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2013-52 Week 10

For some reason even though I finished this Tuesday I forgot to actually hit the upload button, a fact pointed out to me by Jess late last night. So these few sentences are actually written in the future, compared to the rest of the post (oooooohhhhhh). And it’s really just here to justify why any day references are wrong, but since you’re likely reading this after Thursday, I’m not entirely sure why I’m bothering. Anyway, the following represents a return to some of my storytelling methods I was able to play with in the daily blog last year, so if you enjoyed those you should enjoy this. If not, I’ll just warn you ahead of time: it’s long. Loooooooooonnnnnnnnnnggggg. Enjoy!

So I decided to keep working in my English class, which meant I had to write a five page paper with sources over the course of two days arguing for a fictional Proposition. Needless to say, that was a bit crazy, though I did finish it with eight hours or so to spare. This week I get to write a practice essay for a test that I passed with a perfect score thirteen years ago. Considering my overall experience with this class, I’m definitely ready to go back to Kinesiology classes next semester. Definitely looking forward to doing my class evaluations this time though, it might be longer than that five page paper I just wrote (and possibly with more sources).

Despite the fact that it’s only been five days since I last updated, it has been fairly eventful, though largely dominated by the one large event on Saturday morning. Yup, I took the GRE and [REDACTED].

Dang it, ETS (the company that runs the GRE) is very serious about the confidentiality agreement they had me sign, as well as the paragraph they made me copy by hand about how I would not reveal any of their secrets, signing that too. My, and I’m certain any reasonable, interpretation says that there’s nothing against telling you about my experience and results, so here we go.

I mentioned last time that I was looking forward to the challenge and wasn’t afraid due to my innate confidence. Turns out it’s been a while, and I forgot about the last eighteen hours. I was certainly nervous heading into the home stretch the night before and that morning, especially considering how rusty I was with the math concepts. As promised, I stayed up reviewing, doing several dozen practice problems provided by ETS in their Math Review. A good amount of my checked answers were coming back correct, but I had to redo enough of them to get the right answer to make me worry. But it was getting late and I had to be up early so I could get to Pasadena by 8 am (the test started at 8:30), so eventually I decided enough was enough and went to bed.

I pulled into the parking structure with a breakfast from Jack in the Box in my stomach and seven minutes until 8 am. The testing center occupies a smallish office on the second floor of one of the business buildings of which this structure sat in the center, so, after confirming the address, I headed to the building on the Southeast corner. I had actually been here eleven years ago when I took the GRE the first time to get into my Master’s Program, but that was certainly long enough ago to forget the details. One detail that came back to me was the doorman who had to let you into the building. He asked me if I was testing, referred me to the second floor, and then wished me good luck. I thanked him and made my way to the elevators.

I don’t remember whether I have addressed this issue in the blog before (I just searched, I haven’t), but I am not the world’s biggest fan of elevators. I’m big enough that I take up most of the room in one and there’s something about being shut in that just makes me uncomfortable. So if there is an opportunity to not take an elevator, I will gladly take advantage of it, though if there is no alternative I will simply suck it up and step on. As I find business buildings do not generally advertise their stairwells, and it was just one floor, the elevator seemed like a safe enough proposition. I pressed the button and waited, noting the doorman was letting in a young Asian man who certainly looked to be heading for the same place. As he approached, the Northeast elevator (out of four) opened up and I started to walk in.

And then I stopped. The elevator was completely gutted, no internal ceiling or walls, and the floor tiling had been scraped up. The other guy was coming up right behind me, so I was forced to head in and then turned around and surveyed his face upon seeing the destruction. We both just kind of looked at each other, neither willing to be the first to leave. I pressed the button for the second floor and the doors closed . . . to darkness, as the lights had been removed from the ceiling. Only the tiny floor indicator and a small sliver of light from between the closed doors illuminated the car, but the elevator quickly pulled us up to the second floor and opened the doors for our egress. I looked at my travelling companion and simply remarked, “Well that’s not a good omen.”

The line for the single receptionist was already five people deep with a half dozen or so more already waiting in the lobby area. This particular testing office is a simple affair, two computer testing areas on either side with a security antechamber for each and a central waiting area/lobby with twenty or so chairs. I left my cell phone in the car, but noticed they had lockers setup along one side of the lobby into which people had to place everything they had on them. I briefly wished I had brought it with me to kill part of the twenty minutes I had left to wait, but they didn’t seem too keen on letting anyone keep any electronic devices out, so I didn’t worry about it too long. A couple people ahead of me handed the receptionist, an older Indian woman who apparently already was having a long day half an hour into it, a piece of paper which worried me a little, I had only brought my driver’s license and didn’t remember being instructed to bring any paperwork. I arrived at the front of the line and handed over my license; the woman handed me back a clipboard with the aforementioned confidentiality agreement and the paragraph I was to copy. I sat down and spent five minutes doing just that.

