It was already over 6 months since I had been preparing for the exam that could actually turn my life around 360 degrees – The GRE Exam. Being a little indecisive about when to give the exam, I got a little late in choosing the dates. So, when I finally made up my mind to decide when this all is gonna end, I registered on ETS. As per my expectations, all the dates for the Gurgaon centre were full, so had no other option except choosing the Allahabad Centre (never knew this would eventually turn out to be the best decision of my entire GRE journey).
There I was, in the city of confluence of three rivers, Allahabad, a day before my exam. I had been to Allahabad many times earlier but this time everything seemed different. A new breeze of strangeness enveloped me and I felt even more diffident. Anyway, I had to put up a nervous smile as I reached my relatives’ house in the same city. An elder brother is expected to put up a brave persona in front of his siblings. As I unpacked my laptop and tried to make a final dash for the vocabulary, my mind was full of chimerical thoughts. “What universities will I choose if I score above 320? What will I do if I fail to score well? Will I retake the test?” All these questions kept putting me under more pressure. That night I could not sleep. There was restlessness and fear and naiveté of being the first person in my entire family tree to attempt such a thing as I belong to a simple middle class family.
The morning came up quicker than I expected. I had my appointment scheduled at 8:00 a.m. but I was already up at 5:30. I kept lying on the bed till 6:00 a.m. Finally I decided to get up and channel my thoughts towards a positive climax and got ready. The test centre was around 4 miles away and it took me and my brother just about 15 minutes to reach the place. My brother hugged me wishing me luck and went away. Now I was all alone, standing in front of a building called IPEM with absolutely no one around still wondering if that was actually the test centre. I had no difficulty in finding the test centre and entering it I found just one more guy who was busy filling his details on a form. I quietly say on the sofa clueless about all the formalities to be completed at the centre. Then came a man from a room adjacent to the lobby in which I was sitting and handed me a form to fill out. As I filled the form, he assigned me a locker and gave me a key. I secured all my (priceless) possessions of food, water and mobile in the locker and headed for next room, which I probably should call – The Control Room.
Two officials were seated in the small control room. They were strict and disciplined and their attitude made one thing absolutely clear at once – no nuisance allowed! They checked my passport a couple of times, asked me to sign on one or two documents and had me checked thoroughly for any carry overs with me. After a final sign in, I was assigned a computer and I made myself comfortable on the chair, waiting for the test to begin. At the centre were only six students including me, three of which had GRE, two subject tests and one some other exam. I did not bother even looking at any of them – better mind your own business.
The test began with issue writing as always. It took me 3-4 minutes to make a rough outline of the matter to be written and I noted some points on the scratch paper. Since my typing speed is good and the computers were in good condition (you can expect that after paying $185 for an exam!), I wrote quickly and by the end of 27th minute, I finished up an article of about 500 words. I could not revise anything in the article but two initial paragraphs and was sure I had many other typing mistakes. The argument section went well and I was pity confident about all the arguments I presented to analyse the recommendation made. However, even in this section, I wasn’t able to revise my essay properly. Remember, a bad AWA score has the potential to nullify even best of the academic profiles.
The next section was one which I was actually expecting – a Quant section. I had practiced quants heavily before but always fell short on time. I feared the same this time. If I only fell short by few minutes, I could lose a whole lot of marks. A remembered a very close friend of mine called me up in the evening before and asked me take the name of Shiva and start the exam as the day of my exam was Shivratri. So following her advice, I took the Lord’s name and started my Quant section. Strangely enough, the questions were not as tough as expected and I completed the entire section in 25 minutes and had 10 minutes remaining to revise each question. I found no mistake in the revision and was pity confident that all my questions were correct. Though a similar confidence of mine was shattered to pieces a number of times in the full length practice tests, I only wished this would not happen this time.
The following section was verbal – My weak point! I struggled a little through the starting questions of text completion. Sentence equivalence was equally tough. But since none of the words were outside the vocab list that I had memorised, I could make few intelligent guesses. Reading comprehension was average and the length of the passages matched the ones given in the power prep software. So, I was somehow mentally prepared for it. The only negative thing about this section was that due to shortage of time, I could not read one passage and had to make a wild guess at the singular question linked to it.
Finally came the ten minute break and I rushed to sign out for the break and had food. I had brought two packets of chips of my favourite flavour with me and water. I quickly opened the locker, tore the packets apart and started eating like a glutton. I had planned to eat my food, drink water and use washroom during the break but all your expectations don’t come true, do they? As I finished my food, I was called back to the test room by the invigilator and hence, could neither drink water nor use washroom. No input, no output – equation balanced, isn’t it? Not really! Had to sit in the same condition for the next 100 minutes of the test.
The test started again and I was presented with another Quant section. This quant section seemed easy as well and I cruised through the section finishing up once again in around 28 minutes and revising for the rest of the time. I wondered why they didn’t raise the level of questions since I had finished my last quant section nicely. Following it was a verbal section which was as hard as the previous one, the only difference being the fact that this time I completed the section just on time. I never scored well in verbal so the only thing that made me happy was that I was done with the verbal part.
The last section was very crucial for me as it would determine which section could be an experimental one. Recollecting myself once again, I clicked on “Next” and to my surprise, it was a Quant section. I was better at quants than verbal, wasn’t I? The questions in the beginning of the section were tough, I mean real tough, but as I proceeded, the questions became easy and solvable. I could guess that this should not be the experimental section as I the questions were ought to be tough in the second non-experimental section. I solved the last ones first and then the starting ones. This section took me around 32 minutes to complete and could revise and correct some mistakes seconds before the test concluded analogous to the Bollywood movie climaxes. Happy ending or Tragic ending was the only question left unanswered.
My heart pounded and I felt my palm going limp before clicking on “Finish”. The terror and nervousness returned. I had completed my job but the outcome was still a mystery. As I finally clicked “Finish”, I could think of no reaction. The result was unexpected. I always wished of scoring 320 but this score was something beyond my expectations. Even powerprep tests have predicted my score to be around 320. However, the score I achieved was 327 with 170 in Quant and 157 in Verbal. I had never scored 170 in Quants in my entire half an year of preparation. I rubbed my eyes to confirm the score. Yes, it was correct! Well, this score may be quite meagre for many of you geniuses but for me it was a sumptuous banquet. I controlled my excitement somehow as I knew the consequences of overreacting in the test room.
The final step of the test automatically became tough for me as I had thought of some universities gettable at low scores. I filled up some high ranking universities which I could remember at that moment. And with that I was done! The six month long stressful journey was over and fortunately, the scores indicated a two year long journey in the future to a foreign land. Merrily, I picked up my belongings from the centre, made sure that I still had my passport with me and went back to participate in the celebrations! Good Luck to my friends