The post Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GRE appeared first on GRE.
]]>There are a few different types of wrong answers on the GRE. Some wrong answers are just there in hopes that you’ll guess incorrectly: they actually don’t make much logical sense, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, they look just as good as any other option. Other wrong answers are meant to trick test-takers who make particular mistakes. If you pick an answer on a Text Completion problem that’s exactly the opposite of the correct one, because you missed a critical word like despite or although, this is the type of wrong answer you’ve fallen for.
The third type is more interesting than either of those, and that’s the type we’ll discuss in this article. This type of wrong answer is designed, intentionally, to look easy. A hard problem will sometimes have an easy answer or two, designed to tempt test-takers who aren’t quite sure what to do. In order to make the best guesses, and improve the confidence of your answers, learn to spot these “too easy” answer choices and stay away from them.
Idioms
Prodigal son. Grand gesture. Foreign reporter. Proceeded by rote. All of these are common, idiomatic English expressions that you’ve likely heard before. When you spot them in a Text Completion or Sentence Equivalence problem, watch out!
Imagine that the sentence includes the phrase ______ son, and one of the answer choices is prodigal. It might be correct, but it also could be a “too easy” trap. The writers know that you’ve heard the expression prodigal son before, and that it probably sounds good to you. To fool test-takers who simply choose whatever sounds best, instead of deeply understanding the sentence, they include it alongside the worse-sounding, but technically correct, right answer. On TC or SEq problems, never choose an answer just because it seems to go well with the words close to it: instead, base your answer on a careful reading of the entire sentence. If you decide to guess, don’t go straight for an answer choice that creates a common idiom. And remember that TC and SEq problems aren’t testing writing ability! An option that makes the sentence sound awkward or poorly written could be correct, if it’s the only choice that logically fits.
Quantitative Comparisons
The easiest guess to make on a QC problem is often (D). Here’s an example, from our 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems:
a, b, and c are positive even integers such that 8 > a > b > c.
Quantity A: The range of a, b, and c
Quantity B: The average (arithmetic mean) of a, b, and c
At first glance, it seems like you have too little information to decide which quantity is greater. After all, a, b and c could be anything — right? Nonetheless, (D) is a lousy answer to pick on this problem. It’s just too easy. In fact, the problem was designed to look like you lack information, while secretly giving you enough information to solve. That happens often enough that you should look out for it.
The solution is to never choose (D) without formally proving it, and to avoid guessing (D) on problems that look like this, even if you’re really pressed for time. In order to prove (D), show that Quantity A could be greater, or Quantity B could be greater, depending on the values you test. (Check out our recent article on QC case testing for much more info!) When you try that with this problem, you’ll notice quickly that the only case that seems to work is a = 6, b = 4, and c = 2. The problem doesn’t make that restriction obvious, but it’s there. And with those three values, the two quantities will be equal, making the right answer (C).
Reading Comprehension
Reading Comp passages are tough to understand. It’s easy to miss the really important stuff — the way that ideas in the passage relate to each other — in favor of the useless but flashy stuff, particularly jargon. The test writers throw a ton of jargon into Reading Comp passages, to disguise what usually is a very simple structure. (Since the longest passages are only a few paragraphs, there isn’t room for complicated rhetoric.) They want you to miss the forest for the trees.
In Reading Comp questions, particularly general questions, avoid answer choices that use a lot of fancy terms and phrases directly from the passage. If one of these answer choices seems correct to you, be skeptical. Don’t fall for an answer choice that actually reverses, or subtly changes, what the passage is saying. And never guess an answer choice that repeats a lot of technical terms from the passage. It could be right, but it’s probably just there to tempt you.
What to do next
There are two ways to use the information in this article.
First, use it to step up your guessing! Inevitably, you’ll make guesses on the GRE. Your goal is to get as many problems right as possible, but some problems are much harder than others. The smartest way to approach each section is to solve the easiest problems, then only attempt the more time-consuming ones if you have extra time. On the remainder, make the best guesses you can. If an answer choice looks too simple at first glance, don’t pick it: the GRE is a tough test designed for intelligent people, and it’s unlikely that the test writers will give you a question you can solve without any work.
