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Thread: What are competitive GRE scores for top fellowships/assitantships

  1. #1
    Sep 2012
    Chandlerville, IL

    What are competitive GRE scores for top fellowships/assitantships

    Hi cyburbians,

    I just took the GRE today and wanted to see if my scores put me in the competitive running for top fellowships at top universities or if I should consider retaking the test. My Verbal score was a 170 (an 800 on the old GRE) and my Quantitative was a 156 (a 720 surprisingly on the on old GRE even though that's the 68% percentile of test takers). I still have to wait for my essays to be graded but feel they were almost certainly both 4s and likely (hopefully!) higher.

    According to the Planetizen guide, MIT had the highest test averages at 630 for V and 708 for Q for fall 2010.

    If anyone with competitive fellowships (or those that dole out fellowships) has some insights, they'd be much appreciated.

    Many Thanks!

  2. #2
    Oct 2012

    Good job!

    I am very impressed by your verbal score...No one that I know of has such a high score. Some tips please! I have my exam in less than a week.

  3. #3
    Mar 2011
    SW VT
    By "top fellowship," do you mean a funding source that includes full/near-full tuition remission and a living stipend equivalent to that paid to a research or teaching assistantship, but without the labor of research or teaching? If so, it's important to underscore that these are almost always offered by the Graduate School at the university, and not the department itself; that level of support is often too much for even the most well-funded departments to maintain, public or private. This is significant, because the odds of getting one just got much, much smaller now that you're competing with top-flight students in all disciplines. For the sake of context, I go to a moderately-sized, not-particularly-prominent state university with over 6,000 graduate students, and there are only 40 or so fellowships to go around each year. No matter where you are, there's going to be a lot of extremely well qualified people just outside the "top 40."

    GREs aren't a major factor in the decision. For university-wide fellowships, graduate program directors are usually responsible for nominating a student. The GPD's letter of recommendation is often the most important document in the mix, because it's the GPD's job to explain to a committee that may not include anyone familiar with the program's content why a particular applicant is noteworthy. In the case of incoming students, he or she will discuss the merits of an applicant's undergraduate coursework, any research or scholarly output, capacity for success in the program, faculty interest in working with the applicant, and any other reasons for consideration. Much of the other information is taken straight from the application: letters of recommendation, personal statement, transcript w/GPA, examples of work/CV, and relevant testing (including percentiles). Higher is never worse, but test scores are the least compelling argument being made: a full fellowship is a huge deal, and clearly it's meant to be awarded based on a holistic consideration of a student's ability, output, and potential. Wouldn't it be odd if the decision came down to how you performed on a test in a weird room full of strangers one day months or even years ago? Higher scores can help if another area is a bit thin, but it's very, very unlikely that any fellowships at any universities await an applicant with a sparkling 180/180/6.0 complementing an unflattering 2.7 that requires "clarification" about that wayward sophomore year. To be honest, you could probably bump that GPA up a good bit and still have some explaining to do.

    Think of it this way: some programs don't even require GREs if your GPA is above a certain threshold, but no matter how awesome you do on the GRE, they still ask for your GPA, your statement of intent, your resume, and your recs. That said, your scores are very good and I really don't know if it's worth it to retake the exam. Verbal scores above 700 are exceedingly rare no matter what field you're in, but there's no shame in landing in the upper third on the quant since everyone who wants to pursue graduate education in mathematics or engineering is up at the top of that tree, where they ought to be. Unless you receive truly embarrassing scores on the essays, don't sweat it: nobody who can get an 800 on the verbal can be that bad of a writer.

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