Thursday, December 31, 2009

Slow Progress

Okay. Slow progress. I'll get there. I am freaked out. But I am on my way.

I have draft papers for Harvard done. They are very rough around the edges, but I have some folks reviewing them so I can go back to it soon with fresh eyes. I am still hoping to push through to a final draft for application submission by January 5th. Lofty, but there is a chance I'll make it. That will give me a few days to pull together my FASFA and financial aid application so everything arrives on time on January 10th.

Within days of that, my Yale application will be due. After a lot of internal debate, I may have finally settled on a writing sample topic. I am thinking I will write on Maria Montessori as theologian, philosopher, and writer. I am not sure this fits exactly what they are looking for, but truly in those three capacities her work has influenced me deeply. I doubt I could write as well on anyone else. So I just need to whip out rough drafts of the Yale papers within a few days.

Since the other two schools are a rolling admission, even though I need to get those applications done quickly after the first two (in order to get acceptance notices and financial aid offers around the same time for comparison purposes), I can breathe something of a sigh of relief once Harvard and Yale apps are in.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

GRE Scores Back...Good News, Bad News, Good News, Bad News

The bad far outweighs the good, as far as Harvard is going to be concerned, but here it is.

Good News
I thought I hadn't yet gotten my scores back yet, which was making me worried I would have to spend a bunch of time tracking them down. Tonight I found out my kids got the scores a while back, and opened them, which is why my wife thought I had already seen them. They've been in a stack of papers to be filed, so the good news is I have my scores now.

Bad News
I was highly disappointed with my writing score, which was 4.5 (63rd percentile) on the 0-6 scale with 0.5 incrimental grading. I needed a minimum of 5, so on all counts I've fallen short of the minimum I would need for fair consideration by Harvard.

Good News
I did not imagine my 690 verbal score. I did indeed receive a 690, which is indeed 96th percentile. Not bad.

Bad News
I also didn't imagine my quantitative score, a 430, and to top it all off, according to this year's grades, my percentile is waaaaay worse than I thought (17th!!). Lord have mercy.

The clock is also ticking, and I am starting to panic because *none* of my writing is done. None!! I have just a few more days to pull a lot of crap together, and my writing really needs to be fantastic due to my lower-than-necessary writing score on the GRE. I am so near pulling the plug, but after all my work, all my investment, there is no way I can just give up and go home now.

It just sucks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Updated To-Do List

Updated Application Process To Do List

Notice I've dropped the arrangement by week for now, since I am basically just scrambling to fit everything in when I can, and hoping to God that it all gets done somehow. I did however, break things down in terms of what I need to do for Yale and Harvard and what I need to do for the other two schools.

Here is my earlier post on the writing required for each application.

YDS and HDS:
∆ Write thank you note to YDS staff for interview/informational session
∆ Call school that hadn't received my faxed transcript request; resend request if necessary
∆ Write HDS statement of purpose; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Write YDS personal statement; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Write HDS essay; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Write YDS academic writing sample; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Finish and upoad CV (have someone review first?)
∆ Order and read some books by faculty at both schools, if can find some money to do so
∆ Send reminders to recommenders
∆ Are transcripts in?
∆ Double check on GRE scores, if not yet received, and get GRE reference number
∆ Complete the application form sets
∆ Make any additional school contacts needed
∆ Submit applications by January 5th at the latest
∆ Complete and submit FASFA and school-specific financial aid applications for both schools by January 11th using the previous year's taxes (find tax forms?!)

∆ Send in transcripts that I had sent directly to me
∆ Write ANTS personal reflection; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Write MLTS personal essay; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Write ANTS competancy paper; have folks review; edit; have folks review; upload
∆ Edit and send in supplemental writing
∆ Edit and upoad CV (have someone review first?)
∆ Send reminders to recommenders (one more recommender for MLTS?)
∆ Are transcripts in?
∆ Complete the application form sets
∆ Make any additional school contacts needed
∆ Submit applications by January 16th at the latest
∆ Complete and submit FASFA and school-specific financial aid applications for both schools by January 16th using the previous year's taxes (find tax forms?!)

The Scramble

Sorry to be missing in action. I've been writing.

I have worked a little on the Harvard writing sample essay, a little on my Yale personal statement and a lot on my personal statement for Harvard. I've had fits and starts, and all of the starts have been false starts. It's simply not been going well.

If I wasn't so damn stuburn I'd give up.

Here it is, well past the one month countdown. The clock is ticking. And I really have completed no tangible peice of writing that is worth consideration for submission.

The good news is that this afternoon I hammered out a paragraph of two for Harvard that may not be a false start.

Why on earth did I think it would be possible to muddle through all this in the holiday season?! I am way in over my head.

I have, however, decided that I am going to concentrate on my Yale and Harvard applications until early January. While I need to get my other two applications in as soon as possible after the Yale and Harvard applications, in order to have offers to compare (if I get accepted anywhere at all), the other two schools have rolling admissions so they can wait a little bit. Focusing on just the two schools for a few weeks should help me get this done.

I'll post an updated to-do list momentarily.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-Week Timeline Check-In

Week of November 30th

∆ Update CV and submit to all websites: This is mostly complete. I am waiting to hear back from a colleague about something that will help me get it done. Of course, it is too long for at least one of the schools, so when I submit I'll need to give myself time to cut it down a bit and reformat (have already begun working on this in my head).

∆ Attend a class or event: I would have liked to attend a class this week in CT (especially as terms are ending and time is running out), but it didn't work out this week, at least not so far. However, I did go to one of the schools today for a workshop with the admissions department on completing the application.

∆ Take care of the last two transcript requests (F/M): Not done yet. The website for transcript requests for these two schools is the same website, and it is giving me a really hard time. Very irritating. But I have to get it done by the end of this week at the latest because I suspect these schools will also have slow processing of the requests.

∆ Write a rough draft of my Statement(s) of Purpose: Hmmm...well, I did work on it a bit at the application workshop I went to today, and I have been working on it in my head non-stop. But that doesn't really count, now, does it? I think part of what is delaying me is that I know I really have to write FOUR statements, though they will contain some of the same core elements, and that seems overwhelming so I am having a hard time figuring out where to start. I think if I got the HD one done, I'd have an easier time with the others, so maybe I should start there. But the others seem so much more surmountable, so maybe I should start there. Ack. Well, clearly I need to devote more time to this over the next few days. I got a good suggestion in the workshop today to start by putting on a timer for myself and writing for 10-30 minute periods without going back to do ANY editing until the first draft is done.

Keeping Track of Writing Needed

Yikes! I am starting to lose track of the different writing samples and essays needed at the different schools to which I am applying. This very long post (apologies in advance) is my attempt to organize that information for myself. Of course, statements of purpose, personal reflections, personal essays, and personal statements usually mean approximately the same thing, but I've noticed that each school has a very different feel, and each is specifically looking for a match between student and school, so...

School AN
  • Personal Reflection: The instructions say the personal reflection should "provide a personal statement about your journey of faith." It should be no longer than 1000 words and should "(1) Give a brief sketch of your faith journey describing your experience of church and the ministry to which you feel called. Please include your thoughts on the significance and role of the Church today. (2) Through the lens of your faith journey, please respond to a current, major political, social or religious issue and how it has affected the way that you experience your faith. (3) Given your reflection on the previous two points, how do you envision the program enhancing, participating in and/or informing your continued journey of faith?" This school is the most flexible on the format for the personal reflection, and they emphasize that prospective students should consider it a friendly introduction of themselves to the faculty rather than a huge obstacle to mount. They are more interested in faith than an academic or vocational snapshot of prospective students. They also want to see students indicate their match with a "competancy based program," both in the personal reflection and second piece of required writing.
  • Competancy Reflection: This is one of the more unique bits of writing I have to do, but it is fortunately more reflective than academic, as described to me by the admissions department. The written instructions say to "Please reflect on our M.Div. curriculum, which focuses on four competency areas that are essential for ministry: interpreting, communicating, leading and embodying (descriptions are provided below). We nurture these competencies within the classroom and throughout our community and hope that our graduates lead from strength as they serve in diverse roles in our ever-changing world. In the form of a 500 word essay, please consider one of these core competency areas. Describe your understanding of it and its significance in either your own community or a community that you have worked, lived or worshiped in that was not your own. For example, your reflection might begin "communicating is important in my church as we explore interfaith dialog with our neighbors...." Master of Divinity Program Core Competencies are: (1) Interpreting-- theological thinking and spiritual formation, both for students and for the communities students will eventually teach and nurture; (2)Communicating-- draws upon the Bible as an early form of Christian communication, and considers the ways in which ministers communicate today through preaching, liturgy, and interfaith dialogue; (3) Leading-- students' abilities to understand religious organizations from historical and theoretical perspectives, helping such organizations to craft theologically-grounded visions and drawing upon a repertoire of skills and practices to encourage others to act; (4) Embodying-- a wide array of behaviors and habits of the heart that represent social justice, intercultural understanding, Christian ethics, and pastoral care." For this essay I am leaning toward writing on topic #4 and reflecting on personal qualities necessary for pastoral care, which I have been intentionally developing throughout my years in professional, non-ordained ministry.

