The post GRE Tip: Hack Your Memory with Memorable Mnemonics appeared first on GRE.

]]>In front of you sits a big stack of GRE vocab words you want to memorize. How do you get all of these words in your long-term memory as quickly and efficiently as possible? You could just try to cram things into your head through sheer force and repetition. But in my experience, that’s too slow, and students often learn the word-for-word definition without actually processing what the word really means. I’ve had more than one student tell me that “obsequious” means “servile” without knowing what “servile” means…

The key is this: you *must* make effective mnemonics for yourself as the first step to learning words. You’ll be shocked at how quickly you can memorize 50 words if you only make the effort early in the process.

By the way, a “mnemonic” is basically *any* tool you use to help you retain and recall. You’re probably familiar with several already:

**Rhymes:** “i before e except after c”

**Acronyms:** H.O.M.E.S. to remember the great lakes–Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

**Visual Aids:** Using your knuckles to determine which months have 31 days.

You ask. To which I say: 1) Who cares? And 2) No, not really. According to Barbara Oakley in her book *A Mind for Numbers*, “Research has shown that students who use these types of tricks outperform those who don’t. In addition, imaging research on how people become experts shows that such memory tools speed up the acquisition of both chunks and big-picture templates, helping transform novices to semiexperts much more quickly— even in a matter of weeks.”¹ So there.

On the Quant side of the GRE, there are several effective mnemonics out there, and even more if you use your creativity. You may know these:

- “
__P__lease__E__xcuse__M__y__D__ear__A__unt__S__ally” can help you remember the order of operations (Parenthesis → Exponents → Multiplication/Division → Addition/Subtraction). - MA/DS/PM (pronounced “MAD SPaM!”) are the rules for manipulating exponents with the same base:
- When you
__M__ultiply exponents with the same base, you__A__dd the exponents. - When you
__D__ivide, you__S__ubtract the exponents. - When you raise an exponent to a
__P__ower, you__M__ultiply

- When you

And so on. Whenever you come across a new math concept, do what you can to create some kind of acronym or rhyme (or anything) to make it stick. (Sing this: “When dividing Fractions, don’t ask why, just flip the second and multiply.”)

The next time you run into a word you don’t know, take a moment a free-associate about it. What other words does it look like? What does it sound like? What images does it conjure? You’re not trying to guess the definition of the word, so the images you see may be *completely* unrelated to the definition. That’s okay, as long as they’re visual.

Let’s take the verb “scotch.” Regardless of the definition, you might see a roll of Scotch tape or a bottle of Scotch whiskey. Great! You have the first step to making an effective mnemonic.

A great vocabulary mnemonic creates a neat chain from the word to the definition. The **word** triggers an **image**, which contains some **link** to the **definition**:

**Word → Image → Link → Definition**

So now look up the word “scotch” and consider how it’s used. In our books, scotch is defined as “To put an end to,” to foil, or to prevent from happening. A good sentence for the word might be, “The storm scotched our plans for the picnic.”

So now you need to link. Make your image part of a little mental movie that acts out the definition. Take the Scotch tape: imagine someone trying to break into your house but getting caught in a web of Scotch tape. Or tripping over a bottle of scotch, foiling his criminal work.

**Word → Image → Link → Definition**

**(Scotch) (Tape) (Tape blockade) (to end something)**

Finally, add a note about your mnemonic on the definition side of your flashcard, so you can keep using the same mnemonic until it sticks.

Let’s try it again. Apart from its definition, which you may or may not know, what does the word “hegemony” remind you of? Maybe hedges (well-trimmed shrubs) with lots of money. (Weird, huh? That’s the point!)

So what can you do to link hedges with money to the definition “dominance of one group over others?” Maybe the hedges are big mafia boss hedges that control all the hedges in the neighborhood (Shrubby Soprano).

**Word → Image → Link → Definition**

**(Hegemony) (hedges with money) (mafia boss hedges) (dominance over others)**

Your images and links should be strongly visual, so make them silly, weird, obscene, morbid, or shocking in some way. The word skullduggery should be conjuring skulls and shovels—something straight out of the Walking Dead. (You don’t have to tell anybody your sick mnemonics.)

Sometimes, you can go backwards. A word’s definition will remind you of a person you know, a celebrity, an event in your life, a movie, or anything. Who do you know that is totally“fastidious?” (extremely nit-picky, critical, and hard to please.)

Once you realize that your Aunt Edith, with her obsessive cleanliness, is the epitome of fastidiousness, you just need a silly image to link her to the definition. Maybe her running around cleaning like a fast idiot?

