What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
lemonjuice
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Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:55 am

What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby lemonjuice » Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:49 am

I did terrible on the exam (580, 33%). My grades in math however are all straight A's or A+'s (except a B+ i got in Calc II in freshman year). I have taken advanced courses: PDE, Probability and Statistics II, Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis. And next semester I will be taking Topology, Real Analysis II, and Complex Analysis. My overall GPA so far is 3.82.

People on this forum suggest applying to schools that don't require the GRE, but most of these schools either strongly recommend taking the test, or say that it is optional to send it. That being the case, I want to know if it is worth sending my score to such schools? In other words, what is worse: sending a low GRE score, or not sending a score at all?

Also, I want to know if it will be worth still applying to schools that do require the GRE. With a low score, but high grades, do I still have a shot in schools that require the GRE?

ANDS
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:41 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby ANDS » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:24 pm

I think folks put far too much emphasis on their Math GRE scores - and I'm not talking about the graduation committees. A student from our Math program was admitted to Uni. Chicago with a 30% on their Math GRE. This isn't the Quantitative portion of the GRE; it's the subject test. To place in the top echelons means you either really know your disparate subjects (although most calc) inside and out, or are just really good at test taking.

In short - don't hobble yourself by not applying. If you have the cash, strong letters of rec's and grades. Apply.

lemonjuice
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:55 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby lemonjuice » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:04 am

Thanks for your reply ANDS! Those are my thoughts exactly about the Subject Test. My good grades in my classes and my poor performance on the test only show that I cannot perform superbly under such time constraints. And I believe that this does not determine the potential of a math graduate student. I only wish that admission committees share this belief. Now when you say, "if you have the cash...," do you mean the cash needed to apply to a certain number of schools, or the cash to pay for attending school? If is is the latter, then the answer is no because I was hoping to receive funding and not take out a loan. But if I do not get any funding, then I have no choice but to take out a loan.

ANDS
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby ANDS » Tue Dec 06, 2011 1:35 pm

I mean the cash needed to pay for app fee's. All told I'm dropping 2000 dollars on app fees, and for ETS to send off GRE scores. That is a drop in the bucket compared to getting an acceptance letter from your school of choice. If they say no, they say no and you're out 100 bucks; but that is far less costly than an unapplied for "yes".

And no one knows the thoughts of the graduate committees; least of all anonymous folks hedging their bets on the internet. Folks here putting an emphasis on their score are doing so because they got a good grade, or that is all someone told them they should be doing. Obviously the best students in all departments (GRE, GPA, LOR, Extra Curricular) will have a better chance, but guarantee that GRE places pretty damn low in the totem poll of importance; as well it should.

Long story short: Apply to the schools you WANT to get into, not the ones the internet says you CAN get into.

cabriner
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Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:08 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby cabriner » Sat Dec 10, 2011 12:09 pm

Same thing just happened to me: 600, 37%. It was a total shock. I took the most recent practice test and got a 65%, and I had studied since then. I go to an unknown school, so I'm probably screwed? But my grades are really good and I've got grad school classes and research experience.

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exxx
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby exxx » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:41 pm

cabriner wrote:Same thing just happened to me: 600, 37%. It was a total shock. I took the most recent practice test and got a 65%, and I had studied since then. I go to an unknown school, so I'm probably screwed? But my grades are really good and I've got grad school classes and research experience.

Wow, 37% for a 600?? That's really low. On the most recent practice test it puts 600 at a 46%.

I'm screwed.

castlevania87
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:38 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby castlevania87 » Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:36 pm

exxx wrote:
cabriner wrote:Same thing just happened to me: 600, 37%. It was a total shock. I took the most recent practice test and got a 65%, and I had studied since then. I go to an unknown school, so I'm probably screwed? But my grades are really good and I've got grad school classes and research experience.

Wow, 37% for a 600?? That's really low. On the most recent practice test it puts 600 at a 46%.

I'm screwed.


The most recent practice test is 6 years ago! The distribution has changed a lot.

You should consult with this table

http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table2.pdf

cabriner
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:08 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby cabriner » Sat Dec 10, 2011 5:39 pm

castlevania87 wrote:The most recent practice test is 6 years ago! The distribution has changed a lot.

You should consult with this table

http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table2.pdf


Maybe the raw scores needed to obtain a certain scaled score have probably also changed since then, would must explain the difference between the score I expected to get and the score I got. (Damn, I was really hoping ETS made some sort of error, or I had bubbled things in wrong...)

