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taking the GRE

Wednesday: August 17, 2011

My friend Jaclyn took a GRE course and graciously loaned me her books and notes. I have listed their ISBN information on the Library page, but this is the quick list:

Practicing to Take the GRE General Test: Explains the test procedure and includes practice tests.

The Ultimate Math Refresher: Covers everything from basic math to geometry.

Vocabulary Cartoons I & II: Quick way to learn a lot of new words.

I found the Practice book and the Math one to be the most valuable. I did learn a lot of new vocabulary but considering there are a million words, I can’t say a single one in those books was on my test. That said though, studying so many words helped me see patterns to make educated guesses so I would not skip learning vocabulary altogether. I also did not study anything about the essays from a book. I talked with people who had taken the course and the test and asked for their insight.

She also gave me the Graduate Admissions Essay book for when I needed to write the letter of intent. I did not read this one cover-to-cover, but I did flip through the examples. I learned to make the letter personal and not rehash what was on my CV. This process is where you show who you are, not what you have done.

I had a very limited time span to take the test – I studied like mad so I could get the results as soon as possible so I could tell my boss and coworkers that I would be leaving in enough time for them to replace me before class started (of course, other issues popped up and I unfortunately left them for a short time without a replacement). I studied long enough to pass, but not long enough to be content with my scores. I learned the GRE really is set up to make you fail. It is quite possibly the dumbest standardized test out there. When the vocab is centered on words no one uses but GRE test-takers, what is the point, exactly? When essays are graded by a computer looking for lame keywords like “first”, “second”, and “third”, how is it judging a good quality essay? At least the math part makes sense. Although why I would need to know how many combinations can be made with some blue marbles, a row of seats in a theatre, and a pig beats the heck out of me.

I passed, it’s over, and one day sociologists will rule the world with programs that actually measure and work. Right?

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