**Word → Image → Link → Definition**

**(fastidious) (fast idiot) (Edith cleaning) (extremely nit-picky)**

That’s it. Make a silly visual mnemonic for *every* word you want to learn. After few tries, you’ll be able to generate mnemonics easily in about 20 seconds, and after a few days of quizzing yourself, you’ll never forget them!

Your turn! Help each other out. Find a word from your GRE study and make mnemonics for the rest of us. Post in in the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Find this blog helpful? The best way to learn all you need to achieve your goal score on the GRE is to try out one of our Complete Courses. The first class session is always completely free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

¹Oakley, Barbara (2014-07-31). A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) (p. 179).

*Can’t get enough of Neil’s GRE tips? Few can. Fortunately, you can join him twice monthly for a free hour and a half study session in Mondays with Neil.*

*When not onstage telling jokes, Neil Thornton loves teaching you to beat the GMAT and GRE. **Since 1991, he’s coached thousands of students through the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and SAT, and trained instructors all over the United States. He scored 780 on the GMAT, a perfect 170Q/170V score on the GRE, and a 99th percentile score on the LSAT. Check out Neil’s upcoming GRE course offerings here or join him for a free online study session twice monthly in Mondays with Neil. *

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]]>The post Should I Take an Online GRE Course? appeared first on GRE.

]]>Do you have access to a wired internet connection? It’s possible to take an online GRE class with only a wireless connection, but some students who try this find that their audio and video periodically lag. This is annoying at best, and at worst, can keep you from participating in class. It’s not hard to set up a wired connection if you don’t have one already — if you take the class from work, ask your IT department, or use Google or a technologically-savvy friend to help you out at home. You can also contact our Tech Support team at techsupport@manhattanprep.com.

Do you have a headset that’s comfortable to wear for 3 hours, and a microphone with good audio quality? We don’t recommend using a built-in microphone on a laptop to take an online class. You can buy a headset that’ll work for under $20 on Amazon. If you’re planning to take an online class, pick one up now so you’ll have it for the first class meeting.

Do you have a quiet place to work, with no interruptions? If you have small children or needy pets at home, consider taking an in-person class to ‘get away from it all.’ We *don’t* recommend taking an online class from Starbucks (too loud) or a public library (you won’t be able to talk freely).

**Does the thought of speaking to the class via microphone make you uncomfortable?**

Be realistic — if this might keep you from learning effectively, take an in-person class instead.

**Are you comfortable with English?**

It’s harder to understand speech (for everyone, not just non-native speakers) over an Internet connection than it is in person. If English speaking and listening aren’t strengths for you, consider taking an in-person class so you’ll have more non-verbal cues. Don’t underestimate yourself, though! I’ve had many non-native English speakers succeed in my online classes.

**Are you an extrovert?**

The most successful online class students are the ones who contribute spontaneously, even if they aren’t sure that they’re right. They ask for help if they need it, and they don’t feel shy about pausing the class to ask a question. If you’re talkative and enthusiastic in class, an online class could be a great fit.

**Do you stay focused on your own?**

In college, did you show up to every class session, even at 8 in the morning, or could you succeed by skipping classes and reading the textbook later? If you’re good at motivating yourself to stay focused alone, take an online class. If you like that extra ‘push’ from sitting in a classroom with other students, consider an in-person class.

**How do you interact with technology?**

If you dread learning to use a new online platform, consider an in-person class. That said, if you’re reluctant to take an online class just because you’ve never done it before, take a trial class and find out! Blackboard isn’t too complicated — it only takes a little time and practice to learn everything you’ll need to know.

**Do you have a tough schedule?**

Match the class to your needs. If you travel a lot, or work unusual hours, consider an online class. It isn’t the perfect situation — ideally, you’d take an online class from a quiet, consistent location — but it’s better than no class at all!

**Are there in-person classes in your area?**

If not, try an online trial class. You might be surprised by how effective it can be.

**Will you need to miss multiple classes?**

All of our online classes are recorded, so you can watch them later if you have to miss one. You can schedule a makeup class if you miss an in-person session, but you may need to travel to a different location, and you’ll probably have a different instructor.

If the decision is obvious once you’ve read this article, go ahead and sign up! We’d love to have you, whether online or in person. If you still aren’t sure, you can take the first session of any of our GRE classes for free. Try at least one in-person class and at least one online class before you decide. You can even try multiple classes with different instructors, until you find an instructor and classmates you really click with. Contact our Student Services team if you have any questions about signing up for a class — they’re at studentservices@manhattanprep.com.

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Should I Take an Online GRE Course? appeared first on GRE.

]]>The post Let’s Have Fun with GRE Exponents appeared first on GRE.

