Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The 2006 Yankees and the GRE

Just an hour ago I completed the GRE. I'm back in my Tokyo hotel room kind of tired and my brain isn't really able to wrap itself around the results yet. In the previous post, mehmattski wrote some very good remarks in the comments section. I just read them now, and I'm marvelling at how his experience matched my own.

mehmattski wrote that he ran out of time on the math section. Guess what. Today I was kicking ass to start the math and seemed to be progressing at a very nice rate of success. For those of you unfamiliar with the computer based exam, it gets harder as you answer correctly, and easier when you make a mistake. The end score is some matrix of your totals answers right and the level of difficulty that everything averages out to. The questions got tougher, and I took more time to answer. I could see the little clock on the screen showing me falling behind the pace to finish in a decent amount of time. There was nothing I could do. The problems required reading, translating data to my scratch paper, computations, translation of those computations in to other computations, and then answering on the computer. I was able to do everything. It wasn't an issue of ability, but rather the pace I was able to accomplish the tasks. By the end I saw the little flashing clock in the upper right hand corner flashing....mocking me. There were six questions left and almost no time to even attempt to do any of them. What's worse, the problems that were coming up were graph and chart problems that require a lot of careful reading. No time. I had to click randomly to get all the answers tallied before the clock expired. A blank is infinitely worse on the GRE than a wrong answer. How did it turn out? Good and bad.

The good news is despite guessing on 5 or 6 of the 30 questions, I didn't pull an A-Rod. (Just kidding). The bad news is, I scored a 620 on the math, which is league average (50 percentile) for all test takers. It's like a pitcher with a 100 ERA+, or a zero on the VORP.

The verbal is the important part. I'm not trying to enter an engineering program or a science department. I'm interested in studying Media, Culture, and Communications. Verbal would be my savior. I'd been scoring around a 700-720 on the math, and on the verbal a 650-680. The verbal section is far more difficult by all accounts, and a score in the high 600's or low 700s is between 90 and 99 percentile. I thought I was kicking the things ass, and I ended up with a 650. That's a very nice score, but I'm still a bit disappointed. It's 91st percentile, but I'd been shooting for about 97. I'm trying to get into MIT, Brown, NYU, and Fordham. With those scores, MIT is a longshot at best. Brown is on the bubble. NYU (my real 1st choice) may be possible, and I think Fordham should be a shoe-in. The Analytical Writing section is the 3rd part of the score, and I teach Analytical Writing. I know I aced it.

So, you wonder what the title of this post means. The 2006 Yankees look good going down the stretch, and so did I. I rounded out my practice tests with a 700 math and a 720 verbal. Like the Yankees, I was beaten. My scores don't reflect my true ability, but there's no turning back. I'm left with a feeling of emptiness. Not sorrow, or disappointment, but simple emptiness. All that's left is my applications, recommendation letters, personal statements, transcripts, and Daisuke Matsuzaka in pinstripes. See y'all later.


mehmattski said...

Man, that does sound exactly like my GRE experience, right down to similar scores. I found myself wasting time wondering if I had gotten the previous question right based on the difficulty of my current question. I wish I had one of those squishy Martian things too.

Well, at least it's over now and you can focus on the parts of your application that you have considerably more influence over. I don't know about Communications, but certainly the Biology departments I'm looking at care a lot more about my experience and my GPA than how I perform sentence completions under pressure.

It's a good thing that Grad Application season and baseball season don't overlap, or we'd both be in trouble. Good luck!

Mike Plugh said...

Thanks man. My GPA from 13-14 years ago was so-so. I forget what it was exactly, but it's in the mid to low 3's. I was hoping to offset that with a good GRE> Che sera, sera.

Applications up next. Phew.

limonene said...

I came across your site this summer, and I've really been enjoying it

I'm in grad school for chemical biology, so your mileage may vary some, but the grad school programs that I'm familiar with cared more about letters of recommendation, experience, and my personal statement than my GRE scores. In fact, when I asked the MIT chemistry grad coordinator about it (a long story involving ETS asking me to re-take the math because it "may not reflect my true ability), she told me that they use the GRE mostly to make sure that the applicants are serious, and that they have some basic level of skills (which is a long-winded way of saying that you shouldn't sweat your scores).

Good luck with your applications!

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