Gravity's Rainbow

botany, shoes, books, and justice

Studying for the GRE


I’m taking the GRE on Tuesday and have been studying the last few weeks in my copious free time.  Studying for the GRE is dull, but necessary.  For example, I know how to solve all the math problems I’ve come across so far – but I don’t necessarily know a fast or efficient way to solve many of them.  I’ve been pretty good about preparing for the math section, but not the essays (see list of topics here).  I was planning on spending several hours today practicing responding to the kinds of prompts the GRE leans towards, like

“Originality does not mean thinking something that was never thought before; it means putting old ideas together in new ways.”


“The function of science is to reassure; the purpose of art is to upset. Therein lies the value of each.”


“The way students and scholars interpret the materials they work with in their academic fields is more a matter of personality than of training. Different interpretations come about when people with different personalities look at exactly the same objects, facts, data, or events and see different things.”

To be honest, I do not have 500 words to say to most of the prompts, especially the kinds of things the GRE would like me to say

A more modern example of how yielding to political authority can impede the advance ment of knowledge involves the Soviet Refusenik movement of the 1920s. During this time period the Soviet government attempted not only to control the direction and the goals of its scientists’ research but also to distort the outcome of that research. During the 1920s the Soviet government quashed certain areas of scientific inquiry, destroyed entire research facilities and libraries, and caused the sudden disappearance of many scientists who were engaged in research that the state viewed as a potential threat to its power and authority. Not surprisingly, during this time period no significant advances in scientific knowledge occurred under the auspices of the Soviet government.

I feel like a strong background in math and science leaves me far less prepared than a history degree for these essays, which is problematic since this part of the GRE is supposed to measure writing ability.

While I was supposed to be practicing writing GRE essays, I instead wrote blog posts about biodiversity and climate change that will show up here later this week.

I imagine I’ll also be posting about how much I wished I’d spent today writing essays for the GRE instead of blogging…

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  1. The writing section sucks eggs. Part of me feels like my abysmal writing score was the reason I was rejected to some of the programs I applied….

  2. I minored in History! But I don’t think that will help me write twaddle any better. I’d suggest a philosophy major. They can ramble about anything.

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