Second, use this article to double-check your work and improve your review. If you’re tempted to choose (D) on a QC problem, always prove it first. If you’re thinking about selecting a jargon-filled RC answer, spend an extra few seconds to be certain you aren’t missing anything. Step up your standards for proof when the answer to a TC or SEq problem looks ‘too good to be true’. Keep your eyes open, and get ready to outwit the GRE.
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
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 Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GRE appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post A Step-By-Step Guide to ‘Multiple Workers’ GRE Rates problems appeared first on GRE.
]]>Nine identical machines, each working at the same constant rate, can stitch 27 jerseys in 4 minutes. How many minutes would it take 4 such machines to stitch 60 jerseys?
First, take a deep breath. In this article, you’ll learn a methodical approach that will work on this problem type every single time. On test day, it’ll be tempting to throw away your new habits and go back to old ones. Try to do the opposite. You’ve done all of this studying for a reason!
On problems like this, don’t try anything fancy. A lot of GRE test-takers will try to logically reason their way through this problem, saying something like “well, if 9 machines stitch 27 jerseys in 4 minutes, then 3 machines stitch 9 jerseys in 12 minutes…” That approach is valid but dangerous. Whenever you choose not to write something down, you’re taking away your ability to check your work for mistakes. (By the way, where’s the mistake in the logic described above?)
To start the problem, make a table. Your scratch paper should look like this:
Using the table, figure out how quickly a single machine is working. Solve the equation 9 * ? * 4 = 27 to learn that ?, the unknown value, equals 3/4. Add it to the table.
Once the first line is completely filled in, add a second line with the remaining information:
Finally, solve for the unknown value. In this case, we’re looking for the time. Solve the equation 4 * 3/4 * ? = 60 to find that ? equals 20. The answer is 20 minutes.
If you’re creating a cheat sheet for Rates & Work problems, add the steps that we took to solve this one:
Always follow these steps, and you won’t go wrong. The advantage of filling out a table is that you can see which values you’ve calculated already and which values you still need to find. An unknown variable is just a blank space in the table.
There’s another, very similar type of problem in which the workers aren’t all identical. These problems look like this:
Jenny takes 3 hours to sand a picnic table; Laila can do the same job in 1/2 hour. Working together at their respective constant rates, Jenny and Laila can sand a picnic table in how many hours?
This is a ‘working together’ rates problem, and the solution process is similar. Again, always start by creating a table. Since you aren’t worrying about identical workers, there’s no need to consider the rate of a single worker. Label the rows with the workers’ names, and fill in everything you know.
Once again, calculate the rate for each worker by solving the equations. In this case, Jenny’s rate is 1/3 tables per hour, and Laila’s rate is 2 tables per hour. (It feels a little silly to think in terms of ‘tables per hour’ or ‘violins per minute’, but it’s necessary in order to solve this type of problem). Then, create a third row to represent both workers’ combined efforts.
The rate of both workers combined is always the sum of their individual rates. That lets you fill in one more square in the table: Jenny and Laila’s rate when working together is 1/3 + 2, or 7/3 tables per hour.
Now there’s only one unknown. Solve the equation 7/3 * time = 1 to find that Jenny and Laila sand the table together in 3/7 hours.
Here are the steps:
Some GRE problems require creativity. Others require a methodical approach. These two Rates & Work problems fall into the second category. If you struggle with Rates & Work, practice and review these strategies using simpler problems, then move on to tougher problems that might require other skills as well, such as unit conversions or percent calculations. The Rates & Work chapter of the 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems (where both of these problems came from) is a great place to start!
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 A Step-By-Step Guide to ‘Multiple Workers’ GRE Rates problems appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post Your Dream MBA: 5 Steps to Getting In – Free Webinar Series featuring Columbia and Yale appeared first on GRE.
]]>The Your Dream MBA series webinars will be held on consecutive Tuesdays from April 12th through May 10th, 2016 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT.
