My Continuing Academic Saga: Does Blogging Boost GRE Scores?

As many of you long-time Nacclers know, I am a graduate student. Or at least, I was. Right now, I’m between programs 😉

I have officially left my previous degree-granting institution, initially against my will. I now think that, in the long run, it will probably be one of the better things to have happened to me. Some of you already know the humdrum details, and for the rest, I won’t go into anything more than generalities. After the shock of the news had worn off, I quickly realized (rationalized?) something I had been telling my wife for years; I never liked my program, and often actively disliked it. In fact, I had thought seriously about transferring after receiving my MA, but ultimately decided against it, for various reasons I still think were valid.

I chose the particular program I did because of irrational fears about studying the Bible through a more theologically-oriented program. Instead, I was trying to get at it from the side, and it didn’t work very well.

I have been encouraged to press onwards by various friends and mentors, a decision which I had already largely reached on my own. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I enjoy the topics, the mental wrestling necessary, and I really like teaching. And so, I have been visiting schools all over the country to find the right new program, something I didn’t do the first time.

As part of the application process for other programs, I recently retook the GRE, necessary since my previous scores had expired. (It went extremely well, thank you. Much better than the last time, in 2000.) The GRE has a new writing section, which reminded me a lot of blogging. One section has a topic, on which you must write and defend a position, marshaling arguments to support your thesis. The other section presents you with a paragraph or so of text, and you must critique its reasoning, analyze the unwritten assumptions, etc. I was worried about the writing section, but actually found it quite pleasurable due to the similarities with blogging. “I do this all the time online,” I thought. I would attribute comfort and familiarity to this kind of writing directly to my participation in the bloggernacle.

I anticipate good things in the future. My new program, wherever I end up, will probably only require me to do a year or so of coursework before taking exams and dissertating. In the meantime, I will continue to write sporadically on the Bible, temples, etc. for the various websites and blogs I’m associated with.

11 thoughts on “My Continuing Academic Saga: Does Blogging Boost GRE Scores?

  1. Ben, sorry to hear that your last program ended. Of course, we welcome you back to the world of blogging, from which I have been decidedly absent as of late.

    I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming posts. Perhaps I will contribute as well. 🙂

  2. I think blogging can help your GRE scores, if you write well, or deliberately try to improve your writing. However, most people don’t write like you have to write for the GRE. When I took it, I felt like I was in high school writing five paragraph essays again. Most bloggers don’t write like that because it’s not very interesting, but the high score I received on that section tells me this is exactly what the scorers are looking for.

  3. Ben, good luck in your new program. I believe the rigors of blogging (public criticism of your viewpoints) makes thinking people think and reason better, so I agree with the thrust of this post, although I’ve never taken the GREs.

  4. Well, I fear to re-take the GRE (mainky because I nailed the logic section that the writing section replaced and I doubt I have as good a chance to get a perfect score on the writing test), but since I’m ABD it doesn’t matter much. I just gotta write the Dissertation and then I can find a job.

    I actually think the writing test is a well-intentioned but mis-guided section. The graders do a hasty job (they have to, given the many tests they have to grade in a limited amount of time), and the way they are graded rewards test takers for just making crap up. As long as the argument is well-structured, all your facts could be dead wrong, as long as they sound okay (perhaps it is a lot like blogging after all…..)

  5. Ben, I can relate. I was all set to go to Berkeley to pursue my doctorate in physics. Then I had some unfortunate adventures with a crazy roommate who wanted to kill me. In hindsight I think it was one of the better things to have happened to me although I sure didn’t at the time.

  6. Ben, blogging does have it advantages. It sounds like you are pretty upbeat. I do hope that you find a program that is a great match for you. Not that I can relate directly as I never went to graduate school, but I can relate to a door closing in my undergraduate degree when I had to changes majors due to my condition. And I ended up really enjoying the major that I changed to in the end. It was interesting how coursework from earlier courses had some overlap in my new degree. I hope that you find that what you have learned will be beneficial to you wherever you go in life.

  7. It does not seem logical to me that you should have to take a GRE test score again given the fact that you have been taking Doctorate level courses within about a year.

    I had to take a standardized test that required some writing. I believe this section was scored with the English usage section. I kept starting over trying to make it sound thoughtful. I think that I had scarcely any Essay down when the time was over. I was so surprised that I had passed.

    With my limited blogging experiences, I think that I would be in a better position to take such a test now. Plus, I send my good friends emails that are more like essays or character sketches when the mood strikes these days and that helps my writing skills.

  8. Anything you practice, you should become better at, unless you are really bad, never try hard, and receive no feedback. Usually successful bloggers don’t have a problem with any of that. I don’t know whether it helps with standardized tests, though — honestly, I’m much better at standardized tests than I am at anything else, and as long as I’m familiar with what the test-makers are looking for, I do well. I got a 610 Math SAT score despite barely passing Algebra II, and hardly opening my Trig textbook. Of course, I also got 100% in the Calculus section (for which I only had the test prep books to study) and something like 70% in the Algebra section, so.

    I sympathize with your academic woes; I hope you’ll find a place you belong in. I haven’t even decided for sure whether to go to grad school (my self-imposed law school decision deadline is in… ooh, 29 days now,) and admire your persistence and obvious self-awareness.

  9. Hi Ben! Wow, I’m surprised to hear the news. Gotta say, now that I’m finally in the workforce and done with school (forever!), my respect for your continuing efforts at scholarship is only greater. I never had the patience for school, and your patience seems infinite!

    Are you looking at other doctorate programs, or something different? (BTW, greetings to you and the wife! Apparently your brother lives in the same Virginia town as us and attends the ward next to ours!)

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