Worried by reports of the military’s brazen PR campaign that critics see as a prelude to a takeover, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has started preparing for GRE.

A source privy to the development said the 65-year-old father of four has been spotted with several books and guides related to the GRE exam that he is frequently seen consulting during long meetings with military and civilian leaders.

“As ties between the army and the government worsen, and a series of failures in power and infrastructure projects bring the ruling party’s capacity to govern into question, this comes as a powerful political message,” said an office politics expert who has either left or been kicked out of a number of jobs during his career. “Not only is he signaling to the military leadership that he is not happy with the way his job is going, he is also expressing his disappointment towards his cabinet by showing them he is exploring other options,” he said while playing solitaire on his office computer.

“Having been ousted by the military before, the three-time prime minister is a seasoned politician who knows he has to keep his future options open,” said another expert, who is known to have missed a number of opportunities to study in the US because of his unnatural fear for the GRE, despite the fact that she claims to be preparing for the standardised exam every time his friends ask her what she is up to.

A journalist corroborated the report based on what he calls undeniable evidence. “If you look at the press releases that have been coming out of his office recently, you can clearly see a pattern – there has been a steep rise in the use of very difficult words that are only used in English language in GRE word lists and student flash cards,” he told me on condition of anonymity. “I don’t see any other conditions under which someone would use the words fecund, fealty, fetid and filch in one long sentence,” he said.

A political aide said he had asked the prime minister to consider applying for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship, but the leader of the ruling party is wary because of the scholarship’s requirement to come back and serve one’s country for several years. “I am also trying to convince him not to pursue a degree in humanities or arts,” he said on condition of anonymity. “There are no jobs for students majoring in arts and humanities. I don’t think he wants to end up being a prime minister yet again.”

Psychologists say it is natural to feel frustrated after two or three years of work in a highly competitive office environment, and thinking about going to college again is a normal course of action one takes when one is in such a situation. “There’s only so much you can do as a prime minister. You need to take a break after a couple of years and look at where you are going,” one expert says. “And it is a healthy approach to think about expanding your skills by going to university.”

Some argue the Pakistani premier’s decision to take the GRE and apply for schools is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to make Urdu an official language in Pakistan and a growing opposition to English-medium private schools. “He knows that there is no hope left for the students of Pakistan, and that there is nothing he can do about it,” says a politician close to him. “He knows a student with poor English grammar and vocabulary, and a student who has studied math in Urdu, stands no chance of scoring well in GRE. At this point, I think he thinks the best thing to do is to secure his own future.”

Political pundits say there are lessons he must learn. “He must realise that life is not the kind of school where everyone gets an A just because they made an effort and there is no right answer,” said a retired professor who now charges exorbitant amounts of money to help people prepare for the GRE. “We also offer IELTS and TOEFL coaching, which will increase the number of countries where the honourable prime minister can study or work in if he is ousted.”

Sources close to the military establishment declined to comment on the report. “Nawaz Sharif must realise that while GRE score matters, the reference letters and a good personal statement are more important,” a security analyst said.