Winning and losing and the GRE

I arrived home last night after three weeks in the US of A.

I’m happy that I got to finish my application to the Berkeley iSchool. A week before I left, I realised that I had to write the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and send in my results by the application deadline of 7 January. I had all but given up (and was feeling pretty happy about not having to write the test) when I found a test center where I could take it on the day that I left. Studying all week (the GRE is one third math – *not* my forte) I was pretty damned nervous when I drove my friend Oso‘s car to the center in Fremont at 6am on Saturday morning. Half way through the test, the computer wouldn’t move onto the next section. We were then told that there was a world-wide problem with the GRE and that we should all go home and come back on Monday. Unfortunately, on Monday, I would be many feet in the air somewhere above Senegal (again, math is *not* my forte), and so I sat waiting for the problem to be sorted.

Hanging out at the test center for the next three hours, I met another Heather and her two friends who were working there as a part-time job while they finished college. They were talking about the worries of finding a job in the current economic climate, and wondering how they were going to pay off their student loans. I also saw a bunch of kids – no more than 8 years old – filing into the computer room to do tests for a gifted child program. All the kids were Asian-Americans. They were all accompanied by parents who looked a lot more nervous than they did. I felt sad that they were in there having to undergo all that stress when I suddenly realised that they probably didn’t see it as stressful in the least. As my trusty Kaplan guide to the GRE said: If you see this as a stressful, excrutiating experience, then it’s going to be a stressful, excrutiating experience. The GRE is a game – see it as that and you’re well on your way to having a great time with the thing (my words, not those of the much more lucid Kaplan Guide).

I don’t know whether I managed to take the GRE with the same level of calm as playing Scrabble with Oso on Christmas Day (there’s something about seeing your component in the flesh that makes beating them to a pulp so much more tangible and certain) but at least the scores that I got straight afterward confirmed what I already knew: math is *not* my forte. ‘Verbal reasoning’ on the other hand – now *that’s* my forte. In the end, I know I could’ve done better in the math at least (my score was the same as when I started studying!) but after all, the GRE is a game. And like losing at Scrabble sometimes, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good wordnik. Only that you lost the game.

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