Please explain my catastrophic performance

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
Post Reply
Mustela nivalis
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:14 am

Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by Mustela nivalis » Tue May 26, 2020 10:10 am

Let's try to understand why I did not get an offer. I have no idea. I should say I mentioned in SOPs that my GRE AWA score is so poor due to my disability: I am not able to type fast and hence could not produce a sufficiently large text even under condition of 50% extra time. Could this circumstance negatively affect my application?


Undergrad Institution: Regional university in Russia
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): N/A
GPA: 4.83 / 5
Type of Student: International (Russian) Male

Grad Institution: same
Major(s): Physics (Master's degree)
Minor(s): N/A
GPA: 4.82 / 5
Type of Student: International (Russian) Male

GRE Revised General Test:
Q: 166 (89%)
V: 150 (46%)
W: 2.5 (7%)
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics:
M: 840 (84%) :shock:

IELTS Score: 7.0 = R8.5 :shock: / L7.0 / S6.0 / W6.5

Program Applying: PhD in Pure Math

Research Experience: Two articles in Physical Review D
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Two diplomas with honors
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: N/A
Any Miscellaneous Points that Might Help: N/A
Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: N/A

Applying to Where:

Rejected, No answer, Suspended, Declined, Accepted.

Hail Mary:

MIT Rejected (02/06)
UChicago Rejected (01/29)
NYU Rejected (04/02)
UW-Madison Rejected (02/03)
Brown Rejected (02/11)

Match:

Purdue Rejected (04/07)
Rice Rejected (04/14)
CMU No answer
Notre Dame Rejected (02/15)
University of Utah Rejected (03/03)

Safety:

CUNY Rejected (04/08)
University of Kansas Rejected (04/17)
University of Arizona Rejected (04/11)
University of Oregon Rejected (02/10)
University of Oklahoma Received an offer to participate in a contest without TA in the first year. Declined
Central Michigan University No answer

mlpwas100
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Feb 29, 2020 11:43 am

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by mlpwas100 » Tue May 26, 2020 10:47 am

Given that you have explained your situation regarding your disability and how it affected your AWA score, I don't think it negatively affected your application that much. In my opinion, however, your GRE verbal score is a bit low. I can't comment on your IELTS because I am not familiar with the scoring scales. Sadly, the bar is just higher in every aspect for international students.

misterB
Posts: 33
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:24 am

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by misterB » Tue May 26, 2020 2:04 pm

mlpwas100 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:47 am
Given that you have explained your situation regarding your disability and how it affected your AWA score, I don't think it negatively affected your application that much. In my opinion, however, your GRE verbal score is a bit low. I can't comment on your IELTS because I am not familiar with the scoring scales. Sadly, the bar is just higher in every aspect for international students.
Very unlikely that each University would reject him because of that. I think it might be more worthwhile mailing universities and asking for feedback on the application and how it can be improved. I think one point of concern might be that his master's degree is in physics but I don't know how much that would matter if his math background is good.

defen
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:40 pm

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by defen » Tue May 26, 2020 2:28 pm

On the mathematics side: since your background is in physics, you may be missing essential coursework for a math PhD. You should ideally have a second course in linear algebra, a few courses in real and complex analysis, a couple of courses in abstract algebra, and perhaps topology. (Many schools are fine with taking an extra year to catch up, but funding is not as subsidized for international students).

Also, what are your research interests? Did you customize your statements for each application? Before applying, did you communicate with professors who you would like to work with?

On the English side: you are better off applying to larger universities. If they like you overall but are not initially confident in your ability to teach a class or recitation, they might limit your obligations to grading for the first year until your English improves. A smaller school may not have the capacity to support such a position.

Finally, aim a lot lower in the US. Things have become much more competitive this cycle; I've seen very strong domestic candidates rejected this year by schools like the University of Oregon.

asterac
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2018 11:48 pm

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by asterac » Tue May 26, 2020 3:43 pm

Gonna second defen's points, particularly that we can't see anything here about the level of your math background, so that might have been an issue.

As an international applicant, it's very typical that you need to be more qualified than the bulk of domestic admits to get into a program.

