I am aspiring to apply for a PhD programm in the US. I would like to apply to Harvard but my GRE math subject scores are at 78%, 820/990, while I hold a masters degree in Pure Mathematics with GPA 9.1/10 and 9.5/10 for my undergraduate degree.

Do you believe that there might be any chance of someone getting admitted with such a low GRE score? Should I not try applying to it at all?

In addition, I would like to ask, to what extent are TOEFL scores taken into consideration beyond constituting a standard qualification?

  • I suspect you are from India. Yes? I doubt that you will have language difficulties in the US if so.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 17:58
  • The question "should I retake the GRE?" has been asked and closed many times on this site. academia.stackexchange.com/search?q=retake+gre+is%3Aq
    – shoover
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 22:28
  • If the university generally provides funding through a teaching assistantship, TOEFL and IELTS scores are very important. Usually my grad program had 1 TA per class but one quarter I had a co-TA because he didn't meet the English requirements to be a TA on his own. Our department was small and well-off so they could afford to do that.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 0:51

1 Answer 1


My advice is that you are putting too much emphasis on one thing and too little on another. GRE subject scores in the US are only one measure with others more important generally, especially good letters of recommendation. Better GRE scores are good, but not the ticket. You might even do worse on a future test - who can say.

Places like Harvard, and most others, don't base decisions solely on such numbers. And many doctoral institutions are lowering the impact of standardized tests, questioning their predictive value.

But the "more important" aspect is that you are putting too many eggs in the Harvard basket. If you apply only to the very top institutions and nowhere else you are likely to be disappointed. The doctoral program at Harvard is a minuscule fraction of good, even excellent, programs. And getting rejected at one such institution leaves you likely to be rejected at other very similar places.

I suggest that you cast a broad net; a selection from, say the top 50 or so universities. Apply to Harvard if you like, but the competition will be fierce. Get good letters of recommendation, predicting your success.

Take the test again if you like, but don't expect to see much difference in the outcome overall.

  • Buffy thank you for your answer! I sm not relying solely on Harvard, but among the universities I would like to apply, it is the only one requiring a GRE test. Moreover, I would like to ask about the emphasis put on TOEFL scores in general amongst US universities.
    – Prelude
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 17:58
  • @Math2323, get good letters.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 18:00

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