School HD
  • Statement of Purpose: The instructions say that "The statement of purpose is an integral part of the application and is evaluated with great care by the Admissions Committee. The statement must be no more than 1,000 words in length. It should discuss the applicant's general background (education, work experience, volunteer work, and/or relevant personal experience) and how this background has prepared him or her for graduate theological study. Applicants should outline vocational or career objectives in the context of theological study. Applicants should provide specific reasons why they believe there is a good fit between their objectives and the academic program to which they are applying. The following program-specific information must also be incorporated into the statement of purpose: Master of divinity applicants must include a description of the type of ministry they intend to pursue as they address their objectives for graduate study. Candidates who propose nontraditional forms of ministry must discuss their understanding of ministry in the context of their professional aspirations." Overwhelming love of God is not enough. This school is heavily, heavily academic and interfaith focused. I am competing with some of the top students in the nation, and I will definitely need to address my lack of a language and humanities background while keeping the focus on my assets. A faculty member at this school told me the students who get in right away are the ones with whom the school is a very obvious, clear match.
  • Essay: "MDiv applicants are required to answer one of the two essay questions listed below. This essay should be approximately 500 words (approximately 2 pages, double-spaced). Please answer either: (1) What are the imperatives and potential pitfalls of graduate study in a multifaith environment? or (2) What do you see as the challenges of ministry, religious studies, or theological scholarship, and what do you see as the rewards?" Although not indicated in the instructions, this essay is in place of an academic writing sample required in previous years, so I will need to use the opportunity to demonstrate my academic writing capacity. I am heavily leaning toward the first of the two questions. The biggest challenge for me in writing this piece is going to be the word limit. It is much more difficult for me to write something short than something long.

School YD
  • Personal Statement: The written instructions say that the "personal statement should address your academic and vocational goals; how a Yale Divinity School education can assist you in meeting those goals; and what gifts and experiences you feel you can contribute to your theological education at Yale." The faculty at the open house suggested focusing on the school's mission of preparing leaders of the church and world through preparation of both heart and mind. It was also suggested not to focus too much on end-goals, which tend to change during one's theological education. They strongly suggest underscoring aspects of my life that would contribute to the school's diversity. I will also need to address my lack of a language and humanities background. Finally, they are the most so-called "confessional" of all the schools, though they do say that the statement does not need to be confessional.
  • Academic Writing Sample: The best would be a paper I actually wrote in an academic setting, but since I can't have one I am going with option B, for which the instructions say to "provide the admissions committee with an academic essay (no more than 5 pages) in response to one of the following prompts: (1) Discuss the influence a significant philosopher, theologian, or writer has had on your thinking or vocation; (2) Consider a contemporary issue in church or society (e.g., death penalty, climate change), and how you would address that issue using the resources of your own religious tradition; or (3)Perhaps a major work of art (visual, literary, film, etc.) has had a profound impact on your thinking or vocation. Discuss how and why. I am hoping, for reasons of time, I might be able to adapt the HD essay on interfaith settings to address topic #2 (??).

School ML
  • Personal Essay: This school requires more references, but requests only one essay. The instructions say to "write a personal essay of no less than six (6) pages or 2000 words in length and no more than eight (8) pages, typed, and double‐spaced that addresses the following: (1) Reflection on various influences that have been important in your religious, personal, and intellectual development. A. What are your deepest religious questions?
    B. What is your current sense of strengths and growing edges for ministry? (2) A statement of your academic and professional objectives in applying to the program,
    with specific reference to your proposed career objectives. A. Why are you applying to this school? B. What kinds of challenges or gifts are you anticipating in pursuing an MDiv?" This is the school that is furthest from me and with which I have had little to no contact, except by knowing students there. Though needing just one essay is helpful, I may not be as prepared to write about my match with the school, though due to denominational affiliation and my lifelong faith, I think I will be able to demonstrate the match when all is said and done.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Updated Timeline

Application Process To Do List

Week of November 30th
Update CV and submit to all websites
Attend a class or event
Take care of the last two transcript requests (F/M)
Write a rough draft of my Statement(s) of Purpose

Week of December 7th
Revise Statement(s) of Purpose
Have folks review Statement(s) of Purpose
Work on research papers (required topics are different at each of the schools, so will need to write a few)
Make another 1-2 contacts at schools or attend another class or event

Week of December 14th
Send reminders to recommenders, as needed
Have folks review research papers and revised Statement(s) of Purpose
Continue revisions on research papers and Statement(s) of Purpose
Are transcripts in?
Make another contact or two at schools?

Week of December 21st
Have folks review draft Statement(s) of Purpose and research papers
Keep revising Statement(s) of Purpose and research papers
Complete all four of the applications, aside from the Statements of Purpose and research papers

Week of December 28th
If possible, have folks do a final review of written works/revise
∆ Complete and Submit applications by January 5th at the latest
Complete financial aid applications in first few days after submitting the school applications (also due January 11th)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just For Fun

So tomorrow and Sunday will be extremely busy workdays for me, but as of Monday I need to get back to business with my school applications. I'll work on updating my timeline in my next post. In the meantime, I thought I'd take advantage of the excuse of it being a sort-of-holiday to play around a bit.

I saw on one of my parenting discussion boards, in a topic under "frugality," a question about textbooks being available on an ereader. I am not likely to have a lot of textbook reading, as far as I can tell, but I will have a TON of reading. A TON. I wonder how many relevant titles would be available for Kindle reading. Not that I will ever in a million years have money for such a thing (and reviews of the Kindle 2, anyway, seem mixed), but the idea is very dreamy.

I know, so ridiculous. But playing a little make-believe in my head about my very bright and always totally dreamy future in grad school is part of what is helping me keep semi-sane through this application process LOL.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


P.S. I keep having this paranoid fear that I misread my score...what if I didn't actually get a 690 verbal afterall?


Wish they'd print the scores on test day so everyone gets a hardcopy.

I Laughed, I Cried...Now What?

The news...

430. Yep. Not good. In 2008, that would have been around 39th percentile, I think.

690. I *think* that would have been 96th percentile in 2008. Pretty good. I would be happy and satisfied with this score, even though it was 10 points short of my goal, if my quantitative was higher.

So the total is 1120. 80 points less than my minimum goal.

The wild card of course are the essays. Those are scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 increments. My feeling is that I did okay on them. It certainly wasn't my best writing, but it wasn't my worst. I may have had some word useage problems because I couldn't get new vocab words out of my head (nor did I want to, since I had yet to take the verbal test), and they kept ending up on paper...not sure how well I used them.

The whole hour-and-a-half drive home I debated with myself whether to retake the test, and I think I am leaning toward letting it be. It would be easier to decide if I knew my writing score, but that won't be in for a couple weeks, and by then it will be too late to retake. I have to decide now without that information.

The big risk is that it will look like I was too lazy to study, and that if Harvard is comparing me to a student of otherwise equivalent qualifications, they'll bump me out of their "very selective student body" because I don't meet some minimum they have in their heads (if they have one, they are refusing to let on, as I asked outright and they said "just do your best").

