If you’re looking for tips to crack the GRE, do not read any further. This article is not about that but it's much more important. So, read anyway.
Okay, first off, let me just say that I gave the GRE twice. Not because I wasn’t happy with my scores, or because I had an extra 11 grand just lying around. It’s because I did something extremely stupid the first time. So, I am hoping that after you read this, you have a good laugh at my stupidity and then NOT do the same on your GRE or TOEFL or any exam, for that matter.
My GRE was on July 29. When you have a job till 7 in the evening, and you’re back home only at 8, it becomes a little difficult even thinking of studying. My mind came up with clever excuses daily to put off studying till the weekend:
- Verbal practice? Hah! English toh hai. Ho jaayega!
- Quant? Are you kidding me? That’s tenth standard maths. Ho jaayega!
- No internet! Huh. Look at that. Too bad. Will have to study tomorrow. Ho jaayega yaar!
Of course, in the week before the test day, I came to my senses (sort of) and studied every possible minute, learning words like ‘impuissant’ and ‘quotidian’... stuff I’d never ever use in my life (not unlike trigonometry equations actually).
The morning of July 29, I was, weirdly enough, calm and composed - completely at odds with my neurotic-in-general personality. I woke up at 5 am, made myself a terrible egg sandwich, munched on it while thinking some more about words like ‘impuissant’ and ‘quotidian’, got ready and left the house at 6 am. I reached the centre much before time and found that a lot of people had reached too. I was with my dad, whose life’s mission is to make fun of everyone around him. Over sickeningly sweet chai from a nearby tea stall, we kept laughing at this one nerdy guy who was reading Barron’s GRE something with such concentration, like his life depended on it. At 7:30 am, I forced dad to leave and let me go for the test.
|ETS website clearly states no cell phones are to be used during the test!|
After endless checking of my passport and signature (“You have to sign exactly the way you have on your passport... this just won’t do! Sign again!”), and the sweatshirt I was wearing, I finally sat down for the test. Section 1,2,3... I went through them like nobody’s business. The screen then told me that I could take my ten minute break. So I ambled back to the waiting room, got my bag out of the locker, and sat down to eat the sandwich I had packed for myself. Right then, exactly at that moment, when I should’ve been thinking of words like ‘impuissant’ and ‘quotidian’ and minding my own friggin’ business, my brain decided to think: “How about calling up mom and dad and letting them know the first half was nice? Nice idea, haan?” So my brain thinks this, tells my hand to take my cell out and switch it on. The hand does what it’s told. And then the brain thinks another brilliant thought: “No, no, no, no... wait! I remember reading somewhere on the ETS website that no cell phones are to be used during the test! Put it back! Put it back! Right NOW!” The poor hand does what it’s told again.
Of course, as fate would have it, the supervisor lady in the room sees me doing this. Then follows a lot of bullshit... bullshit you really, really don’t want to face halfway through the exam. The supervisor checks my phone, goes through all my personal messages, checks my call log, calls her senior, who does the same. All through this, I don’t grasp the brevity of what I’ve done. All I can think of is, “What the hell is going on?!” The senior finally comes in and says, “Okay. So we’re going to let you finish your test...” – WTF? Was that even in question? - “... But we have to report this to ETS. It is up to them to dismiss or let you use your scores. Now, I think your time is running out. Better go start the test.” With those words in my head, I was supposed to go back and finish the test. Excellent.
I got through the test somehow... what with the cell phone nightmare and over 1.5 hours of mind-numbingly boring reading comprehensions and Math problems, I was really too tired to care about my score when I clicked on “Report my scores” towards the end. The screen cleared and my score came up. Verbal: 156. Quant: 168. Total: 324. Awesome. I didn’t even cross 325. I should add at this point that I am a very greedy person at heart, especially when it comes to marks, and no score is enough for me. So with disappointment and a slowly building fury, I left the test centre, told mom, dad, a bunch of friends, and went to sleep once I was home. Screw it. 324 is a fine score.
In a week or so, I realized that the cell phone fiasco was going to have repercussions. After four pointless emails and three very expensive calls to the ETS office in America, I was told in an American-accent-I-could-barely-understand, that my “case” was under review and it could be a while before a decision was made. Long, boring, panic-ridden story short, I got my scores after more than a month. And of course, halfway through that one month, I booked another GRE slot because I didn’t want to risk it. What if they did cancel my scores?
GRE #2 happened on September 5, (4 days after my TOEFL). This time I didn’t carry my cell phone to the testing centre, didn’t speak one word to any other student. Gave the test, checked my score, did a little mental dance, and went home. I scored 329 (159 V/170 Q) on my second attempt. “12 hazaar vasool kiya!” was what my friend told me. So, I guess, something good does come out of anything bad.
Tips for the test day? Umm, let’s see:
- Don’t carry your phone with you, as far as possible. If you must, switch it off, and DON’T remove it from your bag at any point of time. In fact, don’t even touch it. They’re very strict about these rules and no amount of pleading will help you.
- Don’t go for the test on an empty stomach. Eat something even if you don’t feel like it. Eat for the heck of it. Trust me, you need the energy.
- DON’T speak to the person sitting beside you during the exam, however cute or hot they maybe.
Check the expiry date of your passport. They will NOT allow anyone with an expired passport to take the test.
However, if you do manage to screw it up in some fashion akin to mine, don’t worry. A lot of people will say stuff like “What the hell is wrong with you!” and “How could you be so stupid?” Don’t listen to any of it. It’s entirely too possible to make mistakes like these.
And by the way, the ETS people are REALLY nice. They’re nothing like the authorities in our colleges who act like they’re curing cancer and can’t spare a single minute for us. They’re ‘chilled out’ (to quote a friend) and WILL listen to your side of the story.
So keep calm and trust in ETS.
Disclaimer: This is a specific students' experience who doesn't want to disclose his/her identity but is in the exact words of the given person.
Image Credits: UPspecial | Dr. Menakar