When I took my GRE general test I blogged about it immediately that night. I was excited, and I had done well, and even if I hadn’t gotten back my essay results my multiple choice was better than I could have expected. Then my essay scores came weeks later. I was in the 99th percentile on everything.
When I took my GRE subject test I never blogged about it. I had nothing to blog about. I took the test, and nothing was given back. I had to wait. I knew I did well, but what was I going to say? I took the test. Did well. That is more of a twitter update than a blog post. But how well? And more importantly, how did I rank against everyone else?
I got my results back about a week ago. I didn’t blog about it. According to everyone I did exceptionally well. All I felt was disappointment. My friend had been asking me about my scores for weeks, and I kept replying that she will be the first to hear once I knew anything. As I messaged her at 3:30 in the morning after opening my email and finding my scores, I sent her one line. “710. 95th.” She knew what it was, so no explanation was needed.
Several hours later (when normal people wake up), she sent back congratulatory messages peppered with exclamation points.
Yes, I know it is a good score. In fact, considering how I felt the day of the test, this too was a better score than I had expected. But not as good as I had hoped. I had studied so hard, read dozens of books in less than two months, looked up even more summaries and outlines of everything I didn’t quite remember. I even watched movies. I gave it everything I had. 95th percentile is apparently all I had.
Instead of feeling proud joy, I felt like crying.
When I took the exam a lot was going on in my life. Perhaps more than I could feasibly handle, but to use that as an excuse is just a cop out. I screwed it up. I had one chance, and I didn’t do what I was supposed to. But I don’t know what that is. I don’t know what else I could have done except click some magical pause button on everything else and focus solely on the exam. Or maybe I am just dumb. This too is a possibility.
At least I have my GPA to fall back on, which, despite being good, is also not perfect. At two points during my MA I got a B+ and an A-. The B+ I will accept. We had a difference of opinion, and that is what I get. The A- makes me bitter.
In case you are wondering, I am terrible at formatting lists, including lists of works I have consulted, used, read, or otherwise thought about. And when taking a course entirely dedicated to making such lists, well, the A- is practically a miracle. I acknowledge my poor list making abilities. And others will be quick to point it out. Read anything I have written academically, flip to the back to the bibliography and the proof is right there. I can’t make lists.
It is not really the A- I am bitter about, but rather the entire student aspect of academia. I know several people with a 4.0, and I try not to think about it because it makes me angry. They don’t do hardly any reading, write their papers the night before, do minimal research, turn it in full of typos, but manage to get A’s. They reiterate the same topics/points that have been written for decades, because you can’t go wrong with something that has already been proven and accepted, and that is completely acceptable. Yeah, that irks me.
I can’t make lists, and I can’t write papers that are nothing more than glorified book reports. And when I write something so outlandish it could never be proven, along with my bad grade I would like an explanation of where I went wrong.
Speaking of which, I would like to know what questions I got wrong on the day of the exam. It would be easy to say it was all the ones in the topics I am unfamiliar with, but no. I panicked and I am sure I missed several that I probably should have known, may have at one point known, but didn’t know when I needed to.
There were two long passages, six questions a piece, and I left all of it blank. I didn’t recognize the passages, had no idea who wrote them, and couldn’t tell you a thing about either. I looked them up later and they were by Richard Wright and James Baldwin.
There was another long passage, five questions, and I also left it blank. I didn’t have to look it up. As I was driving home I realized I was reading Percy Shelley. This is what I mean when I say I should have known, did know, but not at the right moment.
Those are all the ones I left blank, but I am sure I got random ones wrong along the way to justify my above average, but not quite wonderful score.
I really hope UCLA likes above average, but not quite great, because that seems to be all I have for them.