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What a GREat experience!

Hey everyone!

If you were following along, you’d know that I took the GRE last monday.  It was an… interesting experience.  This was my first computer test, so it was a little refreshing to not have a moderator or be in a room with a bunch of my stressed peers taking the same test at the same time.  Instead, I was sitting in a cubicle with noise-canceling headphones concentrating on my own exam.  I found it pretty fun, actually.  I was in the minority, however, as the tension in the waiting room was so thick you could probably cut it with a knife.  Finding out my score immediately after the exam was very refreshing as well, and made for a very fun afternoon (as I didn’t have to worry about how I did – I already knew!).

The test itself was in some ways challenging.  The prompts for the writing section I found to be topical and interesting to write on – I had no lack of examples to cite, though I may have used far too many from science, and I was able to choose positions I was passionate about.  A word of advice that was passed on to me:  read up on your utopian novels (1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Fahrenheit 451 to name a few) because they end up being great examples to use for these essays.  I think I might have used them on both.

I can’t really comment too much on the verbal section for several reasons.   The vocabulary was very challenging, and I had a hard time with the analogies.  However, if you’re taking the GRE any time after July, 2011 the verbal section will contain no analogies or antonyms.  This is nice, as those two questions are likely the most difficult on the test.  Also, I’m not entirely sure how important it is for chemistry graduate schools for the verbal section.  But, as I am neither a graduate student or on any admissions boards, I can only speculate.

Quantitative was a dream.  I enjoy math, and it was fun to be able to get lots of points on a test by using my knowledge of arithmetic and algebra.  Really fun stuff.  The only thing I wish I did differently was time myself while working through problems.  I ended up rushing at the very end.  But it was really fun.  The fact that if you do well, the problems get harder (another thing they’re getting rid of in the new GRE) made it very exciting to get to some really tough questions in the final minutes.  Well, I enjoyed it.

Overall, I had a pretty fun time with the GRE.  I didn’t take it too seriously, and got scores in the ranges I was expecting, if even a little higher.  If I were to do it all over again, I would do a little more vocab prep for the verbal and spend some more time in the books doing some practice problems, if just to get set with the test directions.  I hope this is helpful to any intrepid undergrads hoping to take the GRE.  If any of you (undergrad, grad, postgrad, ect.) have any advice or fun GRE memories, feel free to post below!  I’m returning in a few short days with a new installment of “What is Chemical Biology” – get pumped!

How has your week been? Mine has been GREat!

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the inexcusably long absence from the blog.  Summer time is research time for me, and I’ve (finally) gotten the chance to put in the long hours that I really don’t have the time for during the semester.  Maybe this is just my undergraduate naivete speaking, but to me there’s nothing like working full time in the lab.  It’s just nice to have no distractions.  The warm weather probably helps too.  Anyway, I apologize for my lack of posting.  Organic synthesis can, as many of you know, can be very distracting.

ooOOOoo...  Rapamycin!

This guy thinks about synthesis all the time too! (Credit to Sidechain and Flickr user Glockoma)

In the midst of my synthesis-induced bliss, I came to a realization.  I want to get into graduate school, and in order to get into graduate school, it is important to take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE.  Luckily, I had signed up for the test several months ago, for July 18th.  I figured that it was probably time to go ahead and start studying.  This realization came on Monday.

If you’re sitting at home doing the math, this would mean that I have a week to study for the GRE.  It turns out that a week is more than enough time, if you budget it correctly.  I had already purchased some good GRE review books, and got to work right away.  In my experience (which should not be mistaken for an expert’s), as long as you know how the text works, you’ll be okay.  GRE questions, much like the SAT ones, come in very specific formats that, once you can recognize the pattern, are pretty easy to figure out.

So how am I studying if I only have a week?  Pretty carefully, actually.  Here’s how I’ve been doing it:  (Disclaimer:  DON’T wait until the last week to study for the GRE.  It’s not a good idea.)

  1. Figure out the format.  I’ve found the GRE workbook series to be very helpful, as they go over test-taking strategies for each question type on the exam, and give an hour’s worth of practice for each, so you can focus on one type of question at a time.  Another good source I’ve been using is the website Syvum to be very helpful in test prep questions.  They have some pretty tough ones there, and (so far) has been good in prepping for the verbal portion.
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice.  (This is where I’m at).  Use a book, use your friends, use the internet.  I’ve been looking at practice problems while reactions have been running, and at night before bed, which I hope is enough.  I’ll let you all know how it goes, I guess.
  3. Practice Tests.  Time yourself!  Because you only get to do one question at a time, it is important that you time each and every question.  Use all the time allotted, as well.  Be sure of the answer.

I hope this is helpful for all those procrastinators out there.  I’ll check back next Monday and give you all a play-by-play of how the test went!

Fear and Loathing over Recruitment Weekend

Plain and simple: recruitment weekends are awesome, if not a little bit overwhelming. Generally, there’s 48 hours or less to figure out three important things:

  1. Is this the department for me?
  2. Which professors would I actually want to work for?
  3. How best can I take advantage of free drinks, while not getting too drunk?

It’s definitely taxing, especially when you start mixing 1 and 2 with 3. With my first weekend down, here are some extensive tips I’ve rapidly developed (prototyped?) to not just survive recruitment weekend, but to really ‘overclock’ your experience.

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