Carnegie Mellon University

Department of Physics

Mellon College of Science

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 FEE for graduate applications. It is therefore unnecessary 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 also below.

(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 are unable to submit the results of both the General and Subject tests of the GRE, your application will be in severe disadvantage compared with those of others.

(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 or IELTS 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 evidence of language proficiency?

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

(7) What are the minimum TOEFL scores required for admission?

We do not have a rigorous minimum requirement for TOEFL or IELTS scores. Rather, we use the following guidelines:

  • TOEFL PBT: minimum score of 600
  • TOEFL iBT: minimum total score of 84, with no one sub-score less than
    • Reading = 22
    • Listening = 22
    • Speaking = 18
    • Writing = 22
  • IELTS: overall band score of at least 7, with no individual band score lower than 6.5.

(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 GPA for admission. Decisions are based on the entire application record, including courses taken, GPA, letters of recommendation, research experience, GRE test results, and – for applicants whose native language is not English – the TOEFL score. See also below.

(9) What typical GRE and GPA scores are required to gain admission?

The scores below can be used as guidelines and are averaged from admission offers made for the 3 academic years 2009–11. The scores define the middle 70% (≈ 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 that 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 represent offers made to both US and international applicants. Shown are 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) Can I 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 if we do, this will be exclusively for admission without financial aid.

(12) Do you offer admission to begin in the second semester?

We do not offer admission for study beginning in the Spring (second) semester of the academic year (typically in 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 at the end of August).

(13) I want to do research in Musical Acoustics. Is that 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 number of graduate fellowships available. More information about fellowships is found here.