But the weight is on the side of "cons" in terms of retaking:
  • I can't retake just quantitative. I'd have to retake the whole thing. In doing so, my verbal score could get better, but it could also drop. I'd be risking having a lower verbal score sent to my school, and even though they'd get my original scores as well, they'd probably consider both.
  • The cost is $150. Plus gas money. 'Nuff said.
  • Though I feel like I've relearned a lot in my math review, apparently it isn't reflecting in the test. My score hasn't changed really through my 6 weeks or so of practice. The chances I'll be able to increase it really significantly in the next week or two aren't all that great. I think I've just been out of school for too long, and that math isn't my strong suit, and that I'd need to retake a math class in order to make enough of a difference to justify the cost and time.
  • I'd have to retake the test within one week to feel confident the scores would get over to the school in time. Two weeks would be really pushing it and might end up being a waste of money. The chances that there would be a seat open somewhere for me to test next week are slim, and even if there was a seat open, I'm not sure I could pull it off with work. I was already pushing it this week.
  • This is a very busy time of year at home and at work. It's been difficult enough to fit this in.
  • Only one out of four schools requires this score. Yale Divinity even discourages prospective students from sending them. I am behind on the whole application process now due to the amount of time I've spent studying, and I really need to focus on the rest of the process or I am going to screw myself over with those other schools.
  • The school should be most interested in my verbal score.

With my test anxiety, I'm proud I took the test at all. Truly. I almost didn't go to college because I was too anxious to take the SATs. I didn't do so badly considering my anxiety, and also considering that...

  • This requirement was sprung on everyone last minute when Harvard announced the new requirement in September;
  • I got a late start studying because I had to save for a while to come up with the money for the study guide;
  • I could afford only to buy a single study guide;
  • I have been sick for the last month;
  • I work full time;
  • I did my studying with two very young, closely spaced children underfoot (have to say, though, how cute my ds has been...quizzing me with my flashcards and always saying "good job mama!" when I remember stuff);
  • I have been out of school for almost a decade;
  • I have a yet undiagnosed neurological issue that I've been working on with a neurologist for well over a year, and this issue impacts memory most severely;
  • Up until 1am this morning I thought the test was on Wednesday.

All things considered, it doesn't matter to Harvard, but I think I have a lot to be proud of (even if I hang my head in shame as I read Jenn's scores LOL). Also, having among other things attended several classes there and gotten what I believe is a pretty good impression of the school, I think Harvard and I are a really good match for one another, but if they can't see that, I guess that is their loss. I hope I won't sound pompous. But I guess I am just done with this GRE game. Done. Done.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I totally screwed up my test date!!! I thought Wednesday was the 24th!


My test is TOMORROW at 1:30pm (er's 1am)!! Not Wednesday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Minimal Improvement...I am Doomed

Retook the test again tonight. I felt I did very well on my essays, though they are unscored. However...I received 570 verbal, 470 quantitative. I ran out of time and actually just picked random answers for my last five questions on quantitative. Got all of them wrong. Also missed four questions in a row on verbal.

I am not sure what to do from here. On one hand I feel like I should just focus on verbal between now and Wednesday because it seems improbable at this point that I'll be able to top 500 in quantitative. If I could work a miracle and bring my score up to 700 in verbal, I think I could avoid retaking the test even though the scores aren't stellar. The program isn't looking for a math whiz, but they want to know you aren't too lazy to study. And a 1200 was my minimum score goal. That said, I don't know how much I can bring up my score in verbal. I either will know the words or I won't. Right now the questions I am missing are not all one type, but rather random.

I may have to come to peace with the fact that I'll need to retest. Unfortunately, I'm running out of time to get scores to the school, so the retest will have to be in another week or so...not sure how much I could change my score in that time either. Especially with work demands. Ugh.

Help me get this.

So comparing 3^17 + 3^18 to (4)3^17, apparently an easy way to solve this is as so:

Factor and you get: 3^17(1+3)=3^17(4). So the two items are equal.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Calming Down and Factoring

So I just finished reviewing all the math problems from my last practice test. Most of my issues are fairly correctable: not reading the problem carefully enough, reading carefully but forgetting an element of the question by the time I've completed some calculations, making problems more complicated than they have to be (this is a bit harder to correct as it requires the ability to translate problems into their simplest terms on first take, which is difficult for me as a "non-math" person who has been out of school for years), making simple errors in calculation, and so forth. There are a few concepts, however, that I need to review again. One of those is factoring polynomials. I've just been reviewing how to factor polynomials, and I want to share this great video I found on YouTube:

Know any middle schoolers or high schoolers who are learning to factor polynomials? I highly recommend you show them this video! I'm having so much fun taking polynomials from other YouTube videos on factoring polynomials, using this method, and getting the problems factored correctly before the other videos finish.

Here's another good one for cases in which you have four terms:

Students today are so lucky to have access to internet teachers! What cool stuff.

I'm having so much fun with factoring polynomials that I need to stop myself from doing more. Since factoring is just one of many concepts challenged by the GRE, I can't afford to spend more than a few minutes on it. Bummer. Time for me to go figure out something about factoring exponents in general, which apparently is the easiest way to realize that 3^17+3^18 is equal to (4)3^17. Also, I really need a tutorial in how to recognize problems that are best solved by unfactoring, that is using the FOIL method...and the simplest and fastest way to complete these problems. Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not. Good.

I took another practice test today and got an even 460 on verbal and an even 460 on quantitative. I ran out of time on both sections (and barely finished one of my essays, unscored, as well). Not. Good.

I feel screwed regarding my test on Wednesday. How the heck could I bring up each of these scores by 200 points by Wednesday? I thought I was making very slow, but at least steady progress, but it turns out it might all be a fluke.

It makes me feel really, really stupid. Seriously. I know I've never done well on standardized tests, but 460 is an awful score. People who don't study get a score like that.

If that is the score I get on Wednesday I will have wasted $150. This can't happen.

Maybe I need more time to study, but I don't have it. Tomorrow is a church day, so well, I'll be lucky to get in a couple hours. Monday I have to work a bunch but still hope to get another practice test in. Tuesday I have set aside mostly for studying but I found out this last week that my assistant is going to have a weird schedule next week and that we need to get some work done together Tuesday morning. Which leaves me maybe 5 or 6 hours on Tuesday, including a PowerPrep practice test (not my usual practice test, so I get in a little variety). Wednesday morning I hope to cram for a while and then my test is at 1:00pm.

Pray for me. I am just a puddle of tears right now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

While on break between studying and a practice test...

I have this sneaky suspicion that HDS introduced the GRE into its requirements this year more than anything simply as a tool to induce folks to opt out of applying in a year when applications are expected to come in at a record rate and more folks who are accepted are expected to matriculate. Of course HDS takes great pride in having a "selective student body" so I am sure that the score will hold plenty of weight and will allow screening out of otherwise similar candidates, but I can't help but thinking there was a strategy in the timing...especially since this was announced so late in the game.

Small Interuption

May I just interupt my regular broadcast for a sec to say URGH! my car has been burglarized AGAIN! Urgh! Urgh! Urgh!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Low Motivation for Studying

Next week is the big test and I am finding myself in danger of running out of steam. A lot of it is likely test anxiety kicking in, but it doesn't help that I am *still* (!!?) super sick. Tonight I studied my vocab for a while but avoided math. However, I at least still took care of some application issues. I sent out reminders to a couple of the folks who have agreed to write me recommendations, including writing info for one of my recommenders about the specific match between myself and my chosen schools, and I ordered transcripts from two of my former schools (which ended up being a pain for a number of reasons, and took way too long).

I think I really need to take some time off work between now and next Wednesday, both to recover from this sick stuff that I can't seem to kick and to do more test practice. My scores are not at all close enough to my goal for this kind of laziness (lethargy?).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Second GRE Practice Test

Note: I am not reporting the results of pencil and paper tests, only the computer adaptive tests, as this is most similar to the actual GRE.

I unfortunately was unable to take my second practice test earlier this week due to a combination of being ill and needing more sleep followed by a technical problem at the Princeton Review site. However, I did finally take it late tonight.

