GRE testing confidence or competence?



I resist the urge to hyperventilate as I walk in the building.

The girl sitting at the front desk asks in a calm voice “do you have your confirmation code?”

With shaking hands I reach into my pocket and pull out the piece of paper, praying it’s the right thing.

She takes the paper and tells me I can go sit down. I choose a seat a few away from a kid obviously panicking.

His flashcards are in his lap and his leg is bouncing up and down rapidly.

I can hear him mutter under his breath “positive or negative x…”

His panic rubs off on me and causes my heart rate to elevate even more.

I wait until they finally call me back.

A young man takes me to another room, separated with a glass divider.

After asking me a few questions, the young man escorts me to the back room.

He seats me at a computer and turns to leave.

As the door closes behind him, I contemplate running away from the testing center and never coming back.

I take a deep breath and turn to the computer and begin taking the Graduate Records Examinations, otherwise known as the GRE.

Although above is my personal GRE experience, every college student who intends on furthering their education takes the GRE.

I can’t help but ask, does the GRE actually prove anything?

I’ve heard over and over that the GRE is simply a test to see how well you take the GRE.

I find this statement valid for many reasons.

I do not plan on having to use algebraic or geometrical equations at any point in my life.

I will never have to know how to calculate percentages.

If this need were to arise, isn’t that what the Internet is for?

Upon googling reasons why the GRE is a mandatory test, I found zero satisfying answers.

The Educational Testing Service, or ETS, the distributer of the GRE, says you should take the GRE to “get the power of confidence.”

How will being forced to take a test over information I haven’t known for years give me confidence?

If you continue reading the page it gives you seven reasons to register.

The highlights include: “use the test-taker friendly design to do your best,” “you have access to FREE, official test prep software,” and “you’ll be a step ahead in the competitive job market.”

The last one leads me to wonder, what job will ever ask for your GRE scores?

I don’t anticipate my scores ever ending up on my professional resume.

The last thing I expect to hear in an interview is, “Everything looks great, we’re just curious what you scored on your GRE.” On the flip side, I have to admit my own bias.

In looking at graduate schools, I immediately dismiss any school that does not require me to have taken the GRE.

This is due to two things.

One: I expended so much time and energy taking the darn test that I don’t want all of that to go to waste.

Two: I’ve fallen prey to the belief that standardized tests are an accurate measure of overall intelligence.

For me, the worst moment of the GRE was not the anticipation of taking the GRE, but rather the surprise that came at the end of the test.

The GRE is composed of six sections: two essays, two English sections and two math sections.

After I had completed all the allotted sections, a seventh section appeared.

In all of the “Surviving the GRE” books I had read, none of them mentioned a seventh section.

The panic that had subsided immediately rushed through my veins.

Various explanations ran through my mind: I blacked out and actually hadn’t completed the exam.

This was actually a nightmare and I was about to wake up.

Or worst of all, I had done so poorly that the test couldn’t recognize any of my scores and wanted to give me an extra section to see how dumb I really was.

After I worked through the section I ran outside the glass room.

The proctor had never heard of something like that happening.

I was met with a blank stare and handed a costumer service number for the test distribution company.

After calling ETS they gave me an incredibly unsatisfactory answer.

“We do that sometimes,” the woman on the other end replied.

She said this after having to ask over three other people why this would happen.

All in all, as a college senior, I can testify that the GRE is one of the worst things you will go through.

You will spend months studying things that your brain has successfully pushed out of your memory.

You will print off hundreds of pages of free study guides.

You will become enraged with ETS for not offering an electronic practice version of the test for Macs.

You will lose several hours of sleep the night before the test.

You will panic before you sit down for the test, and you may even be hit with a surprise added section.

But most importantly, you will shake with joy as soon as you leave the building after completing the test.

Eleanor Hasken is the assistant photo editor and editor of The Kentuckian.

Her Thursday column appears weekly in the Kernel.

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