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Can I redeem myself after bad grades by doing a Masters??

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    Last year I graduated with an MSci in physics (2:1) and I would like to do a PhD in the field of theoretical particle physics. The problem is that I have pretty bad grades in some courses which would be considered relevant so I'm fairly certain that I have little chance of being accepted based mostly on this fact.

    I have considered applying for a taught MSc instead. Something relevant to theoretical particle physics in the hope that this will 'override' my bad grades and give me a fighting chance at the PhD I desire (assuming I work hard enough to get a distinction).

    Is this plausible or am I kidding myself? Has anyone else had a similar dilemma?
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    (Original post by Master Equation)
    Last year I graduated with an MSci in physics (2:1) and I would like to do a PhD in the field of theoretical particle physics. The problem is that I have pretty bad grades in some courses which would be considered relevant so I'm fairly certain that I have little chance of being accepted based mostly on this fact.

    I have considered applying for a taught MSc instead. Something relevant to theoretical particle physics in the hope that this will 'override' my bad grades and give me a fighting chance at the PhD I desire (assuming I work hard enough to get a distinction).

    Is this plausible or am I kidding myself? Has anyone else had a similar dilemma?
    If you have already graduated then you do not need to show them your transcript; in your personal statement just mention that you have studied related areas, but do not mention the actual grades. Because you have a 2.1 you will have no problem receiving an offer from most universities.
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    In what world does an institution not evaluate transcripts in the admissions process?
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    (Original post by evantej)
    If you have already graduated then you do not need to show them your transcript; in your personal statement just mention that you have studied related areas, but do not mention the actual grades. Because you have a 2.1 you will have no problem receiving an offer from most universities.
    Are you quite sure about that?:erm: I was asked to include a transcript of my BA grades with my DPhil application, and as far as I'm aware that is standard practice.
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    I wasn't asked for a transcript of my BA grades when I applied for my MA. Mind you, it was after I graduated, so things might work differently for those applicants.
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    Ok, let's assume that they do check my transcript and my grades are taken into account when applying for a PhD. If they do decide to turn me down based on these bad relevant grades will obtaining a MSc in a relevant discipline change their minds?
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    Well if you're applying to a lab for a PhD, it's not like applying for a taught masters or undergraduate. They're not looking for you to be better than a certain benchmark - they're looking for you to be the single best candidate for a single place. So while it may help you if you get the Masters, there's no guarantee that it would then make you 'better' than the same candidates the next year, or that the following year there might be less competition and you might not have got the place without it.

    (And I had to show transcripts for every university I applied to, even though I'd already graduated).
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    (Original post by Bekaboo)
    Well if you're applying to a lab for a PhD, it's not like applying for a taught masters or undergraduate. They're not looking for you to be better than a certain benchmark - they're looking for you to be the single best candidate for a single place. So while it may help you if you get the Masters, there's no guarantee that it would then make you 'better' than the same candidates the next year, or that the following year there might be less competition and you might not have got the place without it.

    (And I had to show transcripts for every university I applied to, even though I'd already graduated).
    Seriously, why bother negging me?

    tigermoth99's experiences suggest my comment was right, and you did not directly address the issue the OP was worried about. If he does well at masters level will this negate his relatively poor performance at undergraduate level. You talk about looking for a single best candidate, but completely ignore the actual thing he was worried about. I suggested that he would not have a problem getting onto the masters, but you need to tell him whether universities when looking for a single best candidate look at undergraduate marks as well as his masters marks. Of course, if you went from undergraduate straight to PhD then you might not be in the best position to answer this.
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    (Original post by evantej)
    Seriously, why bother negging me?
    Because it's patently wrong advice, and by negging it it's immediately obvious to anyone that reads it that there's something wrong with it. That's why the post is negged, not you.


    tigermoth99's experiences suggest my comment was right, and you did not directly address the issue the OP was worried about.
    No, it indicates that it could be right in some circumstances. Not the same thing. For instance, while you and tigermoth are both arts students (where marking is undoubtedly much more subjective) the OP is a scientist.

    If he does well at masters level will this negate his relatively poor performance at undergraduate level. You talk about looking for a single best candidate, but completely ignore the actual thing he was worried about.
    I didn't ignore it; I pointed out that it's the wrong question to ask. Whereas when applying for undergraduate or Masters degrees you may be competing for one of a hundred places, and you have to meet a minimum benchmark requirement; for a PhD in the sciences, that is never going to be the case. So while further experience of a subject demonstrating a better understanding is of course going to be helpful, if there's somebody who is better qualified, it simply doesn't matter. Similarly, while your situation might be less than desirable, if there's a pot of money for the taking and you're the best candidate they can find then it won't matter.
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    (Original post by Bekaboo)
    Because it's patently wrong advice, and by negging it it's immediately obvious to anyone that reads it that there's something wrong with it. That's why the post is negged, not you. [...]

    I didn't ignore it; I pointed out that it's the wrong question to ask. Whereas when applying for undergraduate or Masters degrees you may be competing for one of a hundred places, and you have to meet a minimum benchmark requirement; for a PhD in the sciences, that is never going to be the case. So while further experience of a subject demonstrating a better understanding is of course going to be helpful, if there's somebody who is better qualified, it simply doesn't matter. Similarly, while your situation might be less than desirable, if there's a pot of money for the taking and you're the best candidate they can find then it won't matter.
    He has graduated. He wants to apply for a masters not a PhD. He just needs to show his degree certificate; I checked the theoretical physics page at Bristol (1st, 2.1 or 2.2 if you are a MSci graduate) and it is exactly the same so clearly science is no different to the arts and humanities in this respect. I was not wrong.

