my highest score was a 790, and I was rejected at every single top 5 math program. The highest ranked program I got in was Caltech, which is currently ranked 9th. However, your mileage may vary. There are just too many other factors to take into account and your test score is just one component. Do I sometimes wonder if I would have been accepted at more places if my score was higher? Sure, but I'm very happy with the schools that ultimately accepted me. My advice is to do as well as you can on the test, and don't worry about it too much.

Banach-Steinhaus
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby Banach-Steinhaus » Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:09 pm

djysyed wrote:Berkeley and UCLA are considered the most lenient and have cutoffs as mentioned by the OP. It wouldn't surprise me if OP attends Berkeley. From what I know about Harvard, MIT and other such places, they want above an 850 but won't be too hard on you if you maintain at least an 800. Almost everyone that got into Princeton broke a 900.


Where did you get this info from? Is it from looking through past results on this forum or talking with current students? I don't see anything about expected subject test scores on Princeton's math website, except "General and Math Subject tests - no minimum scores required." Most of the program websites I've been going through don't mention anything about average or expected subject test scores. My professors have been telling me to get the highest score I can but not to waste too much time studying for it, since admissions committees know that the subject test is not representative of your math knowledge.

djysyed
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby djysyed » Sun Apr 29, 2018 9:27 pm

Banach-Steinhaus wrote:Where did you get this info from? Is it from looking through past results on this forum or talking with current students? I don't see anything about expected subject test scores on Princeton's math website, except "General and Math Subject tests - no minimum scores required." Most of the program websites I've been going through don't mention anything about average or expected subject test scores. My professors have been telling me to get the highest score I can but not to waste too much time studying for it, since admissions committees know that the subject test is not representative of your math knowledge.


A mix of looking through the results of gradcafe, emailing various professors and speaking to some of my professors, who attended Princeton's admissions committee meetings as post-docs.

I don't mean to come off as harsh but, the GRE Subject is supposed to be easy for students at the level needed to get into a top 10 program. The difficult part is taking multiple graduate courses, having research experience, and doing very well in both of them.

FreddieBiddleBooty
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby FreddieBiddleBooty » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:18 am

djysyed wrote:
Banach-Steinhaus wrote:Where did you get this info from? Is it from looking through past results on this forum or talking with current students? I don't see anything about expected subject test scores on Princeton's math website, except "General and Math Subject tests - no minimum scores required." Most of the program websites I've been going through don't mention anything about average or expected subject test scores. My professors have been telling me to get the highest score I can but not to waste too much time studying for it, since admissions committees know that the subject test is not representative of your math knowledge.


A mix of looking through the results of gradcafe, emailing various professors and speaking to some of my professors, who attended Princeton's admissions committee meetings as post-docs.

I don't mean to come off as harsh but, the GRE Subject is supposed to be easy for students at the level needed to get into a top 10 program. The difficult part is taking multiple graduate courses, having research experience, and doing very well in both of them.


Then MGRE has failed it's purpose. The only thing it tests is on how fast you can do tricky (but not that tricky) calculus/linear algebra. It has almost nothing to do with research mathematics, and it fails the students whose research focus is discrete.

djysyed
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby djysyed » Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:44 pm

FreddieBiddleBooty wrote:Then MGRE has failed it's purpose. The only thing it tests is on how fast you can do tricky (but not that tricky) calculus/linear algebra. It has almost nothing to do with research mathematics, and it fails the students whose research focus is discrete.


I certainly agree to some extent. The purpose of the MGRE is to ensure that the student has a good understanding of undergraduate level mathematics. Now, the issue is, what is considered undergraduate level? Many four-year universities that offer a math degree don't teach topology, complex analysis, and the second semesters of other courses. In order to accommodate these students, who are a majority of math undergraduates, the MGRE can not ask questions that require deep knowledge of any topics not covered by a typical four-year university. In all honesty, I would love to see something like the following on an MGRE: Which of the following groups is the fundamental group of a sphere with its north and south pole identified?

The ideal exam for undergraduates would be a proof based exam with mid-level homework type problems. Many PhD programs require students to pass a "Masters" exam that tests the key areas of undergraduate mathematics at an Honors level. However, organizing a proof-based standardized exam would be almost impossible to run due to the amount of grading required.

FreddieBiddleBooty
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby FreddieBiddleBooty » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:13 pm

djysyed wrote:
FreddieBiddleBooty wrote:Then MGRE has failed it's purpose. The only thing it tests is on how fast you can do tricky (but not that tricky) calculus/linear algebra. It has almost nothing to do with research mathematics, and it fails the students whose research focus is discrete.


I certainly agree to some extent. The purpose of the MGRE is to ensure that the student has a good understanding of undergraduate level mathematics. Now, the issue is, what is considered undergraduate level? Many four-year universities that offer a math degree don't teach topology, complex analysis, and the second semesters of other courses. In order to accommodate these students, who are a majority of math undergraduates, the MGRE can not ask questions that require deep knowledge of any topics not covered by a typical four-year university. In all honesty, I would love to see something like the following on an MGRE: Which of the following groups is the fundamental group of a sphere with its north and south pole identified?