]]>**Adding and subtracting exponents**

Here’s a problem from the *Exponents and Roots* chapter of the GRE 5lb. Book:

Look at the numerator of that fraction. There isn’t an ‘exponent rule’ for handling subtraction, or addition, between two exponential numbers. It’s also impossible to calculate the value of the numerator on paper, since the numbers are much too big. Nonetheless, you can simplify it by **factoring out the greatest common factor. **

Both 40^{50} and 40^{48} are divisible by 40^{48}. Factoring out a 40^{48} term from the numerator gives the following:

From here, the problem can be simplified using only the usual exponent rules. I’ll leave that to you! But here’s the rule to remember, since it allowed us to take the first step towards simplifying this problem: when you see two exponential values with the same base being added or subtracted, **find the largest common term and factor it out**.

Test that skill by simplifying the following:

**Sneaky special quadratics**

When is an exponent problem not an exponent problem? When it’s a quadratic problem in disguise. Here’s one more problem from the GRE 5lb. Book:

The numerator looks similar to the ones in the previous two problems, but this time, the *bases* of the two exponential numbers are different. You can’t factor out a common term unless you know the values of *a* and *b*. What you can do, though, is recognize the numerator as a **difference of squares**.

Both *a*^{8} and *b*^{8} are perfect squares. Specifically, they’re the squares of *a*^{4} and *b*^{4}, respectively. Their difference can be simplified using the difference of squares formula, *x*^{2} – *y*^{2} = (x – y)(x + y). This is true whenever a number has an even exponent. So if you see a difference of exponential numbers, and both exponents are even, consider simplifying in this way. In this case, the expression can even be simplified further, since both *a*^{4} and *b*^{4 }are perfect squares:

Finally, simplify the entire fraction:

The correct answer is (C) (*a* + *b*)(*a* – *b*), which is equal to *a*^{2} – *b*^{2} .

Try simplifying one more expression for practice. This time, you’ll need both of the skills discussed in this article:

**When you see something in an exponent problem that doesn’t fit the rules**, ask yourself if it’s one of these two special exponent problem types. It may require you to factor out a common term, require you to use the difference of squares rule, or possibly both. If so, don’t get intimidated! Just follow those rules and keep simplifying.

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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]]>The post Here are 6 GRE New Year’s Resolutions to kick-start your prep appeared first on GRE.

]]>**1) Resolve to Motivate Yourself**

- Research your top 3 schools.
- Take a diagnostic test.
- Pick a test date.

First, you need to know whether the GRE is even a factor for you, and if it is, what score you need. Some programs don’t care about your GRE score at all, and some programs want something intimidatingly high. However, you won’t know how much to prep unless you find out. So go do your research. You never know—you might not even need the GRE at all.

If you do need the GRE, take a test. You can find a free one here.

Again, if you’re scoring well above the score you need to get accepted, you’re done! Go take the real thing and use the extra time to focus on the rest of your application.

If you need to increase your score, the most motivating thing you can do right now is sign up for the real GRE—pick some date 9-12 weeks from now. Don’t wait to sign up. Trust me on this. Without a looming deadline you’ll never pick up a book. Want to start jogging? Sign up for a 5k. Want to lose weight? Pick a wedding date and weigh yourself (I know this from personal experience, by the way).

**2) Resolve to Make Specific Action Goals**

Make sure your goals are both realistic and tied to specific actions. Resolving to study for 40 hours a week is unrealistic and a good way to doom yourself to burnout. Resolving to “get a great score” is fine, but unless you break that goal down to specific actions (finish one Strategy Guide every weeks) you’ll never achieve it. To continue the losing weight analogy: a realistic and specific goal (if you’re not working out right now) is to show up to the elliptical machine for 20 minutes 3 times a week. The weight will take care of itself.

Also, make sure your goal is under *your* control. You can control the work *you* do, not the actions of admissions departments. Therefore:

**Bad Goals**

- 170q/170v (Both unrealistic and nonspecific)
- Full scholarship to Yale (Not under your control)

**Good Goals**

- Make flashcards for 100 words per week
- Master quadratics by doing every problem in the quadratics chapter.
- Spend half an hour a day reading before bed.
- Memorize times tables by quizzing yourself for 5 minutes a day.

**3) Resolve to Make a Schedule**

Most students who tell me they’re “too busy” to study are lying to me or to themselves. Fine: their days are completely filled, but how much of that day is spent on Facebook or binge watching Netflix? The reason most well-intentioned students don’t get work done (and the reason I fail to show up to the gym) is that GRE time isn’t scheduled in the datebook.