We hope you will join us for this special series. Please sign up for each part separately via the links below—space is limited!
Part 1: April 12, 2016: Assessing Your MBA Profile and GMAT vs. GRE
Part 2: April 19 2016: Selecting Your Target MBA Program and How to Study for the GMAT in Two Weeks
Part 3: April 26, 2016: Writing Standout B-School Admissions Essays and Maximizing Your ROI on the GMAT
Part 4: May 3, 2016: Advanced GMAT: 700+ Level Quant and Advanced GMAT: 700+ Level Sentence Correction Strategy
Part 5: May 10, 2016: Questions and Answers with MBA Admissions Officers
Admissions officers on this panel include:
Bruce DelMonico, Yale School of Management
Amanda Carlson, Columbia Business School
Additional admissions officers yet to be announced!
The post Your Dream MBA: 5 Steps to Getting In – Free Webinar Series featuring Columbia and Yale appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post Here’s What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do on GRE Vocab appeared first on GRE.
]]>While you’re taking the GRE, you’ll encounter words that you just haven’t learned. It happens to everyone: I’ve gotten a perfect score on the GRE (twice!), and both times, I saw multiple Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence answer choices that I couldn’t define. What does a smart test-taker do when this happens?
In this article, we discussed the difference between “bad” problems and “ugly” problems. A Text Completion or Sentence Equivalence problem that you just don’t understand, even after reading it twice, is probably a “bad” problem. If you don’t know what sort of word would fit in the blank, it doesn’t matter whether you know the vocabulary. When you see one of these problems, guess randomly, don’t mark the problem, and move on. If you’re way ahead on time, you can try some answer-choice analysis, but don’t get bogged down.
What if you understand the sentence, but you don’t know some or all of the words in the answer choices? It may be an “ugly” problem. If you’re behind on time when you see it, and you’re struggling to answer, guess randomly, mark the problem, and come back to it later. When you return to the problem — or if you decide that you have enough time to do it — use the strategies in the rest of this article.
Always prioritize the questions you can answer. You’re only judged on the total number of questions you answer correctly, not how difficult they are, so leave the tough questions for later (or ignore them entirely).
On Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion, you only need to find the right answer(s). It doesn’t really matter whether you can define a word if it isn’t correct; at most, it may help you confirm your answer. Keep track of which answers are possibly right, which are definitely wrong, and which you can’t define. I like to jot down symbols to help me remember my analysis of each answer choice. My scratch work for a SEq problem might look like this:
In the problem above, I don’t recognize one of the words, so I’ve used a question mark. But I do see two words that fit the blank, so I’ll probably pick those and move on, ignoring the unknown word.
What if my work looked like this, instead?
I’ve eliminated three answer choices, so the second right answer must be one of the two words I don’t know. The rest of this article gives two ways to escape this predicament.
GRE vocabulary words represent the vocabulary an educated person might see in scholarly writing. You’ve probably seen many of them before, even if you don’t remember them clearly. When you’re stuck on a word, if you have time, ask yourself if you’ve seen it in context. For instance:
– You might not remember the definition of armada, but have you read about the Spanish Armada in history classes?
– You might not remember the definition of burgeon, but have you seen a news article about the burgeoning national debt?
Don’t spend too much time doing this. But even if the definition of a word doesn’t come to you right away, you might still know it subconsciously. Consider whether you’ve ever heard the word in context, and whether you can infer its meaning.
Etymology can sometimes give you a clue to the meaning of a word, and it’s a great memory tool for some students, but it’s also sometimes deceptive. For instance, a sobriquet has nothing to do with sobriety, and the prefix un means ‘one’ in the word unanimity but ‘not’ in the word unseemly.
That said, if you don’t have anything else to use, there’s nothing wrong with making a guess based on etymology. Maybe the word sounds very similar to another word that you do know. One safe way to use this technique is by guessing whether the unknown word has a positive or a negative connotation, and matching this to the connotation of the word that would fit in the blank. That’s often enough information to choose between two unknown words.
