17 April, 2006

The GREs in 2006

So I successfully retook my GREs this past Friday. I had originally taken the exam one and a half years ago, in preparation for graduate studies. One-year-and-a-half-on and with a different field of study in mind (then it was either Anthropology or something in the Social Sciences, probably with a Latin-American theme; now it's computer science--I have loans to pay!), I have avoided the major blunder that necessitated my visit to a GRE testing center for a second round. That is, when I took the test less than 2 years back I fudged the Quantitative section by wasting 6-7 minutes on one single problem. This mistake cost me 10-11 questions at the end of the section and a very poor score on the math section. Now a smarter and more mature person, I prepared considerably (and individually: no Princenton Review for me!) for the exam and went and got what I came for. With my new shiny scores hopefully IIT and UC will consider me favorably as a candidate for their respective professional Comp Sci programs.

Anyway, that said, I thought I should write a few things on the GREs this time around. In no apparent order, here are my view on the exams in 2006:

-Computer(.) vs. paper-based(..) test
.It's easier to construct an essay in the Writing section--i.e., you can cut and paste and move stuff around and edit your composition more quickly
..More freedom to pace yourself, avoiding tough questions till the end and getting all the easy stuff out of the way. In the comp-based test you can't go back in sections. That is, once a question has been answered and you've move on, there is no going back

-GRE study guides
.helps solidify math foundation for this test
.however, quant ?s on GRE are actually more difficult than study guide ?s
.in the end, though, going over these guides twice (both reading and practice questions) helps build a foundation for tackling the questions on the exam. Therefore, it *is* a very useful guide for review.

-unprecedented new section on test (Research-5th section).
.Four sections into the GREs and I'm faced with yet another round of testing. When I took the test in 2004 I remember there being four sections, so I got up to ask moderator if this section was a survey or not. The section was preceded with a full-page blurb which I regrettably skimmed. I caught a few things along the way, such as "survey," "participate in" and, probably imagined, "optional." So I clicked "Proceed," not expecting to continue onto a new section of the test. The moderator confirmed that it *was* a section of the test, esp. given the fact that the timestamp on the top-left corner of the screen was running down and the top-center area clearly listed the title as "Section 5." I had already been through 3 hours of test-taking and was ready to get my scores and walk out the door. The section lasted 45 mins (I wasted 3) and I finished it with 18 to spare. In contrast, I needed all the time available to me in order to complete the Verbal section.
.This research section is much like the original one. However, new method of answering and new question structure. 1 part consists of incomplete paragraphs (1-3 sentences) with 3 blanks. The answers are spread accross a 9-cell table, with 3 possible answers for each blank. The first blank is usually a prepositional phrase (e.g., wanted to, aimed at, etc...), while the other two are vocab words. They did seem to be easier than the Verbal section's, and I say that with regards mostly to the difficulty of the word. Moreover, I had an easier time going through these paragraphs than I did with the two-blank sentences on Verbal. May be that plugging in prepositional phrases engages the test-taker more, pulling him/her closer to the full meaning of the sentences. On the other hand, there were generally 2-3 sentences in each question, which gives the test-taker a clearer idea of the context.
.Another part of this new section consisted of passages (like before, in the arts, sciences, etc.), with multiple choice questions. However, as the title of the section implies, the setup of these questions is more geared towards testing the research ability of the test-taker. Anyway, one of the question types basically ask you to either highlight a passage that satistisfies the question. Another asked you to interpret the meaning of a highlighted term. And yet another asked you to choose all the choices that applied of several (usually 3) that were listed.
.Yet another part of the research exam consisted of sentences with a single blank. You were asked to choose two terms from the 5 possible answers. The two terms you choose have to give the sentence a like, or analogous meaning. Overall it seemed like this question method was easier on the test-taker than its counterpart in Verbal --i.e., where you are asked to choose the "best" single term. I would imagine this limits the word pool from which are chosen the answers, if only slightly, lowering the bar on the difficulty of questions asked. In the end, again, I had 18 mins to spare (plus the three I had wasted determining whether this was indeed a bonafide section of the exam and not, as I had suspected, a trial of a potential, future section of the exam).

1 comment:

Eve said...

congrats! taking the GREs always sucks; in fact any test acronym gets a thumbs down in my book (im looking at you MCAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT etc. to hell i say!) im glad you got the scores you wanted.