Monday, January 4, 2010

This Is It

GRE Flashcards

At 11 am EST Tuesday I will be sitting my GRE for those of you who would like to commiserate with me during that time. You can feel free to beam me smart brain waves.

I have been studying for the about a month straight now. You see my flash cards in the picture above. It contains the most common GRE words that I didn't know, a shit ton of latin roots that I only managed to learn less than half of, words divided into definition categories as indicated by Kaplan and common mathematical thingys that are handy to know (like the sides of a 30-60-90 degree right triangle are multiples of 1, square root of 3 and 2).

I have no idea how I am going to do on the exam. The first day I started studying I took the Kaplan online diagnostic quiz and got a 59%. Though passing on Samoan standards, I am not in Samoa anymore. Over the course of the month I took five more quizzes. At first my scores were going up: 66%, 70% and 83%. But then they started to fall: 62% and 66%. I am not sure what that means. I also sat several practice exams. Some were paper exams, which I am not counting because when I sit the real GRE it will not be a paper exam, it will be a Computer Adaptive Test (who knew that I would leave the Samoan school systems and still have to face a CAT). However, of the online adaptive tests that I took my scores also fluctuated. On my first attempt I got a 710 in Verbal and a 730 in Quantitative. Not bad at all. However, things started to go crazy afterwards.

Verbal Scores: 710, 760, 700, 590, 660
Quantitative Scores: 730, 680, 630, 670, 680

That 590 in Verbal is just horrifying, though it appears that my average is about a 680. My Quantitative average is about 680 too. I was surprised to do so poorly on Verbal and so well on Math. However, it appears that most people do better in the math, even people going into graduate programs for writing and English. I think that proves the Verbal is pretty hard. It all comes down to how many of the words that they give you are ones that you know and for me it is a crap shoot if I know this really hard word or not. I was able to use the Latin roots to reason out some words I didn't know. As I took the practice tests and quizzes, I wrote down all the words I didn't recognize (or were used in an unfamiliar way) so I could define them later. Here is a selection:

alacrity, arrogates, profligate, mendacious, syllogism, lachrymose, restive (this does not mean what you think, unless you happen to know what it means, jerk), fastidious, sedulity, perfidy, gaucherie, chicanery, apocryphal, inchoate, panegyric, panegyric, manse, accretion, epiphyte, parsimony, saturnine, dissipation (doesn't mean what you think it means), tonsorial, jejune...

This list could go one and one. I am not sure if I just have a surprisingly limited vocabulary or if the rest of the world is also not familiar with these words.

The math portion is more straight forward. Aside from remembering all the rules of triangles and some formulae from high school, my main problem is speed. I am too slow at the math questions. I spend too much time finding the real answer, when what I need to do is figure out which of the multiple choice answers is right. For some problems this means doing the work, but for others it means guesstimations or plugging in answers or numbers. I have a hard time figuring out which are which and end up doing all the work for all the questions. On my last math practice I still had six questions left and only a minute and a half left on the clock.

The other portion of the GRE (which is actually the first part of the exam) is the essays. There are two essays, Issue and Argument. In the Issue essay you are given two prompts. You pick one and then argue your agreement, disagreement or qualification of the issue in the prompt. Basically you have to make strong points, back them up with well-reasons support that includes relevant examples and sound good while you do it.

Meghan asked about the prompts, so I thought I would include some here. These are from an online list of all the possible prompts I might see on test day.

"Important truths begin as outrageous, or at least uncomfortable, attacks upon the accepted wisdom of the time."

"Laws should not be rigid or fixed. Instead, they should be flexible enough to take account of various circumstances, times and places."

"It is always an individual who is the impetus for innovation, the details may be worked out by a team, but the true innovation results from the enterprise and unique perception of an individual."

"The most elusive knowledge is self-knowledge, and it is usually acquired through solitude, rather than through interaction with others."

The Argument essay provides you with some sort of written argument (such as a letter to the editor saying the local government should block the construction of a school because of.....) that you have to pick apart. You have to tell how this argument is flawed, why it is flawed and what can be done to fix it. I am much better at this type of essay. If there is one thing that I am good at it is finding fault. Just go see a movie with me.

I have done all the studying that can be done. Now it is just a matter of getting a good night's sleep and making it to the testing facility on time tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

— Sara

All Prepared to Sit the GRE Tomorrow
My testing supplies


Meghan Veltri said...

Good luck on the CAT. :D

Patty Leal said...

You'll be in my thoughts. You are an incredible writer so the essay part should be a piece of cake. My advice is to relax and trust your instincts. I am convinced you'll do very well.

Matthew said...

Good luck!

Teresa said...

Your testing snack is so cute... I think we got that exact same snack during ISTEP back in the day!