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Give me a qualitative analysis of the GRE.
October 28, 2008 7:31 AM   Subscribe

At the very last minute, I'm applying to grad school to get my PhD in English. Hooray! Except that I'm abysmal at math. How much will that hurt my chance at top PhD programs in English? Because I've got two weeks to A) teach myself basic algebra for the GRE, and B) stop psyching myself out to the point of panic attacks.

I always figured I'd go back to grad school eventually to study English and teach, and this decision feels really right. Too bad I reached it three days ago. My first pick among English programs has an admission deadline of 12/1.

Here I was, worrying about whether I should write a statement of purpose about postcolonial feminism or new-history theory, and ha ha, I can't multiply decimals. I've always struggled at math, but since I haven't touched it since high school, I am exponentially dumber than when I took the SAT.

Let's assume I will do well at verbal and writing on the GRE. Let's assume I produce a sterling 20-page admission essay and a humbly ambitious statement of purpose. Let's assume I earn disappointing marks on quantitative. How much will (really) low quantitative scores mar my overall English PhD candidacy?

My time is very limited. Because I anticipate that quantitative is going to put a huge chink in my armor, I'm tempted to spend most of my time perfecting a good essay, drafting an impressive statement of purpose, and beefing up my verbal abilities, which is where I shine on tests. This strategy also has a whiff of avoidance to it: throwing my hands up in the air because I can't juggle quadratic equations.

Secondly, how I stop freaking myself out about this? I crack open these GRE math study books and I am near-tears with terror that I'm blowing my chances at an academic future.

Thirdly, what books helped you out? I've got til November 17th to reacquaint myself with math concepts.

Lastly, if anyone has good or bad anecdotes or words of advice, please, lob them at me. I'm slightly adrift in my priorities and insecurities, and I need some perspective. I'm applying mainly to schools in Chicago, but I'm currently in NYC, if that helps.
posted by zoomorphic to Education (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you have a master's? if you do, I don't think you'd need to take the GRE. I did because I have an English postgraduate diploma - which no one has ever heard of.
posted by parmanparman at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2008


At best, GRE scores are a threshold to cross, and many departments actively ignore GRE scores altogether. Understanding that you fear math, try not to fear it: get through the test because you have to do it and focus on the most important aspect of your application, which conveniently is also the thing you have the most direct control over: your writing sample.

(I'm in my third of twenty-seven years in a well-respected Literature program.)
posted by gerryblog at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2008


I wouldn't worry about it, especially if studying isn't going to improve your score significantly. I'd focus on the other stuff - essay, etc. My advice would be to focus on your writing sample and SOP. Do you have to take the lit subject test GRE? That test is a bear - I did horribly on it (30%) and am in a top english phd program (in my area of specialization) but other schools might take this test more seriously (I know a person who got an amazing offer at a school that actually retracted his offer of admittance based on his less than stellar subject test score.)

Are you applying to Masters programs with the idea that you'll later apply to PhD programs, or do you have your MA? Or are you applying to some BA->PhD program? The reason I ask, it *might* be a mistake to focus too closely on one school of critical theory in your SOP, because if you haven't started your graduate education, it might not help you to be overally specific in the SOP about a particular school of theory - I think it will help to demonstrate that you're interested in postcolonialism, feminism, new historicism and know what these things are BUT I don't think you want to focus solely on one of these in your SOP. For your writing sample, I think is fine if you've done a poscolonial feminist reading of some text or other. The SOP is tricky - what works for one person might not work for another, so curious to hear what others have to say.
posted by drobot at 7:49 AM on October 28, 2008


How much will (really) low quantitative scores mar my overall English PhD candidacy?
Secondly, how I stop freaking myself out about this?


These two questions have the same answer:

First, contact the department and ask them. They will be able to give you a definitive answer, no one else can. Some schools basically want you to avoid embarrassing yourself, others will expect slightly more. But it's impossible to say with any authority unless you ask the department.

