Frequently Asked Questions-Dept of Physics - Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Certain questions are frequently asked by applicants inquiring about our graduate program in Physics as well as the admission process. Please consult the answers to some frequently asked questions before contacting us.

[1] Can I be granted a waiver of the application fee?

Our department charges NO APPLICATION FEE for graduate applications. It is therefore not necessary to ask for a waiver.

[2] I cannot take the GRE until April; will you still consider my application?

The April test score reports are not available until May. At that time it is too late for such test scores to be of any value in making a decision on your application. Please see the next question.

[3] Can I get admitted without the results of the GRE General or Subject test? I will take the tests after I have been admitted.

The GRE test results are an important factor in the evaluation of an application in order to make a decision on admission. No purpose would be served by having someone take the GRE after they have been admitted. If you do not submit the results of both or either one of the General and Subject tests of the GRE, your application will be in severe disadvantage compared with those who have submitted both scores.

[4] Can I provide copies of my GRE test results? I will submit the original test results when admitted.

A complete application package requires the original GRE test score results. Under certain exceptional circumstances, we might consider an application that provides only a copy of the GRE tests. In such cases, we can only admit you if the original test results are provided before the decision deadline of April 15.

[5] English is not my native language, but I am not able to take the TOEFL; will you still consider my application?

A complete application package requires the original TOEFL test score results.  Unless you are able to demonstrate clearly in some other way that you are proficient in English, we cannot consider you for admission if your native language is not English and you do not submit the results of the TOEFL.

[6] English is not my native languate but I received my undergraduate degree from an English speaking institution.  Do I still need to provide TOEFL scores?

Yes, TOEFL scores are required from every applicant whose native language is not English.  Even if you received your undergraduate degree at either a US college or international institution where classes are taught in English, we still require you to take the TOEFL language test.

[7] What are the minimum TOEFL scores required for admission?

We do not have an absolute minimum required for TOEFL scores but use the following guidelines:

  • paper based test TOEFL PBT: minimum score of 600
  • internet based test TOEFL iBT: minimum total score of 84 with no one sub-score less than:
    • Reading = 22
    • Listening = 22
    • Speaking = 18
    • Writing = 22

[8] What are the minimum GRE and grade-point average GPA scores required for admission?

The Carnegie Mellon Physics Department sets no specific minimum for the GRE score or grade-point average GPA required for admission. The decisions on admission are based on the entire application record, including courses taken, grade-point average, letters of recommendation, research experience, GRE test results, and, for applicants whose native language is not English, the TOEFL score. See also questions below.

[9] What typical GRE and GPA scores are required to gain admission?

As mentioned above, the Physics Department sets no specific minimum for the GRE and GPA score required for admission.  The decision on admission is based on the entire application record.  The scores below can be used as guidelines and are averaged from the admission offers made for the 3 academic years 2009-2011.  The scores define the middle 70% (about 1 sigma) of the range of scores of all admitted students. This means about 15% of the applicants who received offers had a score above the reported maximum and 15% had a score below the reported minimum. Please keep in mind, a particular applicant might have individual test scores that fall in quite different parts of their respective distributions. For example, one applicant might have a score in the bottom 25% on the General Verbal Exam and a score in the top 25% on the Physics Subject exam. The data are for all offers including US and international applicants and include both the numerical score and the percentile (in parentheses) as reported by ETS.

Number of Offers 54


GRE General Verbal 440 (45%) - 680 (95%)
GRE General Analytical
3.4 (22%) - 5.2 (88%)
GRE General Quantitative 750 (83%) - 800 (94%)
GRE Physics Subject
660 (46%) - 980 (94%)
GPA (scale of 4.0 max)
3.40 - 3.97

[10] Is it possible to be granted admission without financial aid?

We do not, in general, offer admission to our Ph.D. program without also offering financial aid. This aid is in the form of assistantships, typically teaching assistantships, but occasionally also research assistantships and fellowships, that provide both a full tuition scholarship and a monthly stipend for living expenses.

[11] Can I receive financial aid to study only for a M.S. degree?

We do not have a M.S. only program in Physics but only a Ph.D. program. We do not offer financial aid to applicants who intend to study only for the M.S. degree. Our program is primarily a Ph. D. program. We will, in some cases, consider applicants who intend to obtain only a M.S. degree, but only for admission without financial aid.

[12] Can you offer me admission to begin in the second semester?

We do not offer admission for study beginning in the second semester of the academic year (typically January). Our program of graduate courses and our offers of financial aid are based on the full academic year beginning with the fall semester (typically end of August).

[13] I want to do research in Musical Acoustics. Is it possible?

Although one member of the department, Prof. R. T. Schumacher, does research in Musical Acoustics, he does not direct graduate student research in that area as he is retired.

[14] Are there any fellowships available?

Yes, we have a small number of graduate fellowships available. More information about fellowships can be found here  .