Over the course of my copying time the line grew to over a dozen people. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait in it to turn in the paper, and I was instructed to place everything into one of the lockers on the side of the room. They were numbered and of various sizes and shape, so I naturally went directly to 21, which was already occupied. While I generally do not place to much stock in lucky numbers and the like, I just would have been happier to have my items resting securely in a locker bearing my favorite number. The I scanned and found locker number 34 was open, and decided to intentionally use it to somewhat spite the luck gods (34=21+13, scary number 13). My sweater, wallet, keys, and parking stub (which, I was helpfully informed by a sign at the reception desk, would not be validated. I spend one hundred eighty five dollars on your test and you can’t save me the twelve dollars I’m stuck paying to leave my car in the parking lot?) went into the locker, the locker key went into my pocket, and I took one final trip down the hall to use the restroom before my name was called.

The TSA could take some cues from the ETS. My name was called and I went into the security antechamber of the testing area to the left, where I promptly had to pull out my pockets, get wanded, have my picture taken for the system, and sign a log sheet that I would have to use every time I went into and out of the room. I could also see the monitor with tiny thumbnails of every station in the testing room, continuously pumping video to a back desk. With all the administrative items out of the way and the proctors assured that I had no answers on me other than those in my head, I was escorted into the testing chamber where my story must pause for four hours. Well, except for this fact, the stations were numbered and I was led to the bottom right corner of the room, which bore the number 21.

[4 hours redacted]

Every time I signed the log sheet I had to record the current time, so I remember I signed in at 8:27, though I was a little bleary on signing out and just remember it was 12:20 something. One interesting thing I can relate without breaching confidentiality illustrates my comfort level with the material. I went to time on each of the math sections, answering all the questions but not having time to check my answers. I finished the verbal sections not only with enough time to review EVERY question again, but also still had five minutes left over that I just skipped. The other funny thing is that they tell you that you will be scored on two sections each of verbal and math, and your performance on the first section will effect the difficulty of the second. I could tell I was in the harder section of the verbal the second time through by the words they were using, and it made me laugh (actually out loud at one point).

Finally at the end of the test they present a simple screen that has two buttons on it, “Report Score” and “Cancel Score.” This is, of course, before you know what your scores are. I was certainly unwilling to go through this process again unless my scores were abysmal, and I was comfortable with how I felt I did on the test. So I clicked “Report Score” and was presented with two numbers on the next screen. There are actually three sections to the GRE, but since the first part is written they obviously can’t score that one in real time, so they present you with your verbal and math scores at the end. Without the context of percentile (what percentage of people you did better than) the numbers don’t mean much, and they mean even less when you don’t know what the minimum and maximum values are. My initial reaction was to take a picture of the screen, but then I remembered my camera was a quarter of a mile away in the car. I started trying to rationalize what the maximums could be based on my scores, and as such I only kind of remember what they are (I know the first two digits of each, but, as you’ll see, the final digit is a bit hazy). Here’s what was staring back at me:

Verbal Reasoning: 168 (might have been 167)
Quantitative Reasoning: 157 (might have been 158 or 153)

I’m pretty sure it’s the first two, but I won’t know for sure for another couple of days. So I had two numbers but no context to put them in. I knew I did well in the verbal area, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t out of two hundred, but the fact that my quantitative was relatively close to it gave me pause. I figured it was probably out of one eighty, since I’d been seeing a lot of that number with all the geometry I’d been studying the last few days. I retrieved my things from the locker, headed out of the testing center, and found the nearest stairwell (you don’t get two cracks at me demon elevator shaft), and departed the building. Upon arrival at the car I pulled out my cell phone, texted Jess that I was done, and then pulled up Google and input the query “GRE score range”. After a minute, as I was still in the parking structure, though at one of the edges, the search results returned and I saw this phrase, “scores range from 130 to 170,” and I yelled. Thankfully the parking garage was empty, and I assure you it was a happy yell.

Now to show you how I am still slightly off, I immediately started kicking myself for missing two points in the verbal section, but that was quickly set aside due to the vast feeling of relief that washed over me. I’ll let you know my full score when it becomes available, but suffice it to say, at the time, I was happy to pay my twelve dollars to head out of the parking structure and head towards a weekend of rest.

Hey, it’s Thursday Matt here again. You remember, from the first paragraph? One more bit of exciting news that just happened late this afternoon. You know the Doctoral Program to which I’m applying? The one I’m taking for which I’m taking the GRE? (Trust me, I originally dangled the participles in those last two questions, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave it that way.) They called and offered me an interview before I even submitted my scores (which I still don’t have yet, should be tomorrow or early next week), so Tuesday morning I will be interviewing with the selection committee. Now it’s time to live up to the last few weeks of big talk.

Weight: 228 Loss: 2 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 154.2 miles (+18 miles) Last year-to-date: 61.7 miles – Words-to-date: 20195 (+2323 – too bad I couldn’t count the words in my GRE essays)

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