How Did You Achieve Your GRE Score?

Orientation has been quite disorienting (har har), and I’ve only been here two days!  Anyway, one thing that I think may be of interest to you is a question that was posed during a multicultural understanding workshop.  What contributed to your GRE score?

When I first saw the question, I first thought, “Hah, nothing!  God?”  Because my whole GRE experience was pretty ridiculous and intense.  Long story short, I was teaching abroad and had to take a whirlwind weekend trip to Bangkok during the weekend the Red Shirts were about to revolt.  I was in the middle of teaching and had no time to study.  When I got my score, I was positively thrilled and amazed because all 3 of my practice exam scores couldn’t even break 1300.  I thought that nothing had contributed to my GRE score except maybe for the fact that perhaps I think like a middle-class, white male (is that stat still valid?). Yet as I began listening to the discussion around me, I realized a lot contributed to my GRE score.

First of all, I came from a stable family background.  My parents were 1.5 generation American and they had a strong “Asian” work ethic.  Although they never forced me to get involved in stereotypically asian activities, they did expect me to work hard.  They also helped me with math, since math is something that’s easier to teach.

Also, I grew up reading a lot.  My mom spent a lot of time with me (and my siblings) as a child, working on our phonics and reading skills.  We used phonics song tapes and Bob books (which apparently still exist!).   My dad would also buy me literary classics even when I was a child.  I would always try reading it, and I finally finished my first classic, Jane Eyre, in sixth grade, and loved it.  Also, despite the fact that I didn’t know how to speak English before elementary school, because I grew up in a predominantly caucasian community, the language became of second nature to me.

Finally, after a classmate shared how she came from a very poor school and how it was one science teacher who noticed that she actually belonged in a higher class (she was put into the lower-level classes with other students of latino descent), and did all the paperwork to get her in (without that one event where would she be?), I realized that the fact that I ended up going to high school in Palo Alto also contributed to my GRE score.  I was surrounded by people using elevated language and on track for a 4-year (most likely prestigious) college.  Even though I had no clue about the application process, I was naturally planning to go to college.

I then was fed into a good public university, Berkeley, which further honed my vocabulary, reading, and writing skills.  Granted, I had my personal drive and ability, but that alone is not what got me here.  I mean, my GRE score wasn’t great, but neither was it bad.  And after thinking this through, I see how it wasn’t just Kaplan and Anki that helped me; it was an amalgam of circumstances and opportunities.

I’m thankful to the Lord for His placing me in such situations, but am also realizing that I need to be a faithful steward of such things.  Another realization is that I need to be humble about myself and patient towards seemingly behind children.  There is so much more going on than just schooling and effort.



3 responses to “How Did You Achieve Your GRE Score?

  1. Hmm, so it all started with having good parents. Maybe the education system shouldn’t just focus on underperforming kids, but also on the parents (if they are around) of underperforming kids.

    • Yes! I’m planning to take a winter term class on Adult Literacy actually. Right now the US’s priority is on children, but it gets really sticky when schools have expectations for families but in certain cases, the child reads better than the adult. It’s complicated. (But currently, the theory is really interesting).

  2. Hahaha… my first response to your article title was: flashcards and practice tests? But definitely agree with you. We were talking in the lunchroom this week about how the statistic that kids who are read to more outperform those whose parents don’t read to them isn’t actually based on the act of being read to, but the fact that parents who read to their kids will have a lot of books (more books in one’s home actually translated to higher test scores) and will be the type of parents who value education and pass that on to their kids (our BD guy and I both read Freakonomics). A student’s home environment is so tricky when it comes to how it influences their academic performance =/ but I like your point that it just means you need to be extra understanding. 🙂

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