Before I tell you the bottom line, let me say a few things:
1. I am relieved my score went up even after a week of variable studying.
2. I am pretty bummed it didn't go up more in quantitative.
3. I am a little bummed it didn't go up more in verbal, especially given the delay in taking the test, but I still surpassed my goal of improvement for the second test.
4. I feel better about the essays I wrote this time, the only ungraded part of the practice test.

But most importantly, what it came down to in my quantitative score was pacing. I had a 570 at one point and a 530 just before time ran out. Having not yet answered seven questions, my scored plummeted to 450! Most of my wrong answers on math I got by rushing those final questions. I missed only two problems through question 12, but it went downhill from there. I actually wasted a lot of time on one question due to not reading it through carefully the first time. Also, it didn't help that my daughter woke up in the middle of the math section and started talking to me.

My score:
Quantitative: 450
Verbal: 630

Total: 1080 (just slightly better than my "realistic goal of improvement")

I did much better on reading comprehension, which boosted my scores, but the questions I missed were due to rushing at the end (my pacing was messed up when my final sets of questions were unexpectedly reading comprehension, which always takes me longer).

Practice is good even though it always terrifies me. I just have to keep plugging away. Only 9 more days! Yikes!

My minimum goal for the next test is a 645 verbal and a 500 quantitative, which puts me just 55 total points away from my absolute minimum target on test day (I'd set my aim higher if I could, but I want to be realistic about my time constraints).

Friday, November 6, 2009

First GRE Practice Test

I took the first of at least four practice GRE tests I plan to take before the real deal. The result: it is a good thing I am practicing.

Quant: 410
Verbal: 550

Total: 960

I need to increase this score by at least ~150 in quantitative and at least ~100 in qualitative. I need a total score of absolutely no less than 1200, including a verbal score of no less than 650.

Here's how my score breaks down right now. On verbal, I got through all the questions, which was the first big challenge. I had 0 unanswered questions, 21 questions answered correctly, and 9 questions answered "incorrectly." Among the questions I answered incorrectly, 2 were analogy questions, 2 were antonym questions, 1 was a two-blanks sentence completion, 3 were surprisingly reading comprehension specific questions, and 1 was a reading comprehension general question.

Some of the reading comprehension issues come down to rushing. But the global problem through the entire verbal section of the test for me is that it is difficult for me to look for the GRE's "best choice" rather than what I think is the "right answer." I need to do a whole lot of practice sets.

In the quantitative, or math section, I also was able to complete my work before the time ran out ( was 3 or 5 seconds to go!). I had 0 unanswered questions, but a whopping 11 wrong and only 17 right. Eeeks!

Out of my wrong answers:

  • 1 was a problem-solving fundamental error in which I didn't plug in "weird enough" possibilities for the plug-in method of solving with a variable
  • 2 were word problems for which I used too simple a method to solve when I apparently needed a formula
  • 2 involved trying to solve problems when the best answer was actually "a relationship can't be determined from the information given."
  • 2 involved basic level miscalculations (surprising it was just two, since calculators aren't allowed LOL), but in these two cases I think I need to practice *how* to complete certain types of calculations
  • 2 involved misreading graphs (which I knew I had done with one during the test, but I was rushing through)
  • 1 involved not looking closely enough at a geometry figure (again, rushing is definitely an issue)
  • 1 involved a geometery concept I haven't yet reviewed

So basically, my fundamental problem is that I am not yet skilled at looking at a problem and choosing the best method to solve it.

My goal for my second practice test, which I'll take the middle of next week at the latest:

Quantitative of 480, verbal of 580, total of 1060.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quick Update

Between being sick, and trying to make up time at work from when I was sick, and having two open houses this week at two of the universities, plus being in the real "cram time" for the GRE, I haven't had much time to post. But I do want to report back on yesterday's open house, so rest assurred I will post ASAP.

P.S. Did you see Jenn, a follower of this blog, has started her own grad school blog. Check it out at!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bell Curve

Something I need to remember about the bell curve is that the major points are the curve are 2%, 16%, 50%, 84%, and 98%.

Percent Change: Remember This Formula?

Percent change = Difference/Original *100

Percentages--- From Words to Symbols

We all likely know that percent = something over 100, that is x/100.

Did you also know that in a word problem involving percentages, the following conversions can be made:
of, times* (multiplication symbol) varibable (example "x," "k," "s," "b, or "f")

So when a problem says 38 is what percent of 78, it is saying 38= ?/100 (78)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Other Advice I am Reading on Statements of Purpose

I've been doing a lot of reading at the discussion forums at Grad Cafe, and below are some of the gems of wisdom I have garnered there regarding Statements of Purpose.

One person from studies in a non-religious field suggested this outline:

I. Introductory paragraph demonstrating academic background

II. Detailed explanation of academic interests and how X school fits into those interests

III. Discussion of the research of a few professors and how my interests/background coincide with theirs.

IV. Senior Thesis (this would be irrelevant to me, as this was not a part of my undergraduate program, which was also in an entirely different field)

V. Concluding paragraph briefly explaining intentions after grad school.

Others have said various things including:
  • Relate the parts of my background that have prepared me for (or given me my inclinations toward) graduate work; don't tell stories from my life that I find fascinating, but which do not relate to my aptitude or potential in my intended studies with the exception of those stories that demonstrate specifics about my ability to overcome adversity.
  • Relate my accomplishments in my field but don't talk about extra-curriculars and/or volunteer work that does not relate my field.
  • Mention the professors with whom I have communicated and how their work relates to my interests, but don't mention students with whom I have communicated, in case they are not doing well in the program.
  • Use a couple of short quotes if fitting, reference an epigraph from an author I will be studying. Cite things in style consistent with discipline (anyone know what that is for an M.Div?).

That's all helpful. I wonder if there are any peculiarities to an M.Div. statement of purpose?

Statements of Purpose/Personal Statements

A friend of mine who was worried about my application to Yale Divinity School, given Yale's relative conservatism, suggested if I was going to look at schools out in Connecticut that I also look at Hartford Seminary. So I went online tonight and browsed around a bit, and I found a sample personal statement/statement of purpose for applications for their Master of Arts program (which is different than the Master of Divinity program in which I am interested, but nonetheless)...

I think it is interesting they include such a sample on their website (they also have very step-by-step application instructions), and I was frankly glad to see a sample because I am having a lot of trouble getting much accomplished on my Statement of Purpose.

What do you think of this structure and approach?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Square Roots to Know By Heart

I need to remember not only perfect square roots and that the square root of 1 is 1, but also:

The square root of 2=1.4 and the square root of 3=1.7.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Timeline Check in For Late October

I am sick. I admit it. I've been in denial, but I am sick and I am fatigued. This is really throwing a wrench into my timeline. My kids are sick too, with my son having been sick for a week or longer now. He couldn't go to school most of last week. I took both kids to the doctor, but apparently it wasn't too alarming at that time.

Why don't my kids sleep more when they are sick? Neither of my kids ever slow down...EVER. Both my kids have been known to alternate vomiting with playing, or hack-hacking with playing, etc. Now my wife G. is starting to feel sick. If she "goes down" there will be no time for anything but keeping the household running. So pray for us because that will really hurt my chances of doing well.

In terms of my timeline, besides continuing studies and all of that, here is what is up this week (the week of October 25th)...

Lingering issues:
  • Make contacts at schools
  • Make a research paper plan
  • Catch up on studies

New issues:

  • Begin working on Statement of Purpose again (yikes!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Life and Times of an Adult Prospective Divinity School Student

This post will be a stream-of-consciousness as I begin to drift off to sleep. Please forgive the writing.

Crazy busy and tiring week at work and home. Fell even more behind on all items on my application prep to-do list, including studying for GRE.

However, today I woke up at 5am and drove through rush hour to visit a class over at Harvard Divinity. What a treat as always! It was on religious education and children's literature. Basically as I understand it this class explores how children develop their inner lives in part through reading as well as the religious implications of what children read. Here is the description, though the description doesn't, in my opinion, do the class justice. This week's book was The House of Dies Drear. Equally fascinating was that guest author, scholar, and theologian Donna Freitas spent the morning with us in class. I am eager to read her books, especially the recent The Possibilities of Sainthood, (young-adult fiction) about a 15 year old who is convinced her vocation is sainthood...ideally not a dead saint, and another book which I am having trouble locating online but that I thought was called This Gorgeous Gift.