You won’t know every word in every problem. Know the core words by heart (try our 500 Essential Words GRE Vocabulary Flashcards as a starting point), but also have a clear strategy to use when you can’t define a word. Learn the four points above, and use them to keep moving quickly while practicing tough Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems. You may also develop other strategies on your own as you practice. If you do, share them with us and your fellow students in the comments!
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
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 What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do on GRE Vocab appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post Want to Do Better on GRE Quant? Put the Pen Down! appeared first on GRE.
]]>Let’s do an experiment. This is one I do with all of my GRE classes and tutoring students. Grab a piece of paper, a pen, and a stopwatch (or use the stopwatch function on your mobile device).
When you’re ready, click “start” on the stopwatch and begin the following multiple choice Discrete Quant problem…
Solution A contains 20% alcohol by volume, and Solution B contains 50% alcohol by volume. If the two solutions are combined, the resulting mixture of A and B contains 32% alcohol by volume. What percent of the total volume of the mixture is Solution A?
(A) 35%
(B) 40%
(C) 50%
(D) 60%
(E) 70%
Ok, write down the answer you got, and how much time it took you.
Right now, though, I’m not interested in what answer you got. I just want to know 2 things:
Believe it or not, there is probably an inverse correlation between those two answers. Students who dive in and start writing equations right away will often spend 2:30 to 3:30 on a question like this – generally much longer than students who take their time before writing things down. They’re also much more likely to get the question wrong!
Savvy test takers don’t dive in and start solving right away. They know that slowing down at first (even though it seems counter-intuitive) can improve both timing and accuracy.
The savvy way to approach Discrete Quant questions is this:
It’s not Reading Comprehension, so you don’t need to take notes! If you’re writing while you’re reading, you’re much more likely to miss key pieces of information. Think about the concept that’s being tested, and what information the problem is giving you.
Here’s what I’d be thinking while reading the problem above: “ok, this is a weighted average problem – we’re mixing 2 things together. They’re each different amounts of alcohol, and then we’re given a total.”
Again, before writing equations down, just define the question. Is it asking us for a value, a sum, a difference, a proportion, a variable “in terms of” another variable, etc.?
This is the best way to ensure that you don’t accidentally solve for the wrong thing! The GRE loves to trick us into doing that. How many times have you looked back to realize that your algebra was correct, but you just answered the wrong question?
My thoughts: “The question is asking me about A as a percentage of the total of A and B. I bet they’ll include a trap if I accidentally solve for B!”
Before picking up the pen, do a common sense test first! This isn’t high school, where you have to show all of your work before picking an answer. Think of the answers as part of the problem itself!
Scanning the answers first can give you powerful clues for how to solve a multiple choice problem. For example, if a geometry problem featured √3 in some of the answer choices, that’s your clue to think about 30:60:90 right triangles. If a ratio problem featured some ratios that were greater than 1 (e.g. 3:2) and some that were less than 1 (2:3), that’s your clue to assess which portion should be greater.
My thoughts on the problem above: “I notice that some of the answer choices are less than 50%, one is 50%, and the others are greater than 50%. If I can just figure out whether I have more A or more B in the mixture, I can narrow it down.”
“Since the 32% in the overall mixture is closer to A’s 20% than B’s 50%, that means that A must make up more of the overall mixture – in other words, more than 50%. I can eliminate (A), (B), and (C).”
As I mentioned before, the GRE loves to set traps for us. If you become aware of those traps, you can narrow down answer choices easily. Here are some common traps to watch out for:
If we eliminate all of the likely trap answers, that just leaves us with (D).
In a situation like this, the best strategic move would be to pick (D) and move on. It’s a bad idea to get bogged down in a lot of algebra just to prove what you probably already know to be true. The savvy test-taker would say “90% sure of my answer in 40 seconds is better than 100% sure of my answer in 3 minutes.”
It’s an uncomfortable feeling not to know for sure, but the GRE is a time-constrained game! You don’t have time to be 100% sure of every answer.
