Tag Archive: Graduate Records Examination

After at least four years of more lectures, labs, study groups, readings, papers and presentations than you would ever care to count, the prospect of taking up to another 18 months to attain a master’s degree or maybe even four years to earn a Ph.D is a prospect most graduating seniors would rather not even think about.

And yet the question still persists for some: Should you seriously consider taking the advanced degree plunge right here and now following graduation? Consider that even more employers are requiring advanced degrees; many want MBAs.

Before answering this perplexing interrogative: Consider the unmistakable NFW response by the author of Almost DailyBrett in 1978. Yours truly had just received his bachelor’s in Broadcasting Journalism from the University of Southern California. There was simply no way when it came to the question of signing up for even more college.

I was done, thank you very much.

Looking back at that easy-and-yet momentous decision, your author now regrets not pursuing a master’s degree right then and there, when he was as free as a bird … no spouse, no kidlet, no mortgage, no car payment … absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were right in Stairway to Heaven: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

A confluence of events in my life (i.e., widowerhood, adult daughter, real estate appreciation, fellowship) gave me that one-last-chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree in mid-life at the University of Oregon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.

Died and Went to Heaven

When the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication offered me a fellowship, your author jumped at the opportunity in two nanoseconds or less.

You should do the same, if you are selected for an on-campus fellowship at a R1 university.

Becoming a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) provides the following benefits:

  1. An absolutely free master’s degree or Ph.D … yep no-instate or better yet, no out-of-state or private school tuition;
  2. Medical, dental and vision health care benefits for at least the fellow, and maybe the whole family as well;
  3. A stipend of $1,000 or more per month;
  4. Invaluable teaching experience as a teaching assistant to a professor.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote before, I appreciated this unbelievable deal and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was perplexing to say the least when the University of Oregon GTFs went on strike in 2014 … Patience, Kevin. Patience. Let’s not get started on this subject again.

Some have asked: Should I take an online master’s degree or Ph.D? My short answer is nein.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in public relations, marketing, journalism, broadcast, film etc., it is best to be on campus to directly interact with your colleagues and Ph.D professors. Sorry to say, file sharing and texting just don’t cut it.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, an online program may be appropriate. Having said that, communications requires – face-to-face interaction and diplomacy – no online program can help you advance these interpersonal story telling skills.

What about the necessary evil? The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Brace yourself and come to full acceptance mode as quickly as possible. Any graduate school worth its salt (sorry University of Phoenix, that designation does NOT apply to you), particularly a Research One or R1 university, will require the GRE.

Your author took it twice, the second time after a prep course, and lived to talk about it. Take the prep course and do as well as possible on the GRE.

What About Grad School?

“No one does bull shit better than you.” – A compliment from one of my USC fraternity brothers

Trust me, bull shit does not work in Pro Seminar.

The two-night-per week, three-hours per class, was the most intense review of communications philosophy one can imagine (i.e., Kant, Marx, Althusser, Descartes, Hegel, Le Bon …). Don’t even think about going to class without doing the reading; you can’t hide in plain sight for three hours. Don’t even think about B.S.- ing a full professor with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

And once you have navigated the benign sounding, but mind-numbing Pro Seminar class with its up-to-five hours per night of reading, you will be ready for … qualitative and quantitative analysis in the next quarter.

Sounds horrible? Right?

In reality, pursuing a graduate degree was an incredible and rewarding challenge. It soon dawned on me that I was only using a mere fraction of my brain. I made some great friends as well.

One of my profs said: “We are working on your intellectual growth.”

Intellectual growth? Me? Really?

Oh, did I mention that my master’s degree was an absolute prerequisite for landing a tenure track professorship in public relations and advertising at Central Washington University? Guess, learning about Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperatives was well worth it.







Try this one out for size…

P = 300c² – c

c = 100

Quantity A    Quantity B

P                      29,000c

A. Quantity A is greater

B. Quantity B is greater

C. The two quantities are equal

D. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given



Why would anybody in her or his right mind take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), let along undergo this mental torture twice?

I know for a fact that I cannot be the only masochist on this planet, who would choose (and charge to my credit card) four hours of essays, readings, obscure vocabulary questions and then bewildering math problems such as the one above.