A Master of Theological Studies student stayed after class and talked with me a bit, which I really appreciated. I thanked the professor for allowing me to observe the class, and I went off on a tangent about something the discussion had made me think of, and then tried to reel myself back in. My wheels were just turning like crazy. Then I remembered that I had met one of the other students late this summer at the "Field Studies" office, so I found her in the lobby of the building and reintroduced myself. Finally I headed out.

Anyway, I wish I had hours to tell you all about the thoughts that raced through my head on my long drive home. There were so many rich and interesting treasures to ponder. One thing I decided was that I really want to start a book group for parents of 4th-8th graders at church to essentially explore the same material as this class explores.

I also listened, on my way home, to a very interesting interview with Cornel West on the radio. My mind raced and raced.

I came home this afternoon to a note on the door that my wife and kids had gone to a friend's house due to there being a power outage in our neighborhood (that's really tough in our home since we cook everything from scratch). Went over to see the kids before going into work, but the kids really needed me-- as they haven't spent hardly any time with me for the past few days because of my work schedule-- and my wife really needed time to take care of some stuff such as go back to the house and get organized to go stay with the kids at her mom's house if the power outage continued for the weekend.

The kids were having fun playing with our friend's kids, but by the time I'd gotten there a number of hours had passed and everyone had just had a little much of each other. I offered to leave several times, but my friend insisted we were not an inconvenience and we were too hungry and tired to insist. The kids had fun, but there were many squabbles on and off and by the time we got back home this evening (to power, thank goodness!), I was utterly exhausted. We did bedtime with the kids, and G. and I watched The Office and 30 Rock on the net because, well, I just didn't have an ounce of energy left in me. Which sounds now like a lame excuse. This is the only day I am going to allow for such nonsense. I must study with more discipline because time is running out.

Now I must head to bed because I have to wake up at quarter of 5 in the morning to go take care of a couple things at church and then drive out to Providence for the one-day option of this conference on congregational transformations, for which I thankfully received a scholarship since my professional expense budget was cut to $0 this year.

Then I'll zip home and finish a number of Sunday preparations (ack!). On Sunday I have morning worship and program duties followed by a sex ed class (well, it's not like I am teaching, so I shouldn't take any credit for that), meetings, and a fall carnival. The kids have been invited to three (!) birthday parties on that day, and my son blames my work in the church for not being able to attend all of them. I overheard him tell a friend, "We can't go because my mom is always going to church," which makes me feel like his own faith development is being undermined by his feeling that he needs to compete with the church for my time and energy. I do worry about that a lot. Still, I tried to explain to him that even if our lives weren't complicated by my work that three birthday parties in the same afternoon wouldn't be physically possible. Just not sure he accepts it.

Whew. It's just a lot.

Like I said, sorry about the writing here. I am just so darn tired.


Thursday, October 22, 2009


I am scheduled for the GRE!


I am going to take it nearly a week earlier than I wanted - and in Connecticut - because the slots were filling everywhere fast. In fact, I originally selected 11/25/09, but my session timed out before the registration was complete, and minutes later when I went back in that date was GONE! Incredible.

The whole process was actually a nightmare. I really hope testing goes more smoothly. But here I am. In the one month countdown.

(Thanks to the generous donors who made it possible for me to register today before this date too was gone...) I'll be tested 11/24/09 at 1:30-5:30 pm. As of 9:00 am 11/23/09, I am going into isolation for my final 28 1/2 hours of study. That will be complete and total isolation, so please plan ahead if you want to give me a ring.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reward for My Studies: Some "Me" Time

I didn't get as much studying done tonight as I had hoped...too many distractions including a kid that keeps waking up and not. falling. back. asleep.

But I studied, and I feel good about covering more than one subject tonight, and keeping at it until I could say that I had a fair amount accomplished.

So now I am giving myself the reward of time to reflect on just some of the many things I've learned that can't and won't be tested on the GRE, but that certainly will help me as I journey my way to and through school:
  • I've learned that memory is helpful but also not the definition of intelligence, and that (most of the time) I can find ways to work with my neurological issues and memory loss.
  • I've learned more about the type of life I want to live in my second thirty years, which keeps me excited and motivated to work hard for my family's future.
  • I've learned that I have pretty good intellectual instincts most of the time about many things, and that when I follow my intellectual interests and inclinations, I end up in cool and interesting places.
  • I've learned that I am a more capable learner than I tend to think.
  • I've learned that when I immerse myself in interesting experiences that I become more interesting and also smarter.
  • I've learned that my projects always seem daunting at first, but that if I chip away at things a little bit at a time, I usually accomplish something in the end.
  • I've learned to be more humble, to listen more, and to assume I know less and have more to learn than I once thought.
  • I've learned that if I want to learn something, I have to teach it. Thank goodness I am a mother!
  • I've learned that curiosity may have opened Pandora's box and killed the cat, but that it also has been the foundation of almost every great discovery of all time.
  • I've learned to accept approbation at face value, and to not fear my own joy as much as I once did.
  • I've learned to sit still, be quiet, and lean in (though I am a little out of practice).
  • I've learned to trust only change, and hopefully, I am learning to be less anxious about it.
  • I've learned to be more comfortable with my human need for assistance.
  • I've learned to value relationships, though I am still learning how to make longer commitments to other people without being overcome by ennui or fears of commitment.
  • I've learned that when I am on the right path, I know it.
  • I've learned more and more to open my heart to joy.
  • And I've learned my daughter sleeps better when I am asleep, so I had better be off to bed... :-)

October 21st Vocab Challenge

My challenge is to build a sentence with all three of today's vocabulary words. As with all other vocabulary posts, feel free to correct my use of the words, make suggestions, or anything else that might help me study. Here's my sentence:

At first driven only by the need for approbation, she stuck with a canonical writing style, but it did not take long before she was overcome by ennui and felt the need to abandon all tradition so that her creative instincts could take over.

October 21st Vocab Words

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review.

Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Below are three vocab words, with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

approbation (noun): an expression of approval or praise
  • Her appetite for approbation could not be satiated.
  • It's not that I need approbation; I simply don't want criticism.
  • It was long thought that children developed in a positive fashion when they received regular approbation, but the research consistently showed that children became anxious about accomplishing when adults gave such constant feedback to the children.
  • I was feeling very high about my accomplishments, and the approbation I received only boosted me further.
  • To earn her approbation, he worked harder than he ever had in his life, and with alacrity took on any challenge she offered.
  • We don't need your approbation, just stay out of our way.
  • I was surprised to receive approbation from such high-powered, intelligent people who I had for so long admired.
  • Without approbation, she felt lost for a direction, and she regularly questioned her own authority despite an outward appearance of confidence.
  • If you want approbation, try asking your real questions rather than sucking up and hiding your own light by agreeing with everything they say. They may question you back, but they'll respect you for your intelligence.
  • In my parenting style, I try not to demand that my children always have my approbation, but instead that they decide independently what they believe to be right in many situations.

canonical (noun): following or in agreement with accepted, traditional standards (dictionary also indicates a couple other definitions, and it has a mathematical use as well)

  • The canonical texts are certainly of critical interest, but I find studying the apocrypha also to be an important aspect of biblical scholarship.
  • Clearly I have a different idea than she, about what literature is canonical in this day and age in our culture.
  • Though I read constantly, I would not be considered by most to be well-read, as I am unfamiliar with almost all canonical works and tend instead to read obscure and non-fiction pieces.
  • My writing is non-canonical, with lengthy sentences that while grammatically acceptable, most readers find unfamiliar and unpleasant.
  • He considered himself a Christian, but his beliefs, expression, and practice of the religion where far from canonical.
  • Learning the canonical sentence structures was critical in the development of her ability to make clear and cogent arguments in court.
  • The funeral was deeply religious and completely canonical, and we were relieved to know what to expect.
  • If he had been a canonical writer, he would have been more popular but less interesting.

ennui (noun): dissatisfaction and restlessness resulting from boredom or apathy

  • Her professional failures were more a result of ennui than a lack of ability. She simply gave in to her boredom.
  • I was surprised by his ennui. He seemed a bright student who could have made interesting challenges for himself academically if only he had not been so apathetic.
  • Your ennui has, quite frankly, become boring in and of itself. Get a life!
  • The best treatment for ennui is a fresh approach to the same problem.
  • The myths centered on the idea of the suburban so-called "housewife," her presumed ennui, and the mistaken notion that women stir up trouble for the pleasure of doing so.
  • I wouldn't call it a mid-life crisis as much as the result of ennui.
  • Experiencing an unrelenting sense of ennui, he fled the country and spent three years backpacking across Europe.
  • Ennui is the gift that helps us avoid a life of little depth, driving us to challenge our apathetic tendencies with activities of greater meaning.


