I sort of remember a blur of SATs and ACTs that preceded getting to come to college, but I think I blocked most of it out of my memory. Luckily once you get to college, the “blue book” format becomes one of the more popular testing methods, and scantrons are virtually unheard of (at least for a humanities major).
That all changes with the GRE, the 4.5-hour long entrance exam for graduate school.
I’m not going to graduate school next year. I am a history major, but I want to do graduate work in sexuality studies so I think I will probably need to switch over either to sociology or counseling psychology. I need to do a bit more research and preparation before I decide my path for continuing my education and quite frankly, I’m ready for a break from the classroom. So why, I asked myself the morning of my GRE test date, was I putting myself through this torturous test now? The honest answer is that I was bored one day and decided it would be a good box to check off. I studied half-heartedly for the three weeks after I registered, mostly brushing up on my high school math, but when it came to the week of the test I was crabby and stressed. One of my housemates, Grace, was in a similar situation as she faced comprehensive exams for her political science major. Comps aren’t standardized tests in the same way as the GRE, but they do entail 8 hours of testing in 3 days and are equally stressful.
The day before my test, Grace and I were eating gluten-free cookie dough and feeling sorry for ourselves. I was lamenting all the extra studying I should’ve done, and Grace was preemptively stressed about all the material she thought she’’’’d forgotten. Our other housemate happened upon our sorry scene and reminded us, “You’ve been studying for this for four years.”
Oh. Right. Good point. I kept this advice in mind as the reading comprehension and sentence completion questions flashed across my computer screen at the testing center. I had spent the last four years expanding my vocabulary and learning how to write well. The GRE may be an infuriating and annoying form to test those skills, but the skills are the same.
My GRE story has a happy ending. Based on the score I received, I will not have to retake the test. I have tentatively started to celebrate being done with standardized testing forever, but that just seems too good to be true. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. And standardized tests are a lot less stressful if you come at them as indicators of where you’re at and what you’ve been doing all along, rather than the end-all-be-all of your academic potential.