Saturday, October 22, 2011

GRE, Publications, CGPA - to have or not to have


I am a student of the Computer Science & Engineering department in BRAC University - actually i have graduated a few months ago :D. In one of our student forums that we are still very active with, we had an interesting conversation between the students and the faculties about the requirements, impact, necessities of GRE, SAT, CGPA, Publications etc in order to enroll for masters programs in foreign universities. Some of these students and faculties have gone for masters in such universities after going through the extensive application process. So their feedbacks and their input in the conversation was really beneficial and relevant for everyone.

I compiled a little log of the whole conversation, which i am sure is of great relevance for many students around. Thus, I thought of putting up the conversation on my blog - well, not the whole conversation; just the output of the conversation. Here it goes.

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Sarwar Sir: Ok about the GRE. Here is the deal ... GRE isn't the only or the main factor for getting admitted to a foreign university. In fact, there are universities who don't even look at them (for example, UBC, where I am currently in). So to devote such a lot of time in one factor isn't worth it. However, having a good score is definitely a plus. 


So the advice will be, to practice ALL the factors including the GRE. And also to make a list of requirements of at least 10 universities you might want to go in the future. 


The other important factors are: (not in any order, random)
  • CGPA, 
  • PUBLICATIONS (Most important) [but I didn't have one] 
  • STATEMENT OF PURPOSE (an essay about you, where you want to be, etc) 
  • LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONS (at least three, should be good, position of recommender isn't important) 
  • CV (work experience counts well) 
  • TOEFL/IELTS score (this is just a pre-requisite, will not affect chances if you have, but will be rejected if you don't have!) 
  • GRE (same as TOEFL, but only if asked for) 
  • TRANSCRIPTS In any case, there are three parts of the GRE. One is Verbal, one is Quantitative, and the other is Analytic Writing. 

Doing well in the maths is easy... you will only need two weeks practice to get full marks! Because it is only class 6 maths. Speed is important though, so you sort of have to learn a few tricks or two. Read the BARRON'S GUIDE for GRE (latest), it has a very good guide on improving maths speed! Verbal section is really difficult! Even if you try to learn words now, and give the exam two years later, it is still tough to get good marks in it. But in any case, only the math section matters, so the score in this section (and the analytic section) doesn't really matter much. 

So the point is starting so early isn't a good idea for English word learning ... it has "diminishing returns"! Unless of course if you like learning English, then it's a different picture. BARRON has 3000 words (which is a bit too much). I would ask you to start with WORD SMART I and II. Together they have only 1000 important ones. I only managed to go 500! :P 

About the place, you can apply online. Select a center. The only center I know of is in Banani-11. Opposite to Sajna restaurant. There is address in the web. It's a small building that takes GRE and TOEFL exams. However, there are 2 to 4 sessions a day (working day) where only 15 to 20 students can give exam in. Hence, you will see that seats will fill up quickly. So if you want to register, you might want to register 6 months before, and then start practicing. 6 months for English and 2 months for Maths is ideal and good enough. 

GRE is generally seen to be asked for by US, Canadian, Australian Universities, but it will also depend on University to University and Subject to Subject. As far as I know, no University ask for GRE for the EEE programs ... this is because GRE maths is like class 10 maths, and EEE students do much higher level maths everyday, so they trust that and never ask for GRE. (At least this is the case in Canada, the ones I heard, e.g. Nazmus Sakib sir, Apurba sir, Raeed Hasan didn't need GRE as far as I know). Things might be different in USA though.

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Imran Sir: If anyone thinks low GPA is a problem, I advise them to try out the CS subject GRE (which by the way has to be given in India!). That way, you can mention in your Statement Of Purpose that you're really good at CS, albeit having a low GPA because of "personal" issues.

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Anonymous student: It is very hard to predict how grad schools evaluate GRE and GPA. Admission decision and financial aid might have very different criteria. I know many people in Michigan not getting any aid with 1500+ in GRE, 3.8+ GPA, MIT/Stanford graduates, probably because of no publications or they didn't put effort in SOP.

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Sarwar Sir: Well, as the name suggests, Publication is where you do a write-up that eventually gets published in a type of useful public media. Now, useful is an important word there?



What can you publish?
  • research work may be
  • or ideas that someone else can work on
  • or improvements on existing systems
  • analysis of different systems ... etc
  • it doesn't always have to be a novel idea ....
Where to publish?
  • reputed journals
  • magazines
  • papers
  • conference
  • as long as they have some weight, and can be found out easily (searching the net maybe). 
Like even TIME magazine is good! Or related conference papers. BD conferences like ICCIT is also good enough - since it's always better to have something than nothing right ?



So the thing you should do is including Subject GRE (which by the way has to be given in India!), find out a topic / field that is of most interest to you from computer science (or any other subject -- if you plan to switch track it's never too late - or a mixture of CS and some other discipline) and work on it... and try to make a publication out of it... no matter how simple... more often than not they might get published! :)