GRE Preparation

The time has come,
The walrus said,
To talk of many things
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings

Lewis Carroll was totally not talking about the GREs. He might as well have been, because, as everyone in my Twitter feed is well aware, it is GRE time around these here parts. I’ve finally decided to take the exam so I can do part-time in any Master’s program that will take me. While I’ve been studying, I’ve been thinking about a number of issues. How many cubic feet are in a liter? What is the synonym for lethargy? And, most importantly, the essay. Because, you see, in the GRE, they don’t like to simply torture you with 2+ hours of math problems about how trains of different speeds will catch up with each other, or why the antithesis of the postmodern theory of reconstructionist thought has had a significant impact on how weird Salvador Dali is. No, they also like you write two different, open-ended essays, on two different topics. For someone as indecisive as me (I once spent 20 minutes in front of 5 Ben & Jerry’s Flavors in the grocery store and ended up begging for the good old days of communism, when we had NO ice cream to choose from,) the essays are a MINEFIELD.

Granted, I am good at writing (also extraordinarily humble.) Even if I’m not, it’s something I enjoy very much, somewhere between the enjoyment some people have when they watch the Office and when they get a root canal. It’s a love/hate relationship between me and writing. I’ve been writing stories since I was 4 and my mom taught me the alphabet, partly so I wouldn’t fall behind, and partly so that she wouldn’t go insane staying at home with me and do something rash, like beat herself over the head with a meat tenderizer. Anyway, I always get really torn about the direction they want me to go on the essay. Here is an example:

Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views.

  • “It is easy to welcome innovation and accept new ideas. What most people find difficult, however, is accepting the way these new ideas are put into practice.”

I mean, I guess I could write something about both of these issues. But the real problem, if you haven’t noticed yet, is that I am sarcastic. And cynical. And generally unpleasant to everyone except people who love Oscar Wilde, and my husband (and the latter is because I cook for him. It’s a bribe.) So, my essays would probably sound something like this:

New ideas generally are great.  Like you know, Sarbanes-Oxley finance reform, which totally didn’t hamper the legislative process.  Or transfat-free restaurants.  Because those really mean something.  And what’s the deal with all these new Obamariffic ideas?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, getting the man elected was a landmark decision, but Mommy, I don’t want to pay high taxes even after I die.”

So, until I come up with a better way to structure my sentences, I am screwed on this section, as with the GRE in general.

Vicki

3 thoughts on “GRE Preparation

  1. Here’s my problem with the GRE essays. Its almost impossible (for me) to write anything without knowing something about my target audience.

    I learned that early on. My essays in school were perfectly targeted towards my target demographic, and my only reader – my English teacher. She was a 40-something, ultra-liberal Parsi lady who loved India, separated from her husband (he had an affair), and had 3 kids – all studying in the US.

    How did I became her favorite (and the most unpopular kid in class?) – she teared up in class when describing how much she liked one of my short stories. It was about a 40-something lady who leaves India to move to the US to be closer to her kids – only to find out that she (and they) preferred her to live in India.

    Do I feel sorry I manipulated her ? In hindsight, yes. Was it worth 4 years of doting maternal attention ? Absolutely. :-)

  2. Neo-I love your approach!

    Maybe I will have to tailor my essays to overworked graduate students who have no opportunity for a real job in this downturned economy and thus must resort to giving up their hopes and dreams by grading 100 essays a week on a holistic scale :).

    BTW-Did your Parsi teacher ever kill her husband and leave him out for the vultures? Because that would have been awesome.

  3. Yes – no matter what the topic says, the theme must be “graduate student’s brilliance was unnoticed by the world for several years, until one day, …. ”

    And my teacher actually did better than kill her husband, and I’m so proud. :-)

    There was a very charming old gentleman (an army veteran from Gujarat who’d never married) who lived right opposite our school building. There were persistent rumors about my English teacher being seen with him in some or the other coffee shop at MG Road.

    The rumors were right – a year after I graduated from school, she moved in with him. Her husband’s family (and surprisingly two of her sons) were outraged by this.

    Quite the scandal in the late 80s. Some parents even demanded that she be fired from our school! She retired soon after anyway. Most of us (her students) visit her whenever we can.

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