Tag Archive for 'applications'

GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Remember when you took the SAT for the first time? You were so anxious because it was the SAT AND IT WAS THE BIGGEST TEST YOU WERE EVER GOING TO TAKE! And just as you got up to the front of the line to check-in, they asked you if you were taking an SAT II. A WHAT?!

And, indeed, it turned out that on top of the SAT reasoning tests there were other subject tests that were “optional.” Perhaps if you’re a strange Martian who is immune to the horrors of standardized testing, you were excited for another chance to show what you know, but more likely, your heart sank with the realization that “subject tests” meant that more future Saturdays would begin with your stomach in knots at 8 AM in a cold testing center.

You may have thought applying to graduate school would be more straightforward, but if you’re taking the GRE, you’re likely to find yourself at the same crossroads. Yes, luckily for you, if you’re applying to graduate school in the field of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Literature (in English), Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology, you have the option to take a GRE Subject Test to support your graduate school application. The tests are administered in April, September, and October and scored on a scale of 200-990 in ten point increments. The Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; and Psychology Tests all have subsections scored on a scale of 20-99 in one point increments. The question is, do you need to give up $150 and a weekend? Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take” »

What is GRE Score Select?

What is a good score on the GRE?

GRE Score Select gives students who take the GRE multiple times the option of selecting which score reports are submitted to the graduate schools to which they will apply. This means that if you take the GRE more than once, when you go through the process of finalizing your application, you can choose to only share your highest GRE score. The option to utilize GRE Score Select is automatically included with your GRE registration, so beyond actually registering for the GRE you will not have to take any additional steps in order to have access to the GRE Score Select option.

How does GRE Score Select work?

After taking the official GRE you will be allowed to view an unofficial score report. After viewing this score report you will be given the option to share or not share your score(s). At this time, you will have three options. They are as follows:

1) You may choose to NOT share your scores.

2) You may choose to share ALL of your scores.

3) You may choose to share only your MOST RECENT score (this will be the score report from the exam you will have just completed).

The most significant benefit of choosing to share your scores immediately after the test is, at that time, it is free. Your registration for the GRE includes the option to share up to four free score reports immediately after the exam. If you choose not to share your score(s) immediately after the test, you will be charged a fee of $27 per Additional Score Report (ASR).

What’s the catch?

The catch here is two-fold: first, if you do not send out your scores per the options listed above, after the test, there is a cost associated with sending out past GRE score reports; likewise, there is a cost of $195 to register for the GRE. Score Select is really only valuable in the context of choosing between multiple score reports. This logic is, of course, what precipitated the creation of GRE Score Select. The ETS now markets GRE Score Select as an assurance to students that if they don’t score well enough the first or second time they take the GRE, they can always just take the exam again and again, and use their highest score for admission purposes. Naturally, this encourages students to take the GRE multiple times, putting more money, in the form of registration and ASR fees, in ETS’ non-profit pockets. That said, Score Select is still a very useful score reporting option.

To more fully explain: the value of GRE Score Select really comes into play in a scenario where you have previously completed the GRE, taken it again, and did not score as well as you expected on the second administration of this exam. Say, for example, that you take the GRE a second time and your score goes down! Say again, for the purposes of this dramatic hypothetical, that you elected NOT to cancel your scores (assuming you had scored better, not worse) and thus now have a bad GRE score on your permanent (or at  least, 5-year) score record. In this case, for a small fee of $27, you can choose to only share your best GRE score report to the institution to which you are applying.

While GRE Score Select is a great option for students who have taken the GRE previously and are now attempting to improve their scores, the best method to taking the GRE is to thoroughly prepare for the exam the first time you take it so that you can avoid the complications associated with retaking the GRE.


