Yes, we (or rather I) have hit the home stretch – a week from today, I will have completed the GRE (whew).  I had two practice tests left.  I’ve already blown through all the Kaplan ones I got from buying the study guide (courtesy of Christmas gift cards).  I have noticed that the Kaplan tests are harder – or at any rate, I score lower on the Kaplan tests than I have on the ones provided by ETS.  Here’s hoping that it is like strength training – the test won’t be as difficult as the Kaplan practice tests, but since I worked on those, I’ll be in super test shape.  As I have said, I had two practice tests left – one CAT (computer) test, and one paper test.  I figured since the real test would be the CAT, I’d save that for the week of, and take the paper test today.  Since, in theory, the CAT adjusts to your level (the better you do, the harder the questions are), you don’t need to answer as many questions for the test to “judge” your aptitude; the paper tests are twice as long.  So I spent two hours today taking a practice test (I haven’t been working so much on the Analytical Writing exercise, since I write so damn much anyway – but I do intend some last minute practice, just to be on the safe side).  All in all, I did well – my highest scores yet (760 Verbal, 650 Quantitative – showing just how little I use algebra in my everyday life).  The proof will be the actual test, for sure.

While reporting my practice test scores may seem a little like bragging, I have to say that if you’re planning to take the GRE (or any of the standardized entrance tests), it would behoove you to buy a prep guide and get some practice.  As for the classes, I wouldn’t know, I found them prohibitively expensive (in the $400 range) – but for about $40 (I bought the Math practice guide, too), I really made an improvement.  I sucked wind on the pre-test; I heard a rumor that some programs make the first test ridiculously hard, to give you the impression that you desperately need their product, and then later, that you are improving dramatically, but since I took practice tests from two sources, I feel confident that the strides I’ve made are real enough.  A lot of the value of the prep books is to get you drilling on the types of questions you see – standardized tests are a whole different breed, compared to the types of tests you take in college.  I don’t think any one of the (seemingly) dozens of brands of test prep books are markedly different from the others; I looked through a lot of them, and they seemed the same to me.  I do think buying one is worth it – I think the classes are probably only worth the money if you have extreme test anxiety or you know you’re never going to practice on your own, although I doubt that I would have taken a prep class, even if I did have $400 dollars just ready to spend.  The GRE website (and I assume, since they’re all part of the same test machinery, the GMAT, the LSAT, etc.) gives you their prep material for free, and you’d have to be an ass not to use it.  After all, these tests are expensive – while, as they say, great scores won’t get you in, you don’t want to give a school a reason to put your application in the “no” pile.  The first section of this post is clearly of interest only to those about to take a standardized test.  If you’re not, I’m sorry, that must have been tremendously boring.  But I do have thoughts of general interest.

Today’s weather was perfect – clear sky, mid-70s, a nice breeze.  So my mom and I thought we’d like to go to the zoo.  Both of us are suckers for animals, and it would be a pleasant stroll as well.  Except the zoo’s parking lot holds probably 20 cars.  And there’s a city park adjacent.  And we were not the only two people in town thinking that the zoo might be a fun way to spend a beautiful afternoon.  So after trolling for a (non-existent) parking spot, we turned around and went home.  I suppose we could have taken the bus to the zoo, although on weekends the bus passes through our neighborhood only once every hour, which would have given us some logistical issues.  Oh well, the zoo will still be there – we can plan the trip to avoid spending the whole day waiting for Godot’s Bus.

Tonight, I watched a documentary about Jonestown on the History Channel.  I will most likely have nightmares tonight; it was fascinating, albeit in a completely creepy kind of way.  As weird and disturbing as I thought it was before I saw the documentary, double or triple that, and that’s what I thought after.  Just last week, I wrote about how, in general, humanity is amazingly resilient.  It is, at the same time, amazingly fragile.  At the beginning, the documentary showed a lot of the unrest that was happening in this country as The People’s Temple started to gather steam.  I’m too young to remember that (one of the few times that I do feel too young for anything), and it seems almost like another country, in the same way that the 90s feel like a completely different era to me.  Now I know I’ll have nightmares – I feel uncertainty all around.  Sometimes I feel like it is just part of what I’m going through personally – after all, I am going through a lot of changes in my life, and I have no real idea what is going to be on the other side.  But I think that might be obscuring the general sense of uncertainty I would be feeling if I had stayed at my old job and not changed anything about my life.

I can’t imagine how I got so far afield this evening.

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