GRE prep, two months in & three months away

Back in January, I bought some books so that I could start studying for the GRE. I wanted to take it mid-June; that gives me as much time as possible to prepare while still allowing a month in which I could retake the test (the current version) if I don’t like my first scores. I’m thinking June 13.

I’ve worked through the 80 sets of words (10 per set) in Barron’s Essential Words for the GRE. I knew some, vaguely recognized others, and had never even seen a few of them (like “contumacious”–rebellious or disobedient). Now I’ve begun the section on word roots. I feel more confident about those, but there are still some that I never quite knew (which now make embarrassingly perfect sense, like “ev,” as in “medieval”–“medi” = middle, “ev” = age/era, “al” = a suffix meaning “of,” “pertaining to,” etc.). Medieval. Belonging to, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Middle Ages. What a duh.

I recently noticed the word “vicious” as well. (Think “vice.”) Of course, now the phrase “vicious circle” sounds pretty strange. Somebody anthropomorphized the abstract concept of circularity?

On a diagnostic test in the Barron’s general GRE prep book, I scored 760 on the Verbal section, which is hopeful. (Should I have shown off there by saying “sanguine” instead? …Nah, would’ve just put my mind on Firefly.) I didn’t do so well at the Quantitative portion, but that was before working on any math. I haven’t done the stuff they’re testing in the math section for about ten years; instead I’ve finally begun to get a grasp on sines, cosines, and tangents (thank you, physics), found the tangents of some curves ( šŸ˜‰ ), and briefly surveyed the terrain of discrete maths (sets, graphs, combinations and permutations, etc.). Those, and puzzles. I like puzzles. Give me a problem with a checkerboard and I’ll be worse than a dog worrying its favorite bone.

I’ve now worked through 200 pages of the Nova GRE Math Prep book. So far, so good. I’ve really got to stop making stupid mistakes, though–I made 2 or 3 in the set of 100 geometry problems–and I should probably start plowing through a couple dozen pages a day just for the practice. That’s the most important thing for me in math; I just have to use it so much that I can’t get it out of my head if I want to, so that it doesn’t take me so long to get to the answers. I can’t try to memorize math (it doesn’t work that way for me), but if I use it, I’ll remember it like remembering how to swim. It takes a little bit to readjust after a long break, but the memory’s there, in the muscle. And if I use math enough, I can begin to see how it works, how the numbers and shapes and equations relate to one another. I love that, and that’s what I need to do. Unfortunately, I’ve only worked on the math in fits now and then, so far.

So, I should go work on some of those roots and maths instead of rambling on about them. Cheers.

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Testing for grad school

I’m thinking about taking the GRE next year – I started reading up on the format and it sounds like they’re planning to implement some significant changes around late summer. I would like to take it before that, if only because people know what kinds of scores to expect with the way it’s set up now, and major changes could affect what scores are average, good, or excellent. It won’t be clear until whatever new format they implement has been in use for some time – long enough to observe results for a representative sample of test-takers over at least a couple of years, or so I expect.

Of course, that means I need to get my ass on studying for it; I guess some people say that you can’t really study for the GRE, but while I don’t buy into the other end (that would be Kaplan’s end), I do think it would be good to familiarize myself with the format of the test and the types of questions asked. I suspect the analogies section will be the toughest – they can get tricky in a nasty way. E.g., they may use nonstandard – sometimes even questionable – definitions of the words on which the ‘correct’ answer is based; I saw this on one sample question using “equivocation” in the ‘right’ answer — they said it means “lying.” Pardon me, but the fallacy of equivocation is not the fallacy of lying, folks – it’s treating one word as if it’s equivalent to a word that means something different (generally involving homonyms). You don’t have to know that you’re equivocating to be guilty of equivocation. So, I get tripped up on the verbal section for…knowing the terms too well? Maybe. Sometimes I just don’t see what they’re getting at, though – you have to figure out which way they’re relating the first two words to each other, and sometimes there are multiple valid possibilities. Which one you choose can change your answer.

I should get in touch with a couple of my professors from L&C and ask what they recommend for GRE prep. I think I’ll ask my (hard-ass) philosophy prof who suggested I try law school (not exactly what I’m thinking for grad school, but clearly she’s willing to offer advice, and I have a great deal of respect for her) … and maybe my physics prof as well. Whether I do physics or computer science, I imagine the desired GRE scores will be similar, so good prep for one is likely good prep for the other, too. Both of those professors are Ī¦BK, as well, which means I trust them more than others to have suggestions that are good overall (not just for quant. or just for writing).

I want to take the GRE next year, and I want to kill it. I don’t just want to earn a good score, or a great score; I want to earn a score that’s stunning, no matter what subject I’m looking to study.

I am weird.

I am. Really. I want to take a standardized test.

I took the SAT once and once only. This was in October of my senior year of high school; the school fish fry, which I was required to work, was the night before and kept me up until midnight. I don’t recall having a particularly great breakfast, but I never did, so that didn’t put me in any unusually ineffective frame of mind. But I didn’t study. I took one online mini-quiz to see what the questions might look like very, very generally speaking, and that was it.

My Pre-SAT predicted a score 20 points lower than what I actually earned. What I earned was a good score, an impressive score for a lot of people. But not for me. It was eighty points lower than my brother’s score — my bright, uber-left-brained, but inattentive brother who was getting Cs and Ds in his 3rd and 4th year classes. When my score came in, my dad glanced at it, glanced at me, and said simply, “I think you should retake it.”

I didn’t.

I still wonder if, had I applied to an Ivy school just for the hell of it, I could have been accepted. I never wondered if I could have fit in. Yeah, I take too much stock in test scores; but I’d have been at the rock-bottom end of the middle 50%. Even with overachieving classmates throughout grade and high school, I was always in the top quartile, not the bottom. And because I never studied and re-took the SAT, I’ve never known if I really would have been in the bottom quartile at one of those schools. I know it would have been challenging, but it could have been exhilarating, too, to have classmates who could show me up, academically, any day of the week.

Anyway, I want to take the GRE. I don’t just want to take it, I want to pwn it. I want to dominate it. I don’t even know if I want to do grad school, but I want to take that test and win it.

…That’s all. šŸ™‚