Ask Test Masters: Cost of Attendance and GRE Scores for an International Graduate Student

ASK TMAsk Test Masters is a free informational service offered by the experts at Test Masters; you ask, we answer. Shravan, an international student interested in attending graduate school in the United States and abroad, has a few questions about admission requirements and the cost of attendance. Shravan writes,

“I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s in Information Technology (3rd year, 2nd semester) and would like to earn my MS in the U.S. or another country. My question is: my average is 60% aggregate and my financials are also not good; if I get a good score on the GRE can I get into at least an average university? Also, which university has the lowest fees for a semester? How much should I pay in total for an MS in the U.S., and how much money will it cost in total? Please give me some suggestions!!!”

Dear Shravan,

Let’s talk financials first. The total cost of your graduate education will depend on a number of factors – Better known schools are more expensive than less well known schools, private schools are more expensive than state schools, and certain degree programs are more expensive than other degree programs. Other factors, like the cost of living and financial aid, can impact your total cost of attendance, but are indeterminate. Universities regularly release helpful information regarding tuition and living expenses online, so getting a general idea of how much graduate school will cost is really only a Google search away. Let’s take a quick look at two examples of what different types of universities may cost.


Rice University is often called “The Harvard of the South.”

The University of Texas at Austin is a well-regarded state school, and generally considered a great value because of its high ranking and low cost. The cost per semester, when taking 12 hours of course work, for an Information graduate student who is a non-Texas resident at UT Austin is $10,830. Now consider Rice University, one of the United States’ premiere private research universities; the tuition for a full-time graduate student, regardless of residency status (though international students will have to pay certain fees that may affect the total cost of attendance), in the 2012-2013 academic year is $34,900. Notice that the cost of tuition is significantly higher at the private university than the state university. If you would like to do a detailed search of graduate universities by cost, this website is very useful. To get an idea of what your total tuition costs may be, simply research the cost per semester and multiply by the number of semesters it will take to obtain your degree.

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, international students are required to be US citizens or have permanent resident status, which, of course, makes financial aid for international graduate students extremely rare and very competitive to obtain. That said, it is not impossible to obtain financial aid as an international grad student; edupass.org is an excellent resource to understanding your options when it comes to financial aid. There is also the possibility of obtaining “work-study” employment, where you work for the university (as a Teacher’s Assistant or in some other capacity) for a small stipend to help pay for living expenses and tuition costs.

If you are worried that your grades might not be good enough to get you into your university of choice, there are a number of options available to you on how to mold yourself into a competitive graduate school candidate. You can learn more about getting into graduate school with a low GPA here. Remember, a higher GPA improves your chances of being admitted to the graduate school of your choice and drastically increases the likelihood of you obtaining a scholarship or financial aid.

GRE logo

The GRE is administered by the ETS.

In terms of standardized test scores, you should be focused on two things: the TOEFL and the GRE. The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is mandatory for international students; its primary purpose is to determine whether you are fluent enough in English to communicate effectively in a classroom environment. You can register for the TOEFL here.

Before pinning your hopes of attending graduate school to achieving a near perfect GRE score, you have to realize the GRE is hard. This exam is designed to challenge people who are not just academically talented, but motivated to succeed. If you need an excellent GRE score to have a chance of getting into your college of choice, the best piece of advice we can offer you is prepare. Practice, study, review and then practice, study, and review some more. You can learn more about how to make your study habits more effective here.

International students are at a disadvantage when it comes to GRE preparation as professional exam preparation is not as widely available internationally as it is domestically in the United States. One excellent resource to consider is a GRE online preparatory course like the one offered by Test Masters.

We hope this helps, and let us know if you have any more questions!


Have a question? Ask the experts at Test Masters!


Test Masters offers the most comprehensive GRE preparatory course available. Learn more about professional exam preparation here.

GRE Subject Tests Part 2

In addition to the GRE, ETS also offers eight GRE subject tests covering the following topics: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology.  In our last post, we provided an overview of four GRE subject tests.  Below are the remaining four subject tests, along with the material covered and some basic information on the structure of the tests.  Happy studying! Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 2” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2

In our last post, we gave some suggestions for graduate school applicants with low undergraduate GPAs.  Remember, a low undergraduate GPA does not mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some more tips on how to make an application with a low undergraduate GPA more attractive to graduate schools.