Make that eight hours, spread over four years.

And why can’t mathheads use numbers instead of letters? I thought letters were for the right-brain folks, who study journalism, public relations, advertising, philosophy etc.

One of my friends from my Sacramento days asked me on Facebook, why someone of my “advanced age” (nice) would put himself through all of this agony? The short answer is that I want to compete for the big degree, and the GRE is a necessary evil.

So what limited wisdom can I impart based upon these grueling experiences to anyone considering following in my footsteps?

First, resolve yourself to no more kicking and screaming. Take a GRE prep class. It does make a difference. For little ole me, I raised my cumulative score by 270 points (conservative interpretation) or 300 points (less conservative interpretation), when one equates the new scoring system (e.g., scale of 130-170 points) compared to what was used (e.g., traditional 200-800-point scale) just four years ago.

I signed up for the GRE course offered by the University of Oregon Teaching & Learning Center for $155 for four consecutive, three-hour Saturday morning classes. There is no reason in my humble estimation to pay $1,200 or more to one of the GRE prep centers that are easily found with a Google search. It’s your money.

At a minimum, a GRE prep course makes you more confident heading into the test center. And more importantly, it teaches you some of the tricks of the trade.

Now you wouldn’t think the wonderful Homo sapiens at ETS (Educational Testing Service) would try to deceive test takers? Think again.

ETS employs smart cunning people, who are put on this planet for the sole purpose of devising answers that appear to be right, but are actually wrong. And they know they are wrong. This is either Machiavellian or just plan evil.

For reading comprehension (count on: Unbelievably boring, convoluted turgid text … excuse me for the understatement), the GRE gives you five answers. Two absolutely suck. That leaves you with three answers that are plausible, and maybe they are all right … but damn it, two are wrong.

The GRE gurus are looking for the “best” answer based upon the reading. What may be the best interpretation to you may not be the best to ETS? Sounds subjective? You’re right and there is a high probability that you are not selecting the best answer. Only ETS’ opinion matters.

Sorry. Life is not fair. As my future mother-in-law would say: “Grow a pair.”

Second, forget the calculator, if you can.

Wasn’t the Titanic not equipped with enough lifeboats? ETS is kind enough to provide you a basic calculator with its onscreen program. Shouldn’t you use it, particularly a numbers-challenged journalism graduate? You can, but you are costing yourself precious time.

The GRE prep class counterintuitively recommended dispensing with the calculator, answering the questions based upon pure logic. The problem at the beginning of this blog post gives you four answers (okay, I added one more). Some problems have five potential answers in ascending numeric order. Two will be ridiculous. If you can throw one out that gives you no worse than a 50 percent chance of getting the problem right … without your crutch calculator.

Then there are the problems in which you have absolutely no clue, and only a 20 percent chance of getting it right … regardless of whether you use the calculator or not. Should you respond to the problem anyway? The answer is an emphatic, yes. If you luck out and get it right, you are also recording a right answer for a high difficulty question, and that raises your quantitative score.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Third, manage your time as a good quarterback does trying to pull out victory from the jaws of defeat, when precious seconds are running down to zero.

You have an option of having the descending clock running, while you are taking the test or you can hide the clock with one click of the mouse. Keep in mind, that similar to the Wicked Witch of the West and her hour-glass in the Wizard of Oz, time never stops.

My verbal scores and the results of my two essays (scored 0-6 by ETS essay readers) are the most important to me. I do not plan on competing for a Ph.D in physics or rocket science at MIT or Cal Tech. Instead, I am looking to attain my doctorate in public relations. That means I needed a verbal score on steroids.

The verbal section includes text completions with as many as three fill-in-the-blanks for each sentence; sentence equivalence that test your synonym capabilities; and the above mentioned reading comprehension texts, the latter which drains time at an alarming rate.

My humble advice: Skip around and complete the text completions and the sentence equivalence questions first. Why? They don’t take as much time. There is a higher probability of getting these right. Most of all, you don’t want to leave these blank if you run out of time. That’s what happened to me taking GRE Test 1.0.

