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I don't really get what all the fuss is about


harpyemma

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The GRE. Seriously. For one thing, it's not exactly a brilliant tool to use to assess someone's potential and admissions teams know this. It's nothing like the be-all and end-all of your applications that so many believe it to be; i'd personally be more concerned with getting my writing sample, recommendations and SOP perfect before i gave even one second's thought to the GRE. For a second thing, it's not even that difficult.

I'm coming from the UK educational system and i've never taken a standardised test in my life. I've never done an analogies or antonyms test, for example (whereas i believe they're common practice in the US from about middle school, no?) Moreover, the UK system forces students to begin specialising their education from the age of 15/16 and, to that end, i haven't had a maths lesson or taken an exam in maths (or physics, or anything involving maths) since i was 15. I didn't do any revision for the test and showed up yesterday to take it not even having used the PowerPrep CD that ETS sent me (it cracked in half in the post). I don't think i did too badly:

670 verbal (95%ile), 720 quantitative (75%ile). The Q score, especially, is not too shabby for someone who hasn't seen an exponent or a root sign or, indeed, anything remotely mathsy, since their early teens.

This surely goes to show that it's not difficult... no? Truly, it's really *not* a taxing test. Granted, i would have liked a better verbal score, and had i put a bit of effort into brushing up on my obscure vocab then i'm sure i could have... but it's so, so not something to sweat over. It's not a massive ordeal and it simply doesn't take months of swotting to get a decent score. Living proof, right here.

Chill, breathe, it's not that bad!

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I know that anecdotal/subjective experience is usually what I base all of my conclusions on.

Right, point taken. But it seems really inordinate the amount of time and worry that so many people, judging from the contents of this subforum, set aside just for the GRE. I was lurking around here on occasion in the weeks coming up to my test and it made me anxious just reading all this fretting! Having taken it now, i just feel like saying "sit down, have a cup of tea, have a slice of toast, you'll do fine". I think the "it's not a big deal, don't worry" message needs reinforcing. Admissions teams aren't composed of monsters--they are real people who recognise that some people don't test well or get (as it seems here) really anxious about exams. GRE scores, which reflect your performance in one three-hour period on one day of an average of four years of university education, aren't upheld as genuinely indicative of graduate potential. 3hrs/4yrs--that's a teeny tiny fraction. So... chill out?

I get that, to some extent, one needs to play the system--it doesn't seem like the GRE, fairly impotent though it may be, will be dropped as a general requirement for grad school applications any time soon--but it's such a small, small thing! Retaking the test over and over seems like an awful waste of time and money. And heartache, to be honest. Why put yourself through that for a test with marginal influence?

Edited by harpyemma
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There is, of course, the argument to be made that not everyone is you nor does everyone possess your skill set. Leaving that to the side...

Most of the anxiety is not inordinate. While I agree that adcoms aren't likely composed of monsters, you're missing the reality of application levels in the past few years. As much as every person on an adcom might know that not everyone tests well, when there is a stack of 600 applications and you need to get it down to a reasonable number without reading every page in front of you, GRE scores offer an objective marker from which to begin eliminating candidates.

Fair or not, it's not unreasonable to think that certain programs, whether they have a cut-off point or not, will turn to these scores to at least weed out some part of the applicant pool. With applications running at around $100 a piece, it's worrisome to think that your writing sample and SoP may not be seen at all because of a standardized test score. For this reason alone, I think it might be worth working onesself into a tizzy over the exam, especially if that pressure pushes you to get a higher score and (hopefully) make it to a round of application review where your true skills can be evaluated.

Edited by outofredink
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Congratulations harpyemma on your good GRE scores and best of luck in the application process.

That said, I don't think your post is very helpful to the community of gradcafe users. The test certainly is not easy for everyone and for some people it is a major obstacle to continuing their education. Based on your numbers, 95% of people have a harder time on the verbal section than you, so I am betting those 95% do not appreciate having you tell them not to worry. Furthermore, coming to a specific forum dedicated to discussing the GRE and how to do better, and then being suprised that people in the forum are dedicating themeselves to the GRE is just unnecessary. That is a bit like going to an AA meeting and telling people to just relax, have a beer, and everything will be fine.

I trust that you didn't intend for your comments to belittle anyone, but please be sensitive to the numerous people who use this forum as a resource to improve their GRE scores, advance their chance of graduate admissions and may not be having as easy a time as you.

Edited by adaptations
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Some programs take the GRE more seriously than others. Math-oriented programs take the quant score seriously, and that generally makes sense (though it doesn't account for test anxiety). As for non-quant fields, English and History PhD programs tend to deemphasize it, but there are definitely some social science programs that take it seriously, esp. the verbal section. It's a shame they do, because the GRE is deficient in many ways (I'd even go so far to say "damaging"), but standardized testing companies have really dug their greedy little talons deep into the American education system and unfortunately this means that even some supposed "intellectuals" buy their BS. And, while I think most English and History programs will look at the academic sample and SOP first, some might look at numbers first; it probably depends on the school. Secondly, I'm not sure it's cool to come here and say the test is "not that difficult" because you walked in barely prepared and performed well. For some people, taking standardized tests is unnaturally difficult, and those are the people who come here worried (either about an upcoming test or the low scores they received). Some people study for months and, for whatever reason, receive poor scores even though they are excellent students and prepared for grad school. I do think your advice to "relax" is good, but only because getting worked up before and during the test can affect performance.

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I trust that you didn't intend for your comments to belittle anyone, but please be sensitive to the numerous people who use this forum as a resource to improve their GRE scores, advance their chance of graduate admissions and may not be having as easy a time as you.

Harpy Emma: Hear, hear ! It's been almost 40 years since I sat in a math class, and you only beat my best quantitative score (690) by 30 points---while my verbal scores in three takings have been 800, 760, and 720--in chronological order (go figure!).

But many many things are stacked against me, and I am sure there are others like me, who (possibly naively!) hope against hope that a GREAT GRE score--one of the very few things that we can attain without years of work--may offset weaknesses in our applications.

In my own case, that's why I continue to fret, and will take it one more time, hoping to get a high quantitative score also.

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