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hjf82
11-13-2007, 12:43 AM
Hello,

I am applying for a PhD in Econ for Fall 08. I just took the GRE on Saturday (I know its kind of late) and I did not do as well as I would have liked.

I wound up getting a 750 Math, 570 Verbal. Now I know the math score is not exactly something to complain about but looking through school websites it seems as if this is almost the bare minimum to get into a good school.

My GPA is pretty solid (3.6 overall, 3.8 in economics) and I have two really good and one okay recommendation.

The reason I am upset about my math score is that I was scoring 780's consistently on the practice tests--I took CAT practices by ETS, Kaplan and Peterson and this was BY FAR the most difficult test I have yet to see. The first few questions were extremely difficult and I didn't even get to finish the section (I had two questions unanswered). Now I know that schools see all of your scores so that is the first reason I am not sure whether or not to take it again. The other reason I am hesitant is that I am afraid--WHAT IF I do worse? I mean I don't think that I will but can't be sure judging from this last test.

So my question is: if you were in my situation, what would you do? Is a 770 really that much different than a 750? Is it worth it to take the risk of getting lower?

Any advice would help. I am really torn.

YoungEconomist
11-13-2007, 12:45 AM
What range of schools are you planning on applying to?

If I personally get a 750, I don't know if I'll retake considering most of my program are in the 30 - 50 range, but who knows maybe I'll change my mind if that happens.

hjf82
11-13-2007, 12:49 AM
Well I am basically planning on applying across the board in terms of rankings. I am probably going to target schools in the 30-120 range but will also apply to some better schools as a long shot. I would have probably applied to higher ranked schools had a gotten a higher score.

For instance, on NYU's website it says something like: if you get a 740 it means you either had a bad day or are lacking in your math preparation.

buckykatt
11-13-2007, 12:53 AM
Assuming that you plan to apply to top 50 programs, I'd say that it's worth the $140 and time to improve your math score if you feel confident about being able to raise your score. Since you ran out of time on this attempt, you have something very clear to focus on in prepping for a second attempt.

I had a similar, but more dramatic, experience with running out of time on the math section after doing well on the practice tests and was able to raise my score from a 670 to an 800 on the second try. The main thing I did between attempt #1 and attempt #2 three weeks later was to take five practice exams focusing specifically on learning to pace myself. (I also sacrificed some points on the verbal in order to make time for an extra break before tackling the second math section.)

Edited to add: Since you're aiming for programs outside the top 30, though, I wouldn't feel *compelled* to have a second go at the GRE. If the rest of your profile is strong, the 750 probably won't kill you.

Olm
11-13-2007, 01:38 AM
It depends where you apply to, and how good your other credentials are. Berkeley says to retake the test if you score below 760. Make sure you find out the reason you scored below that and fix it, otherwise taking another test might even hurt if your score doesn't improve.

asianecon
11-13-2007, 01:55 AM
Here's my suggestion: Take the GRE again but send your original scores before the re-take (so probably you'd have to do the re-take sometime around 1st week of Dec; though you won't have the scores by some of the earlier deadlines, you can write the new ones in the application form if they're better). If you don't improve your score, then don't send it.

There might be some ethical issues here since you're somehow suppressing information. However, technically the results of your other test will be officially available after the deadline so you can argue that you're not violating anything by not sending it. I think you won't even have to bother about this issue since I'm willing to bet you won't do worse than your previous exam. Relieving yourself of the pressure of scoring better or just even maintaining the 750 would definitely help (at least for me it helps since I find that nervousness and anxiety are the two biggest factors for lackluster GRE performance).

With this strategy, expected gain from re-taking is always positive.

buckykatt
11-13-2007, 02:32 AM
Great advice, asianecon!

hjf82
11-13-2007, 02:34 AM
First of all, I think that last suggestion is a great idea. Thanks.

The main problem I have retaking is that I did basically study and for the most part totally understand all of the concepts that came up in the book (and I did go through a lot of books) and I never had a problem with time on even one practice. That said I guess I can try to improve my time so that should difficult questions cause me to take a longer time than I would like, I can still finish the entire section.

