M.B. of West Hempstead (by way of Binghamton) writes:

I just completed my Junior year in college (doing very well, thank you), and am preparing to take the GRE this summer. I bought the review book (did I really have a choice?), and find it so perplexing to not recognize so many of the vocabulary words, let alone to not find them in Webster's dictionary. I understand that graduate schools want to admit only the cream of the crop, but is the GRE really necessary? [By the way, I'm an English major, and I'd swear the folks who prepare this test make some of these words up!]

The College Whisperer responds:

Is the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) necessary? No. Is it required by many graduate schools as a pre-req for admission? You bet.

You hit the proverbial nail on the head in intimating that you've already shown your "aptitude," having apparently scored sufficiently high on the SATs to gain entrance to Binghamton University, the Ivy of public colleges. Surely, you've shown your academic prowess, as well, having completed three years of a most rigorous course of study.

So why the GRE?

Like Mount Everest, because it is there, and the folks at ETS (Educational Testing Service) in Princeton, along with the fellas who offer the overpriced and only marginally helpful GRE review courses, would be out of work if undergrads didn't have to take the GREs, LSATs, MCATs, and similar standardized tests as a rite of passage into graduate school.

While many grad schools post minimum GRE requirements, some strictly observed, others not, most graduate program admission officers recognize these tests for what they are -- essentially meaningless in demonstrating either what you've learned or that which you are capable of achieving.

So, my dear soon-to-be college graduate, grin and bear it for the next couple of months, hone up on the vocab, take as many practice exams as you can find (in addition to the book, there are FREE study resources and materials available online at http://www.ets.org/gre/general/prepare/), and you will do just fine.

Oh, and by the way, they do have little old men (and a retired Scrabble champ, or two), locked away in the ivory tower, making up words, creating senseless analogies, and wringing their hands, fiendish smirks upon their faces, in the hopes that unsuspecting students will be drawn into the lair. [Stick with the Keebler elves. They're a more grounded bunch. Besides, the cookies taste a heck of a lot better than chewing on those Number 2 pencils...]

Best of luck!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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