I just put on a PBS show on the financial mess to listen to while studying, and within the first few minutes, I heard an October 15th vocab word: irascible. Remember that one? It means easily angered; prone to outbursts.

Check it out. Looks like it is going to be a really interesting show:

Midweek Check-In

Earlier this week I reported that I would be catching up on last week's tasks as well as doing additional tasks for this week. Here was the totality of the list:

∆ Study at least 1-2 hours daily for GRE, making up where possible for missed studying
∆ Make at least two contacts at schools, preferably three
∆ RSVP to open houses
∆ Research paper (find or, if not found, decide what to do)
∆ Attend a class or event

It's time to ask, "how am I doing?"
  • Studying has been going so-so. I've not made a full two hours each night, and last night I didn't study at all. But tonight I am able to study for a few hours, which helps.
  • I haven't made any new contacts at the schools. However, I did, as described in another post, get in touch with a professor from a class I'd previously visited at one of the schools. I also reached out to another professor, whose class I plan to attend on Friday, though I haven't heard back (ugh).
  • I did RSVP to open houses.
  • On the issue of the research paper, I have done more hunting. I also called the school where I did my undergraduate studies to see if I could track down the professor who helped me with the paper, just on the off chance he for some reason kept it (doubt it, but I am desperate). I haven't heard back yet. I've yet to face the dark question about what I'll do if I can't find it.
  • I'm scheduled to attend a class for a few hours on Friday. Barring illness, that should get accomplished.

Memorizing Common Fraction, Decimal, and Percentage Conversions

Have you noticed this (?) ...

I tend to use the blog (when studying) for things I need to memorize. I don't work through *how* to do the problems or complexities. I just focus on the basics of memorization here, while doing the rest of my studies on paper. Interesting.

Anyway, along those lines, my study guide recommends memorizing common fractions and decimals in the form of percentages in order to easily eliminate answers that are particularly off the mark.

Some are things I've naturally memorized in the course of my life, and I am sure you have too:
  • 1.0 = 1/1 = 100%
  • 2.0 = 2/1 = 200%
  • 0.25 = 1/4 = 25%
  • 0.5 = 1/2 = 50%
  • 0.75 = 3/4 = 75%

Some are very familiar and perhaps already somewhat memorized, or easy to quickly figure out, even if I have to review them in order to recommit them to memory:

  • 0.01 = 1/100 = 1%
  • 0.1 = 1/10 = 10%
  • 0.2 = 1/5 = 20%
  • 0.4 = 2/5 = 40%
  • 0.8 = 4/5 = 80%

Others I need to spend just a tad more time on to truly memorize:

  • 0.333 = 1/3 (that part is familiar) = 33 1/3% (that I didn't realize)
  • 0.6 = 3/5 (that part I would have had to calculate) = 60% (this I knew)
  • 0.666... = 2/3 (that part is somewhat familiar) = 66 2/3% (that I didn't know)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is how I know I'll be horribly disappointed if I don't get in...

Last spring I visited one of the schools to which I am applying, and attended a class while I was there. I emailed the professor today to ask for a copy of his syllabus so that I can use the reading list for a project I am working on, and he emailed me back a syllabus (as well as some helpful correspondence about the project). As I was reading the syllabus, my heart raced with the thrill and excitement. I also felt a pang of sadness, as I won't have time to read even 10% of what was on the reading list. It just all seems so INTERESTING!

I can't wait to begin my studies, and though I am mildly nervous about keeping up with fast-paced classes while parenting my wee ones (and perhaps continuing my work for pay), for the first time in my adult education I am confident I will be met at the appropriate level of long as I get in.

"Oh please, oh please, oh please" goes my prayer :-).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Timeline Check-In

We're on week two of my prep plan, and it's time to check in about how I've done so far with the schedule.

Week of October 11th:
∆ Study at least 1-2 hours daily for GRE
∆ Make initial 1-2 contacts at schools (1 hour)
∆ RSVP to open houses, etc.

Hmmm...well, I didn't do so well. I did study 1-2 hours daily for the most part, so I can feel good about that. However, I missed a day or two of studying, and I also didn't get as far in my studies as I needed.

As for making the initial contacts, I need to make up that time this week. And I also need to take care of the RSVPs. I just forgot those two things were on my to-do list.

Week of October 18th:
∆ Study at least 1-2 hours daily for GRE
∆ Make another contact at schools (1/2 hour)
∆ Research paper (find or, if not found, decide what to do)
∆ Attend a class or event

I've got a full week according to this list, especially since I am making up for last week already. Yikes! I think it is still reasonable, though, because basically I will just be adding one hour to my school contact time and twenty minutes or so for open house RSVPs. That's less than an hour and a half of extra work. That said, I am *extremely* nervous about dealing with the research paper.

I better fasten my seatbelt!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18th Vocab Challenge

My challenge is to build a sentence with all three of today's vocabulary words. As with all other vocabulary posts, feel free to correct my use of the words, make suggestions, or anything else that might help me study. Here's my sentence:

She was austere and highly valued modesty in all things, and would even strangely abscond when given the opportunity to speak, which was in stark contrast to the effrontery of her husband.

October 18th Vocab Words

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review. Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Below are three vocab words, with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

Abscond (verb): to depart clandestinely; to steal off and hide
  • He had only been charged with a misdemeanor, so why he chose to abscond, I'll never understand.
  • I wouldn't have been suspicious if she hadn't absconded.
  • I plan to abscond as the night wears on, as it is not my desire to be seen by the living.
  • I didn't know what to think of him; he mysteriously absconded before dessert.
  • Like a frightened animal, he absconded.
  • As she was at low risk for absconding, she was granted a supervised release.
  • Each evening he would abscond to feed his need, keeping his meth addiction a secret from his family for at least a few months.
  • Humiliated, the temptation to abscond overcame him.

Austere (adjective): without adornment; bare; severely simple; ascetic (according to the online dictionaries can also mean something of a harshness or sternness, a strictness)

  • Beyond plain, he was austere.
  • An overprivileged, greedy man, he looked down on her austere presentation.
  • Little did he know that her austerity was a privilege of its own kind.
  • She longed for an austere life, free from the burdens of materialism and full of the blessings of spirituality.
  • After giving it fair trial, Siddhartha rejected the most austere life, left the ascetics, and found the freedom he was searching for without subjecting his body to punishment.
  • I was impressed by her austerity, and more than that, the joyfulness she found in a life of unfailing discipline and simplicity.
  • He was an austere father, but lavishly loving none the less.
  • In such an austere setting, we were sullen.

Effrontery (noun): extreme boldness; presumptuousness

  • With this brand of effrontery, there is no doubt why sexism sells.
  • It wasn't idealism that was her downfall, but her incessant effrontery.
  • Brazen, he approached and confronted the dignitary with astonishing effrontery.
  • Her most audacious behavior was the result of effrontery, which had gone unchecked for far too long.
  • It was with little effrontery that she finally asked for what she needed; after all, it had taken much courage and she was still not convinced she deserved to have her needs met.
  • I was taken aback by his effrontery, and it took me some time to regain my composure, let alone any sense of self-assurance.
  • She approached me with such effrontery, that I could think of nothing else to day but "yes...okay," and it wasn't until she left that I began to realize the extent to which I'd compromised my own beliefs by acquiescing to her vision.
  • If it had not been for her effrontery, we would have never finished this project, as sometimes you need the fearless ego of one or two people who know nothing of "no" to push through the resistance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brush off Those Multiplication Tables

There are a couple mistakes on this video, but overall pretty good. I feel like if I worked out to it and said the answers as I went that it might help me brush up.

