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Taking The GRE

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I took the GRE General Test today. For those who are unfamiliar with it, GRE stands for “Graduate Record Examination.” It is essentially an SAT for students who are hoping to enter Graduate School.

The GRE is divided into three sections. Two of these sections, the Verbal and the Quantitative, are each scored on a scale of 200-800 (for a possible combined perfect score of 1600). They are both timed, multiple-choice tests.

The other portion of the exam is the Analytical Writing Section, which is sub-divided into two parts, the “Present Your Perspective on an Issue Task” and the “Analysis of an Argument Task.” These are timed essays, and are graded subjectively by anonymous college faculty members on a 0.0-6.0 scale.

I did not bother to study at all. Not a single bit. I figured, “hey, I didn’t study for the SAT back in high school, and I still managed to score a 1310, so I won’t need to study for this exam either.”

Two days ago, I decided to go to the GRE Website and try a few of their sample questions from each section. Got every single one right. At this point, I’m thinking I’ll score a 1600 and have no worries.

Then, yesterday (after a few beers…), I finally popped in the POWERPREP CD-ROM that had been mailed out to me after I registered for the GRE. I took a few of the practice exams there. And, holy cow!, I wasn’t batting 1.000 anymore! I was still getting most of my answers right, but only about 75%. So, my overconfidence shattered, I was now gunning for something more realistic on the real test, like maybe a 1250.

The closest exam site is about a 90 minute drive from where I live. I departed two hours before my scheduled time, but traffic was awful and my 12-year old car was acting up, so I made it there with just minutes to spare.

The first two sections were the written parts, and I will not find out how I did on those until the results are mailed to me in a few weeks. And, due to the subjective nature of the grading process, I have no idea how well (or poorly) I fared.

The next section was the Verbal. Now, I like to think I have a pretty wide vocabulary (at least when compared to my friends and co-workers). But some of the words used in this portion of the exam…I just didn’t have a clue. I mean, I may have read or heard them a couple times in my life, but not enough so that I have a real firm grasp on their exact meanings. I was really struggling with this section, and had to use up almost all of my allotted time in order to complete every question with at least a reasonable guess.

At this point, I’m depressed, and working under the assumption that I scored about 500 or so. But, surely I’d fare better in the next section, Quantitative!

The Quantitative section is all math, mostly algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Some questions were rather easy for me, but others were so mind-boggling that I had to offer a mere best-guess in order not to waste too much valuable time. I finished the last question with just a few minutes to spare on the clock.

By now, I’m just hoping to have scored a combined 1000, which is the bare minimum requirement for entry into the Graduate program at the University I plan on attending. I was actually disgusted with myself to the point of nausea. I was already mentally preparing to retake the exam in a couple months, after some intense study. I felt defeated and demoralized.

The fifth and final section was an optional test, where the answers did not count for – or against – my score. It helps the folks who create these tests find new questions to ask in future exams. I took it mostly out of curiosity, and found it much easier than the previous, “real” sections. My mood therefore became even darker.

After that section was completed, I was done with the GRE. I was offered the option of erasing my test results, or else forwarding them to the University I’m interested in attending. Of course, I had to make this decision before I would learn what my score was. Now, I was pretty pessimistic about what my results would be, but I wasn’t about to have spent the last four hours (and over a hundred dollars) taking a brutal exam and just walk away with nothing to show for it. So, I chose to submit my results. And immediately after doing so, my scores appeared.

And my eyes literally bulged.

Verbal – 710
Quantitative – 780

Total Combined – 1490

Yup. Despite my fears, I scored in the 97th percentile in the Verbal, and in the 87th percentile in the Quantitative. And, if this Website is to be believed (and it probably shouldn’t), my IQ is somewhere in the low-150s.

So…how did I do it? The only thing I can figure is that most of my guesses (and there were a lot of them) ended up being correct. In other words, I got lucky.

But I’ll take lucky over good any day. See ya’ll in grad school!

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About RJ

  • Neat – congratulations!

  • Thanks, Aaman!

    The 780 on the math portion isn’t really all that impressive; engineering majors (though I am not one) score that all the time.

    But the 710 on the verbal part just shocked me, especially after all the difficulty I had with that section. And even students majoring in the social sciences rarely score that high. I really must have guessed well…

  • It’s all guess work, but good show nevertheless

    I remember I scored in the 99th percentile…

  • “I remember I scored in the 99th percentile…”

    Wow! 99th percentile overall, or in one of the two categories?

  • Overall *blush*

  • Damn! No need to blush; be proud!

    The 99th percentile, I assume, means you scored about a 1550? 800 in math and 750 in verbal, or thereabouts?

  • 790 verbal and 770 math – Interestingly, I had similar scores in SAT (don’t remember the breakup – 1490)

    What course are you going to be attending?

  • Dave Nalle

    The real question is how he did on the GRE exam for his chosen field of study, assuming there was one. That can make a lot more difference than the verbal and math scores.

    BTW, is it only me or have they changed the scoring on these tests somewhat in recent years? When I toog the GRE 25 years ago my 780V/740M put me in the 99th percentile on both. But it looks like RJ got a much lower percentile with a higher math score. Same thing with the SAT. When I took the SAT in the ancient days it seems like a much lower score got you into the 99th percentile than it takes today. Were people just dumber overall back then so the pool I was being compared to was weaker? Or is it that they’ve changed things about a bit?