Would anyone else like to share their experiences with the practice test scores versus actual score? I think it would be helpful. All the ones I've seen recently for the Nov. test have been like mine (actual score significantly lower), but there's obviously not enough data yet, plus these people are more upset and therefore more likely to post.

blahblah1
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:02 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby blahblah1 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:52 am

thats weird cause in the last gre in october a person who felt he got max. 36 ques rite got a percentile of 71 and score of 740 which is consistent with the table.. but the no. of questions correct seem far less.. im not sure wat excatly has happened to the nov12th test.. wat are ur guesses on ur raw scores?

apap
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:22 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby apap » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:36 am

I got 600-37% on the November test. I answered 41 questions. I guessed about 3. I know I did 3 wrong. I'm guessing somewhere around 32 raw score. Maybe less.

omgmath
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:45 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby omgmath » Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:29 am

ANDS wrote:I think folks put far too much emphasis on their Math GRE scores - and I'm not talking about the graduation committees. A student from our Math program was admitted to Uni. Chicago with a 30% on their Math GRE. This isn't the Quantitative portion of the GRE; it's the subject test. To place in the top echelons means you either really know your disparate subjects (although most calc) inside and out, or are just really good at test taking.

In short - don't hobble yourself by not applying. If you have the cash, strong letters of rec's and grades. Apply.


ANDS, what are you on about? Most departments have GRE cutoffs on applications they consider. The only substitutes I can think of for a low score is a strong showing on the Putnam, or a recommendation letter from a well-known mathematician.

Otherwise one shouldn't waste his or her time applying to the top schools because the outcome is clear.

arsenalmath
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:16 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby arsenalmath » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:35 am

Yes, some have cutoffs, but if you have the money, why not? There are plenty of examples of people doing quite poorly and getting into top schools.

kiurys
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:40 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby kiurys » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:19 pm

omgmath wrote:The only substitutes I can think of for a low score is a strong showing on the Putnam.


What would you consider a strong showing on the Putnam? Around what score?

Thanks.
Last edited by kiurys on Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ANDS
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:41 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby ANDS » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:36 pm

ANDS, what are you on about? Most departments have GRE cutoffs on applications they consider. The only substitutes I can think of for a low score is a strong showing on the Putnam, or a recommendation letter from a well-known mathematician.


Define "most", because your most and my most aren't living in the same neighborhood. I've spoken to several people who have been admitted to top tier schools (UNC, Harvard and Chi-Town for starters), and they didn't knock their subject into the 80th percentiles; so either grad commitee's have quite a bit of latitude in reviewing applications or these people were lying about their scores.

Otherwise one shouldn't waste his or her time applying to the top schools because the outcome is clear.


Absolutely ludicrous. I wonder how many wasted opportunities people have left on the side of the road because they have bought into this idea that performance on the subject GRE absolutely defines ones perparedness for a math PhD program. Which is silly. Now if this fellow was getting B's and B+'s, with the occassional A - then his chances would obviously drop, and a low score is going to be a good predictor of success in the graduate program.

However, he says he has mantained a good A average throughout his upper division career, and depending on the school that is nothing to sneeze at. About the only thing I can think that would sink him/her is whether or not they've done any math related extra-curricular activities, and how strong their LOR's are going to be.

lemonjuice
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Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:55 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby lemonjuice » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:57 am

Well, unfortunately, I do not have any math research experience. The only extra curricular activities that I have is that I have been privately tutoring for over 6 years, and I am a physics tutor for the school's Academic Support Lab. And I'm not sure if I should include this tutoring experience in my application because I don't know if it is significant. As far as my letters go, they should be solid.

ANDS
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby ANDS » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:15 pm

Where are you trying to get into? I'd probably say the best of the best is out. However if you are satisfied with receiving a solid education at a (shock and horrors) top 50 school I would say you're fine.

lemonjuice
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Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:55 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby lemonjuice » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:21 pm

"Shock and horrors," haha.

