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Thread: GRE Subject Test in Math

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    GRE Subject Test in Math

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    Hi, I'm a non-traditional applicant, and I've been toying with various plans to try to get into a decent program for econ. The problem is I don't have that much math in coursework, but I have self studied a large amount of the undergrad math major. Do you think taking the GRE subject test in math (and scoring well, obviously, say above the 70th percentile) would help in signalling ability? Thanks. I figure if I'm going to try to go to grad school I should try to get into the best school I can, so I'm willing to take first semester micro and econometrics, and maybe grad analysis on top of that if necessary.

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage treblekicker's Avatar
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    the math subject test is rather difficult (as are most gre subject tests) and many mathematics phd applicants do not score extremely well on it. i would highly advise against doing so. unlike the general gre, the math subject test covers material one would learn in while pursuing a BA in mathematics, including topics that are not at all pertinent to economists (abstract algebra, number theory, geometry, complex analysis, etc.).

    in addition, the signaling value is not particularly high, even for those without a super strong math background. quite honestly, even if you did score well on the test, it wouldn't suddenly make up for a weak math background, especially if you happen to lack the 'necessary' courses.

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    My advice is that if you can score well without tons of preparation, you might as well take it. However if you are going to spend a year studying for it, there are much better uses of that year (such as taking actual math courses).

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    Fus Ro Dah mathemagician's Avatar
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    The math subject test will not be a substitute for insufficient coursework. The adcoms also don't have many people to compare it against since almost no prospective economists take the test. Finally, I don't think they will be impressed unless you score in the 90th percentile or higher.

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    Ok thanks, I was thinking grad analysis and micro would be really good to take and that the math gre on top of that would be even more solid because even with grad analysis I won't have too many upper level math courses. Is the level of mathematical maturity what's important here, or is it sheer number of classes? Would good grades in those classes make up for a lack of the more traditional coursework?

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    Quote Originally Posted by econoecon View Post
    My advice is that if you can score well without tons of preparation, you might as well take it.
    I have to strongly disagree with this, submitting a score to adcoms from the math GRE ]is all but a complete waste of time. Adcoms rank applicants according to criteria on a template they are given. How are they supposed to take into account the math GRE if you are the only one who has it?

    In a worst case scenario, your math GRE score (even if its in a high percentile on the math GRE) gets confused with a regular GRE by an administrative person and gets you auto-rejected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tm_guru View Post
    In a worst case scenario, your math GRE score (even if its in a high percentile on the math GRE) gets confused with a regular GRE by an administrative person and gets you auto-rejected.
    haha the math GRE is out of 990, what are the chances of an auto-admit?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeratul View Post
    haha the math GRE is out of 990, what are the chances of an auto-admit?
    Ha ha... but what are the chances of >750 by a non math major...

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    I agree that it isn't likely that it will help much (or at all) but if he/she can do a great job without much effort, then I think that it might be worthwhile to take the exam assuming he/she can afford the fees if there is any chance that it would help. In that case it could be worth seeing if a recommender could mention the significance of the math GRE score. Of course I think the probability that someone with an insufficient math background would ace the math GRE with little effort is very low...

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_guru View Post
    I have to strongly disagree with this, submitting a score to adcoms from the math GRE ]is all but a complete waste of time. Adcoms rank applicants according to criteria on a template they are given. How are they supposed to take into account the math GRE if you are the only one who has it?

    In a worst case scenario, your math GRE score (even if its in a high percentile on the math GRE) gets confused with a regular GRE by an administrative person and gets you auto-rejected.

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    Not that I necessarily think this is a good idea but actually the math on the GRE subject test is not so advanced. According to ETS, 50% is from single and multivariate calculus and 25% from linear algebra. It is only the remaining 25% of the content that is drawn from more advanced topics. So someone who remembers their calculus quite well could get a decent score.

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