And then there is this this too...


I love these tricks...

And there's more, but it costs $42 to get them! Wah!

Once You Learn This System...

It might help for checking work:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Really Basic Math Review: Math Vocabulary

Factors vs. Multiples

As I recall, in b x c=a, b and c are factors of a

Someone please now explain what a multiple is in a way that does not have me confusing it with a factor. My brain just can't, for some reason, comprehend the difference.

However, these all are straight forward math vocab terms to me that I just needed to quickly review and recommit to memory:

product=result of multiplication
quotient=result of division
divisor=number you divide by
numerator=top number in a fraction
denominator=bottom number in a fraction

Eliminating Answer Choices in the Math Section

Here is one of those tricks to quickly eliminate answer choices from math questions without finishing all calculations for the problem. It involves returning to 5th or 6th grade math and just going through the options and crossing out those that simply don't fit due to basic arithmetic, once the problem is in its simplest form. Of course, it only works for a couple types of problems, that can be simplified into this form, but every bit helps.

pos x pos= positive
neg x neg= positive
post x neg= negative

even + even= even
odd + odd= even
even + off= odd

even x even= even
odd x odd= odd
even x odd= even

If these last two sets are forgotten, just knowing that the rules exist is helpful. Then you can plug in a couple numbers to figure out the rule.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15th Vocab Challenge

My challenge is to build a sentence with all three of today's vocabulary words. As with all other vocabulary posts, feel free to correct my use of the words, make suggestions, or anything else that might help me study. Here's my sentence:

My supervisor, perpetually aggitated and irascible, treated every notion that crossed her mind as exigent, yet she was capricious and on more than one occassion had me re-do work to fit entirely new imaginations, which I did more out of fear of her angry outbursts than a particular investment in the job.

October 15th Vocab Words

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review. Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Below are three vocab words, with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

exigent (adjective): urgent, pressing; requiring immediate action or attention (according to online dictionary, also "demanding much")
  • The whole thing felt exigent only to me, but nonetheless, I could not sleep until the job was completed.
  • The questions that called me awake in the night were existential ones, and though they were not earthly, they were no less exigent.
  • The letter arrived second-day air, clearly having been seen as exigent by its sender.
  • The judge operated his court without treating any case as more exigent than others, and having waited many hours to have our case heard, we were finally called to our testimony.
  • The pain was acute and exigent, and we made haste to the hospital where he was treated for a hemorrhage.
  • "Exigent circumstance" is a legal term involving entry without warrant because of the belief that potential that harm is otherwise imminent.
  • The circumstances were nothing short of exigent, and we first involved the local police department, followed soon by the public works authorities.
  • By middle school, sexuality education is an exigent matter.

capricious (adjective): inclined to change one's mind impulsively; erratic; unpredictable

  • I'm capricious because I am a Gemini, and I am of two minds about everything I do.
  • If you insist on being capricious, we will insist on a signed contract.
  • The congregation, unusually capricious in nature, hired several contactors in succession and without due process, and eventually the building expansion failed.
  • If she wasn't so capricious, I'd tell my children ahead of time that she said she'd come over, but I'd hate for them to look forward to seeing her only to later be disappointed.
  • I dread shopping with my capricious husband.
  • Fear of potentially capricious member behavior causes most organizations to have limited opportunities for organizational change and for the checks and balances to weigh most heavily on the side of caution.
  • To many, the ruling seemed arbitrary and capricious, but not to those who had carefully followed the case as it made its way through the courts.
  • If he wasn't capricious, and we could count on him, he wouldn't be himself, but he would be easier to live with.

irascible (adjective): easily angered; prone to tempermental outbursts

  • Because he was irascible, he was prone to fulminate, and we usually avoided him.
  • Before begining treatment for depression, his friends regretfully described him as irascible and abusive.
  • I never could figure out why I loved her so much, as irascible as she was and as much as she would fulminate for days on end.
  • We forgave them for being so irascible, as afterall, they were sleep-deprived teenagers.
  • Despite the reputation that my father had of being a crotchety old man, I find that as I age, I am less irascible, more patient and forgiving, and more even-keeled.
  • I was narrscistic and irrascible, and I have no idea how they put up with me for so long.
  • The gorilla, in a state of utter grief over the loss of her child, was irascible and at times violent, and we feared approaching her with the tranquilizer, though she very much needed the medical attention.
  • You'd have more friends if you weren't so irrascible.

Do You Remember "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?"


You might remember learning this in your pre-algebra or early algebra days. It's a way to remember the order of operations for problems that require more than one type of operation.

My=M=Multiplication...Dear=D=Division -->mutliplication and division are done together in the same step from left to right
Aunt=A=Addition...Sally=S=Subtraction -->addition and subtraction are done together in the same step from left to right

P...E...M/D -->....A/S -->

Handy to have tricks like that, I think. Good to be reminded. And fun to try a few problems to practice the order. Feel free to challenge me with a few problems to test my ability to follow order of operations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October 13th Vocab Challenge

My challenge is to build a sentence with all three of today's vocabulary words. As with all other vocabulary posts, feel free to correct my use of the words, make suggestions, or anything else that might help me study. Here's my sentence:

In an utterly disingenuous defense, they argued they hadn't sought a filibuster but instead had been so moved by the problems with the proposed law that they debated it at length extemporaneously.

Tonight we did "vocab light" because I got a super late start. Unfortunately, math will have to wait, though I did a small amount of non-blog-based studying of math today. Goodnight!

October 13th Vocab Words

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review. Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Below are three vocab words, with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

filibuster (noun, but also has verb form): intentional obstruction, especially using prolonged speech making to delay legislative action (also has a specific military definition, according to the linked dictionary entry)

  • Filibusters are a side effect of the importance we place on legislative debate.

  • The late senator was the master of filibusters, and I am not sure she actually wanted to get anything accomplished during her term.

  • In a power play, they threatened a filibuster.

  • Filibusters unfortunately brought to a halt many efforts in the civil rights movement.

  • Is an obstructive filibuster democratic, or even constitutional?

  • Sometimes it is necessary to have a filibuster to communicate the intensity of feeling on a matter.

  • Filibusters can't stop true change in public interest, which will stand the test of time and eventually become legislative change.

  • Filibusters may have a role in the built in system of "check and balance" which is so critical to democratic process.
Extemporaneous (adjective): improvised; done without preparation

  • Her sermons often took an extemporaneous turn, and most of the time they were brilliant, but on occasion her congregation worried she was lost on her own path of words.

  • His advice, which he gave to me often and extemporaneously, was of little value in the real world.

  • In retrospect is was unsafe to take responsibility for her medication routine extemporaneously.

  • My extemporaneous speeches are almost always unnecessarily long-winded.

  • I would like to improve my extemporaneous speaking ability while studying at the university.

  • He was raised in a faith tradition in which extemporaneous preaching was considered the work of God, and if he had come to church with a written sermon, his congregation would have worried the Spirit was not moving in their worship.

  • It was a "pop quiz" and her answers were extemporaneous, which explains her anxiety over the score.

  • I was most inspired by the chapter on extemporaneous preaching.

ingenuous (adjective): artless; frank and candid; lacking in sophistication

(By the way, according to, disingenuous means pretending to be ingenuous, i.e. pretending to be more naive than one is. That is, being "deceptive in the particular way of pretending to be innocent or ignorant of something." If that is the case, it is oft-misused. However, according to other sources it simply means not frank or candid, as in '' insincere."

  • His explanation was ingenuous, but I didn't expect anything different, as his understanding of the material was surface-level.

  • I worried more than anything about appearing ingenuous in front of my colleagues.

  • She was ingenuous in our conversation, and it was clear to me that her role in the murder was incidental.