So, schedule it with a pencil or your iCalendar – now! Pick 20 minutes every day and put it in the calendar (Later, build up to 25 minutes twice a day and then more). Write it down and you’re ten times more likely to shut off the TV or turn off the phone and get work.

**4) Resolve to Get Help**

You *could* do it on your own, but if you need more guidance and motivation, you’ll do *way* better with a coach. Sign up for a 9-week course with ManhattanPrep. Hire a private tutor. If you’re self motivated enough to do self-study, great! There are lots of structured online options to give you concrete, actionable goals.

Don’t forget peers and study-buddies. Find someone else who is working on the GRE and set up weekly check-in sessions.

There are lots of free resources out there. You’re already on our awesome blog, so check out our online forums here. Every other Monday I run a very cool free workshop called Mondays With Neil. Check it out! Reach out to the online world for whatever else you need. It’s amazing what’s out there.

By the way: Do you suffer from severe test anxiety? Do you have a diagnosed or undiagnosed learning difference or ADD? Please reach out to a licensed professional to get the help you need. Many of my students have done amazing, life-changing work with professional psychologists, helping their futures in ways far beyond the GRE.

**5) Resolve to Get Smarter**

The best way to make yourself smarter is to read real books every day (the ones made of paper and ink are better than their digital versions). If you’re not a regular reader right now, start with something fun, light, and entertaining: Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Gone Girl, or whatever your friends recommend. Once you build some reading skills after a few weeks, check out the non-fiction aisles to find interesting well-researched books (I love Malcolm Gladwell, Jared Diamond, Michael Pollen, and Yuval Noah Harari).

On the math side, get back to your basics. Quiz yourself on your single-digit times tables. Watch YouTube videos for math tricks. Get math games for your iPhone. Online, there is great stuff here:

**6) Resolve to Start Today**

Reread this list and find ONE thing you can do in the next 5 minutes: Google a school. Sign up for a class. Block out some GRE time in your calendar. Don’t get up from your desk until you’ve done it. Sometimes getting started is 90% of the battle.

Just do one thing and you’re well on your way!

Have fun and have a great year.

*When not onstage telling jokes, Neil Thornton loves teaching you to beat the GMAT and GRE. **Since 1991, he’s coached thousands of students through the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and SAT, and trained instructors all over the United States. He scored 780 on the GMAT, a perfect score on the GRE, and a 99th percentile score on the LSAT. Check out Neil’s upcoming GRE course offerings here. *

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]]>The post Here’s How to Create Your Own GRE Quant Cheat Sheet appeared first on GRE.

]]>**Don’t go straight to the Strategy Guide. **Instead, start by summarizing your own knowledge — and, if you have them, your notes. Focus on the most critical facts and equations to remember, processes for solving problems, and things to look out for. If you were creating a cheat sheet for Rates and Work, you’d definitely include the equation *work = rate * time*. But you’d also want to include an example of how to draw a work/rate/time chart, and maybe some notes on when to use estimation versus algebra.

**Find a good source of problems. **Ideally, you should review problems you’ve already done, as well as trying new problems. Did you do something while solving a Rates and Work problem that you hadn’t already mentioned on your cheat sheet? Add it. Did you fall for a particularly clever trap? Add that to the sheet too. If a problem confuses you the first time, but you later come to understand it, figure out how you could avoid being confused again, and write it down. What would you want to recognize or look out for if you saw a similar problem on test day?

**Synthesize. **Spend some time identifying **similarities** and **differences** among various problems you might see. When I recently did this exercise with a student, we decided to categorize Rates and Work problems by what information the problem provided: does it give you the rate and work, and ask you to calculate time? Or does it give you work and time, and ask you to calculate rate? These two situations require slightly different approaches. We also identified a whole category of similar Rates and Work problems, where you’re given information about two people or machines working alone, and asked to figure out what would happen if they worked together. These problems always require the same basic approach, so my student included an outline of that approach on her cheat sheet.

**Review and revise.** If this exercise works for you, don’t just do it once and move on. If you miss a Rates and Work problem that you should’ve gotten right, take another look at your cheat sheet: was there something you missed? Periodically review the cheat sheets you’ve created, and add more information or detail as necessary. As you study and learn more, your understanding of a given topic will become more nuanced, and you’ll recognize elements of problems that you didn’t notice before.

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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]]>The post GRE C.P.R.: How to Resuscitate Your Score appeared first on GRE.

]]>**The “students-but-not-practitioners”**

These are students who diligently “study”—they read every book and show up to every class—but who don’t do enough practice and therefore can’t apply what they learn quickly and accurately. It’s like reading books about baseball as your only preparation for a Major League tryout. You have to pick up the ball!

