Friday, October 3, 2014
Yesterday I signed up to take the GRE exam. This exam is required by three of the schools I am applying to, and a fourth school's website says, in effect, "We don't require it, but if your other qualifications are weak and your scores are good, send them."
The GRE measures verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking skills, and analytical writing. It was re-jiggered in 2011. It's now given - in most cases - on a computer, and it is adaptive, meaning that your performance on the early questions affect the difficulty of the questions on questions that follow.
How that works I don't know - does it mean if you're lousy, they make it easier? Or harder?
It's a timed test; 3 hours and 45 minutes. Each section is independently timed - you get 30 minutes to complete the section, and once that 30 minutes is up you can't go back. You can skip and go back within a section, but once you've completed that section, you're done.
I'm not that worried about the verbal reasoning section or the reading comprehension section. But I'm quaking in my boots about the math (quantitative reasoning) section and the analytical writing section - for two very different reasons.
I'm just plain math-o-phobic, so that's why I fear the math section. Math tests make me freeze up, make my mind go blank. I was able to overcome this when I took a civil service test for a financial analyst job, but it took a lot of studying and agonizing on my part.
I fear the writing section more, though. Because I want to ACE it, and I fear that I just don't have the analytical skills to do so. The way it works, you are presented with two statements. One you have to write about whether you agree or disagree with it and why; the other you have to write about whether the statement adequately makes the case for its argument. You have thirty minutes to do each one.
You're scored on the form and organization of your writing, your skill and accuracy in use of the English language, and - most importantly - whether you follow the instructions, meeting the task laid before you completely.
I've taken two testing guide books out from the library. One of them gives me access to an online practice test module, where I can take the test three times. I've also signed up to an online tutor for the writing section, where they score your attempts.
So far - I'm scoring fair-to-middling. I've got to bring it up a notch, especially in the writing. Practice, practice, practice.
I will be taking the test on Halloween. So wish me some treats instead of tricks!