Second, go here or here to take a free practice test. It's a really great idea to take a practice test just to see where you stand. Things might not be as bad as you think.

With the department's (or schools') numbers in hand and a practice test under your belt, you'll be in a much better position to assess your chances.

(Full disclosure I work as a GRE tutor for TPR, so I have quite a bit of experience with students in your position. Tutoring, even this late in the game, might be helpful for you, especially if you need just a small amount of targeted help. However tutoring is expensive and not always necessary. Use your best judgment (and consider your budget!). Send me some mefi-mail if you want more specific advice.)

Good Luck!
posted by oddman at 7:49 AM on October 28, 2008


Although I shambled through the GRE 15 years ago, unless humanities departments have drastically changed since then, no one in them will give a damn about the quant section, much less the logic section. Definitely worth it to do a little bit of math prep, but don't waste time and energy freaking out about it.

I could have signed my name and answered no questions and scored higher than I did on the old logic section, yet I still got accepted to multiple graduate programs (history), so fear not.
posted by ahhgrr at 7:49 AM on October 28, 2008


but seriously, the GRE is not that hard. I studied for three weeks and took it Oct. 27 and did well, getting 1100. Of course now I have decided not to do the program for which I took it - which was seeking a min score of 623 - but it's good for five years. The computer test will give you harder questions depending on how you answer, that's something to consider.
posted by parmanparman at 7:50 AM on October 28, 2008


ahhgrr, things have changed more than you think -- the logic section's gone entirely now.
posted by gerryblog at 7:51 AM on October 28, 2008


In my experience (top-10 school) what mattered was that I scored high enough on the ones that matter, and didn't score too low otherwise. Rock the house down on the other categories, and then do a creditable job on the subject exam.
posted by aramaic at 7:55 AM on October 28, 2008


English PhD programs will care very little about your GRE math score. You're right in thinking that you should focus your energy on your personal statement and writing samples.

That said, the math on the GRE is not as hard as you think. Spend just a few hours with a GRE prep book working some practice problems; refamiliarize yourself with fractions and factoring equations. The anxiety relief alone will help your score. I posted in this thread about the computer-adaptive nature of the GRE. Lots of other good advice in there as well. And a good prep book will also help you get comfortable with the verbal section, which will be much more important. Practice, practice, practice, with a disk or online, so you can get comfortable with the computer adaptive format.

Are you planning to take the GRE Literature subject test as well? That score will mean more than your basic GRE score, and will require several weeks of intensive prep. You may need to factor that time in as well.
posted by junkbox at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2008


Everyone I know with a humanities PhD got terrible quantitative GRE scores, so I wouldn't lose sleep over that.

I would, however, lose some sleep over the state of the English job market. Everyone is convinced that they will be the exception, I know, but at least right now it really is tough. Do some research, find out what the projections are for five or seven years from now, and do some honest self-evaluation of your attractiveness as an academic job candidate. English as a field (like some other disciplines) has come in for some well deserved criticism for continuing to take in large numbers of graduate students, knowing that there were jobs available for only a fraction of them. (Partly that's because they use grad student TAs to do their service teaching, so when evaluating grad school offers look closely at funding and teaching expectations.)

Are you ready and willing to spend years in one-year visiting positions if you are lucky, and adjuncting if you are not lucky, while applying every year to dozens of tenure-track jobs? Looking forward to paying your own way to the MLA every Christmas and enduring cattle-call interviews in auditoriums? Even people coming out of first-tier places, working with big-name advisers, and working on good projects, can have a lot of trouble on the job market. Not all, though -- some people I know got slotted directly into prestigious positions in exactly the geographical places they were hoping for, but they are the exceptions to the rule.

