Thursday, October 23, 2014
Readin' & Writin'
My appointment to take the GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is on Halloween Day! It's a week from tomorrow.
I've checked out some test preparation books from the library, and I've also signed up to take some practice tests. The GRE has three sections, given over the course of a three-and-a-half-hour testing period.
There is Quantitative Reasoning - or math; Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.
In practice tests, I've done pretty well in Verbal Reasoning. There are questions that ask you to fill in the blank for the correct word; questions that ask you to read a passage and answer questions about it; questions that ask you to complete a sentence. My weak point is - hah! - failing to read the directions correctly. But as long as I'm careful, I feel pretty confident in this area.
For the math section - I'm willing to cut my losses. I'm no good at math. The GRE provides a calculator to use during the test, so my plan is to study up on common formulas (percentage, geometry, square roots) and then just do my best and not worry about it.
The Analytical Writing is a challenge. There are two questions. The "issue" question gives you a statement on some broad theory or idea - "I think modern technology has made people less smart" - and you are supposed to write an essay stating whether you agree or disagree, support your reasons, and refute any possible arguments against your position. In thirty minutes.
The second question is the "argument" question. Whenever I read that, I think about Monty Python, "I'd like to have an argument, please."
For the "argument" question, you're presented with an passage advocating something and offering evidence in support of it. The task is to assess the soundness of the argument.
The scoring for the essay questions is based on how well you make your point, how organized your essay is, how well you follow the precise directions, and your use of language, grammar and spelling.
I took one practice test and got a score of 4 out of 6 - good but not great. So I've been practicing - the GRE provides sample questions - I've been writing at least one practice essay a day, timed. I have no way to score myself, though, so I don't know if I've improved the quality of my writing, or just my ability to write bullshit.
This weekend I'll try another scored practice test, then spend next week learning math.