Took the GRE today - it was nice to have something other than my generally terrible life as a focus for awhile. Two days ago started reading prep materials, was impressed with how terrible the writing sample advice was (enough cliche to make me think "omg like gag me with a spoon, eh?", clueless posturing, etc in the highest rated essays to make me really doubt Kaplan), how the words one theoretically should know are mostly easy except for a few tricky ones and another set of words nobody uses in even the most erudite things I've ever read, and ... actually how surprisingly good the maths section of the prep materials was. Kaplan's maths guide is far more practical than I think math instruction should be at that level, but it's actually top-notch for what I'd expect of excessively practical instructors would produce as a model textbook covering basic maths - for someone who knew everything they covered but just needs a basic refresher, it's hard to imagine them making something better. I also had a good time thinking of some of the prep as a nice puzzle book - reasoning about the problems they pose is fun.
This morning, I woke up at a reasonable hour (!!), had a nice burrito at Verisign, and popped into the test in the Cathedral of Learning - apparently the actual hours of the test are more guidelines, as I arrived an hour early and was able to start right away. I'm glad I started with the essay - one of the choices was a specific question in political theory that's near topics on which I've written many essays, and so I was able to whip up a good essay out of ingredients in my mind - I regret that I don't still have it (and that nondisclosure would prevent me from posting it if I did) - hopefully it's in the right format for whatever terribly-bored graders want. It was of a much higher quality than stuff that made it onto my blog (as I usually wrote this amidst distractions, sometimes over hours).. Unfortunately, for the other parts of the test, I really screwed up by very badly budgeting my time in the same way each time - I rushed through each section leaving tons of time at the end. Combine this with my mind being slightly fuzzier than it was when I was younger, and I got 160 points short of the sum score I got on the SATs, which is humbling. I know I am (or at least was, 10 years ago) capable of so much better. The maths section wasn't really the site of the disaster (where I actually scored the same as I did on the SATs) -- all 160 points of deficit came from the reading/language section. Still, I wanted to beat my old SAT scores -- I was sleepy when I took them, and if I had been more awake I've long thought that I might've matched the score of some of my friends back then who got perfect scores. The points of doing well today were to:
1) Distract me from being terribly depressed by giving me something to be happy about for awhile
2) Get me scores good enough that hopefully nobody will ask about my grades in university or for a transcript (less likely given that I'm a lot older now and trying to enter a different field, but my grades never were that great because I focused on learning and didn't give a lot of effort to homework)
3) Help bolster one of the very narrow bases of my self-esteem in the longer term
Failed. On the upside, I've heard that it's possible to retake parts of the GRE without retaking the whole thing - my Maths score is good enough that it's probably not worth retaking, and the written section will (hopefully) turn out good enough that the same can be said - retaking the reading/vocab part to narrow or eliminate that 160 point loss would probably be a good idea.
I probably should try the much harder task of taking the psychology subject test - given that all the sample tests I find on the web are way beyond my league, I have a lot to learn in order to do that. The funny thing is, I could probably get into a CS grad programme without a lot of effort on my part if I decided to focus on those interests instead.
Gah, so frustrated with myself. I can't take credit for my successes - they're mostly innate (and show no virtue on my part any more than being tall raises my half-assed running from terrible to blah) and come from having very nice brain hardware allowing me to be lazy as hell and coast through things with no effort provided I don't do something really stupid that aims me into the ground. In this case, it was exactly that - I had the bad judgement to put off taking this test ten years past when I should've taken it, and then sprinted through it despite the urgent pleas of some parts of me screaming that they'd like more time to think about the answers. The blame is more sublime when I know I've failed to live up to my potential. I can almost see MsW frowning at me.
P.S. For those of you who follow politics and want interesting topics to research, you should look at the history behind the recent sacking of PM Kevin Rudd in the context of factional shifts and campaign promises/goals.