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I have a degree in Civil Engineering and I want to continue my studies in the field of mathematics. I think the only option that I have to enhance my application is to take the GRE mathematics subject test. If I can get a good score, will I have a chance to get an admission in a top university? Thanks.

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  • Forget about credentials - how prepared are you for a Masters in mathematics? Have you learned how to read and write mathematical proofs and learned the material in standard upper level mathematics courses such as real analysis and abstract algebra? If I asked you to prove that every subgroup of index 2 is normal or that the integral of the limit of a uniformly convergent sequence of functions is the limit of the sequence of integrals, could you do it (with some review)? – Alexander Woo May 10 '20 at 0:43
  • I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes - but would this apply to both pure math and applied math studies? – GrayLiterature May 10 '20 at 1:50
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    @GrayLiterature: I wrote that with pure math in mind. "Applied math" has a wide variation in methodology, from research that looks like pure math research but is on topics with more obvious applications, to what is really theoretical biology that isn't in a biology department because biologists aren't comfortable with colleagues who don't have physical labs. – Alexander Woo May 10 '20 at 3:53
  • @AlexanderWoo, you are pointing out very valid concerns, but since I intend to apply for Applied Math I thought these might not be important issues. Would you say that it is plausible (in an acceptable degree) to get into such program? – K. Ara May 10 '20 at 6:20
  • @K.Ara - It depends on what you mean by a "top" program. For historical reasons, applied math of the theorem proving kind has higher prestige than applied math of the modelling kind, so "top" programs tend to be biased toward theorem proving (and frequently are part of the same department and degree programs as pure mathematics). At such a university, you will be completely lost in a graduate class in applied mathematics without the necessary analysis background, though you might not need the algebra. – Alexander Woo May 10 '20 at 17:39
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I'm going to guess that it will be difficult, depending on what you mean by a "top university". Your CE background has some math, it is true, but you are probably missing quite a few of the courses that math graduates will have had.

The math subject test itself is very difficult and tries to cover many topics. Even a math graduate will have had no courses at all that cover many of those topics and even they won't be able to answer them. I did quite well on the test (with a very strong math major) but still felt terrible on finishing the exam.

The only way to be certain, of course, is to make application to a few places. But I think you might need more math background than would be typical in any engineering degree. An applied math program might be within reach, though.

There is a lot of competition and most of it coming from people with a full math curriculum behind them.

I'd suggest, however, that you find a way to talk to (or even visit) a potential institution and discuss it with an admissions person. They might have specific advice about what you need and how you could get it. A pretty steep climb overall, I'd think, unless your background is unusual.

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