If this question were different, and you weren’t able to eliminate all of the other answer choices, you would want to make a strategic decision about which approach would work best. Don’t just dive into doing algebra! Remember that there are other strategies that can often be faster: picking smart numbers, working backwards from answer choices, estimating, etc.
On this problem, if we wanted to solve, we could do a combination of strategies. Since we don’t have any concrete amounts given, we can pick our own numbers. Let’s say that the total mixture is 100 liters.
We could also work backwards from the answer choices, based on that 100L total. Since we suspect that the answer is (D), let’s then say A = 60 liters. The amount of alcohol in A would be 20% of 60, so 12L. If A is 60L, then B must be 40L. 50% of 40L would be 20L of alcohol. Thus the total amount of alcohol is 12 + 20 = 32 liters of alcohol out of 100 à 32%.
That works! So (D) must be the right answer.
Saving time on Discrete Quant.
If you did long or complicated algebra on this question, you probably took well over 2 minutes to solve. It’s also far more likely that you got the answer wrong! Putting the pen down and thinking through the problem in the way we outlined above will improve both your timing and your accuracy.
The next time you’re doing a set of Discrete Quant problems, write this on a post-it note and keep it next to you as you’re working:
Good luck!
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
Céilidh Erickson is a Manhattan Prep instructor based on New York City. When she tells people that her name is pronounced “kay-lee,” she often gets puzzled looks. Céilidh is a graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in comparative literature. After graduation, tutoring was always the job that bought her the greatest joy and challenge, so she decided to make it her full-time job. Check out Céilidh’s upcoming GMAT courses (she scored a 760, so you’re in great hands).
The post Want to Do Better on GRE Quant? Put the Pen Down! appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post I Took a Practice Test and My GRE Score Went Down! What’s Happening? appeared first on GRE.
]]>Sorry to hear your score isn’t improving yet. That’s the ugly nature of standardized testing; it’s designed to give you the same score over and over again. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort learning a bunch of new things, but on practice tests, the results aren’t showing up yet. Or even worse, after six weeks of hard work, your score took a major nosedive. That’s okay. You’re not alone. Many, if not most, of our students experience a drop in scores on their second test, and may not see an improvement until test 4 or 5. It happens to lots of people. Don’t be discouraged. You can make your score better. Read on.
So what happened? What can you do?
The first time you took a practice test you didn’t know much. Therefore, the questions you got wrong you got wrong quickly, either because you didn’t know how to do them and made a quick guess, or you fell into the traps fast. You probably finished the test, but with no-so-great accuracy. In some ways, finishing the test is as important as getting questions right. Therefore, you earned a respectable score just by finishing.
The next time you took a practice test, you knew a little bit more than you used to, and in the words of Alexander Pope, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”
You saw familiar concepts and tried to apply your newfound knowledge, taking upwards of five minutes to struggle with questions that before you would have skipped. And you still got them wrong. Before you knew it, you were ten minutes behind, forcing you to rush at the end of the test, and rushing at the end of the test is the easiest way to bring your score WAY down. Thus your score was the same or worse, even though you knew more and tried harder.
Also, be honest with yourself. Did you fall into old bad habits? How often did you do problems the “old” way? Did you use algebra when you should have used smart numbers? Did you use your ear in sentence correction rather than look for the subject and verb? How’s your scratch paper? Are you crossing off wrong answers, labeling your units, and taking notes on reading comp? Did you predict an answer in reading comp? Scan your test for every missed opportunity and redo those questions the right way.
What about those “careless errors?” Don’t dismiss them! Every so-called careless error (x – 7 = 5, therefore x = 2) is a sign of a serious problem that you need to fix: now! One multiplication error is a sign you don’t know your multiplication tables as well as you should, and there’s no excuse for that. Go spend 5 minutes a day for five days learning the times tables. Do every question in the Foundations of Math book; learn every part of speech in the Foundations of Verbal book. Today.
And then give yourself a bit of a break. Look at the questions you got wrong again. Maybe those questions (geometry, probability, statistics) are in subjects you haven’t covered yet. Have you improved in the subjects you’ve studied? Bravo! Pat yourself on the back and get back to work.
