Category Archives: GRE prep

The MFA Part Deux

The season for MFA applications are upon us. I have nothing suitable to send out (right now) but luckily for me, my preferred school (The University of San Francisco) receives their applications early next year.

I’m more confident about my writing even though the same issues keep cropping up (show, don’t tell; abrupt tense changes; subpar endings) but the fact that I’m aware of my weaknesses means I’m on the right track. The focus is to remedy those weaknesses and tighten my strengths in my work.

A few words of advice to the newcomers applying:

Don’t fret.

Applying to obtain your MFA is daunting. MFA programs are competitive and extremely hard to get into (I would know; I applied to seven schools the first time around and was rejected by all of them). If this is something your heart desires and is super passionate about, don’t waste time dillydallying. Shoot for your dreams! There will be frustrating days. There will be days where you will doubt every word you write. But if this is what you want, you’ll love every moment.

 
GRE, shme-re.

The great thing about the GRE is you only have to take it once. The worst thing about the GRE is having to take it for those schools who want it. The best thing about the GRE is even after you take it, there are a large group of universities that don’t even need it. Research the schools you want and gauge whether your choices – if more schools want the scores than not, take it. If only one school wants it and the others don’t, opt out. It’s not that deep at the end of the day.

Recommendations. Be proactive, B-E proactive!

Use what you got. You have ties to a writer or instructor? Send your work and then ask for a rec. Just had a writing workshop? Ask the instructor for a rec! However, if there wasn’t friendly chemistry and you didn’t respect how the instructor facilitated the class, then seek elsewhere. Be creative as well. Think about those old professors or instructors from high school or college you trusted. Send them your work and go from there. It never hurts to ask at the end of the day. If no one comes to mind, take a writing workshop or join a writing meetup group and go from there.

Community.

Do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow writers/potential reading audience. Some of these writers can be trusted people you took a workshop with or a friend who reads actively. For example, I’m part of a book club and when we discuss stories, we not only talk about the content but also the writing as well. In short, preferrably show your work to someone who reads often, not a friend who’s a casual reader.

In short, be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly of this process. Seth Abramson’s MFA book is an amazing resource through all this. It should be your MFA bible. Good luck!

GRE test scores

I took the test last year and I don’t have to take it again this year (yay!). But I will have to pay to send these scores to the schools that want “official” test scores which will be annoying.

I have to sit down and figure that out. Hopefully only a few schools will require them. The application is all about my work anyway; screw the scores!

But alas, I will, as anyone applying to an MFA program, have to go through this process. The upside? Not studying for the GRE this fall! Yes!

Post GRE

The experience was not as daunting as I expected it to be.  The most harrowing part of taking the test is the Pre-test taking!

First you enter a room where they hand you a disclaimer that states you understand that you cannot share any information on the GRE with anyone, you cannot have anything in your pockets (and by anything they do mean anything, not even a piece of paper, your chap stick, definitely not your cell phone, eye drops, a pen, a paper clip – Nothing!), and they make you write this statement in cursive in a section beneath it.  You receive a key and a locker for your belongings.  Additionally, you cannot wear a sweater, a bandanna, or a hat.  Not to mention that of course you are prohibited from eating or drinking in the testing area.  It doesn’t stop there.

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Last CAT Practice Test

I took my last CAT GRE test on the Princeton Review website and I am very relaxed about the whole thing.

My math score went up by 100 points which means I just need to pace myself and really do the problems.  What is interesting to observe is how my score changes based on my mood that day, any distractions I may have, and if I’m really doing the math problems and not just guessing.  When I do the work, I get more answers correct! 

As for my verbal score, its at a solid 450 – which kinda sucks – because it means that no matter what, that’s what I’m getting.  I have been working on vocabulary but I think what’s getting me is the sentence completion and the antonyms.  If I am more attentive to those, then I’ll be more likely to receive a higher score than before.

Overall, I’m looking forward to taking the test this Friday afternoon and getting back to my regularly scheduled life.  Because then I have applications to begin and personal statements to edit.  Yay.

Third Practice CAT Test

Took a third practice CAT test and my scores were not as high as the second CAT test.  The good thing about this outcome is I know where my strengths and weaknesses lie and how to tackle them. 

As always, I’m not a math whiz so my math score dropped about 100 points but it’s because I got the first two questions wrong and was sporadic in right answers.  My verbal is steady but not up to 500 which is annoying to me.  Only one school would prefer if I received a 550 on my verbal.  Luckily, the others just want the scores but are not too serious about it. 

How did I feel after this third test?  Nonchalant and nonplussed.  Whatever I know now, I know.  Whatever I don’t know, I’m not going to suddenly learn in four days.  I’m not stressing this test anymore.  I’m just going to keep practicing at a steady and calm pace.  I’m sure my score would be better with a course but my financial limitations didn’t give me a choice in that matter.

Overall, I’ve done well for myself.  I’ve taught myself.  I’ve studied diligently.  I’ve ignored opportunities to hang out with friends.  But after it’s done, I will feel very accomplished and extra proud of myself because I did it on my own.  I will also party because I deserve it!

Soon, I’ll be taking the last CAT practice test.  I should study for that test like its The real thing.  Then maybe my score will be higher. 

Until next time!

The Final Countdown…

Studying for the GRE was at times grueling, frustrating, and downright demeaning.  Why should I have to subject myself to take this gosh forsaken standardized test for school?  But alas, some of my choices do require it so I registered for the freaking thing.

With the date steadily approaching, I am much more calm, cool, and collected than I have ever been for a test.  I have been taking more practice tests and studying my vocabulary.  I have been stuck at the Procrastination Station a few times but once I got on the Productivity Line, I did not stop until I was done. 

I also allow myself some joy by studying and relaxing with mindless TV or socializing.  Social interaction gives me the balance to be solitary for 5 –6 hours and then talk to a person about anything but the GRE. 

There’s something almost soothing about taking this test and then dropping it like it’s hot.  I won’t have to take another standardized test again in my life (unless I want to get my MBA but I highly doubt it)! I’ll be focusing on my writing and reading.  Granted, there will be other things that will need my attention (financial aid, housing and whatnot) but the essential reason I’m attending graduate school will be my focus. 

I will be elated once I have taken this test.  I know when I walk in there, I will be aplomb with confidence and the ability to take on the GRE.

Until then, its all about vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary and some practice tests in between.

Second CAT GRE Test

After days and hours of GRE practice with words and basic math, I was able to score a 900 on my second CAT test via the Princeton Review website.  I was excited and I couldn’t believe how much I improved in a short amount of time.

My first CAT test was 750 – more on the verbal but less on the math (way less).  Now my skills have significantly jumped.  I feel confident about this test.  My score will reach to 1000 in two weeks in no time at all.  My steady pace in working with words I don’t know, basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry are all contributing to my success.  My scores alone will help me feel like I’ve conquered this beast of standardized testing.

Beat that, GRE! 

I’m on top of the world!!!