Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good/Bad GREif

GREif (sic) Stricken in Manhattan writes....

I methodically did it. I studied for the GRE. I carefully took the practice tests, and I went from wanting to just hit the standard MFA-baseline scores, to wanting to do very well. It's not very useful to speak in terms of "good and bad" scores, so I'll just give you the numbers. This morning I scored a 570 on the verbal, and a 680 on the math. The 570 verbal score is the disappointing part, it's a good 100 points below what I ever scored on any practice test, ever. But I also am fairly certain I messed up the second question, and that'll do it. This fall I'm applying to the Michener, Michigan, Iowa, Johns Hopkins, Virigina, Cornell, Oregon, and Irvine. All tough programs. The Michener Center, based on their website, is the only school that seems to really care that I scored below a 600 on verbal. But I also care. And I care about giving all of my schools my best shot. I'd be willing to retake it in a month. I highly highly doubt I'd do worse on the verbal, and who cares about the math. Is it frivolous to retake it? Man-facting or not, do you think making up those 30 points to hit the 600-mark is worth it for my peace of mind on the Austin application? Should I be concerned about the other schools?

thanks for your advice!

My advice is 100% Man-Facting. If I were you, I wouldn't use any of my precious time improving that score. As you said, most of them don't seem to care, as long as your scores are within the range of other graduate students' scores for that university.

I don't know why you would've scored 100 points below a practice test though. My sense is that you would improve your scores. but I don't think it's worth the trouble, unless you wanted to use them for a different degree application down the line.


Incredible Undulating Daughter said...

I used to work in a testing center, and this is pretty common--especially if you study books and practice tests designed by ETS (the company that gives the GRE).

It's best to purchase guides from Kaplan, Princeton Review, or other reputable third party sources. Remember, these are corporate entities. ETS wants you to have to take the GRE at least twice. On the other hand, it's in Kaplan's best interest for you to do well on the test and tell all your friends. Never assume a school or a testing service has your best interests in mind just because they're involved in education. They don't. Everything is run like a business these days.

Beyond that, your scores will almost always be lower than your practice tests due to nervousness. Then there's the unfamiliar location, which is usually too hot or too cold. This has also been shown to affect scores.

Bottom line, the best way to prepare is to start early, study non-official, third party materials, and familiarize yourself with the test location in advance.

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