My preparation for GRE and TOEFL were officially kicked off as early as the third semester of Engineering. Again I had my nerd friend Akhil to thank for that. Having failed miserably in his attempt to make it through to IIT he decided that rather than commit suicide he would leave the country. We scouted around and came to know that there is something called a post graduate degree. It is a degree for those whose brains haven't yet been addled by undergraduate study. That sounded like a good fit for Akhil. As for me, I dint have any brains, so there was no question of any addling. However, before we applied for admission to universities in USA, we need to get two scores. They were the GRE and TOEFL scores.
All you needed to do to get a good score in GRE is 'mug up' 2500 word meanings, get really good at solving puzzles and become a math whiz. Walk in the park ... Yeah right!!! I ran for dear life, and for once, so did Akhil. Back to college life it was, for an additional two semesters. By then most people in class were looking toward the future and I too started thinking. My badminton career was over .. The devil (head of Dept) had ensured that. I needed to do something too. Roundabout this time Devraj and Sampath caught the GRE bug. This was a shock. Sampath I could understand but Devraj!! My intellectual twin .. taking the GRE. I had to do it too. So I joined them for study sessions.
First we hit the word lists. There was an upside to that. We used to go back to class with all these new words swimming through our heads and strike up a conversation with any unfortunate soul in the vicinity. It usually went like this.
Me : Hi Shalu. What are you doing perambulating down the corridor.
Sampath: Yeah you should be cogitating the last lecture.
Devraj: In fact .. I myself am ruminating over the last portion.
(by now shalu would be sweating profusely thinking all these new words are part of the syllabus)
shalu (flipping feverently through the text book) : Perambul .. is that in the Induction motor section? How come I dint see it?
Little by little we conquered the word lists. Analytical (or the puzzle section) wasn't too tough. I had spent so much time cooking up excuses for my many screw ups that lateral thinking had become a way of life. That left math. Turned out high school level math was all they expected from us. No probs. Pretty soon we were consistently getting scores over 2300 (out of 2400) in the practice tests.
That left TOEFL. I followed the first stage completely and faithfully. It required us to watch as many English movies as possible to catch the American accent. I did that .. Heck .. I had been doing that since I was 6. For the second stage we had to listen to tapes of people. We did this in sampath's house. It was a quiet place, so quiet it was scary. I could hear the clock ticking in the hallway as we studied. Visions and ghosts and past inhabitants haunted my daydreams. However making out what was said in such an environment was no big deal. The remaining sections of TOEFL were similar to the verbal section of GRE.
So that was that. We were ready. The first real roadblock came in the form of campus interviews. I cant describe how distracting it is to have a job in hand. I had done the dogs work for well over 8 months and still, after I landed a job, I wanted to call it quits. Moreover I had fallen in love .. and she had no plans to come to US. Not just me Devraj wavered too. Sampath really saved us there. He was firm in that we were going to take the test. He made sure we sent in our applications and pretty soon it was time to take the TOEFL
There was no place to take the exam in Trivandrum. So we flew down to Chennai to take the test. Devraj and I were on a flight for just the second time. During takeoff and landing Dev changed a wonderful shade of Lilac that I should really have captured. It could have won prizes in photography contests. Things really weren't going well for him.
Once in Chennai we split up. Each of us had a different venue. Mine was inside a university. It was quiet and peaceful. Very much like sampath's place. The test went smoothly and soon I was on my way back. The first person I met was Devraj. He dint look too confident. He said "there was this crow dude .. right on the window beside me. Drove me crazy .. I couldn't hear anything." .. followed by a string of swear words I'd rather not type. Sampath joined us later. He had no issues at his venue.
One down .. one to go. Sampath and Devraj both got dates for GRE before mine. As their scores came in I realized that the real thing is not as easy as a practice test. The big day came. It was a little bit of an anti climax. I dint get nervous, and I dint screw up. Came out with a decent score of 2130. Enough to get me across the seas. And across the seas I went.