I spent the last few days anxiously preparing for the GRE examination, which was earlier today. In the final run up to the exam, I did another practice test, reviewed all the mathematics, and crammed as many words into my brain as possible. I would say I was about 90% prepared (obviously, one cannot reasonably expect to know every single word, or even close to it). My main concern was getting the perfect 800 on the Quantitative section. Looking at the schools I’m particularly interested in applying to, Stanford, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Washington, the average quantitative score was in the range of 770-780 for the PhD programs. Scoring perfect was almost essential.
My test center was Hamilton, and upon reaching the building, I attempted to go up to the fifth floor testing center. Little did I know, I couldn’t do that myself. There seemed to be a security card standing in my way. So back out of the building I went, and bumped into another student who had the same 12:30pm appointment. She called up to the test center, and a proctor came down to retrieve us.
I had to sign a confidentiality form, not to divulge any of the questions presented that day, and write (yes, cursive writing; printing was strictly prohibited) a short note on the matter. It was surprising how much of my cursive writing skills have vanished over the past several years. I butchered that seemingly simple exercise.
After some tutorials on using a computer, and a short prayer to whoever’s listening, I set out on my essays. The topics were fortunately straightforward and I had lots to say on both essays. A good start.
Then I reached the quantitative section. It was a terrible start. I spent nearly 10 minutes on the first three questions, and I thought I was done for. The start threw me off for the rest of the section, in which I constantly felt rushed. I hoped with all of my will that it was to be the unmarked, research section.
I can’t deny that I thought about more than one of the math questions as I embarked on the Verbal section. I know every prep book says to block out everything prior to the current question, but, as you’d probably expect, that’s far easier said than done. The words I crammed in the last few days before the exam didn’t show up, and there were several questions that I had do some educated guessing after eliminating some choices.
Expecting (or perhaps hoping for) another math section to wrap things up, I saw only a prompt for an unmarked research section. I was tempted to do the section for ETS’s sake, but the apprehension of not knowing my score in the two marked sections proved to be too strong. I clicked the ‘Exit Section’ button and held my breath. *Stomach leaps into throat*
And exhale. I didn’t quite expect it, but 800 on the quant was achieved. I was slightly disappointed in the verbal score (was aiming closer to 700), but all in all, not a bad day’s work.
So step 1 of the grad school application process has been successfully completed. The score was sent off to the four schools I mentioned earlier. Now it’s time to put together the Letter of Intent and some information for my referees. Good weekend to all!