I just took and received a very bad math subject gre score of 600, or 37th percentile. Would it still be worth it to apply to any school that requires the subject test? I've been working at several tech startups for a few years so some of the material wasn't as fresh as it maybe would have been.

A bit of my background, I'm finishing up my masters in math at a top 10 university, I don't have any publications yet but I'm working on a thesis under a very well known professor. My grades are good and I'm a TA and grader at the university.

I guess the question is whether or not admissions committees would use the poor score as enough of a reason to reject a candidate. Or would it make more sense to wait until I can retake the exam in April and put academia/PhD aside for a year.


  • You need to specify which country or even university you'd like to apply to.
    – deags
    Nov 22, 2019 at 20:06
  • would be looking at top 20 in the U.S. but at this point feels out of reach just based on score. At least this is where I was hoping for originally - Open to other countries given the situation Nov 22, 2019 at 20:15
  • Score is not the only factor of selection for those schools, and even with scores it might still unlikely. the thesis means nothing, publications are most everything in the current recognition system. You need to think why do you want to make a PHD and in what, then see if there is other university who offers what you want, in other countries it would still be viable and probably at a lower cost. Remember that graduate from a top 10 university is called the same than a graduate from a top 200 university; Doctor.
    – deags
    Nov 22, 2019 at 20:20
  • 2
    @deags - If you want an research job (whether in academia or industry) after your PhD, your chances are much much better if you graduate from a top 10 university. If you graduate from a 150-200-th ranked university, in fact, your chances are close to 0. This is partly based on the reputation of your degree, but it's also true that your education at a better university will be better, not because the professors are much better but because your fellow students are better and the professors can teach at a more advanced level. Nov 24, 2019 at 2:14
  • @ Alexander Woo A top 10 university does not gives you the better education but the brand/social network associated with it. Graduating from top 200 still means top around the world, more so in countries when doctors are less than 1% of the population. I've seen in developing countries that some industries look down on private schools (more so for mid-level and university) , meanwhile. There is also the topic that there are just very few jobs available in academia, and the conditions or recognition internationally still apply. Meaning a title and many papers.
    – deags
    Nov 25, 2019 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


This is very variable. Some admissions committees think that the subject GRE score is important, and some do not. Even at the same department, it may vary from year to year depending on who is on the committee.


Once you get past an automatic screening based on your score (aif there is one) I think what will matter most is the letter from your advisor, with whom you seem to have a good working relationship.

I haven't been involved in graduate admissions enough recently to know whether publication before entry into a doctoral program is normal or required.

Talk to your advisor about your plans.

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