Friday, January 06, 2006


I'm not an early riser, so I was chagrined to find that it was dark when I had to get up yesterday morning at seven, and still dark when I left my house at 7:40. I was on my way to take the GRE test.

We don't have these required standardized tests in Canada -- to get into graduate school, we just have to get good grades and cross our fingers. But I'm applying to a school in the States, so I had to take the test. (I have a Fear of Jinxing, so I'm not going to say which school.) Over the holidays, I studied on and off for the math section. (The test info assures you that the questions are generally high school-level algebra and geometry. This is supposed to be reassuring. This is not reassuring when your last high school math class was in 1989, and your math experience since then consists primarily of calculating tips and making small adjustments to knitting patterns.) I even managed to memorize a few equations! I was ready to wield the quadratic formula, baby.

As for the writing and verbal components, I figured I was ready. Supposedly they test the knowledge and skills that a person headed to graduate school has already learned: analytical writing, critical thinking. I'll admit it: I was cocky. I'd aced the practice tests, and besides, I'm a writer and an editor, and I've always been a big reader. I know words. Bring 'em on.

OK, the test was really hard! Like, really really hard! Way harder than the practice tests! I totally ran out of time for the first writing section, plus what I wrote was just not good. (I'm not trying to be modest. It wasn't good.) The second writing part was better, but I still ran out of time. And then the antonyms and analogies -- holy crap. There were at least six or eight words that I have never seen before in any context. How does this test one's ability to succeed at school? Grad students are supposed to know the most obscure and least used words in the English language? That just doesn't seem right to me.

I got my ass kicked by the GRE. And there weren't even any quadratic equations in the math section.

But I still remember the formula. And you never know when that'll come in handy. (Knowledge is power, right?)

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