Category Archives: Tests

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.


So you want a CA teaching credential?

I’m interrupting my first series to quickly provide a rough timeline for getting your stuff ready for a CA teaching credential.  The government and state college sites can be pretty confusing…

A Basic List of Requirements

  • CBEST test (P/NP) – (super easy: you probably won’t need to study)
  • CSET test (P/NP) (Multiple Subject: 3 parts – I studied a book about 1-2 nights before each test (super last minute) .. but ended up passing all of them on my first try.  I would recommend that you study though – because the subjects are all pretty random.)
  • For state colleges, anywhere from 40-50 hours of in-class experience. You need the experience from the area that you plan to earn your credential (ie: an elementary school classroom for Multiple Subject, an English classroom for Single Subject English).  The experience is also probably required in a title I type of school and can be gained from volunteering, working, or substituting.
  • 3 letters of rec. (1 from your in-class experience teacher or supervisor)
  • Short Personal Statement

Basically, these requirements are pretty standard for any state college where you’re applying for their education credential and M.A. program.  The private and UC colleges can sometimes require a standard GRE and a longer personal statement.

What I would suggest is that you take your CBEST as soon as you can since it’s easy, you can get it out of the way, and the scores don’t expire.  Also, if you pass your CBEST, you can potentially work as a substitute teacher as well (if you have your Bachelor’s degree).

Then, I’d suggest, for the CSET, that you plan to only take it once.  Take the test with the goal to PASS.  Study for it!  Take the practice tests offered in books and on their website.  You don’t need to hardcore study, but at least review what you don’t know.  I ended up staying up late into the night the night before my CSET.  It wasn’t fun.  Stress levels were high.  I passed (by God’s grace).  I took my CSET parts II and III first because I felt those would be the hardest, then I took part I in the next session.  Do these soon too because most State schools now require you to have all tests finished BEFORE you apply.

You should also go visit the school info session if you can, AND call/email them with any application questions.  They are very helpful!

Let me know if you have questions!

My "I TOOK THE GRE" smile

Aww man…

So for the Berkeley DTE program application requirements, doesn’t it look like you have to take the CBEST and the Writing CSET?

Basic Skills Requirement (Required of all applicants to programs leading to a credential; 3 options for passing)

I mean I did think it was strange (since most schools require either the Writing Skills CSET or the CBEST), but I signed up anyway and arranged to get a substitute for that test day.  Well, it turns out that you don’t have to take the Writing Exam if you passed the CBEST.  Furthermore, the last day to cancel the CSET tests was at the late registration deadline.  Even though the CBEST allows you to cancel 24 hours in advance for a free refund, the CSET doesn’t do that.  So, now I’m out $35 (which may now sound like a lot but… it is!).

What you can get for $35

At first, I felt frustrated since was it my fault?  But then I suppose I should have inquired with the Berkeley GSE earlier…

Lesson for Future Applicants: If you want to be careful about your finances (or just your application in general), contact the Admissions Office with questions – even if it seems obvious.  The sooner the better!

Honestly though, this is the only thing that comforts me.  When your grass looks pretty dingy, just go look at the other, less green side!  🙂  Happy Applying!