Once you have completed the text completions and sentence equivalents then turn your attention to the readings. But first … read the questions CAREFULLY. One question may say:”… if true, the following will support the author’s contention”… Another may say: “… if true, the following will undermine the author’s contention.” Undermine is the opposite of support, and these two competing questions may be attached to the same reading. Yikes!

Finally, make sure that you really want to attend graduate school either to compete for a master’s or for your doctorate. Some schools put more emphasis on the GRE than others, but all the good ones require taking the friggin’ test.

You get as much out of the GRE as you put into it. Take the prep course.





“…We welcome applications from women and members of historically underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, and others who would bring additional dimensions of experience to our community.” – De rigueur boilerplate at the bottom of a typical job description

Looking around a crowded classroom during the last three Saturdays of students taking a Graduate Records Examination (GRE) preparation course, I repeatedly thought to myself:

Where are the guys?

Can I count them on one hand, including me?

Do women have a better approach toward learning?

Is the pink brain superior to the blue brain?

I don’t want Almost DailyBrett to come across as a whine or to imply that I do not celebrate the shattering of one class ceiling after another, but to question the absence of men…particularly pale males…from one classroom after another.

Is it just a matter that I am looking in all the wrong places? Sure, I know that men can be found in engineering schools, (particularly Asian men) sales conferences, and football practices, but is something more complex happening here?

Is it a case of: Pale + Male + (Assumed Privilege) = No “Additional Dimension of Experience?”

Almost DailyBrett offers zero empirical data to support this uneasy sense, but nonetheless one has to question why aren’t more males competing for advanced degrees or even undergraduate degrees? There is a growing amount of literature questioning why aren’t males doing better academically. Do they (men) believe it is not worth making the effort?

Is this a recent development or part of a multi-decade trend?

Pursuing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California way back when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter occupied the White House, the ratio of men-to-women students was approximately three-to-one. This was not good news for men (including me) looking for coed attention. Many times we were compelled to outsource to UCLA to find females that were willing to give us (SC guys) the time of day.

In my fraternity house, you became a “Row God” and signed autographs, if a Pi Phi merely breathed on you, let alone permitted any other physical activity. It was all a function of the preponderance of males on university campuses at the time. If women were to be found on campus, it was usually in education or nursing, not the journalism school.

Times have clearly changed and I have absolutely no desire to go back to the days when the scales were so unevenly balanced on behalf of males. I am just wondering whether the pendulum has swung to the point of no return?

Checking out the U.S. News & World Report gender stats for the campuses of the Pac-12 Conference, seven have female majorities (e.g., Arizona, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington and WSU); four have male majorities (e.g., Colorado, OSU, Stanford and Utah); one is locked in a 50-50 percent statistical tie (e.g., ASU).

Looking deeper, the ratios are relatively close with Utah having the largest percentage of males, 55 percent, and UCLA having the highest percentage of females, 55 percent. Liberal arts schools and those located near the coast trend toward female majorities, while engineering, scientific, agriculture and mountain schools tend to have more males.

Could my feelings of unease simply revolve around my teaching at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, amplified by the fact that I have served as an instructor of public relations? Women absolutely dominate public relations as they do real estate and local government. If you don’t believe me, just check out virtually any metropolitan public relations agency.

Coming back to my Saturday GRE class, I didn’t recognize any of the perspective graduate students as hailing from our journalism school. They were coming from other disciplines on campus. The ratio in my GRE class is about seven-to-one, female.

Is this the experience at other public research universities? And if it is, what does it mean for the future? Sounds like a great research project.

Technology has produced a paradigm shift in how work gets done in this country and other developed nations around the world.

The days in which we relied on brute strength, ignorance and testosterone for the majority of the heavy lifting in the workplace are in the rear-view mirror. Today, we are focused on productivity. Today, we rely on a service-oriented economy. The “services” provided by knuckle-draggers in the form of brute strength, ignorance and testosterone are no longer desired. Can they (e.g., males en masse) shift to providing services with a smile? I have my doubts.

Can I prove the reasoning behind my trepidation about the future of men? Not yet. Can I deny that I have these concerns? No.

Are all men doomed to being academic second-class citizens? There are going to be men that will do well, very well. As a gender, I suspect that blue brains are taking a back seat to pink brains.

Some may inclined to think: How come it took you so long to come to this obvious conclusion?





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