Also, look at the percentile score next to each question on your first test versus the second. You may see that you reached much harder questions on the second test. That’s a great sign of improved skill, but also may be the reason your pacing was off.
Now what?
Here’s the big secret to a higher score: get more questions right and more questions done. And FINISH! What does this mean on your next practice test?
1) If you spend any time on a question, you need to get it right. For any problem you try, you have to work the best strategy: No careless errors, no mistranslations or misunderstanding, no picking the right answers to the wrong question (you solve for x but the question is asking for y). Apply your strategy perfectly and accurately and efficiently and click on the right bubble before 2 minutes have passed.
2) For everything else: You spend NO time on the questions you get wrong. You see a problem you don’t quite know how to handle (“Ooh, I should know how to do this,” you say) and you quickly and confidently pick a guess (random or otherwise) and you move on in under 20 seconds. By the way, you can blindly guess on several (some say as many as nine) questions per section and still get a 99th percentile score.
So now get your ego out of the way and get ready to fix your score. Take out your scratch paper from the test and open up the review screen. Get ready to redo questions and take some notes. Look at each question. Did you get it right or wrong? How long did it take you: under two minutes or over three?
You got it right, quickly.
Yay you! Pat yourself on the back and review what you did. Was it a good guess? Great. Why did you guess what you did? Did you solve the problem correctly? Great. What technique did you use? Plan to do that again.
You got it wrong quickly.
Ok. No big deal. Was it a guess? Pat yourself on the back for guessing quickly and moving on. That’s an extremely important skill. Did you fall for a trap? Okay. Note the trap and vow to avoid those traps in the future. Did you try to solve it and make a mistake? Phew! Be glad you caught that mistake on a practice test. Now figure out what to do next time. Consider alternative approaches. Could you have plugged in smart numbers? Back-solved? Made a chart? Drawn a picture? Can you put this question or a piece of this question on a flashcard? Is there a strategy guide you need to review before you take another practice test?
You got it right, slowly.
Great! You have a golden opportunity to improve your speed. Don’t look at the explanation or the right answer. Just do it again. Still slow? Do it again. This time, try smart numbers, or back-solving, or some charting set-up strategy. Repeat until you’re confident you can do this question in under two minutes.
You got it wrong, slowly.
Aha! This question and questions like it are what killed your score. You have two options now. One option is to figure out how to do this question fast. A better option is to recognize that even attempting this question was a massive waste of your time. Learn to recognize questions like it, and in the future don’t even start. Take notes. For example, “From now on, I will guess on tough probabilities, rate problems with variables, and anything with a parabola.”
In summary:
We wish score improvements happened in a straight line, but they don’t. Instead, your score will improve in lurches and leaps, with frustrating setbacks and demoralizing plateaus. Rest assured you’re not alone, and that we’ve seen it all before. Keep learning, practicing, and playing, and you’ll see that score move soon.
When you’re ready to take your next practice test, we’ve got one available to you for free.
Find Neil’s guidance helpful? Most do. Don’t forget that 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 GRE and GMAT. Since 1991, he’s coached thousands of students through the GRE, 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.
The post I Took a Practice Test and My GRE Score Went Down! What’s Happening? appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post 9 Ways to Study for the GRE on the Bus appeared first on GRE.
]]>Do you have a few minutes to spare while sitting on the bus, or in a waiting room? Spend that time studying for the GRE with these easy methods.
Don’t ever make excuses to not study for the GRE. You don’t have to sit at your desk in a silent room, with no interruptions, for three hours straight (unless you’re doing a practice test!). Until you earn the score you want, study whenever you have a little free time, wherever you happen to be. Over time, a few minutes here and there will add up to a lot of extra points on test day.
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
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 9 Ways to Study for the GRE on the Bus appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post GRE Problems: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly appeared first on GRE.
]]>I like to think of GRE problems as belonging to three categories: good, bad, and ugly. These categories are a little different for each test taker, but everyone can use them to make better decisions on the GRE.
