Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... and I took the one where I went crazy for a month to raise my score 40 points... and that uh... has made all the difference?
October 15, 2012 6:00 AM Subscribe
GRE-Filter: I was happy with my GRE scores. Then, I received word that I have the opportunity to get into a super-duper-top-tier doctoral program previously inaccessible. However, my Quantitative Score--while still in the range of accepted scores over the years for this program--is now less-than-stellar relatively speaking. Is it crazy to think I could study intensely for about a month and improve my score 30-50 points? Am I overthinking this?
When I took the GRE, I totally killed the Verbal and Writing sections in addition to my subject test, but nabbed a 700 on the Quantitative Section (which to my recollection is around the 65th percentile--marginally above average among test-takers generally). It was lower than I had hoped for given the tier of doctoral programs I am applying to, but it was unsurprising given my track record of Quantitative scoring on ETS-family tests. However, for the cool programs I was interested in, my score was nevertheless generally hovering around the median/mean for Quantitative. Furthermore, the field I am going into--while empirical and little-q quantitative--isn't a "hard science" or a discipline like engineering, and in addition requires a lot of interpersonal intelligence and pragmatic experience. Rather than nudge the Quantitative Score up to Superstar levels, I instead focused on boosting my publications and practical lab and statistical skills (successfully, yay!). (Also, taking the GRE is a miserable experience I rather did not wish to repeat ever ever ever, obviously).
Game changer arrives. During my official "Oh Please Write Me A Graduate School Letter" meeting with my Superdoctor boss, he informed me that a certain Rising Superstar in our field is actually a former student of his who just got tenure at Super Program. Superdoctor proceeds to say that I should seriously consider applying to work for Rising Star, as Superdoctor's word would carry a whole lot with him. This program is notoriously difficult to get into unless you have a direct connection to a tenured faculty member. So, while I had previously adored this man's work and had heard he is a truly fabulous, kind mentor... I hadn't really been considering this program as I didn't think I had a connection! However, at this Super Program my once neither-hurt-nor-help Quantitative Score is a negative I need to overcome rather than a total wash. Now, it is totally possible that I would not get into this program even if I were the Platonic ideal of a Graduate School Applicant In My Field. However, for better or for worse I have a somewhat internal locus of control, and would like to do whatever I can do to nudge the odds in my favor.
I just need 30-50 points to make that score go back to not really mattering one way or the other! So, Metafilter, is it possible to go from a 700 to a 730-50 on the GRE Quantitative Section with one frenzied month-and-change of studying? Are there any particular study techniques, guides, or aides (e.g., I know Kaplan has a Quantitative Drill computer program) you would recommend to accomplish this task? For the purposes of this question, let's assume my Verbal scores would be stable enough and that getting the scores to the school on late notice will not be a problem. Giving myself a month, what is the P90x or the 100-Pushups plan to become a GRE Math Master?
One hitch is that these previously-mentioned scores are actually from a year ago, from the older version of the GRE. (Very severe family troubles pushed back my graduate school plans a year). There are two disadvantages then: that I have not practiced GRE-style math in a year, and that the style of math is different than before. Step #1 which is taking place tomorrow or similar would be to see where I am at currently. I could imagine my advice from y'all being very different if I have regressed totally on GRE-style math vs. if I have maintained my previous scoring level. I am not sure yet whether the format change is something that will benefit me or not--I see that there are more data-oriented question, which makes me happy as I currently work as a data analyst.
Alternatively: is this a totally insane adventure, am I tilting at windmills? Am I being overly neurotic focusing on one aspect of my GRE scores when more-or-less all of my other ducks are in a row with regard to graduate school applications, for one program out of several good choices? Graduate school applications are stressful and may be hurting my perspective/reality testing, to say the least.