Susannigans: Acing the GRE Requires More Luck Than Merit
On 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I paid $150 for an ego slap. Along with the astronomical registration fee, the Graduate Record Examination also cost me three missed classes, two tanks of gas and my dignity.
I felt similarly discouraged four years ago after taking the SAT. As a writer, I’ve never been one for standardized tests. I’m famously abominable at math; I still count on my fingers when trying to figure out how much to tip at a restaurant.
During the weeks before we took the SAT, my entire high school class was a collective nervous wreck, spending hundreds of dollars on test prep courses and chugging countless cans of Sugar Free Red Bull to stay awake.
We were told our performance on one test would determine our general success for the rest of our lives. When we finally received our scores, everyone bragged and whined and compared for about a week or two and then the subject got dropped once everyone got into college and started courting prom dates.
Looking back now, I can’t even remember my SAT scores. I didn’t get a 2400, and I turned out okay.
The GRE really threw me for a loop. I haven’t taken a math class since first semester freshman year. I thought I had a decent vocabulary until I read the comprehensive list of “commonly tested words” in the $30 Princeton Review study guide I bought. Who knows what “piccadillo” means anyway? With a full load of classes and a weekly newspaper to put out, it was really hard for me not to have an apathetic approach to the exam. I’m applying to creative writing programs—do they really care if I know how to divide square roots?
I managed to muster some effort the morning of the test, but for the math section, I ran out of time and hurriedly answered ‘c’ for the last six questions. Unlike the SAT, which has a nail-biting month-long wait before you hear your score, the GRE is computerized so you are informed of your math and verbal scores instantly. I ended up scoring higher on math than I did on any practice test. My math score was actually higher than my verbal score.
I have no reason to complain; I scored above average on both sections. But I don’t feel very proud of myself. Considering the little time I had to study, and my general aversion to multiple choice, I don’t feel like I earned my scores. I really think I just got lucky.
Now that I’ve sent my results to prospective schools, I’m trying my best put the exam out of my mind I know in a few years, whether I’m in grad school, working a banal 9 to 5 or eating Betty Crocker bonbons in my parents’ basement, my GRE percentiles will be the last thing on my mind.
I’m sure I’ll forget my scores pretty soon—I’m really just not good with numbers.