So I took the GRE yesterday. That’s right – grad school, baby!
In any case, I felt that I could offer a few thoughts on it. Sorry that this isn’t fiction writing, but I’m feeling slightly burned out and I figured that some nonfiction could snap me out of the funk.
First off, time management is your friend. I am an incredibly fast reader (not to brag or anything, of course), and I still found myself keeping a nervous eye on the countdown timer. Especially in the math sections, time goes fast. There is an option to “hide the clock” – don’t ever do it.
Second, the GRE is a section-adaptive test. This means that, depending on how you do in the first sections of math and reading, the second sections of math and reading become correspondingly tougher to keep you challenged. In my case, this meant that I breezed through the early sections, at times even wondering if I was missing some twist because the problems just seemed so damn easy. Then I hit the second sections, and everything changed.
I made it through the first quantitative and verbal sections with about fifteen of the thirty-five minutes remaining, giving me plenty of time to go back and check answers, doodle on the scratch paper, try to pull up the Internet on the computers for a quick Facebook break, etc. In the later sections, however, I would finish the last problem, without having gone back to check any of my work, and realize that I only had five minutes left on the timer. So be prepared for a major jump in difficulty.
Looking back on the test, verbal really wasn’t my problem at all. I can only recall a few words where I wasn’t certain of the meanings; some of this comes from the amount of time I spend with my nose buried in a novel, of course, but a lot of it seemed to be common sense, or simply finding the word that was different from all the other, similar, answer choices.
Quantitative reasoning, on the other hand, was much tougher for me, given that I have not taken a math class in four and a half years. Several of the problems were very time-intensive to work out, and while I am fairly certain that a formula or two might have helped to speed the process, I was forced to resort to brute-force computation to derive the answers. I did end up scoring slightly lower in quantitative reasoning, likely due to this approach. I wish that my study book would have covered more math problems, rather than focusing primarily on verbal, but this is likely due to my time spent away from math classes.
The thing that I love the most about the GRE is that it gives me the unofficial scores immediately after hitting submit – no need to wait 30 days for the results, as was required by the MCAT! I find the waiting worse than the knowing, so this was a huge relief to me. When those scores flashed up on the screen, I felt the vast majority of my anxiety drain away. Of course, the writing sections aren’t yet scored, as they require human readers, but I at least know that my spelling and grammar was largely correct, so I doubt they will bring me down too far.
Preliminary scores: 167 verbal, 164 math. We will see if these change when I receive my official report in a few weeks.