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I am going to take the GRE soon. My practice tests end up being at V: 158 (80%) and Q: 162 (80%). I didn't care too much about the quantitative section in the practice test so my real score should be higher. However, my Verbal seems accurate. I don't know about the writing, but I'd guess to around a 5 if things go well.

Question: Are these scores good enough for a PhD in electrical/computer engineering or computer science (not decided yet, something in EECS) at schools like MIT/Stanford/Berkeley? Should I be wasting my time preparing for the GRE? I had thought that GRE was completely useless, but after some searching online it seems it actually carries weight.

  • Why don't you care much about the quantitative section? I was always told the quantitative section is the most important for engineering and hard science graduate programs and you should aim for a perfect score there to get into top programs. – Thomas supports Monica Jul 9 '18 at 0:17
  • @Thomas Well, the main reason that I didn't do well on this practice exam is because they were so easy that I had become careless (thinking about the problem without actually writing anything down to tackle it and also ending sections early without checking work.) However, I did think that it was useless simply because of the fact that my entire college history is based on quantitative stuff (GPA, math/CS courses, research exp., work exp. etc.), so I figured that GRE was there just for the Verbal/Writing stuff. – A_Happy_Student Jul 9 '18 at 0:19
  • The quantitative questions are easy, but the danger is running out of time in the exam. They get used as a filter -- if you can't ace these easy questions, your application is not worth reading. – Thomas supports Monica Jul 9 '18 at 0:38
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    @A_Happy_Student if the admissions committee learned that that was your attitude, they might fear that you'll make dumb mistakes throughout your research and prefer a different candidate. Some schools are dropping the GRE from admissions decisions, and I personally think it's a dubious criterion, but if the schools you are applying too require it, then you should take ALL the sections seriously, and not blow any of of them off. You can't know that the admissions committee will feel the same way about the relative values of the different sections as you do. – Charles E. Grant Jul 9 '18 at 4:24
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    MIT EECS does not require GRE scores. – JeffE Jul 9 '18 at 11:19
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What is your alternative? Why do you consider studying for the test a "waste of time"? If the exams are required for admission then, I'd suggest that you should do what you can to make the best effort possible. You are in a good program now, of course (UM), but the schools you suggest draw the most skilled applicants from the best programs in the world. The competition is fierce. Work hard. Do your best, knowing that nothing is assured at this level.

Even if the exam carries little weight in general, it might be used in marginal cases to indicate to someone in the process that you are (or aren't) simply superb.

But in general, do everything you can to maximize your "portfolio" in every category that might be a factor in acceptance.

There is no try.

  • Thanks for the motivation. I think that it's a waste of time because I have an ongoing research project that's pretty time consuming. Having to spend time preparing for the GRE takes time away from it, and also I really have no interest in memorizing a ton of random unused esoteric English words with popular usage dating back to the 1800s. (my greatest weakness) – A_Happy_Student Jul 9 '18 at 0:20
  • Don't sacrifice long term goals for short term success, I'd suggest. It may be that the project will figure higher in the estimation of the proposed schools than the GRE, of course. That is especially true if judgements are heavily weighted toward interviews and such. – Buffy Jul 9 '18 at 1:08
  • Indeed, so do you consider my GRE scores adequate enough for admissions or should I still devote some time? – A_Happy_Student Jul 9 '18 at 1:25
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Aim for 90%+, especially on quant. Many (top) programs won't even look at your application if you are not at that range, unless something else on your file (really) stands out.

That being said, several EE/CS programs no longer require the GRE, MIT included.

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