**The “practitioners-but-not-students”**

These are people who “practice” thousands of questions, but never learn anything from them. They rarely learn any new strategies, and never redo questions to fix their mistakes. They simply read explanations without really mastering the foundations behind them.

What both of these types miss, and what most students of mine miss, is the *real *opportunity to change: by reviewing their work and redoing problems again and again until they’ve achieved real mastery. One must strive to be *both* a student and a practitioner in order to conquer the GRE.

- Acquire new
**content****knowledge (C)**and skills **Practice (P)**enough to play that knowledge in various contexts- Take enough time to
**review (R)**, redo, and reflect on your right and wrong answers in order to develop confidence in your approach and fix your mistakes.

Next time you sit down to work on the GRE, divide the time you have into three chunks. Suppose you have an hour: Dedicate 20 minutes to content, 20 minutes to practice, and 20 minutes to reviewing.

LEARN something new. Add new content to your brain. The best source for content is one of our Strategy Guides. Sit down and work through one chapter or even just a part of one chapter. Make mnemonics for a handful of vocabulary words. Memorize a few math rules or formulas. Learn the strategy for a particular question type. Make flashcards. Take notes. Compile cheat sheets. You should some of this time quizzing yourself on content from previous days, so everything stays fresh and useable.

Now, put what you’ve learned into practice. Work the questions at the end of each Strategy Guide chapter. Do questions out of the Official Guide or the 5-lb book. (Should you do them timed or untimed? Your call. Time yourself less as you’re beginning to study. Time yourself more as you get closer to the real test.) Take a practice test to figure out what you need to master next.

Redo, reflect – but don’t stop there! Reviewing and redoing are the best ways to really make a change in your score. Why is cellist Yo Yo Ma so wonderful at that Bach concerto? Because he’s played it thousands of times. Simply glancing at an explanation is not sufficient. Sure, check your answers, but before you look at an explanation try to do the problem again. Look up vocabulary words. Try to piece together the best strategy yourself from your notes or Strategy Guides. Do the problem again using a different strategy (Can you plug in smart numbers? Use the answers instead of algebra? Ballpark? Eliminate and guess?) Do the problem enough times that you’re confident you could ace this question in half the time. Rewrite the question and change the numbers or the parameters to see how your solution changes (what if the question didn’t say, “y is an integer?”) Also, before you close your books for the day, be sure to take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned; take notes on the content areas you need to cover next time and the kind of practice you need to do.

Then take a break, and when you’re ready start the cycle all over again…

You can always start the cycle wherever you want. Do some **practice** to warm up, **review** those questions, and let them guide you to **content**. Or start by **reviewing** an old practice test to decide where you need to go…

So, there’s your answer: The best way to study is to perform C.P.R. Now go resuscitate that score!

For more about reviewing your work, check out this great article.

*When not onstage telling jokes, Neil Thornton loves teaching you to beat the GMAT and GRE. **Since 1991, he’s coached thousands of students through the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and SAT, and trained instructors all over the United States. He scored 780 on the GMAT, a perfect score on the GRE, and a 99th percentile score on the LSAT. Check out Neil’s upcoming GRE course offerings here. *

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]]>The post Conquering GRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence as a non-native English speaker (Part 2) appeared first on GRE.

]]>The GRE doesn’t focus on the *most *obscure words. (If it did, the test would be impossible — some sources claim there are over a million words in the English language.) Instead, it intentionally tests words that are used in formal or academic English writing.

As a non-native speaker of English, you might struggle to identify words that fit into this ‘sweet spot’ of difficulty. If you strike out on your own, you risk wasting your time studying words that probably won’t appear on the test, while missing others that appear often. Without a strong background in academic English, it’s hard to guess that *fortuitous *is a high-value GRE word, while *pelf *is much less likely to appear. The best way around this problem is to get your vocabulary list from a trusted outside source.

To find a trusted source for vocabulary, do a little research. All of the major test prep companies have released vocabulary lists or flashcard decks (here’s ours!) and with a bit of Googling, you’ll be able to find reviews from other test takers, including both native and non-native English speakers. Things to consider include whether the definitions include context, whether you find their style memorable and easy to read, and whether they come in a flashcard or app format to use on the go.

What’s harder is deciding how *long* of a vocabulary list you need. That really depends on how much time you have to study. Spend a week studying vocabulary for 30 minutes each day, and then test yourself on how many new words you’ve learned thoroughly. Based on this, choose a core set of words that you’ll have time to learn before test day.

If I were going to write a Text Completion (or Sentence Equivalence) problem, I’d start with a very simple sentence that included a target vocabulary word.

