This past Monday morning, I took the GRE General Test in preparation for filling out grad school applications and applying this coming year. It’s strange to think that I may only have one year left in East Lansing, or less than a year if some of my next summer plans pan out. My list of potential grad schools will invariably shift as I dive deeper into the specific programs I want, or figure out what the specific programs I want are. I sent my GRE scores to MSU, UMich, Stanford, and CalTech, because I know that I’ll be applying to those four (or am about 95% sure I will be), but as for the rest, I have no idea.
But since that’s still a ways off, let’s talk about the actual test. I awoke around 0630, way ahead of my set alarm, after not being able to really sleep the night before. I kept tossing and turning, vocabulary words running through my head, worries about analogies and writing essays sneaking into my slumber. Notice that none of these involved Math, since I knew that I could easily get in the 700s (and my two practice test did just that), and that would be relatively fine by me. I knew that the Physics subject test, which I’m taking this fall, would mean more for my applications than the general test, so I wasn’t too worried if I got a little less than I anticipated on the score.
So, when I woke up, I ate a quick breakfast, got dressed in my lucky shirt, and paced around the apartment for an hour reading through vocabulary words while waiting before I needed to leave for the Student Services Building. My exam wasn’t until 0830, but I wanted to get there in plenty of time to try to relax and clear my head of anything but the necessary information before the test. I arrived, filled out a sheet of information, and waited for my clipboard number to be called to actually enter the testing center. Of course, after said number was called, I then had to exit the center to deposit everything (including my apartment keys…?) into a locked locker in the next room, give the key back to the testing center personnel, and then enter the actual testing center. I couldn’t even use the three mechanical pencils I brought!
I sat down at my assigned chair, and my heart began to race. This was it! I was finally taking that first step toward entering graduate school, and all I had to do was take an exam on a computer. I went through the guide to using a computer that introduces the GRE, just to calm myself down, and started the essays. I instantly recalled all of my AP Language memories as I wrote the essays, primarily those about impromptu constructions. Combined, I only spent about two-thirds of the time on them, but that was all I needed. I typed them out, read through them again, made a few edits and additions, and I was set (with each of them occurring in turn, of course). I finished, and raised my hand to be excused from my workstation.
My ten minutes break started, but really all I did was grab my snack, go to the bathroom, eat most of my snack, and went back to the testing center. From there, I knew that I only had three more sections to do, two of which would be the graded Verbal and Math sections. First on the agenda: Verbal. This was what I had been dreading through hours and hours of vocab words, analogies, antonyms, and everything else involved. This is what I spend basically all of my time on, knowing that I needed to improve my vocabulary and learn English in order to do well on this section. I took my time on the thirty questions, taking up almost all of the allotted time, and breathed a sigh of relief. I felt that I did pretty well on it, about as well as I did on my practice tests, which were both low 600s and fine by me.
Next up, my forte: Math. This I wasn’t worried about, but knew that I just needed to relax and take my time and I could score in the high 700s. That’s exactly what I did: I solved each problem, double-checked my work, thought about things, double-checked that I solved for the correct variable (which almost sunk me on one problem), and checked off the answer. I finished that section with a few minutes to spare, knowing that I did well on it. I clicked on the “Next” button a few times to advance, knowing that my last section would either be Verbal or Math, while silently saying to myself “Please be math, please be math, please be math” over and over, knowing that my brain might not be able to take another dose of vocabulary, especially after two hours of test-taking.
…and I had another Verbal section. My heart sank when I read those words at the start, but then it immediately turned to the fact that the first Verbal section might not be graded and I would need to do well on this one as well. So, I hunkered down and went through the questions, taking my time but making sure my brain didn’t linger on a single problem for too long. I hit the five-minute mark, and was greeted with a lengthly passage that I needed to read and answer questions on. I knew that I could either read and understand the passage, possibly running out of time while answering the questions, or I could skim the passage and still answer the questions. I chose the second idea, and finished the last question with thirty seconds to spare.
And my GRE was complete! All I had left to do was look at my scores and send them out to up to four schools (I chose MSU, UMich, Stanford, and CalTech, as mentioned previously). But before I did that, I needed to worry and wonder at what my scores were as my pointer hovered over “Next.” I clicked, and I read, and I had to stop myself from shouting out in the disturbingly quiet testing center. I had to restrain myself on the chair and I read over the scores again, making sure that I had read them correctly the first, second, and third times. Then I read them over again, just to be really sure. I wrote the scores down, still not believing it, and clicked “Next.”
I earned a 550 on the Verbal section, and an 800 on the Math section! I still couldn’t believe it as I filled out the score report form, barely able to contain the smile on my face. I stood up, walked out of the room (still beaming), and went to the desk to collect my things. “Would you like to write down your scores?” she asked after I signed out of the testing center. “Yes I would!” I almost shouted back, the smile still arcing across my face. She handed me a small purple slip of paper, and I wrote down those two numbers, proud of what I had done in the room. My hot walk back to the apartment was filled by me texting and calling friends and family, bubbling over with excitement.
And then, I sat down, decided to take a shower, and I relaxed. I relaxed like I had never relaxed before. Yes, my Verbal wasn’t quite as high as I wanted, but with the perfect score on the Math section, I knew that I wouldn’t be retaking the General Test. Now, all I have left is the Physics Subject Test and to fill out the applications, followed by a long process of wishing and hoping. It is good to know that a large portion of the entire process is complete, and I’m glad that it went as well as it did.
I figured that I’d split the programming part off, since I’m working on another large portion of the game, so I’ll post that up later.