So it's not all gloom and doom, obviously. But if you are coming out of a lower-ranked program, and with a less supportive adviser, or with a not very exciting project, it's a really brutal job market. The numbers are against you, in a way that they aren't in some other fields, and I think that you have to be realistic about that before starting.
posted by Forktine at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The old logic section was indeed almost completely ignored (as far as I know the only people who even looked at it were philosophy programs), that is why they got rid of it. The remaining Quantitative and Verbal sections aren't nearly as disparaged as the old logic section. It is true that many programs have very low expectations for one or the other, but as I said above, you need to talk to them. Guessing as to what you need is unlikely to lead to good results.
posted by oddman at 7:58 AM on October 28, 2008


Pointing out the obvious -- if you're nervous about this, have you considered delaying your application a year, so as to give yourself more time to improve your score for NEXT year's deadline?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on October 28, 2008


If it makes you feel better, the quantitative section on the GRE actually tests less than the math section of the SAT. In particular, you don't need to know any trigonometry at all for the GRE.

I'll refrain from making editorial comments on this fact and the state of science & math literacy in the U.S.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:14 AM on October 28, 2008


Thanks so far, everyone.

I don't have an MA. I was under the impression that I should apply to a PhD program and if they don't accept me, they might default me to an MA program. Is that incorrect? This advice came from a friend who's knee deep in the situation Forktine mentions (though he's studying poli sci), and serves on the admissions committee at his graduate school.

This caveat on my target school's website for their English graduate department really jarred me: "Students may apply to receive the M.A. degree when they have successfully completed the requirements for the first year of study in the program. In special circumstances the Department may consider exceptionally well-qualified applications from those who already hold an M.A. in English or another field."

Which lead me to assume that I should be shooting for a PhD degree with them anyways? I was thinking that if I got rejected for their MA program, I could earn it elsewhere and then return for the PhD program, but it seems they frown upon that.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:17 AM on October 28, 2008


Forktine - Somebody brings this up whenever somebody says they're interested in going back to school in the humanities (spec. English, it seems.) You're absolutely right that the job market is tight and wise to make sure zoomorphic knows this. While a certain amount of pragmatism is wise in making a decision to spend the next five or six or more years in school, zoomorphic seems to have already made the decision to go to school. While academic jobs are hard to come by, they are less so from top schools, and there are many other opportunities for work outside of academics should one not land a job. Yes, everybody seems to think they're the exception, but if zoomorphic's dream is to teach, it would seem foolish to me not to pursue that goal. Would it be better to hang around some job you hate wondering 'what if I'd given it a shot' the rest of your life? That seems like a far worse fate to me.

So, in your school search, one statistic you can usually get from the dept (if not their website) is their placement rate. See where people are landing jobs. If you haven't already researched this, it'll also give you an idea of what you'll do after your graduate. Sorry for the derail - thought it was worth responding to the inevitable 'there are no jobs' response.
posted by drobot at 8:18 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


zoomorphic - my experience has been that schools in english won't typically hold your admittance over from one year to the next. They may likely readmit you, but usually when funding is involved (you should only be applying to schools that will fund you!) they would like that money to go somewhere else. I checked out your target school's website - that program in particular is geared toward students with a BA. What will happen is that after you finish the first year they'll give you an MA and you keep going. Some schools will have you take an exam based on some reading to award you the MA. They do this at my school - admit one or two BA-PhD students every year and everybody seems to pass the MA exam. Not sure how your target school handles this, but I wouldn't worry about it.

You may, however, need to apply to some MA programs in addition to the direct-to-PhD program you're talking about. Many PhD programs will require you to have an MA.
posted by drobot at 8:25 AM on October 28, 2008


Pointing out the obvious -- if you're nervous about this, have you considered delaying your application a year, so as to give yourself more time to improve your score for NEXT year's deadline?