Another couple of possibilities that have gone unmentioned:
1) It's extremely important to admissions committees to have some frame of reference for your application. If your grades are good, did you earn them in challenging courses? If you come from a university they don't know, it's hard to get perspective. Similarly, letters of recommendation are essential--much more important than one's own statement of purpose--because adcoms want to be able to get an evaluation of you that they can trust. If they have no idea who your letter writers are or the writers are "unproven" themselves, they won't know what to think. This can be hard enough for international applicants OR applicants from unknown schools, but if both of these are true for you and perhaps you have mostly physicists recommending you instead of mathematicians, then they really won't know what to think. Did you have a solid recommendation from a solid mathematician? More than one?
If you intend to try again next year, perhaps the very best thing you could do is get some research experience with a mathematician who is somewhat known in the US. This would ideally take the form of an REU, but these are typically much harder for international students to get into. You could get creative and try to arrange some other form of collaboration, reading course, etc., that could lead to a letter. Anything that can make you more directly comparable with domestic applicants. You could also try applying to some masters programs in the US, which are pretty much there specifically to improve background for the sake of preparation for admissions to PhD programs. A route that requires a little less footwork is asking your mathy recommenders where they know people/have collaborators in the US. Applying there, particularly if you reach out to those people in some way in advance, will make it more likely someone will view your application with interest.
2) If you seemed to be on a physics trajectory, you would need to provide compelling justification for why you're switching fields and to demonstrate some progress in the math direction. Otherwise, they're not sure if you're really interested in math or if you're just sick of physics and not sure what to do.

Keep in mind that every adcom is more comfortable with a "false negative" than a "false positive," i.e., they're happy to turn down someone they're not sure about, even if they might be a good candidate. So, the burden is on you to give them every piece of convincing evidence that you can.

Mustela nivalis
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:14 am

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by Mustela nivalis » Wed May 27, 2020 3:38 pm

Thank you for answers.
mlpwas100 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:47 am
Sadly, the bar is just higher in every aspect for international students.
Do you mean overall? Even MGRE is not good even for UOklahoma?
defen wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 2:28 pm
You should ideally have a second course in linear algebra, a few courses in real and complex analysis, a couple of courses in abstract algebra, and perhaps topology.
I am theoretical physicist, so I learned such courses in abundance. I dare to say not all US math undergrades studied things I studied.
defen wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 2:28 pm
Also, what are your research interests? Did you customize your statements for each application? Before applying, did you communicate with professors who you would like to work with?
My research interests include abstract algebra (mainly Lie algebras, group theory, algebraic structures), differential geometry, set theory, category theory, mathematical logic.
Nah, I did not customize my SOPs except evident corrections.
No, I did not communicate with them. I heard it is useless.

I have an offer for MSc studies in mathematics at Weizmann institute of science, which is located in Israel. Is it possible to enter in a respectable US PhD program after taking an Israeli Master's? And what about the following track: Israeli PhD => US Postdoc? Also I think about going to Israel and applying to the USA for the next year. If I gain an acceptance, Ill leave Israel and go to America. Please estimate all these ways.

temporaryacct
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:23 am

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by temporaryacct » Wed May 27, 2020 5:03 pm

I don't think there was anything wrong with your stats or coursework. How were your letters and SOP? What can your recommenders say about you personally and mathematically?

How did you build your school list? Fit is very important. Schools have different cultures, research areas, etc. and it affects their preferences for students. Did your SOP have a compelling reason for why you are right for the school and why the school is right for you?

kinoglaz
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:58 pm

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by kinoglaz » Thu May 28, 2020 5:22 pm

My profile is pretty similar to yours, except I'm domestic and a math major. I also applied to similar schools, a couple of the same as you. Even better, I was also completely shut out this cycle.

I'm pretty confused too.

I know someone with an abysmal transcript from an unknown school who got into a school better than a few of your safeties solely because someone on the committee knew one of his letter writers very well (he was even told this during his interview :shock: ).

I get the sense there's more or less four types of applicants: truly exceptional, "okay", terrible, and those who in someway check off some sort of special box. It seems like many schools prefer to dig into their exceptional and special box piles first, dig into their "okay" pile if needed, and obviously discard the terrible ones.

The real pain is accepting that even if you feel you did your very best and achieved a tremendous amount, if you aren't truly exceptional or can leverage some kind a special advantage/connection, you will probably be classified as "okay".

Of course, I could be wrong. This is just a hunch.

bxbdhdj
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:00 pm

Re: Please explain my catastrophic performance

Post by bxbdhdj » Sat May 30, 2020 2:11 am

kinoglaz wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 5:22 pm
My profile is pretty similar to yours, except I'm domestic and a math major. I also applied to similar schools, a couple of the same as you. Even better, I was also completely shut out this cycle.

I'm pretty confused too.

I know someone with an abysmal transcript from an unknown school who got into a school better than a few of your safeties solely because someone on the committee knew one of his letter writers very well (he was even told this during his interview :shock: ).

I get the sense there's more or less four types of applicants: truly exceptional, "okay", terrible, and those who in someway check off some sort of special box. It seems like many schools prefer to dig into their exceptional and special box piles first, dig into their "okay" pile if needed, and obviously discard the terrible ones.

The real pain is accepting that even if you feel you did your very best and achieved a tremendous amount, if you aren't truly exceptional or can leverage some kind a special advantage/connection, you will probably be classified as "okay".

Of course, I could be wrong. This is just a hunch.
Totally agreed. Either you are a genius or some genius knows you, otherwise it will be a game difficult to play.



Post Reply