Today I woke up at five thirty to drive up to Seattle and take the GRE. I had to wake up this early because I tend to get lost and because there is a lot of traffic in going through Seattle. There was stop and go traffic on the freeway at six thirty. It was still dark out so all I could really see were streams of red and gold headlights. I pity the poor commuters who have to take that route every morning. It reminded me of what a modern take on Dante’s “neutral” level in hell might be like, bummer to bummer traffic going nowhere.
Luckily, I got to the test center in plenty of time and almost without incident. This was my first time driving in Seattle and I was borrowing my suitemate’s car, which was so big it felt more like driving a boat. Normally, I drive a Prius so I found this quite daunting. I had brought both a GPS and printed directions. It was a good thing I did because the GPS gave out on me about a quarter of the way through and I didn’t have the dexterity to get it going again while driving. So what I tried to do instead was hold the directions up so I could read them. This caused me to swerve dramatically in my lane and then overcorrect. It was at this point on the journey where I reflected that when I had thought to myself “I’ll be there to take the GRE if it kills me” that I hadn’t really meant this literally. A two hundred dollar test isn’t worth dying over. Aside from that, everything went fine and I actually arrived early.
The GRE itself was, in some ways, a lot less stressful than the drive up. It had helped that I had studied before and I knew what to expect. There was a GRE course at the writing center that I had been taking. It gave me a refresher on some of the math concepts, which were basically what I had done in middle school and early high school, only now I had forgotten them all. But because I took the course I was able to remember enough to get a passable score. I wasn’t applying for a math related program so it only had to be just that, passable. My verbal score turned out quite well. I did a few practice sets before so I knew what the questions looked like. In some ways, the GRE is an endurance test. You can’t bring food into the testing room and you only get one ten minute break during the four hours you are there. By the time I got back I was ready to start gnawing on whatever I could find.
But in the end, I did well. My GRE score, if not an asset, at least shouldn’t be an impediment to getting into graduate school. More importantly, however, I’ll never have to take the test again. No more multiple choice questions with more than one answer, no more trying to figure out which quantity is greater, and best of all, no waking up at five thirty to sit in traffic for two hours.