I took an nontraditional track to academia. I went from the professional world, to full time community college educator (media/communications). Now as I plan to go forward, I realize that I NEED a PhD to move on. Problem, my GRE scores is awful and my Masters was a tacticians degree rather than a theoretical one. So I have no publication history.

So in order to get into a decent PhD program (I will have to change fields from Communications to Education since there are no PhD programs in my field in proximity to my tuition reimbursing institution), should I focus on pumping up my GRE score, or getting some publishing under my belt? While the second sounds like a lot more fun, I wonder if a good set of publications would matter if my GRE is abysmal?

  • 4
    Is there any reason you can't do both? – JeffE Mar 15 '13 at 15:09
  • Have you considered a research-based masters? There may even be some programs that allow one to transfer from the masters to PhD program. – user4383 Mar 15 '13 at 18:59
  • And actually, I want the academic experience that will lead to a position that includes research. Eventually I want to work toward a position in the university system. So there is a need for a program with some academic reputation. But thank you for your response. I should have been clearer in my question. – user6381 Mar 16 '13 at 19:31

I suppose you mean the GRE general test, as opposed to the subject tests. The general test is easy enough to study part time, and there are openings to take the test almost everyday. Plus, you get to send only the best score now, via "Score Select". So, there shouldn't be a problem doing both at the same time.

IMHO research experience greatly trumps GRE scores. Great GRE scores won't help you get admitted and bad scores won't necessarily cause your application to fail. Good research experience, from my experience applying to grad school twice and speaking to professors, is solid gold.

Bear in mind that during the PhD, you will have to juggle coursework, teaching and keeping up with research in order to find an adviser during the first 1-2 years. In comparison, studying for the GRE while doing research is almost trivial. One trick is to not spend too much time actually studying for the GRE. Instead, get a book like Princeton Review, learn the tricks and game the system.

Tl;dr - Do both at the same time!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.