*When teachers have to follow a rigid curriculum, they feel **undermined**. *

Then, I’d think about the critical clues that would make that answer *definitively right*. How could I make it clear that *undermined* is more correct than *depressed* or *furious*?

*When teachers are forced to follow a rigid curriculum designed by people who don’t understand teaching, they feel **undermined**, since they prefer being creative over following a mandatory set of lessons. *

Now, *undermined* is a good fit for the sentence — the two clues are the curriculum designed by non-educators, and the teachers’ inability to exercise their creativity.

The last step is to make the sentence tougher. Add in extraneous detail, make the vocabulary more complicated, obscure the clues, and scramble the sentence structure.

*Oftentimes, when administrators force teachers to cleave too closely to a federal curriculum, those teachers feel **undermined**, because the mandatory curriculum curbs their sense of being creative and dynamic educators. *

Suddenly, you’ve got a problem you might see on test day! (This one is from the 5lb. Book.)

On the GRE, your task is to do the same thing, but backwards. Stop thinking about each problem word by word, from left to right, and start reading sentences “from the inside out.” Unpack the sentence, remove the trivial details, and pare it down to the core and the clues. Check out this sentence:

*Central to the challenger’s platform was the argument that the incumbent had ultimately ______ the agreements he had initially championed during his first stint in office. *

If you’re reading from the inside out, you’re parsing this sentence at a high level. As you read, you might simplify like this:

*There are two parties in an election: the challenger and the incumbent. The challenger says that the incumbent ______ the things he said he’d do while he was in office. *

The structure and logic of the sentence are the same, but it’s become much easier to read. You’ve paved the way to creating a good fill-in, like *went back on*. And in fact, the right answers end up being **reneged on** and **abrogated**, which mean exactly this.

In these two articles, we’ve discussed four powerful strategies for non-native speakers:

– Keep a list of words and phrases that you misread when doing practice problems;

– Always include the context when defining a new vocabulary word;

– Do your research to find a good source of vocabulary, and don’t try to learn every word;

– Practice deconstructing and simplifying sentences as you read them.

If being a non-native English speaker makes the vocabulary-based questions tougher for you, think of this as an opportunity. Using the ideas in this article as a starting point, identify exactly how being a non-native speaker affects your performance, and make a specific plan to improve. Feel free to share your ideas and results in the comments!

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Conquering GRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence as a non-native English speaker (Part 2) appeared first on GRE.

]]>The post Conquering GRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence as a non-native English speaker appeared first on GRE.

]]>English is counterintuitive, but native speakers never notice most of the inconsistencies. As a non-native speaker, you’re in a unique position to notice the quirks of English and turn them into useful lessons.

**Here’s a Text Completion mini-problem:**

*My boss is not only cheap, but positively ________*.

The word *but* is a ** Pivot** that indicates a

If you’re shaking your head at that explanation, you’re right — it isn’t a very good one. The explanation is logical, but **the English language isn’t**. The actual fill-in should be something like *stingy*. Even though *but* denotes contrast, the idiom *not only…but also* is used to intensify an idea:

*He completed **not only** the whole set of Manhattan GRE Strategy Guides, **but also** the entire 5 Lb. Book. *

Plus, the word *positively* isn’t always as positive as it sounds! It can intensify either positive or negative adjectives, similar to *highly* or *absolutely*.

*The seats at the theater were **positively **torturous, with wooden backs that forced us to sit painfully upright.*

You’ll identify other quirks of English like these ones as you review problems. Your task isn’t to be perfect the first time — it’s to *never be fooled the same way twice*. Whenever you misinterpret something in a Text Completion or Sentence Equivalence problem, write it down and review it often. It’s fine to make mistakes while studying for the GRE; it isn’t fine to make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You can learn tons of vocabulary words by committing their definitions to memory, but the ETS knows about that strategy. They design some problems that can’t be solved by just knowing definitions verbatim. You need to learn the *contexts* of words, too.

**Here’s a Sentence Equivalence problem where that comes into play:**

The suspect was hoping the expert witness would corroborate his story, but instead she proceeded to _______ his account of what happened.

☐ disabuse

☐ gainsay

☐ contradict

☐ rebuff

☐ abjure

☐ precipitate

Your fill-in might be *reject*. Unfortunately, five out of six answer choices (everything except *precipitate*) could arguably fit this fill-in. To choose the right two answers, you’ll need to know when these words are used, not just what they mean.

*Disabuse* involves rejection, in that the person doing the *disabusing* rejects someone else’s belief. But *disabuse* is used in a very specific way in English: you always disabuse someone **of** an idea or a belief, rather than disabusing the idea itself.

