Tuesday, November 07, 2006

About a Test, and then Some Pleasant Things

I didn't mean to let my last post hang for as long as I have. After the GRE, I didn't feel up to writing. In fact, what I gave you came about as close to a coherent thought as I could get. And then life (and, well, Robert B. Parker) came along and took away my writing time for the next couple of days.

I want to write something intelligent and insightful about the GRE Lit Test, to unload it from my mind and help out my friends who will be taking it in the future. But I've had this rattling around in the back of my head for a few days now, and I've got almost nothing to show for it. Immediately after the test, I was struck with the impulse to get really, really drunk. (I did housework instead. Then I went to a poetry reading. Then I got slightly drunk.) Because my theory was wrong: The Princeton Review's practice test was not designed to be much harder than the actual GRE, or if it was, its designers failed. The real test may not have been harder than The Princeton Review's test, but for me it was much closer in difficulty to that one than to the "official" practice test ETS sent me. This scares me because my score on the TPR test, as I've said, sucked.

The GRE subject tests are done the old-fashioned way--with a No. 2 pencil and a bubble sheet--and I won't know my score for about six weeks. So I've been trying not to think about it too much. When I have thought about it, I've done a pretty commendable job of convincing myself that (a) it probably wasn't actually as bad as I thought, since parts of it were easy for me and even a little bit fun, and (b) if it was really that hard, it must have been that hard for other people, so my percentile ranking might actually be fairly high. And in less optimistic moments, (c) if I really screwed the test up, I'll still have a shot at being admitted to a school that doesn't ask to see subject test scores. Those are not the least desirable schools on my list, anyway.

For those of you who will take the test, here's my sage advice: don't worry about trying to read every book on some list from a test prep company. I knew the answers to a lot of questions just because I studied literary terms and character/place names associated with important books. The Princeton Review book is really helpful in that it gives hints for identifying some authors' styles and reminded me of things I had learned (once upon a time) but probably wouldn't have recalled on my own. (That part--realizing how much I actually know about literature--was fun, too.) What I didn't do, but wish I'd had time for, was read the introductions in the Norton Anthology for authors (and critics) I don't know much about. It might have helped. After all, the test is much more about recognizing literary things than actually having read and understood literature (the important part, if you ask anyone who cares). Also, and I don't know what to suggest as far as preparing for this, there are a lot of reading comprehension questions based on passages that are absolutely brain-numbingly convoluted. Read fast, but only if your head can keep up. Mine sometimes couldn't, and I ended up reading certain passages more than once, which is a waste of time.

I'd like to write more here, about my knees back and butt, which are sore from putting together a whole table of hardcover books, and our new computer and how I'm torn between playing The Sims 2 at the speed god intended for the first time and starting in on the brand new Isabel Allende book, which will be my very first Isabel Allende, but this post is long enough and I'm excited to play with my new toys. Tonight, we will sneak in to vote, for democrats like the rest of our hippy neighbors, just before the polls close. It's good to have a full day, with just enough time for a tiny bit of quiet and bliss.


Blogger erin said...

congratulations on gre completion! i took the subject test some time ago, and am absolutely thrilled that it is not required for mfa applications. it's horrible, and mind-numbing and slightly terrifying. i never actually thought a mind could reel until i walked out of the gre subject test.

anyway. glad you're done. congrats. take time to play now!

11/07/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger Loralee Choate said...

God, I miss The SIMS.

My husband took it off my computer because it was a vaccuum of time.


I am sure your test scores will be great. Congrats on even making it through!

11/07/2006 11:42 PM  

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