  • At this point, I am leaning towards a Criminal Justice MS. There are two main reasons for this.

    Number one, I can complete the degree online (and w/o writing a thesis), so I will not have to commute to the University or radically alter my work schedule. Number two, my sister is already in the field, and she makes pretty good money and has pretty good benefits while doing interesting work. (One day I hope to be her boss, heh…)

    But my true interests lie more in the hard sciences, like biology. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m in a position to pursue a degree in that field at the present time.

  • I didn’t take that – I didn’t use the GRE or SAT scores for admission, although I did get into Dartmouth after the SAT. I kind of drifted into engineering after my twelfth – and that’s another story

  • Dave:

    The data on percentiles I got from PDF files located on the GRE Website…they can be found here and here.

    On page 13 of the second PDF file, it shows that a Verbal of 720 is in the 98th percentile, and a Verbal of 700 is in the 96th percentile…so I assume a Verbal of 710 is in the 97th percentile.

    Also on page 13 of the second PDF file, it shows that even a perfect score of 800 on the Quantitative section is only in the 92nd percentile, and a score of 780 is in the 87th percentile.

    The only thing I can figure, is that a lot of engineering students take the GRE and get 800s, and this throws the percentiles outta wack.

  • Although I have always consistently scored very well on standardized tests, I don’t take the results as gospel. I think that genius is much like beauty. You cannot truly quantify either: 165 = I’m a genius, 10 = I’m beautiful. Nonsense. I think that there are more dullards at large nowadays, which makes it easier to be comparatively more intelligent. Blogcritics readers and writers being in the intelligentsia.

  • IQ scores are interesting to me. By definition, a score of 100 is the mean of a given population, correct? (Or is it the median?)

    At any rate, by this definition, roughly half of the population has an IQ in the double digits. But I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who has ever said their tested IQ was under 100.

    Do those who test poorly simply refuse to admit it? Or are sub-100 scores not reported to the test-takers, for “self-esteem” reasons? Or are the numbers skewed to the point that only the mentally-retarded have scores significantly below 100?

    Sometimes, in news reports, you’ll find a story about a convicted criminal with an IQ in the 70s or something. But other than that, you never hear about such people, despite the fact that they are presumably all around us…

  • RedTard

    Somebody should look up one of those free online IQ tests and post it on here. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone.

  • That is an impressive score! Congrats

  • “The first two sections were the written parts, and I will not find out how I did on those until the results are mailed to me in a few weeks.”

    Checked the mail today, and I got my scores:

    5.0 out of 6.0.

    Basically, a B+…(6.0 being an A+ and 5.5 being an A…and 4.5 being a B)

  • Everywhere

    Congrats on the impressive scores!

    I took the GRE test recently and received 690 on the verbal and 720 on the quantitative sections. On analytical writing I got 6.0. The results in and of themselves are OK, but I am still not going to get into graduate school, since my undergraduate GPA was appalling and I mean trully appalling – on the verge of failure. I had some serious financial/psychological problems in undergraduate school.

  • Jeff


    Look for a graduate school that has OPEN ENROLLMENT.
    Take at least 20 credits there with a GPA of over 3.6, take your GRE score and send them away.
    Best of Luck.

    PS, people will doubt you, it is THEIR fear about success, not yours.

  • Snooty

    I’m gonna get 1600

  • Mahin

    Hey bright guys! I want to get perfect scores in GRE test. How to do that?

  • Cheat.

  • Michael

    What study aids did you use?

  • dhwani

    I am taking gre on 5 th august .what is the good book for that..please tell me..i am too poor in verbal and maths …please please help me

  • johnnyboy

    I just barely took the GRE today- 790 Qualitative and only a 700 Verbal for a 1490.

    I got all freaked out by the verbal part, cause it seemed too easy at parts, which made me think I was sucking, then it would get impossible.

    I’m glad that’s over with.

  • dan

    I studied for the GRE with a book (a little) and a CD-rom practice test program. It helped me remember the shortcuts for trig and geometry I hadn’t thought about in years. I took practice tests the same time of day as the upcoming test for about a week or two beforehand. Also, I got a lot of exercise the morning of the test. A Nelly Furtado/Timbaland song was stuck in my head the whole time. It flew by. I had to go fast toward the end of the math. Writing sucked, I tried to make too much of a point and ended up running out of time. So don’t overthink that section. Just write complete sentences. Instant score: 1460. I had gotten about that on PSAT and SAT about ten years ago. A woman at the admissions desk asked how I did it. The IQ score sites are weird. Do they make mathematical sense? It seems so terribly slanted to a certain kind of intelligence. The GRE tests your ability to guess correctly. You actually get slowed down if you try to work out the solution. Eliminate wrong answers quickly instead. Same with verbal.

  • sheraz

    i am about to take GRE. I am very poor in reading what to do? And in writing i usually loose the flow……can somebody help me?

  • Maria Smith

    GRE exam is a requirement for admission in such programs i.e. Masters, PhD etc. But
    no where in the world…, they use it to grade your PhD or your working during

    gre verbal sample questions