*I disabused my cousin of the frivolous notion that Santa Claus was real. *

*Rebuff *also refers to rejection. However, it refers specifically to the rejection of an *offer*, usually an offer of friendship or romance.

*She asked her new coworkers to join her for dinner on Friday, but she was rebuffed. *

*Abjure*, likewise, describes a sort of rejection. In this case, it’s the rejection — generally formal — of one’s own previously held belief. You don’t abjure an *account*, and you don’t abjure someone *else’s* beliefs.

*After the fortune-teller’s predictions of wealth and success proved false, he abjured astrology and became an investment banker. *

The two answer choices that fit in both definition *and* context are *contradict* and *gainsay*. Both of these can refer to rejection, but that’s not all. They specifically refer to contradicting a claim or a statement. That makes them a good fit for the sentence.

To solve more Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems, you have to know the particulars of how words are used. Often, two words with very similar definitions will be used in very different contexts. Native English speakers can sometimes rely on their ears to tell the difference, but for you, as a non-native speaker, the solution is to *always* learn new words in context. Every time you write down a new vocabulary word, add a sentence or two that uses it correctly. If it’s almost always used in a specific situation, make a note of that. If you’re not sure how the word is used, try a Google search to see how real people are using it. And if you miss a problem because of a subtle aspect of context, add it to your notes. Never let yourself be fooled twice.

These aren’t the only things that matter when learning Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence as a non-native speaker. Next week, we’ll say more about increasing your vocabulary and understanding complex sentences. For now, start including the contexts of words in the definitions you learn, and commit to noticing and writing down logical misinterpretations. That alone should help you avoid missing the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems that you should be getting right.

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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]]>The post Here’s how to always know what to do on any GRE problem appeared first on GRE.

]]>*“I know all of the rules, but I’m nowhere close to my goal score.”*

*“When I study, I understand everything right away. But when I took the actual GRE, I couldn’t make it happen.”*

*“I never know what to do when I see a Quant problem for the first time. If somebody tells me how to set the problem up, I can do it perfectly, but I can’t get started on my own.”*

*“I get overwhelmed by Verbal questions. I’ll think that my answer makes sense, but then I’ll review the problem and realize that there were a dozen different things I didn’t notice.”*

If any of those statements ring true for you, you’re not alone. You’ve probably been studying for a while, or you at least have a good grasp on the basic math, logic, and vocabulary. But getting a great GRE score isn’t just about knowing the content. It’s also about *always knowing what to do next*. That’s what the “**When I see this, I will do this”** technique is for.

Before your next review session, create a new spreadsheet, or open your notebook to a fresh page. In the leftmost column, you’ll record **clues**. In the middle column, you’ll record **responses**.

**Clue: **Any feature of a problem that stands out to you.Before your next review session, create a new spreadsheet, or open your notebook to a fresh page. In the leftmost column, you’ll record **clues**. In the middle column, you’ll record **responses**.

**Response: **The right thing to do when you notice a particular clue.

For each problem you review, regardless of whether you got it right or wrong, record at least one clue and response. Make your clues general enough that they’ll be useful to you on other problems, but don’t make them too general. The perfect clue is one you’ll always react to in the same way, no matter where you see it. Here are some examples for Quant:

These are useful clues, since they’re neither too specific nor too general. You’ll probably see exponents with non-prime bases in many problems, and you’ll generally react to them in the same way, even though you might never see the specific equation 25*x* = 5* y* + 1 again.

Here’s an illustration of how you’d identify useful clues while reviewing a Quant problem. First, do the following problem:

If *t* is divisible by 12, what is the least possible integer value of *a* for which t*ˆ*2/2*ˆ*a might not be an integer?

(A) 2

(B) 3

(C) 4

(D) 5

(E) 6

The solution: if t²/2*ˆ*a *might not be an integer*, then t² might not be divisible by 2*ˆ*a. Since *t* is divisible by 12, its prime factors include 2, 2, and 3. So, the prime factors of t² include 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, and 3. That makes it divisible by 2*ˆ*4, but it might not be divisible by 2*ˆ*5. So, the right answer is **(D) 5**.

That’s a bit of a whirlwind solution, right? And knowing it well, even memorizing it, will do absolutely nothing for you on test day. To improve your understanding of the solution and provide yourself with takeaways for *other *problems, break it down into clues and responses. At each step of the solution, what was the right thing to do next, and why?

The first step was to recognize the relationship between “t²/2*ˆ*a might not be an integer” and divisibility. That comes up in a lot of problems, because it’s a handy way for the GRE to disguise divisibility problems to make them harder. Here’s how you’d generalize it into a clue and response:

Whenever you see “*a*/*b* is an integer”, the right first step is to start thinking about divisibility.

