Articles published in September 2014

Manhattan Prep’s Social Venture Scholars Program Deadline: September 26

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free-greDo you work for a non-profit? How about promote positive social change? Manhattan Prep is honored to offer special full tuition scholarships for up to 16 individuals per year (4 per quarter) who will be selected as part of Manhattan Prep’s Social Venture Scholars program. SVS program provides selected scholars with free admission into one of Manhattan Prep’s GRE live online Complete Courses (an $899 value).

These competitive scholarships are offered to individuals who (1) currently work full-time in an organization that promotes positive social change, (2) plan to use their MBA to work in a public, not-for-profit, or other venture with a social-change oriented mission, and (3) demonstrate clear financial need. The Social Venture Scholars will all enroll in a special online preparation course taught by two of Manhattan GRE’s expert instructors within one year of winning the scholarship.

The deadline is fast approaching: September 26, 2014! 

Learn more about the SVS program and apply to be one of our Social Venture Scholars here.

Studying for the GRE? Take a free GRE practice exam, or try out one of our upcoming free Manhattan GRE trial classes, running all the time near you, or online. And, be sure to find us on FacebookLinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!

3 Misconceptions about the GRE

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GRE test how to study helpYou’ve been prepping for the GRE for a while (or maybe you’ve just started), and you’re trying to gather as much information as possible. But because no one knows exactly what will be on the GRE until you sit down to take it, there’s a lot of misinformation out there!

Some of this misinformation is left over from the old GRE (pre-2011), which was very different in structure and somewhat different in content from the current form. Not everything that was true about the old GRE is true about the new one. Some misinformation, though, is just the product of assumptions made from very little data.

So let’s dispel some of those myths here…

1. You have to memorize a ton of big, fancy vocabulary.

False! The old GRE tested a lot more of these million-dollar words – words like pusillanimous, flagitious, or escutcheon. For this reason, lots of lists of “GRE words” on the internet still contain mostly these ultra-fancy words that no one actually uses. (The old GRE also had a question type called “antonyms” in which you had to pick the opposite of a word without any sentence context whatsoever! The new GRE only uses vocab in context.)

On the current GRE, almost all of the vocabulary you’ll see on Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence (TC and SE) will be words that you probably already know. These are the medium-difficulty words that you’d be likely to read in the New York Times or The Economist – words like impartiality, debilitating, or superfluous* .

These TC and SE questions are in part testing your vocabulary knowledge, but far more importantly, they’re testing your ability to parse the logic of a sentence. You’ll see many sentences with simple vocabulary, but with complex structures, including transitions, contrasts, or flips. Your ability to follow the logic of clues like “however,” “rather than,” “would not have been,” etc, and make inferences from them will affect your verbal score more than the impressiveness of your vocabulary will.

So to do well on TC and SE, you don’t need to memorize the dictionary! You probably already know more than three quarters of the words you’ll encounter (although you’ll want a moderate dose of studying for those words that you don’t already know). You should spend a good amount of time understanding and analyzing those complex sentence structures, in addition to just memorizing words.

2. You don’t really need the calculator.

This is another misconception leftover from the old GRE, which didn’t let you use a calculator. Many of the practice questions that you’ll find in online searches or in prep guides are leftovers from the old test, because the topics (algebra, geometry, word problems) have not changed from the old test to the new. These older questions are all doable without a calculator, which leads some students to believe that they’ll never need it.

You’ll certainly see questions on the new GRE that are doable without a calculator (and many that are easier to do without a calculator). However, a lot of students are surprised at how many questions on the test require good calculator use. You’re likely to see at least a handful of questions that ask you to multiply or divide “messy” numbers – something like 62 x 83. Sure, you could do that by hand, but when the clock is ticking it’s much more effective to use the calculator.

You’ll still see many problems on which common sense, concept knowledge, and/or mental math are more effective than the calculator. And if you find that you’re using the calculator on more than half of problems, you’re relying on it too much! But you should take the time to practice with the onscreen calculator to make sure that you’re comfortable with using it effectively.

3. Just learning the rules is enough.

Not true! Knowing the rules and concepts is of course necessary to do well, but you also need good time management and stamina to do well.

Taking a 4 hour test is a very grueling experience, and if you’re not used to being under that much mental pressure for that long, you’ll get exhausted! That can take a big toll on your score for the last few sections. Make sure you take several timed practice tests before the real event, and do them under the same time constraints as the real test (no extra breaks, no pauses). Train yourself like you would train for a marathon!

And of course, make sure to get a good night’s sleep – not just the night before the test, but for at least 3 nights before the test – and eat a good meal an hour or two before the test.

Make sure you’re pacing yourself well in each section. If time runs out, you lose points on the questions you didn’t get to. Don’t be afraid to skip the ones you don’t know, to get to the ones that you can solve.

There’s nothing I can tell you that will actually make the test fun to take, but knowing what you’re up against can certainly make the experience less intimidating!

Manhattan GRE

Studying for the GRE? Take a free GRE practice exam, or try out one of our upcoming free Manhattan GRE trial classes, running all the time near you, or online. And, be sure to find us on FacebookLinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!

Coping with Test Anxiety

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test anxiety helpMany students report feeling high anxiety while preparing for—and taking—the GRE. I can relate: I was so nervous on test day my dad had to drive me to the test center!

The thing to keep in mind when it comes to anxiety is that your body is actually doing you a favor. Anxiety is associated with a host of different bodily responses, all of which are amping you up to perform your best: the stress hormone cortisol becomes active in your system; your heart beats faster; you are engaged and alert and attentive. These might not always feel good, but they are helpful! Consider the alternative: how well would test prep go if you were taking a survey on Which “Game of Thrones” Character Are You? Unless you’re obsessed with becoming like Tyrion Lannister, you probably won’t experience a huge amount of anxiety while taking a survey such as this, and so you won’t be as engaged as attentive as you really can be. Anxiety is normal and, in the long run, will help you do your best.