    Nevertheless, you still have not answered his question, and whether or not it was the right question to ask is irrelevant at this point in time, because he will have more than a year before he has to consider his doctoral ambitions. He wants to know whether he can get around his relatively poor grades at undergraduate level in order to improve his chances at PhD level. The fact that he does not have to show his transcript to get onto a masters, and can then specialise in the area he needs to and hopefully get better grades means that he can redeem himself, so to speak.

    Even if there was someone who is better qualified when it comes to PhD interviews that is completely irrelevant to him at this point in time; it was not what he wanted to know nor what he asked. Likewise, he did not once mention funding so the issue of someone being better qualified is negligible in most cases.
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    (Original post by Master Equation)
    Last year I graduated with an MSci in physics (2:1) and I would like to do a PhD in the field of theoretical particle physics. The problem is that I have pretty bad grades in some courses which would be considered relevant so I'm fairly certain that I have little chance of being accepted based mostly on this fact.

    I have considered applying for a taught MSc instead. Something relevant to theoretical particle physics in the hope that this will 'override' my bad grades and give me a fighting chance at the PhD I desire (assuming I work hard enough to get a distinction).

    Is this plausible or am I kidding myself? Has anyone else had a similar dilemma?
    In the case of Durham for theoretical particle physics, you are correct that you wouldn't be able to get on to a PhD without a first, but you can get onto the MSc (obviously depending on competition that year and stuff but people have). Then you have to do *extremely* well on the MSc to be considered to stay on for a PhD (in one case a guy was told he'd have to get much higher than a distinction in the exams). Obviously this is just the case at Durham though, and you could do the MSc at Durham and then move on somewhere less competetive for a PhD maybe.
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    (Original post by Master Equation)
    Last year I graduated with an MSci in physics (2:1) and I would like to do a PhD in the field of theoretical particle physics. The problem is that I have pretty bad grades in some courses which would be considered relevant so I'm fairly certain that I have little chance of being accepted based mostly on this fact.

    I have considered applying for a taught MSc instead. Something relevant to theoretical particle physics in the hope that this will 'override' my bad grades and give me a fighting chance at the PhD I desire (assuming I work hard enough to get a distinction).

    Is this plausible or am I kidding myself? Has anyone else had a similar dilemma?
    UCL run a high energy physics MSc which I assume would be the type of thing you'd be looking for. As far as I know it's the only course of its type in the UK and requires a 2.1 at MSci. Maybe you could apply to it alongside PhD positions and if you don't get any of your desired PhD places, just take up the MSc place?
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    Have you spoken to your former academic tutors or director of studies about this issue? After all they will be writing you references and so it would be good in any case to gauge their opinion on the strength of your application.
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    (Original post by shiny)
    Have you spoken to your former academic tutors or director of studies about this issue? After all they will be writing you references and so it would be good in any case to gauge their opinion on the strength of your application.
    I have not spoken about this with my academic tutors but I guess I really should have.

    Ideally what I'd like to do is take Part III of the Cambridge maths tripos which is more-or-less a masters in it's own right, and then apply for PhD's. However, they (usually) have an entry requirement of a 1st class honours degree. I've considered doing a MSc first, then applying to Cambridge for the MASt (assuming a high quality MSc will raise my chances) but I'm not sure if this would work.
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    (Original post by Master Equation)
    I have not spoken about this with my academic tutors but I guess I really should have.
    I think you need to make the effort to do so. They may strongly support you, they may tell you something that you don't want to hear but you need to know. Their opinion could be worth more than your current grades.
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    (Original post by evantej)
    He has graduated. He wants to apply for a masters not a PhD. He just needs to show his degree certificate; I checked the theoretical physics page at Bristol (1st, 2.1 or 2.2 if you are a MSci graduate) and it is exactly the same so clearly science is no different to the arts and humanities in this respect. I was not wrong
    This may well apply to Bristol, but you're wrong if you think a degree certificate is always sufficient; some departments do ask for transcripts: [scroll down to the 'how to apply' box].
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    (Original post by evantej)
    He has graduated. He wants to apply for a masters not a PhD.
    No, he wants to do a PhD, and wants to know whether doing the Masters first will help him to achieve that. My understanding is that if he could get onto the PhD straight away, then he would do so, and is only asking about the Masters as a vehicle to improve his chanced.

    He just needs to show his degree certificate; I checked the theoretical physics page at Bristol (1st, 2.1 or 2.2 if you are a MSci graduate) and it is exactly the same so clearly science is no different to the arts and humanities in this respect. I was not wrong.
    Yes you were. You gave ubiquitous advice, which - as hobnob points out - is by no means the case for every university; and you completely missed the fact that he's concerned about the effect of those units UPON HIS ABILITY TO BE ACCEPTED FOR A PhD. So whether or not he can get a Masters place easily isn't the question at all. When applying for a PhD he is likely to have to show his transcript.

    The fact that he does not have to show his transcript to get onto a masters, and can then specialise in the area he needs to and hopefully get better grades means that he can redeem himself, so to speak.
    Yeah... or, if it's unnecessary, which - as I explained - it could well be depending on the playing field in that particular year, then he could save himself £10k and just not do the Masters...

    Even if there was someone who is better qualified when it comes to PhD interviews that is completely irrelevant to him at this point in time; it was not what he wanted to know nor what he asked. Likewise, he did not once mention funding so the issue of someone being better qualified is negligible in most cases.
    Actually yes it is.
    He wanted to know: Will having a second Masters improve my chance at getting a PhD.
    To which the answer is: probably yes; but crucially there is no 'benchmark' like applying for undergraduate or a Masters that once you have passed it will virtually guarantee you the place.

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