Well from the get-go, I ruled out the top 20 schools from my search, but that was before I got my score. Now I'm thinking of going even lower considering my score. I'm thinking of choosing a few schools that are below 100, and the rest from between 100-120. Like you, I am also prepared to shell out a substantial amount of money for the application process. I'm thinking 10-15 schools

Also, I have decided to only send my scores to schools that require it or say that it is strongly recommended. As for the schools that say it is optional, or don't mention it at all on their website, I'm not going to send my subject test scores to them.

owlpride
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby owlpride » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:07 pm

Don't sell yourself short. I have a friend with a GRE score of 560 at the University of Michigan, although she had external funding and took several graduate courses as an undergrad.

Anything ranked 20 downwards seems reasonable for you to apply to. Please realize that rankings become arbitrary at some point. I doubt that Indiana Bloomington ranked 30 is more selective or "better" than Nebraska ranked 68.

Also please seek advice when you decide which "low-ranked" programs you want to apply to. Pay attention to the following:

- Is sufficient funding guaranteed? Some programs cannot fund a significant percentage of their students past the first year, or the stipends are so low that you cannot actually live on them.

- Do their graduates get jobs?

- Is the department mathematically active? Do they bring in outside speakers for seminars? Do the grad students organize seminars and reading groups among themselves? Does anyone in the rest of the world read the publications of their faculty (and do the faculty publish at all)? This may seem insignificant now, but you will have a hard time succeeding if you cannot network with other mathematicians or bounce ideas off of your fellow grad students. Seminars expose you to a wealth of ideas in a much shorter time period than if you had to work through every single paper or book yourself.

gromov
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby gromov » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:41 pm

In fact, an apparently lower ranked school can quite often (often enough to warrant serious consideration at least) be more selective. The number of graduates the school intends on taking on, plus its overall popularity, are better indicators.

ANDS
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby ANDS » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:20 pm

lemonjuice wrote:"Shock and horrors," haha.

Well from the get-go, I ruled out the top 20 schools from my search, but that was before I got my score. Now I'm thinking of going even lower considering my score. I'm thinking of choosing a few schools that are below 100, and the rest from between 100-120. Like you, I am also prepared to shell out a substantial amount of money for the application process. I'm thinking 10-15 schools

Also, I have decided to only send my scores to schools that require it or say that it is strongly recommended. As for the schools that say it is optional, or don't mention it at all on their website, I'm not going to send my subject test scores to them.


Wow. Do not do that. If you're not applying to Top 100 you're crazy. Yes, you'll want to focus on programs that don't require you to shoot over a subject GRE score, but that doesn't rule out a Top 100 (and really these lists are so subjective, based on respondents opinion) school. US News Rankings are probably the best thing that happened to capable students, because it has flushed every student that killed themselves for a 3.9-4.0 published research and a 90th percentile on the MGRE to the top 20 schools, and left incredible programs for "the rest of us" (well rest of you; I have no interest in a pure math program).

Depending on your cash flow, 5 programs from each "tier" (20's to 60's) should be sufficient.

apap
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Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:22 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby apap » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:52 am

Two solid schools that do not care about the subject test: Stony Brook and Brandeis. Check them out.

lemonjuice
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Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:55 am

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby lemonjuice » Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:22 am

Interesting.

I'm grateful for all of your responses; there is a lot for me to reconsider now.

And btw, I too am not interested in pure math. I am looking for applied math programs.

gromov
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:49 pm

Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby gromov » Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:49 pm

Perhaps, then, your "top 100" is different from the equivalent for the pure mathematicians on this site.

quinquenion
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Re: What to do with a low Math GRE Subject Test Score?

Postby quinquenion » Sat Dec 24, 2011 9:48 pm

The impression I've received is that applied math programs don't care quite as much about the math subject GRE. Obviously, the top programs can afford to be choosy, but I wouldn't automatically rule out any school outside of maybe the top 10-20.

One possible thing to look for is programs that are housed in dedicated applied math departments, since they are oftentimes more flexible about subject GRE scores. Indeed, even at the very tippy top programs (like Princeton PACM or Stanford iCME), they tend to allow for subject GREs in related fields (Physics, Compsci, Engineering, etc.) in lieu of math.

Also, don't immediately rule out other departments. Some non-math departments have a lot of applied math research going on (MIT EECS comes immediately to mind), and they generally don't care much about math subject GRE scores. Relevant background to that field is obviously a major plus, but isn't always required.

Anyways, from one current applied math applicant to another, good luck!

Caveat: these opinions are largely unfounded, as I am likewise currently in the midst of the application process. Make sure to take them with a grain of salt.




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