There are, however, instances in which anxiety can lead to reductions in performance. Anxiety can interfere when you’re staring down a problem that, at first glance, appears unsolvable. It can stop you from opening your strategy guide to study after a long day of work. And it can undermine your performance on Test Day if it gets in the way of beneficial problem-solving habits.

So there are times when we might want to do what psychologists call “downregulating” our anxiety. There are several ways to accomplish this.

Before Test Day

– Practice good study habits. Anxiety can build up when we feel we are not doing our best to study and prepare for the test. Be diligent and consistent in the amount of time you spend studying each week. By maintaining this consistency, you can keep up your sense of control over your own outcome and not feel overwhelmed or inundated.

– Exercise. A healthy mind requires a healthy body. Studies have shown that even taking a seemingly insignificant ten-minute walk per day can have significant effects on reducing stress hormones in your body and adding the kinds of endorphins needed to stay positive and productive.

– Keep things in perspective. One principle cause of anxiety is the feeling that the GRE is everything. In fact, though, people have the tendency to overestimate the importance of seemingly big events. In other words, while it may feel like the GRE looms large right now, and that the future hangs in the balance, remember that there are an infinite number of ways and routes to accomplishing your objectives. Whatever the outcome of this test, you will find a way to navigate toward what you want to do. Studies show that you are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

On Test Day

– Get excited! Because of the variety of neurochemicals zipping around in your bloodstream on this important day, your body is humming like a finely tuned racecar. A recent study has shown that a technique called reappraisal can help you harness this energy toward positive performance. The idea is simple: as you evaluate your feelings before and during the test experience, tell yourself repeatedly, “I’m excited!” What this does is help the brain interpret your physiological symptoms as instances of competence and control—which, given how ready you are for this test, is exactly what they are!

– Breathe. Eastern traditions like yoga and meditation give extremely helpful lessons for keeping a cool head as you face the test. One such lesson is a breathing technique called ujjayi breath, a strategy that calls for a slow, steady breath in and out through the nose, creating a slight constriction in the back of the throat which causes a small but perceptible oceanic sound in the throat and sinuses. Taking five or ten instances of slow, purposeful breath can do wonders for your stress levels.

– Remember what you practiced. Stress and anxiety can sometimes cause people to search in the moment for new, untested approaches to solving problems. Resist this urge. Recall the hours you spent practicing problems just like this and stick to the techniques and strategies you have learned in your preparation. You are ready for this test, and have all the tools and strategies you need! By having faith in your preparation and sticking with what you know, you will be able to resist feeling anxious and instead devote all your mental resources to doing your best.

Manhattan GRE

Studying for the GRE take a free GRE practice exam, or try out one of our upcoming free Manhattan GRE trial classes, running all the time near you, or online. And, be sure to find us on FacebookLinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!

GRE Reading Comp Doesn’t (have to) Suck, Part 1: Systematic but Flexible

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gre-reading-comprehensionWhy do you hate GRE Reading Comprehension so much? You’re reading and comprehending right now, aren’t you? You read thousands of words every day: status updates, tweets, news articles, emails, reports, books, magazines. In fact, much of the time you LOVE to read, losing yourself for hours in a Harry Potter book or a Stephen King novel. So what’s so bad about reading comp?

I know. I know. “Reading Comp is boring,” you say. Dense. Impenetrable. The subject matter is unfamiliar. The questions are tough. The answers are indistinguishable–either all of them match, or none of them match.

Also, the passages are usually poorly edited excerpts from longer pieces, and therefore lack context, titles, summaries, explanations, and transitions. Often the passages are written for a specific audience (archaeologists, literary theorists, science buffs) and therefore use unfamiliar jargon. You’re thrown in the deep end of the pool, expected to process dense material quickly on a stressful day. No wonder your eyes glaze over and you find yourself reading the same sentences over and over again, getting nothing.

Therefore you do it all wrong. You read and reread, trying to memorize very detail in the passage. You waste tons of time trying to understand the densest, most detailed parts of the passage, losing the thread of the argument. You reread again. In a rush now, you read the question too quickly and spend too much time poring over the answers, searching for evidence of each answer in the passage. When you do that, you find evidence for every answer back in the passage, confusing you even more. You waste time reading again. Finally, you pick something that kind-of matches something in the passage and hope you’re right. You get it right sometimes, but for no rational reason that you can explain.

The cure? You have to develop a systematic but flexible approach that allows you to answer the questions accurately. Then, you need to practice that approach until you’re comfortable and confident.

Here’s the secret. If you spend a lot of time practicing Reading Comp, you will improve your score. That’s it. Just practice. Do questions. Check your answers. Pat yourself on the back when you’re right. Find out why you were wrong when you were wrong. Do more passages. Do old passages again. Repeat.

Again. Be systematic, but be flexible.

How to be systematic:

Every time you do a question, follow these 4 steps. Every time. Never skip a step. These steps should be so ingrained they’re second nature.

1) Read the question.

Understand what the question is really asking. Put the question into your own words. Decide if it’s specific or general.
Identify key words from the question to go hunt for back in the passage.

2) Go back to the passage. Read what you need.

For general questions, you’ll have to quickly read the whole thing, focusing on main points, opinions, and structural clues, while ignoring the specific details.

For detail questions, you have to go back and find the specific information that answers the question. Use key words from the question to guide your hunt. Read a few lines above and a few lines below that key word.

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