The ideal exam for undergraduates would be a proof based exam with mid-level homework type problems. Many PhD programs require students to pass a "Masters" exam that tests the key areas of undergraduate mathematics at an Honors level. However, organizing a proof-based standardized exam would be almost impossible to run due to the amount of grading required.


Yes good point. And I think this just gives more credit to the idea of dropping the MGRE all together. It would be better for schools to rely solely on letters, grades, research, etc. Not to mention the cheating going on overseas (or so I've heard).

Banach-Steinhaus
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby Banach-Steinhaus » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:32 pm

djysyed wrote:I don't mean to come off as harsh but, the GRE Subject is supposed to be easy for students at the level needed to get into a top 10 program. The difficult part is taking multiple graduate courses, having research experience, and doing very well in both of them.


I don't think this is true... I know of multiple friends and classmates who were accepted to top math programs without having taken a single graduate course or having any research experience. I think the vast majority of undergraduates applying for graduate school don't get anywhere close to level of real mathematical research, and I'm not including stuff like REUs or reading courses, because those are not representative of real research at all. The ones who ended up in great PhD programs all got good grades in their math courses, and a lot of them also did the Columbia Math Undergraduate Summer Research Program, but the main purpose of that was to get good reference letters, not to actually do substantive research in math.

spijuank
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby spijuank » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:04 pm

Dropping the GRE would be a bad idea. It's the only universal way schools have of comparing students from different schools. In particular, it's the only way they have of knowing if that perfect GPA from this random unknown school in the middle of nowhere actually means anything. Without this, the only realistic way to get into a good school would be already having done your undergrad in a good school. And this is a bad thing because it would just breed more elitism.
Also if you're good you can handle the GRE, what is this "I do discrete math so I can't handle some Calc 1" nonsense.

FreddieBiddleBooty
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby FreddieBiddleBooty » Tue May 01, 2018 12:52 am

spijuank wrote:Dropping the GRE would be a bad idea. It's the only universal way schools have of comparing students from different schools. In particular, it's the only way they have of knowing if that perfect GPA from this random unknown school in the middle of nowhere actually means anything. Without this, the only realistic way to get into a good school would be already having done your undergrad in a good school. And this is a bad thing because it would just breed more elitism.
Also if you're good you can handle the GRE, what is this "I do discrete math so I can't handle some Calc 1" nonsense.


It is not the only way - hence letters of rec, research, grades. My point about discrete mathematicians was that the MGRE is meaningless in reflecting their research potential. I never said those mathematicians can't handle it - It's just mostly calculus and linear algebra, along with various other simple topics. The unfair part is the timing, given the type of questions. It doesn't reflect research potential at all. It should not be implemented.

djysyed
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby djysyed » Tue May 01, 2018 1:46 am

FreddieBiddleBooty wrote: It doesn't reflect research potential at all. It should not be implemented.


A wonderful example of someone who completed bombed the MGRE but published phenomenal research is David Yang, a first year PhD at Harvard. He got a 680 on the MGRE but published some very heavy papers in Arithmetic Geometry during his undergrad years.

mog
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby mog » Tue May 01, 2018 3:05 am

djysyed wrote:
FreddieBiddleBooty wrote: It doesn't reflect research potential at all. It should not be implemented.


A wonderful example of someone who completed bombed the MGRE but published phenomenal research is David Yang, a first year PhD at Harvard. He got a 680 on the MGRE but published some very heavy papers in Arithmetic Geometry during his undergrad years.


You better not be serious. I don't know David Yang personally but he is a multiple IMO medalist and Putnam Fellow on paper. People normally don't have such credentials even in top programs. I would consider him an absolute outlier to most of us and he probably would have gone in with any mGRE score...

spijuank
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby spijuank » Tue May 01, 2018 4:57 am

FreddieBiddleBooty wrote:
It is not the only way - hence letters of rec, research, grades.




Letters of rec from unknown people, grades from unknown institution, worth very little on their own without a yardstick allowing you to compare the applicant to people from schools you actually know to have good standards. The MGRE is ultimately less important than them of course, but it serves the purpose of giving them weight and credibility in the first place if they don't already come from high pedigree people and places. Research can't be anything but a cute little bonus in most people's applications, even the best undergrads don't often have the background or experience to do significant research unless in some exceptional cases; REUs are cute but they seldom produce any significant, professional level results.
FreddieBiddleBooty wrote:
My point about discrete mathematicians was that the MGRE is meaningless in reflecting their research potential. I never said those mathematicians can't handle it - It's just mostly calculus and linear algebra, along with various other simple topics. The unfair part is the timing, given the type of questions. It doesn't reflect research potential at all. It should not be implemented.

