Yup, it is, in fact, that unfortunate time in the collegiate process for the dreaded GRE. With my accelerated degree and crunched timeline, it has come to my attention that I only have about 10 months before I must apply to grad school, so suddenly I’m faced with having to take the exam ASAP (hold on while I go weep in a corner for a minute or two). For those who do not know about this harrowing evaluative ordeal, those three frightful letters stand for “Graduate Record Examination.” It is supposed to be an assessment designed to test a student’s readiness for a graduate-level program, but to many, it’s also a stress-inducing, money-draining scheme that makes students feel even more mentally drained and broke. Unfortunately, passing the test is required for entry into many graduate programs at most schools, so we must endure. As I approached my recent test date, I experienced a trifecta of emotional states.
The first was Gloom. An initial panic begins to set in even with weeks or months before the exam. Look, I don’t mean to be too depressive, but when you first realize you need to take this test, there will be at least a short bout of deep gloom, anguish, and hopelessness; there is simply no way around it. Tirelessly studying hundreds of vocabulary words that you know will be impossible to use in everyday speech is an extremely discouraging task. Compounded with the fact that when you use those words, no one understands them or they think you are highly pretentious. Granted, you can try and put a positive spin on it by making a Quizlet flashcard list out of them. I’ll concede that there were times when it was slightly enjoyable to expand my vocabulary as I exploded meteorites in outer space with my accurate typing.
But then there are the math problems, too. You thought you finished solving equations with letters instead of numbers back in high school, right? If you answered “yes” to that question, you would be woefully mistaken. Relearning the Quadratic Formula and memorizing equations is not how one should be spending winter break. But, hey, thank goodness the GRE’s made sure I knew how to find the surface area of a cylindrical tube. Learning and retaining so much seemingly unnecessary information takes a toll on any overworked college student. Just know that you are not alone and it is completely natural to feel a little overwhelmed at times.
Last, but not least, is the writing section. Yes, regrettably, you will need to whip up yet another essay arguing a point about an inconsequential topic and discussing an issue from your unique perspective. It is very difficult to prepare for this portion of the test since you don’t know the topics ahead of time. Simply honing your grammar skills, teaching yourself those bothersome comma rules, and maintaining a decent pacing strategy will help you score the highest with your compositions. I can only take solace in the fact that the graders score the essays holistically and will not dramatize small errors over reasoning.
I call the next phase Remorse. This is when you only have a couple of weeks before the exam and you know you should have kicked your studying into overdrive way before now. Feelings of guilt may plague you as you convince yourself you’ll never know the material because you have not studied enough. It is an unfortunate stage of the process as it can severely stunt motivation and demoralize the student all together. Panic may set in again.
The best way to conquer this troubling time is to practice productive habits. Do additional practice problems or even take a practice test. You must prove to yourself that you do, in fact, know more than you think; t you’ve been working too hard at this point not to. So when you castigate yourself or experience moments of self-loathing, make sure you get submerge those feelings of incompetence because you are far more capable than you realize.
That brings us to the final phase, which I call Enlightenment. Only a short span of days, perhaps hours, separate you from your GRE. This is when you envision success. You know you can define the word intransigent in your sleep and solve a quantitative comparison problem blindfolded. You are a problem-solving guru with heightened verbal and reasoning skills.
This is by far the most rewarding time throughout the preparation process. You finally understand that you’re more than qualified to ace your exam and triumph over the computerized assessment. This exam is no more than an overrated SAT and is a small obstacle that you will surmount. You’ve put in the time, shelled out the 15 dollars on a practice book, and studied hard for your moment of truth.
Just remember, the waves may get a bit rough at times throughout your odyssey to vanquish the GRE, but calm seas await. Knowing about the emotional upheavals you may face throughout your grueling weeks of study will better prepare you to understand how to surpass your tribulations with ease. Confidence is key to success with this exam and convincing yourself of your proficiency will help you get the scores you desire and all you to move on to the next step of your educational career.