Yes. It's just that means two more years of reading literary criticism in the silence of my bedroom and wanting nothing more than to talk, write, and analyze it out loud among people who care about literature as much as I do. I'm working as a journalist right now, and while it's "exciting" and "fast-paced," I'm going to lose my sanity if I spend another two years writing about Gossip Girl and the next Don Cheadle movie. I keep reading books and devising my own writing projects to better understand their machinations. So sure, two more years of churning out pop culture dross is feasible, but I'd like to at least know I tried to expedite the escape process.

That said, I'm willing to hold off in order to get into a very good school if I'm too hurried to land UChicago/Northwestern this year.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:25 AM on October 28, 2008


You have time. You can always reapply next year, too, if you don't get in this time around. You should work on getting your letters of recommendation immediately, though, as my experience has been that this can be time consuming (meaning you may have to wait on professors to write them.)
posted by drobot at 8:29 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Zoomorphic, I don't know of any PhD programs that will require you to have an MA. Most PhD programs will grant you an MA somewhere in the process, say after two years or after you pass a qualifying exam, and that's what it sounds like your school will do. Go ahead and apply straight to PhD programs.

Don't delay your application a year if you're ready, either -- definitely not because of worries about your GRE math score! Apply this year, and apply again next year if you don't gain admission, or don't gain it at a place that feels all right to you.

I think the best advice you got about the math GRE was to spend a few hours (in my experience, it was more like a few hours, four or five times) going over the math section of a GRE-prep book. You'll learn enough not to disgrace yourself on the math section of the test, and like everyone is saying, it doesn't really matter much at all for a humanities PhD program.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 8:32 AM on October 28, 2008


I sucessfully got into an English lit masters program with very low math GRE score (like 50th percentile)

my verbal & analytical scores were very good, but there are many other important components to the process besides GRE scores. focus on your letter of intent and get in there to talk with faculty in the department.
posted by supermedusa at 8:35 AM on October 28, 2008


toomuchkatherine - in what field? Everybody in my phd program has a master's degree, typically from another school. Some people are admitted here without MAs, as you describe, but here that's the exception. All the programs I applied to required MAs, but maybe they are the exceptions?
posted by drobot at 8:39 AM on October 28, 2008


Here are some numbers on the current job market in English, which of course tells you pretty much nothing about how it will be five or more years from now.

From the linked article:

[Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA] said that the fundamental issue is that in higher education today “we have a job system where there are simply not enough full-time positions.”

In terms of the specific trends this year, Feal said that the English dip was “cause for concern,” but not “grave cause for concern.” Feal said she believed the decline was not due to decreased need, but to “the increased use of faculty members off the tenure track.”


I'm not trying to be all pessimistic here, or to be discouraging. But I think you have to be realistic that there have been long term trends in English (more so than many other disciplines) that are really problematic. Departments have continued high production rates of new phd's, even as the job market tightened. Tenure track jobs are way, way down, relative to non-tenure track jobs. Publishing expectations have gone way up, while support has been removed for academic presses.

And this has to be part of the decision process about going to grad school in any discipline -- it's a serious commitment of time and resources (and lost income). You need to be really honest with yourself about what you will do with the degree, how your department is positioned in the field, strategic about your choices, and so on.

I'm a really strong proponent of going to graduate school, including in English. But you have to do it with open eyes, and with a really clear plan in place. There are strategic choices at every step, from where you go to whom you work with to what you work on to how you apply to positions. Drifting, or taking second-rate options, will not produce good results.
posted by Forktine at 8:41 AM on October 28, 2008


I was worried about the same thing ... about to take the GREs with my last math class a decade behind me. I got some computer GRE prep materials and studied studied studied for about a month. The result? I got *higher* math scores than "english" scores! And I was an english/linguistics major for undergrad. And the department I applied to didn't even care all that much.

Don't delay, just do some studying (especially about the progressive nature of the test). You'll be fine.

Good luck!
posted by Kimberly at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2008


I completely freaked out about the quant section on the GRE. I took a course. Then I took the practice tests by actually trying to work out the answers and I took the practice test by choosing "c" for every answer. My results were virtually identical.