  • If he had not been so ingenuous in all his other speeches, I would have considered his apology little move than political stunt.
  • I would have preferred to have come off ingenuous than disingenuous, as from the start I was seen as dishonest.
  • It was ingenuous to require all performers to sign in and out of rehearsals, as the cast had only three members.
  • My contributions to the dialogue were unfortunately, in retrospect, ingenuous.

  • He was ingenuous but not unintelligent.

The Method to My Madness

A kind person wrote to me today concerned with my focus on studying very specific vocabulary words and math concepts.

If it is comforting to anybody, I am using a highly recommended study guide called Cracking the GRE, which comes from the fairly well-regarded Princeton Review. Basically the method to my madness is their method.

The good news is that even if I don't end up needing their specific vocabulary words on the test, just studying the words and trying to make them into sentences is strengthening my writing muscles, which should help me on things like my Statement of Purpose and application essay questions.

Rest assured that I am also spending a lot of time doing practice test questions. Right now I find that it works better to do those off the blog, but I may experiment at doing some on the blog later on.

Oh yeah, and please don't feel like you need to be a scholar or somehow extra smart to post here. First of all, this blog is largely for the fun of learning together and I'm surely as clueless as you are, and second, any and all comments are most welcome (assuming, of course, they're not cruel or something) including cheerleading, jokes about the material or the process, or whatever else you want to throw into the mix to help make this fun!

Blogger Technical Details

I am breaking from studying in order to post some information that might be helpful to friends I've asked to participate on my blog but who haven't explored this side of the internet yet. :-)

1. Everything on the blog is my work.

2. Yes, I would love it if you would write your thoughts/ideas/corrections right on the blog.

3. Thanks for being willing to try to help!

4. To submit your thoughts on any of the posts/entries, go to the bottom of the entry and click on the comment number. This takes you to a page that will say "post a comment." Write your comment in the text box.

Then blogspot will ask you to select a profile. If you yourself have a gmail address, blogspot blog, or google account, you should select "google account." If you have another type of blog, you can select the type.

However, if you don't have any such accounts, simply select "name/URL" and when prompted type in your first name or your "handle" (handles are those things that look like: "olyfriend09" or "SmartOne" or "comski3341" or whatever).

Then click "post a comment." You may be asked to do a task that verifies that you are a human, not a computer. Your comment won't show up right away because I have "comment moderation" turned on in order to avoid spam-y stuff (folks who post on blogs to advertise something they are selling), etc. But it will show up, and I will be ever so grateful you posted!

Enjoy, and thanks again!

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12th Vocab Challenge

My challenge is to build a sentence with all three of today's vocabulary words. As with all other vocabulary posts, feel free to correct my use of the words, make suggestions, or anything else that might help me study. Here's my sentence:

Despite her fulmination about the lack of leadership on the issue of affordable housing, the policies she authored enervated those working toward affordability and in fact contributed to the inurement and enhancement of the position of for-profit housing entitities.

By the way, what is the relationship between the intransitive verb and adjective form of inure? I don't understand how they could mean such different things. I want to know the history there!

October 12th Vocab Words

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review. Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Here are three vocab words (this must be depressing vocab day), with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my GRE study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

enervate (verb): to weaken; to reduce in vitality (or as adjective: lacking physical, mental or moral vigor)
  • The recession has had an enervating effect on my friend Eli, who has been out of work for months and has yet to get up the steam to begin applying for new work.
  • This particular word enervates my vocabulary studies, as it has no appeal to me when I try to use it functionally in a sentence.
  • Each instance in which she stole a block of cheese or a box of butter from the market enervated her, until her moral substance and will to do right-- let alone her belief that she was worthy of upright behavior--no longer existed.
  • The war was enervating for the troops, and the soldiers returned home broken and disillusioned.
  • The heat was enervating, and we were soon out of water, but we kept up our strength with spirited conversation and the common will that we would all survive.
  • Early parenthood and the resulting disturbance of sleep can not only enervate, but cause something of a temporary insanity.
  • In a self-destructive effort to enervate, he proceeded to create a self-loathing, self-depreciating list of his top 100 worst qualities.
  • Listening to her speech served to enervate rather than motivate her audience of medical interns.

fulminate (verb): to loudly attack or denounce (noun form is a salt that is often explosive)

  • In his attack on the politicians, he fulminated at length the whole lot of them.
  • His lecture was a fulminating one, full of harsh words for all but the top students in his class.
  • At length she fulminated, and by the end of the conversation she had demolished the candidate's rapport with the community activist.
  • If you publicly fulminate in any way, you will no longer be considered a fair and unbiased reporter.
  • She didn't plan to fulminate on the city manager's lack of accountability, but by the end of the city council meeting she had had enough.
  • It was hurtful enough to listen to the fulminating and mini-lectures, but when the direct insults began, I simply walked out.
  • Sometimes, a little fulminating is exactly what is needed, as we tend to look at these issues with too great an apathy.
  • I'll blame my excessive fulmination on the fact that I had just had a very long week and these particular matters stir in me the greatest concerns for our shared future.

inured (adjective): accustomed to accepting something undesirable (an an intransitive verb is inurement, which is to become of advantage)

  • The children in this foster home had all become inured to parental drug use, so the foster parent behavior did not raise alarms and unfortunately was long silently considered as a given.
  • She was so inured to hardship that it became her strength.
  • (Verb form) She wrote the contract for the inurement of the company's interests.
  • Having become inured to the conditions of the classroom, he did not realize that some children had electric lights under which to study and desks at which to sit.
  • In prison he became inured to the constant verbal batterings of those who had authority.
  • Having no idea that the same behavior might provoke in others intense recoiling, she treated her bodily discharges as inevitably public events just as she had become inured during her childhood with her abusive, exhibitionist mother.
  • Inured to the truculence of his father, he had no idea that he could be treated with any manner of kindness, let alone predictability.

October 12th True Confessions

I have a dark secret.

I do not have a memory for numbers. At all. In the 3rd grade we were required to memorize the multiplication table starting from the lower numbers and working our way up. It took me so long to complete the task of committing each to memory that the assignment ended before I was past 5x! I was so discouraged and ashamed that I never did finish. Instead, I developed a math phobia, though fortunately certain multiplication facts somehow did stick with me over the years of math that followed (for example: 6x6=36 and 9x9=81).

Still, in high school and college math classes, I depended on my calculator to make up for my basic math deficits. And it did. Until now. Now I don't get a calculator, and honestly, it freaks me out.

It is ironic that in my journey to grad school, the thing I am studying the most is third grade material. It is diminishing to my self-esteem, and I find myself regretful that I am "wasting" time now patching up things I let slip in the past. But this is a timed test, and seconds count. I need to be able to do the basic math almost without thinking so I can do the more complex math without hesitation.

If anyone has any tips for memorizing 5+ in the multiplication table, I am interested. My neice reminded me yesterday that I can use my hands to do 9x every interger through 10. I plan to memorize the 9x, but this is a good tool for double-checking my work so I can practice, say, while sitting in traffic. It also will make it easier for me to double-check my calculations during the test.

Any other ideas?

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9th BONUS Vocab Word

Note that I study all material, even that which is just a review. Feel free to post challenges for me, make memorization suggestions, correct misused words, or whatever else you want. The reason I am doing this is for the fun of an interactive study experience.

Here is today's bonus word, with a link to a sound clip and definition as well as the definition given by my GRE study manual...and several vocabulary sentences made up by yours truly.

alacrity (noun): eager and enthusiastic willingness
  • I began the effort with alacrity, but my enthusiasm waned as I realized how few people were willing to help.
  • The level of alacrity she demonstrated was encouraging, as we needed a foreman who did not hesitate.
  • He had so much alacrity from the start that his movement into management was inevitable.
  • There is no task I approach with more alacrity than one involving food preparation for parties.
  • As a new attorney, she objected with alacrity, reveling in the use of her hard-earned legal skills to block an unfortunate line of reasoning.
  • He was surprisingly helpful and started out with so much alacrity that I had to slow him down in order to keep up myself.
  • I would have come to my project with more alacrity if I had not been so exhausted from the last one.
  • He felt upstaged by the young interns, who came in with alacrity and ideas on which he had long ago given up but that were now received by the higher-ups with interest.