If the timing seems unfair then you're not doing the problems the right way, you're expected to use your problem solving skills to find shortcuts and elegant solutions. It doesn't reflect research potential in the sense that it only tells you how good you are at coming up with good ideas to solve short and relatively simple problems as opposed to the long and complex problems that you face in research. But, like performance in coursework which also evaluates your ability to solve low complexity problems, it does reflect some of the problem solving microskills that do end up being important in research. No one actually knows how you will *really* do when faced with a long term research problem because it's unlike anything you've done before, but small scale problem solving skills are certainly not orthogonal to this.
djysyed wrote:
A wonderful example of someone who completed bombed the MGRE but published phenomenal research is David Yang, a first year PhD at Harvard. He got a 680 on the MGRE but published some very heavy papers in Arithmetic Geometry during his undergrad years.


This has to be a joke. The MGRE will almost certainly be a walk in the park to any accomplished Olympiad competitor, let alone a twice gold medal winner in the IMO which is the best of the best. The MGRE is like a toy version with toy problems of an actual Math Competition. If he did poorly that was probably due to extenuating circumstances (illness?) or just due to not caring at all about it because his credentials were already ridiculous. Any slightly less godly competitor realistically hoping for Harvard would've just put in slightly more effort, repeated the test and gotten an 80%+ score easily. This is a "wonderful example" in the same sense that "Einstein failing math in high school" or "Stephen Hawking working 1 hour per day in Oxford" is, there's nothing relatable or to be learned from this pointless anecdote.
Last edited by spijuank on Tue May 01, 2018 5:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

FreddieBiddleBooty
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby FreddieBiddleBooty » Tue May 01, 2018 11:23 am

I agree with a lot of what you're saying. You make very good points with the exception of a few. But I still think the MGRE is just not beneficial to anyone, including the universities requiring It. It should be either dropped or replaced by something better.

As someone else said, a top mathematician didn't do so hot on it and has made numerous publications. Though this may seem like an exceptional case, I am inclined to believe it is not. What about the students who come into math late in their studies who end up being brilliant? There are students who are brilliant when they take time to think about whatever problem they're working on, and there are students who are fast and clever. And of course there are in-betweens.

We can't make a perfect test that measures a student, I understand this. But that and the afforementioned conversation is reason enough to do something different.

clarenthol
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby clarenthol » Tue May 01, 2018 11:56 am

Recommendation for MGRE alternate proposal:

1. Obtain doctorate
2. Obtain job
3. Gain experience
4. Obtain chair
5. Join committee
6. Obtain grant
7. R&D...



n. Present findings and recommendations

petrokov
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby petrokov » Wed May 02, 2018 3:45 am

I do discrete math, and I didn't do that well on the mGRE either, but I want to add my opinion about the matter.

Almost all standardized tests do not measure intelligence or potential. They measure something else. What the measure is the ability to learn how to do a specific type of problem, and the ability to do that kind of problem well. I think that a test about analyzing literature written in Klingon would measure the exact same thing as the mGRE. In order to do well, a test taker would need to prepare a specific skillset and demonstrate that skillset under time constraints.

That being said, I think that this is an extremely important thing to measure. In order to succeed in math, a student needs to be able to learn specific skills and techniques related to his or her own area of research. A student needs to get used to recognizing certain patterns and shortcuts that appear over and over. A student needs to take time out of an already busy schedule in order to develop skills for classes that may presently seem to have no use, whose benefit will only become clear in the distant future.

This is not to say that these are the only things that are important in research. But these aspects of research are indeed important.

I believe that all ETS tests can be gamed. I scored two questions away from perfect on the general GRE, along with a 6/6 on the writing, because instead of trying to actually improve my reading and writing skills, I figured out exactly what the test wanted me to do and how the test wanted me to think. I basically diarrheaed all over the essay with unnecessarily long words and sentences that only loosely fit into a somewhat coherent argument, because I knew that the essay was graded by a computer that looked at sentence length and frequency of uncommon words instead of actual human reason. I memorized a list of 3000 words before the test so that I wouldn't have to guess anything on the reading. Does my score mean that I'm incredibly gifted at reading and writing? No; in fact I think I'm below average. But my score shows that I'm able to identify what I need to learn and learn it well. I think the mGRE is exactly the same. The main reason I didn't do as well as I hoped is that I didn't practice for a few months before the tests, and the useless skills that I needed for the test, like line integrals, escaped from my unconscious motor memory. But I think even though a high mGRE score doesn't mean someone is good at math, it means that they're willing and able to identify specific types of problems in math and practice them until they can do them in their sleep. And I think that ability is an important ability for any PhD student.

JL_MATH
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby JL_MATH » Thu May 03, 2018 2:18 am

I agree with petrokov. A positive and learning attitude is important. The score doesn't matter anymore, but we can learn from our mistakes in the exam.

P.S. I am shocked that the essay part is graded by computer :shock: :shock: :shock:

petrokov
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby petrokov » Fri May 04, 2018 3:45 am

I think it's ridiculous, but I'm not really surprised. They have a monopoly on grad school standardized tests, so there's no pressure to actually make a good test that's fairly graded.

cater99
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Re: GRE Subject test score "cutoff" info from a current student

Postby cater99 » Fri May 11, 2018 1:18 pm

Having got a score slightly higher than 800 today, I really hope this post applies lmao




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