Just GRE-at.

by Sandra

This [photo now deleted] was taken in Newport Beach a couple weekends ago, when Milla and I went while I should have been learning how to divide and multiply fractions (sigh).  Someone on Flickr said this picture looked like an Edward Hopper painting.  Wey-hey-hey.  That’s a pretty fair comparison, if I may say.

In case you caught that last paragraph and said “hey, why do you need to know fractions?,” it’s because I’m studying for the GRE (or the Graduate Records Examination), the evil standardized test that is like the SATs of graduate school.  I’m only taking it because USC requires that the exam be taken.  Trust me, I would not ever take it otherwise.

It’s been an exercise in attitude adjustment for me over the past few weeks of studying.  At first, I regarded the test as the enemy, but then soon heeded my study guide’s advice and began to think of it as a necessary and overcome-able hurdle that is standing in the way of a major goal — to get into this program.  In other words, I’m at point A, I want to get to point C, but I must go through point B (the exam) in order to get there.  So, to begin making a tenuous friendship with the GRE, I began calling it the GREat, simply to trick myself into thinking good things about it, and perhaps accomplish the opposite of the “hit by the bus” rule — i.e., “if you keep imaging yourself getting hit by a bus, you’ll eventually get hit by a bus.”  Some newage-y types would refer to this as “the power of positive thinking,” but I see this merely as a way to keep my head above water.

I’ve also actually been putting time into studying (which is in part why there’s been a decline in the number of blog posts recently).  This is also a rareity, since I was never what you’d call an “A+ student,” or ever a student who was interested in studying.  But the tide has turned and I now even have a tutor!  Her name is Michelle, and she loves math.  I’m not kidding — she loves it, she’s an engineer, she exudes mathematics, it comes out of her pores!  Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but she’s really good and it, and she and her husband Brian let me invade their home twice a week and feed me as Michelle patiently goes over algebraic equations and fractions and percents.  For hours we pour over the material, and at the end of the night she gives me homework assignments.  She’s great — very patient, or she was at first, at least.  Recently she has been kicking my ass a little bit, because she knows that I’m very close to understanding some key concepts and is just waiting for the moment where it all falls into place.   I love it when she gets a little annoyed at me, like she did last night as she had me try and solve a problem by myself and as I stared down at the page blankly she said “you’re going to actually have to think, you know.”  True, because usually, I just stare at the problem until she sighs and asks me if I want to know how she’s solve the problem and I eagerly nod my head.

The exam is scheduled for the 2nd of June.  So this past Tuesday, I took a practice test.  My combined verbal and math score was 1070 (out of 1600), with 570 verbal and 500 math, which places me in the 84th and 40th percentiles, respectively.  Not too bad for the half-way mark.  Over-all, I’d like to raise my score by 250 points — 150 more to verbal (I am applying to a writing program after all) and 100 more to math, with a combined score of 1320.   Wish me luck.  I need to go study……