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!