So I implemented the latter technique during the actual test and focused all my energy on the verbal and analytical. I did well on those and got into grad school.

I don't advise taking my course of action if you have any aptitude for math (I can barely work out the tip at a restaurant) but I wanted you to maybe feel less freaked out. And good luck! I'm just about to submit my PhD thesis in literature and it's been an interesting ride.
posted by meerkatty at 8:53 AM on October 28, 2008


Forktine - You're right that the job market is tough. I'm sure zoomorphic gets that. As a prospective applicant, though, the most useful info you can look at is the particular school's placement rate and where those students are getting placed. At least in my program, they are very forthcoming with their job placement rates and where students end up getting jobs. I think it's foolish to look at something like this in terms of lost income - if you're miserable doing what you're doing and know what you really want to with your life and have the opportunity to pursue it, then do it. Money is not going to cure that, at least it didn't for me. That said, Forktine's absolutely right that the job market is tight, so just know what you're in for. I wouldn't go to any program that didn't fully fund its graduate students and offer a chance to teach undergraduates - that's where you're going to learn if this is really the right field for you.
posted by drobot at 8:54 AM on October 28, 2008


Also, for what it's worth, and may be in danger of veering off topic, but I don't know anybody that regrets their PhD. Maybe I don't know enough unemployed, jaded PhDs?
posted by drobot at 8:57 AM on October 28, 2008


Also, for what it's worth, and may be in danger of veering off topic, but I don't know anybody that regrets their PhD. Maybe I don't know enough unemployed, jaded PhDs?

I think you're correct on this point. Or, more to the point, it's not so much that anyone regrets their doctoral degree, as such; but it is very common to find humanities PhDs who do regret the opportunity cost that the degree bears, especially when combined with the harsh realities of the academic job market.

In other words, Forktine is offering you the gift that we cherish the green for . . . GREAT ADVICE. Think very carefully on what he says.
posted by deejay jaydee at 9:40 AM on October 28, 2008


Thanks, especially to Forktine and drobot, for your insights.

I realize how arduous and unforgiving a life in academia is. I put it off for two years because I really, really wanted to make a living in the "real" world, and while I've been successful, I'm not very happy. I live for the incandescent moment while writing an analysis when all my mental labors fuse together to create a single, elegant point. My family cautions me daily with the hard realities of academia, and they're also adherents to the American utilitarian belief that work means product, not scholarship.

Personally, I just want the most enriched inner life I can ostensibly lead. Studying literature and all its attendant pursuits in the humanities is what makes me happiest. I could absolutely ignore that desire and tread water for the rest of my life until I dwindle into corporate senility, but I'd prefer to wrestle with debt and a dessicated job market than some larger ontological dissatisfaction.

Forktine, you haven't remotely dissuaded me from gunning for that PhD, but you've certainly eased my impatience in commencing the process RIGHT NOW. It seems provident to wait a year, truly prepare my essays and testing abilities, and land a slot in best department within my abilities, rather than to accept a slot in a sub-par department just so I can escape my current situation. Thanks again.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2008


You should always try to get into the top program possible but having said that, having a less-than-stellar GRE Math score in the humanities won't prevent that from happening as long as you have everything else going for you. I agree with everyone here that has said that the academic job market is tough, it really is, but if that's what you really want to do, if you dream of doing this, then you should go for it. This attitude will see you well through the long, hard slog of grad school.
posted by ob at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2008


LiveJournal's applyingtograd community would be a good place to cross-post this.
posted by k8t at 10:59 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd never done test prep before for either the SAT or the GRE. My parents always claimed that the tests measured innate ability, and since I was smart, I didn't need them. They were wrong.

