So, this weekend I took the GRE exam. Now if you don’t know what the GRE test is then here you go:
The Graduate Record Examination is, obviously, for those applying for graduate school (a university’s postgraduate programme for us British). They use all the British kind of things on their application scheme- references, a personal state, a research proposal for those going onto a research degree as well as a small fee; but they throw in an exam.
Well that’s what I wondered too- I mean, we’ve survived three years (four years for some) of coursework and exams, why add some more?
The way I had it explained was that it offers more equal grounds for comparison.
Americans apparently enjoy being over enthusiastic with their references so that’s obviously bias and everyone is coming from different universities and different degrees. Your lecturers could have been very helpful or left you on your own. You might have just had a lucky day.
So they give you an exam.
It took a bit of persuading, especially given that I hate exams. Seriously. It’s the reason I failed my exams for A Level: I can’t memorise that much stuff in my head. Essentially I can’t learn a textbook, I love reading about everything around it instead of learning to a test.
But for the GRE there’s no learning to the test. Well… ok there’s a vocabulary section which you need to know long, complicated words. For the quantitative sections (numbers and statistics for those who might not know what that means) you need to know about triangles and algebra. For the writing section you can learn a structure.
Besides that it is pure luck on the day.
Of course they do consider everything else and it all has to round up to a good application. A bad GRE score (unless you want to go to an Ivy League school of course) can be balanced out by an excellent undergraduate degree grade. On the same thought, a great GRE score can be knocked off by an overall pathetic application.
And if you’re like me, and by that I mean average, then it might not do anything.
So a quick note about how my try at the exam went. I got the results back tonight and they’re nicely average. For someone who didn’t practice beforehand in any way I’m happy it wasn’t straight zeros– in fact I even got 100 per cent in a couple of topics. Of course, the majority of my correct answers were in the low section (the questions are ranked in difficulty as low, medium and hard which you don’t know when you took the exam). There’s a high possibility that the topics I got 100 per cent in only had two questions in.
But at the end of the day I did it. And it hasn’t terrified me from applying for this PhD.
Just goes to prove taking chances sometimes doesn’t end in tears. That’s without me actually doing amazingly, getting what I want or even getting a present!