The next step was to determine whether t² was divisible by 2*ˆ*a. The solution jumped immediately to finding the prime factorization of t², but why? Here’s the clue:

Questions about divisibility are actually questions about prime factorization.

There was another trick involved in finding the prime factors of t². You might remember it from earlier in this article!

That’s how you knew that *t²* contained the prime factors 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, and 3. (You could add another row to your own spreadsheet, to remind yourself that *t²* *might* contain other prime factors as well!)

Finally, how did you know that *t²* was divisible by 24, but not by 25? Another clue:

Since *t²* can be divided by 2 four times, it must be divisible by 24. You don’t know whether it can be divided by 2 a fifth time, so it might not be divisible by 25. That makes **(D) 5** the correct answer.

Now, try using the clues from this problem to solve these micro-problems:

- Is 280³ divisible by 2
*ˆ*12? *a*/20 is an integer, and 20/*b*is an integer. Is*a*/*b*an integer?- If 3
*ˆ*10/*y*is an integer, is*y*/9*ˆ*8 an integer?

The more clues you add to your own list, the more you’ll notice that GRE problems test the same skills over and over. It’s not possible to see every problem — that’s one good reason not to adopt a ‘quantity over quality’ approach to studying! But it *is* possible to learn which features are used over and over, and how to react to them. If you feel like you already know the content, but you can’t bring it together, then stop thinking so much about content and start thinking about *knowing what to do next*. That’s how you take control of the GRE.

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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]]>The post Here’s the safest way to handle GRE percentage problems appeared first on GRE.

]]>Specifically, this *isn’t* a strategy for “percent change” problems. Make sure the problem is asking you to calculate a percent *of* some value:

What is 80% of 120?

If *x* is 1/3 of *y*, and *y* is 120% of *z*, what percent of *x* is *z*?

What percent of 15*x* is 12*y*, in terms of* x* and *y*?

At the heart of every “percent of” problem, no matter how complex, is a basic question. It looks like this:

_____ is _____ percent of _____?

Sometimes, the problem will already be written in this form:

What is 80 percent of 120?

Sometimes, you’ll need to manipulate the terms slightly to make them fit:

*z* is what percent of *x*?

12*y* is what percent of 15*x*?

If you’re uncertain, look for the ‘of’ in the original problem — it always goes right before the value you’re calculating a percent of. By the way, you’re allowed to use exactly one ‘what’ in your rephrase! It can appear in any of the three positions.

Translate your sentence into a mathematical equation by working from left to right. *What* translates into a variable, and I like to use *w*, as long as it hasn’t already been used elsewhere in the problem. *Percent* always translates into “/100”. *Of* translates into multiplication. Here are those three sentences again, this time in mathematical form:

*w* = 80/100 * 120

*z* = *w*/100 * *x*

12*y* = *w*/100 * 15*x*

*w* is the value that the problem asks you to solve for. So, use algebra to isolate it. This might take only a single step, as in the first problem:

*w* = (80/100) * 120

*w*** = 96**

You may have to incorporate other equations while solving, as in the second problem. In that case, isolate *w* first.

*z* = (*w*/100) * *x*

*w* = 100*z* / *x*

Then, use the other equations to eliminate the remaining variables.

*x* = (1/3)*y*

*y* = (120/100)*z*

*w* = 100*z* / ((1/3)*y*) = 300*z*/*y*

*w* = 300*z* / ((120/100)*z*) = 300/(120/100)

*w ***= 250**

If you need to solve *in terms of *another variable or variables, as in the third problem, isolate *w* while putting all of the other variables on the other side of the equation.

12*y* = (*w*/100) * 15*x*

*w* = 1200*y*/15*x*

*w*** = 80***y***/***x*

This approach does require a decent amount of algebra, but it has one huge advantage. Have you ever noticed that many percentage problems have answer choices like these?

(A) 0.4%

(B) 4%

(C) 40%

(D) 400%

The folks who write GRE problems do this intentionally. Once you’ve come up with a solution, they want you to waste time wondering: *Was I supposed to multiply by 100? Or was I supposed to divide? Or is this number actually the right answer by itself?* The strategy in this article sidesteps that problem entirely, because there isn’t any step where you have to decide whether to multiply or divide by 100. That makes it useful for anyone who sometimes finds percentage problems confusing and stressful. As long as you set everything up as shown and do the algebra correctly, the result you get will be *exactly the right answer*, with no conversion between percents and decimals required.

Try it out on this super-tough problem, and share your process in the comments:

*xy* is 20% of *z*. In terms of *y*, what percent of *x* is *z*?

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Here’s the safest way to handle GRE percentage problems appeared first on GRE.

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