As a mathophobe, I ignored any prep for the math and bombed the hell out of the quantitative section. I just shut down about halfway through. Even though I did very well on my verbal and analytical, and decent on my subject tests, I had a difficult time getting into a grad program that I wanted. Individual departments may not care about your math scores, but you need to get admitted to the university first, and too low a score (mine was really bad), can knock you out of the running. I got into a decent grad program, but the English chair told me, on more than one occasion, that I was lucky they looked at writing samples over test scores.

When I wanted to go back and get another graduate degree, I retook the GREs after a month of doing several self-tests with a Princeton Review book (on the advice of my National Merit Scholar husband). After I calmed down and devoted some time to relearning math, I realized that the math is pretty basic, even by my standards. The Review also taught me how to anticipate and answer the types of questions the test asks. I also learned ways to narrow down the possible answers to each question quickly, so I could actually finish the damn thing. When I retook the test, I raised my score by 200 points, which allowed me to pass for competent in the subject.
posted by bibliowench at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2008


I'm applying to English PhD programs right now too, and many, if not most, of the schools I am applying to don't even want the GRE Quant scores. In most cases you will be applying directly to the English department, and they are most interested in your SOP and writing sample.

I'm still studying for it because I don't want to look like a total idiot! I'm using Number2.com and Kaplan prep book, which seem to be pretty good.

Have you taken the Lit GRE yet? Because you will need to do that and it's already too late to take it this year. It is only offered 3 times a year, and the next time it is offered is in April 2009. Actually, it is being offered again in November but it is too late to sign up for it.
posted by apricot at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2008


Nope, haven't registered for the Lit GRE. I haven't seen any of the PhD programs require it, but I tested very well on the practice one.

I'm think I'm ready for grad school, but I'm not prepared to run myself ragged over the next month in a foolhardy attempt to beat the clock, especially when that mindset will affect my scores and writing. I'll take this entire year to plan my application process next winter. Honestly, before this realization dawned on me five days ago, I had no idea what programs I should look into, when and how to study, and what my schedule should look like. For the most part, I still don't. I can stand my current situation a bit longer as long as I know that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't my editor's victory cigar as he corrals me into another 6 years of mindless journalism.

Again, thanks everyone, and I hope you're all as intelligent and forbearing when I ask more grad school-related questions over the course of next year.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2008


You should also ask this on the Chronicle of Higher Education forums.
posted by ob at 12:17 PM on October 28, 2008


And by forums I mean forum.
posted by ob at 12:20 PM on October 28, 2008


The cut off for the #1 Ivy League history program I attended was 500 - 550 (or 530?) for math. Below that I they don't look at applications. I'd imagine your English program has similar standards in place.

People may jump in and say that's wrong. That was the sum of several conversations with different faculty I had on this topic as a grad student and since with faculty at that particular school.

Take a weekend to review and you'll do fine. A math score, unless catastrophically low, will not keep you out of the English program of your choice.
posted by vincele at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2008


Huh. I have only seen one school that doesn't ask for the Subject GRE scores. Every other one wants it. I would make absolutely certain that they don't. You don't want to be surprised by that!
posted by apricot at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2008


It seems provident to wait a year, truly prepare my essays and testing abilities, and land a slot in best department within my abilities, rather than to accept a slot in a sub-par department just so I can escape my current situation.

I completely agree with this. Don't rush it.. I did that.. it led to the whole thing turning sour, fast.. really look around at programs and which professors in those programs are specialists in your field, who you'd want to work with. If you're really keen on feminist theory or postcolonial studies, look at where the strongest programs are for those fields. Work hard on the application, and see what they offer you, and if they don't offer you a stipend, don't borrow money! If they only offer you admittance to an MA program and no funding, taking that offer is an extremely unwise decision. If they want you, they'll want you for the PhD and they'll give you a stipend.