Basically I am not really sure where my problem lies--I pretty much blanked out the test--I started to get really nervous during the first few questions bc they were much harder than I expected. This could have totally been a factor in what I got so maybe the second time around I will be more relaxed.

Do I really want to go through it again though? Difficult decision

buckykatt
11-13-2007, 03:20 AM
Do I really want to go through it again though? Difficult decision

I totally feel your pain. If I hadn't bombed so badly the first time, I would have asked myself the same thing...

After my first attempt, I felt strongly that even though I could solve every problem on the exam, ETS had psyched me out; so I knew that I had to work on pushing myself to crank through the problems more quickly and set up the test environment to work for me instead of against me. If you got 800s in practice but not on the real thing, it's probably not your math ability that's to blame.

You might find that going in knowing that you have a 750 to fall back on takes some of the pressure off. After all, you can always cancel the scores if you don't feel that you did well the second time. And maybe you could also use this chance to improve your verbal score to get more out of putting yourself through the exam a second time (though that's not a reason to re-take the exam all by itself).

But you might also want to ask, what's the opportunity cost? If you don't have a lot of time to spare, maybe you're better off putting that extra work into your applications or your fall classes?

Karina 07
11-13-2007, 04:29 AM
I totally feel your pain. If I hadn't bombed so badly the first time, I would have asked myself the same thing...

After my first attempt, I felt strongly that even though I could solve every problem on the exam, ETS had psyched me out; so I knew that I had to work on pushing myself to crank through the problems more quickly and set up the test environment to work for me instead of against me. If you got 800s in practice but not on the real thing, it's probably not your math ability that's to blame.

You might find that going in knowing that you have a 750 to fall back on takes some of the pressure off. After all, you can always cancel the scores if you don't feel that you did well the second time. And maybe you could also use this chance to improve your verbal score to get more out of putting yourself through the exam a second time (though that's not a reason to re-take the exam all by itself).

But you might also want to ask, what's the opportunity cost? If you don't have a lot of time to spare, maybe you're better off putting that extra work into your applications or your fall classes?


Wow, I just realized... y'all with the GRE is like me with a lot of exams... the GRE is a confidence game, and I guess I'm good with the confidence game when it comes to the GRE because I'm used to liking tests like that and manage myself well under its pressure, but when it comes to other exams... I'm glad I don't have to take exams for too much longer.... It's sad how much testing, of any kind, can become such a psychological game. Maybe if you're better at other exams, think that the GRE is like them, and I'll try to calm down and think that other exams are like the GRE :P. (Not in content, clearly, but in being relaxed, focused, and able to do them.)

hjf82
11-13-2007, 05:12 PM
Yeah, the problem at this point really is the opportunity cost. Firstly, I haven't started writing my statement of purpose yet which I expect will take a little while. Plus I still have to decide where I am applying and do all the applications. While I am not currently in school, I do work a full time job which also obviously takes up a lot of my time.

The other issue is the cost--I know 140 isnt too expensive but it also isnt cheap either. Plus, do I really want to go through it again?

That said I dont really think I have to study too much to retake. And I agree that it would be beneficial to try and increase my verbal score. I didn't study at all for verbal and figure if I at least try and learn some top words that could improve my score (not to mention that I literally speeded through the verbal section b/c I knew my first verbal was experimental and I was dying to see my math score). Do you think it would really help though if I did say 50 point better on verbal? I know they don't really care much about that.

polkaparty
11-13-2007, 06:56 PM
Do you think it would really help though if I did say 50 point better on verbal?

Perhaps very marginally, but your Q score is far more important. If you are going to sacrifice time and money etc. to take it again, take it again to improve your Q score, not to improve your V score.

hjf82
11-13-2007, 07:18 PM
Oh I am for sure not going to retake for the purpose of improving my verbal score alone. Just figured it wouldn't hurt to increase that as well.

Olm
11-15-2007, 05:26 AM
They don't give a flying duck about verbal. Well, I spoke too soon. A few schools use verbal to differentiate candidates, though I have no idea why, but these schools are very few and far between. If I remember correctly, Yale stated that they are very interested in high verbal scores (700).

As long as you score over 500, your verbal is fine.