Retake the GRE until you have a stellar score.  Thanks to ETS’s new ScoreSelect policy, you now have nothing to lose by taking the GRE multiple times. (Graduate schools won’t even see your lowest scores!) If you took the GRE already and are not satisfied with your score, study harder and retake the test to see if you can get a higher score.  A high GRE score can do wonders for offsetting a low undergraduate GPA, particularly if several years have passed between your college graduation and your application to graduate school. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2” »

School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education & Human Development

“Our well-rounded community includes five unique departments, a top-ranked graduate school, national research centers, and the largest undergraduate major at Vanderbilt…Peabody professors are well-known scholars and practitioners who actively mentor students. Our undergraduate, master’s, Ed.D., Ph.D., and professional development programs all attract people who share a deep concern for the human condition and education.” Continue reading “School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1

Is your college GPA abysmal? Are you worried this will keep you from being able to attend graduate school? While a low college GPA will limit your graduate school options, it does not necessarily mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some suggestions for how to compensate for a low undergraduate GPA in your graduate school application.

Be realistic. Many of the top graduate programs will do an initial culling of the applicant pool based solely on their GPA and GRE scores.  A low average undergraduate GPA for admitted students can bring down program rankings, and many of the top programs receive far too many applications to truly be able to consider each application individually. If your GPA does not make the initial cut, then you will not be considered for admission.  Before you send in your application, call the program and ask them if there is an undergraduate GPA cutoff.  Make sure the programs you apply to are willing to evaluate your application as a whole. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1” »

Using Social Media to Your Advantage in Graduate School Admissions

Recently, we showed you how to clean up your Google search results for graduate schools.  Now that your Google search results make you look like the most erudite person on the planet, or at least, in your friend group, we’re going to focus on another aspect of social media.  Today, we’re going to turn the tables and show you how to use social media to help in your graduate school search and application process.

Nearly every university has at least one Facebook page relating to their departments or graduate admissions.  Make sure to “like” and follow these pages, as they may provide the most reliable and up-to-date information on admissions.  They can also link you to other application resources at the school that could assist you in your applications.  Plus, those pages typically always remind followers when applications deadlines are approaching and what materials are needed.

Is the dean of one of your prospective schools on Twitter? What about a professor who you’re really interested in working with? Don’t be afraid to follow these people to get to learn more about their work and potentially even establish a dialogue before you apply.  Professors and deans frequently tweet about research they’re doing, classes they’re offering, or papers or conferences they’re working on.  Being familiar with a professor or graduate dean’s research interests can help you cater to them in your admissions essay or during an interview.

Use Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with current students and alumni.  Most current graduate students love an excuse to take a break from their studies and talk to a prospective student, and proud alumni love to brag and reminisce about their alma mater.  Current students can give you a sense of student life at the graduate school, as well as provide valuable insights into the teaching styles of certain professors or the availability of research opportunities.  Alumni can let you know what they did with their degree, so you have a better idea of how you would apply your degree after graduate school.  Even if you don’t end up going to that school, the alumni, students and professors you contact can still be useful connections later down the line.

Finally, make sure to Google professors you think you may be interested in working with.  Google Scholar is a great tool for finding some of a professor’s recent publications.  You may also find other useful information about projects they’ve participated in the university, or stumble across a blog that gives you a hint as to their personality outside the classroom.  All this information can help you decide whether or not you may be interested in working with a particular professor.

Don’t forget to work all this information into your personal statement!  Use your conversations with alumni about their career paths to provide specific information about what you hope to do with your degree after graduation.  The more precise you can be, the more attractive your application will be to admissions officers! Likewise, use the information you’ve learned about professors you would like to work with to state specific information about why their research is of interest to you.

Remember, though, that while social media can be a valuable resource for learning some information about a graduate school, program, or particular professor there is still no replacement for going there and seeing it yourself.  Social media is a great way to lay the foundation for new relationships, but make sure to solidify them with some in-person (or at the very least phone) interaction.