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QUESTION: I'm a graduate in Civil Engineering from a university in India and I would like to pursue a Ph.D. course in physics in the U.S. My GRE scores are Verbal:156 and Quantitative: 166. My subject GRE results are due in December though I think I'll score fairly well. I have covered all the basic topics recommended for an undergraduate degree in physics. My CGPA is 6.36/10 which is low compared to U.S. standards. Will this severly affect my chances of admission? I have scored well in physics and physics related subjects in my undergrads. I've also completed a project on quantum entanglements from the Indian Statistical Institute and will secure two excellent recommendations from there.

ANSWER: Hi Anirudha:

Most universities in the U.S. have scaled typical scores form countries where they get applicants.  At Illinois Tech, for example, we see a lot of applications from India and we know that the typical grades are on the low side.  In this case, we look at all the other aspects of the application, including the GRE scores (general and subject) and letters of reference.

A more difficult obstacle might be if your Bachelor's degree is a three year degree instead of a four year degree.  Some U.S. universities want to see an extra year of Masters level studies in this case.

Good Luck!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: In response to your reply,professor, mine was a 4 year B.E course. Also, is there any conversion from an Indian University (Jadavpur University) GPA to a U.S equivalent? Also, what would be a good subject GRE score for admissions to mid-ranked colleges in the U.S.? Thank You!

I suspect that each university's admission office has their own conversion scale.  At Illinois Tech, 60% marks are considered to be about a 3.0/4.0 Grade point average from a non-Indian Institute of Technology university which is the bare minimum for admission. Admittedly this is a single point but it should give you an idea.

If you have a score above 40%ile that should be good enough to get you in.  At Illinois Tech, our average over the past 3 years has been about 40%ile but we don't require the Physics GRE so not all of our students take it.

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Carlo Segre


I can answer most questions about studying physics in college and graduate school; questions about condensed matter physics; x-ray physics; synchrotron radiation; and general and modern physics. I can also answer questions about careers in academia.


Professor of physics for 30 years at Illinois Institute of Technology. Academic adviser for undergraduates and graduate students. I have served on university promotion and tenure committees, search committees for Deans and Department Chairs. I have also been an Associate Department Chair and an Associate Dean. I have 34 years experience in materials science research and I have been responsible for building and now managing a User facility at the Advanced Photon Source.

American Physical Society
Sigma Xi
American Chemical Society
American Associate for the Advancement of Science
International Centre for Diffraction Data (Fellow)
International X-ray Absorption Society

Nature; Physical Review Letters; Physical Review; Applied Physics Letters; Journal of Physical Chemistry; Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics; Solid State Communications; Physics Letters; Journal of Low Temperature Physics; Journal of Crystal Growth and Design; Physics Letters; Journal of Applied Physics; Journal of Archaeological Science; Physica C; Corrosion Science; Electrochimica Acta; Journal of Nuclear Materials

Ph.D. Physics, 1981 - University of California, San Diego
M.S. Physics, 1977 - University of California, San Diego
B.S. Physics, 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana
B.S. Chemistry 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Awards and Honors
Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics, IIT Fellow, International Center for Diffraction Data

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