Monday, November 9, 2015

The GRE: A Daunting Story

I've done relatively well in all of my endeavors in my life. Usually, whatever the task is, I can make a good result happen once I truly believe in it. And I usually don't doubt this ability, knowing that I'm one of those people that can make any kind of thing happen if I really want to. This confidence was deeply shaken in the last few weeks when I prepared for the GRE. Beforehand, I only heard people say how easy it sounds and how I'll do well with minimal effort. These people were wrong! I did do well, however, the preparation for this ridiculous test had me wishing I wasn't so damn ambitious and just throw in the towel. After 27 years of lifelong struggle, finishing that test was the biggest relief I ever felt...

I have two degrees and did my fair share of exams, with or without comparable pressure. However, the GRE simply cannot be compared to any other task. I did maths during my Masters', and I hated it then, but the last weeks of Quantitative Reasoning was an absolute bane to my existence GRE expression, I'll have you know!). I'm a writer and believed to be good at reasoning; throw in a few numbers, much too much time pressure and suddenly I'm a fifth-grader. I used to laugh about Kellie Pickler NOT being smarter than a fifth grader, and suddenly realized neither am I. I had genuinely never heard of permutations in my life, and in my preparation to learn GRE Math I had either forgotten all about high school maths or had never learned any of that stuff. The end result was the same though: I had no idea what was going on!

I then thought that Verbal Reasoning would appeal to me more. I'm fluent in English, have spoken more English than German in the last seven years and read all the time. I was wrong about that either. I suddenly asked myself what I had learned in the last 15 years since I've spoken English because I didn't seem to be able to answer any of these questions. If someone used GRE words to describe me, saying I am loquacious, intransigent and contentious, I wouldn't even know they're insulting me. I studied vocabulary every day and it might have contributed to three or four more points on the actual test, but I felt I was about three years too late in starting to prepare for the test to do really well because I was lacking about 80% of the dictionary.

I was preparing with my American friend, and sometimes mentioned some of the vocabulary to my British friends, and I had to accept that they just know a lot of things I didn't for no reason other than them just being native to the kind of thing the GRE asks for. Both in language and math rules they had a lifelong advantage on me, and I said goodbye to my dream of scoring a six and two 170s on the test. As a next step, I made it my aim to at least do better than my native-English counterparts which sounds easier than it was. I had developed a false arrogance about my supremacy as a student because my English is better than most foreigners', but when it came to the GRE I was just as bad as everybody else.

On test date, I was hoping for suitable questions, and my prayers were not heard. I got confronted with lots of stuff I didn't know, and close to no questions I had actually beasted in preparations. My last practice test at the house resulted in a miraculous score, and the actual score did not follow up on that. In the end, I was still outperforming my international counterparts and some Americans, so I was happy about the result. Most importantly, however, I was happy it went well and I didn't have to retake the test. That stuff sucked! It's important knowledge being taught in the GRE, but even a 4 hour test on Russian politics, otherwise known as my biggest passion, would suck, never mind the added pressure of knowing it might result in my dreams not coming true. At the end of that day only one thought was predominant, and that was gratefulness that it was over!

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