“Life is about constant learning…you cannot just stop…” My mother was using her teacher voice on me. She then proceeded to casually slip a GRE prep guide onto my bookshelf. “I paid lots of money for this so you have to use it for when you take the GRE,” she went on. When I take the GRE?! I had no intentions of taking any more exams. After being in school for the past 17 years of my life I was burnt out and the thought of growing the menacing amount of student loan debt that I already had was not at all appealing. I proceeded to use my tried and true ‘smile and nod’ technique to make it through this lecture…occasionally throwing in a “oh yeah that’s cool” and “ahhh that makes sense”.
Fast forward a few years and I’d signed myself up for the GRE. How do moms always know the future? I scheduled it three months in advance thinking that that would be plenty of time to study so test day would be a breeze. Since the closest test center was three hours away, I figured that the Saturday after Thanksgiving would be perfect since I’d have the long weekend to do any last-minute studying. This was wonderful logic, except that I forgot to factor in one very important variable, me.
Month one came and went as I told myself that I had plenty of time so I could just study later. During month two I opened up the prep guide that my mother had given me, but to my dismay realized that the test had been revised in 2011 so that half of this prep guide was useless. When month three came along, I decided to get serious and take a look at some word lists. Whoa….I have to learn 4,000 words in hopes that I’ll get lucky and 3 of them will be on the exam?! My motivation for learning new words was pretty low.
A week before the exam I figured that I should probably start refreshing my memory on how to do the math section. Skimming through the material, everything seemed easy enough so I wasn’t worried. On Wednesday I took the 200 mile journey into the city to be with friends for Thanksgiving and be near the test center for my exam. After falling into a turkey coma post Thanksgiving dinner, I woke up on Friday to find my friend’s cat wandering around the room and my left eye on fire. It seems that I’m allergic cats. Allergic or not, it was time to do my last-minute math review. The funny thing about math is that everything seems easy until it’s time to apply what you think you know. After fumbling through a few practice problems I knew I was in trouble. With burning and watery eyes, I spent the day locked in a room on a diet of Redbull and Baileys Irish Cream chocolate cheesecake. At 3AM, with my test just 5 hours away, it was time to get some sleep.
I woke up three hours later exhausted. Grabbing another Redbull I was out the door and in search of the test center. As wonderful as navigation phone apps can be, they don’t factor in construction projects blocking routes, and of course it was just my luck that the freeway exit that I needed to take was coned off. I eventually made it to the test center and downed the rest of my Redbull as I ran from my car to the building. I handed them my ID with a sweaty jittery hand…I probably shouldn’t have had an energy drink on an empty stomach. Searching through my purse I found half of a protein bar that 3 months earlier I’d tucked away thinking that I’d eat it later…I didn’t realized that “later” would be so far in the future (gross I know but I needed to eat something so that I would stop shaking and this place didn’t have a vending machine).
Hoping that I hadn’t just given myself food poisoning, I proceeded to take the test. Four hours later it was all over and I got my preliminary results. Shockingly I’d done quite well, not exceptional, but above average for sure. I guess the obvious lesson learned here is that procrastinating leads to no good since what can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time…but it’s interesting to note that there really is no time more productive than the last-minute.
I’m not supposed to talk about the specifics of the exam but if anyone is taking the GRE in the near future the most relevant/useful math review for me was on the ETS website. If you can do everything in this review then the math portion should be easy, as long as you aren’t like me and forgot how to work with logs in the middle of the test.