And think about your own work habits, are you very, VERY self-disciplined and self-motivated? Can you take on huge projects, methodically complete them step by step, and finish on a deadline? (Think about studying for exams to earn your MA - basically slogging through a gigantic reading list over several months, needing to know the material inside and out, and no one but you keeping yourself on schedule. Think about the giant dissertation down the road, and in the interim, the requirement (if you want a tenure track job) to publish papers in journals. No one's going to make you do these things, you have to push yourself to get them done.) Can you keep focused on the goal of finishing your PhD and landing that tenure-track job, and plan accordingly, for the long haul, 5-6 years or more? And not mind living on like $20-25K a year? Are you able to navigate workplace politics well and be diplomatic when you need to be? Because the politics are.. particular. Some departments are a minefield and you don't even know you're in a minefield until you've stepped on a mine.

Honestly I'd have a hard time encouraging anyone to do graduate school in the humanities, but if you are determined IMHO you are doing the right thing already by giving yourself time to make the strongest application and figure out exactly what you want to get out of it. And talk to graduate students in the programs and see how they feel about them. But.. again, beware. It can be brutal. My experience was that a lot of people were miserable and had stockholm syndrome. Once you're in that world, it's harder to extricate yourself than you'd ever imagine. I know some who are successful at it, really exceptionally self-disciplined types, some of them quite brilliant. Above all, it seemed like networking skills, persistence, and self-discipline were absolutely key.

wanting nothing more than to talk, write, and analyze it out loud among people who care about literature as much as I do
I wonder if this exists outside of the undergraduate experience. One has to specialize so much in academe in order to be positioned for the very tight job market - nearly all of your fellow grad students won't be reading the same things that you are, and the further along they are in the program, the more time is spent researching, writing, reading in a solitary manner, not in those (pretty awesome) seminars where you all get together and have a free ranging discussion about the same material.
posted by citron at 7:06 PM on October 28, 2008


Please don't put grad school off over the quant section. It's very very unlikely that anyone will even care about it, and if all your other stuff's strong, then I can't imagine not getting admitted over your math score. I know lots of humanities grad students and I don't know anyone who did very well in the quant.

Also, I haven't taken high school math in 7 years, I studied for my GRE this month over two weeks, and I did actually pretty well. But I was good at high school math, so YMMV.
posted by SoftRain at 7:20 PM on October 28, 2008


Here's another vote for taking another year.

I suddenly got excited about going back to school, and completed an application at the last minute. But I didn't really do my homework, and I only applied to and visited the school I *knew* I wanted to attend. You know what? I hate it. Hate the geographic area and the locals, hate the undergrads, am bored by my project, my funding wasn't great....I could go on.

Not doing my homework was a big mistake, and I really wish I had taken the time to do the application process correctly. Really read up on the schools you are interested in; see what other programs are out there, and how they differ from your chosen program; apply to and visit as many as possible; try and talk to grad students at the places you're interested in. Remember that whatever grad program you choose is going to be your home for 4-6 years. That's a long time, and it sucks to get to school and discover you hate it. The worst is having a sneaking suspicion that under the right circumstances, you could really enjoy grad school, but that you just hate your grad school.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:43 PM on October 29, 2008


The worst is having a sneaking suspicion that under the right circumstances, you could really enjoy grad school, but that you just hate your grad school.

This bears repeating. Seriously.
posted by aramaic at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2008


Agreed. I'd focus more on what you want to do, why you want to do it, and where you'll find support for the kind of project you have in mind. For instance, if you're into post-colonial / feminist / new historicist theory, it makes sense to apply to programs that would be receptive to this kind of criticism. Who is actively publishing material that you admire? Are they purely doing research, or mentoring students, too? Obviously, it will help you on the job market if you have a degree from a highly-ranked university. Test scores narrow the field, but at that point it's more important to show them that you're familiar with their program and can persuade them that you belong there. Go for it. If it doesn't work out this year, try again. If you really really don't want to take the GRE and are geographically flexible, UK institutions don't require it (and have slightly later deadlines). Good luck!!
posted by woodway at 8:17 AM on October 30, 2008


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