Good Problems
Good problems are the ones that you ‘get’ on your first reading. The content, or the problem itself, might look familiar. Good problems don’t have to look easy, but they do have to make sense. One sign that you’re definitely looking at a good problem: once you’ve read it, you not only understand what’s going on, but you also anticipate what tricks the GRE might try to play on you.
When you run into a good problem, go ahead and begin working on it. But if you’re running behind, be cautious. It’s possible to mistake a bad or an ugly problem for a good one, and it takes diligence to notice this mistake once you’ve made it. Keep a close eye on the clock, and be ready to move a problem into the other two categories if necessary. The GRE rewards test-takers who admit their mistakes and keep going.
Bad Problems
Bad problems are the ones that you just don’t get, period. They might use vocabulary that you’ve never seen, for instance. There will be bad problems on every section of your official GRE, thanks to how the test is designed.
What to do with a bad problem depends on how much time you have.
Ugly Problems
Ugly problems come in two flavors. Some are problems you sort of get. You might have seen the problem before, but you don’t immediately remember how to handle it. Others make sense, but will obviously take you a long time to solve. I sometimes refer to these as ‘tedious’ problems. Here’s how to approach them:
Here’s a summary. First, read the entire problem carefully, including a quick look at the answer choices. Do a ‘gut check’: is this problem good, bad, or ugly? Then, follow the following rules of thumb.
Good | Bad | Ugly | |
How to recognize | It might not seem easy, but at least you understand what it’s telling you and what it’s asking you. | It just doesn’t make sense — you can’t figure out what the problem is really saying. | It sort of makes sense, but you’re not totally sure what to do with it. Or, you know a way to solve it, but it looks like it’ll be tedious. |
Ahead on time? | Work through it, but don’t be stubborn if it’s harder than it looked. | Read it again, looking for smart ways to guess or approximate. | Try it cautiously, but be extremely diligent about good test-taking behaviors, and be ready to bail out. |
Behind on time? | Work through it, but watch the clock and be ready to bail out. | Guess randomly and move on. Don’t mark it! | Guess randomly, mark it for review, and come back later if you have time. |
Every time you do a problem, know which category it belongs in. As you study, more problems will move to the ‘good’ category, but you’ll always see ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ problems! If you react to them intelligently, you’ll move through the test more quickly and avoid wasting your time.
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
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 GRE Problems: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post Here’s How to Know Which Cases to Test on GRE Quantitative Comparison Problems appeared first on GRE.
]]>Sometimes, the two sides of a Quantitative Comparison problem both simplify to specific values. Here’s what this type of problem looks like. This one is from the 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems:
One worker strings 2 violins in 3 minutes. All workers string violins at the same constant rate.
Quantity A: The number of minutes required for 12 workers to string 720 violins
Quantity B: The number of violins that 5 workers can string in 24 minutes
To solve this QC problem, you’ll need to reduce each quantity to a number. Depending on whether Quantity A is greater than, less than, or equal to Quantity B, you’ll pick answer choice (A), (B), or (C). You’ll never pick (D) on this type of problem, even if you’re guessing.
There’s also a totally different type of QC problem. In this type, there are too many unknowns to simplify the quantities to specific numbers. It might look like this:
|x|+ |y| > |x + z|
Quantity A: y
Quantity B: z
Here, do the opposite. Start with answer choice (D), and try to prove that it’s correct. Only consider the other answer choices if that’s impossible. If you can show that Quantity A can be both greater than and less than Quantity B (or greater than and equal to, etc.) then (D) is correct. x, y, and z could be anything, so assign them some values.
Start with at least one set of ‘normal’ values. If the problem allows it, try some small, positive integers. Create a chart like the one below to organize your thinking. Only choose values that fit the question stem: in this case, |x| + |y| must always be greater than |x + z|.
x y z ?
2 4 3 A > B
10 20 5 A > B
Since you haven’t proven (D) yet, start choosing strange values. Memorize this acronym: ZONEF. It stands for the different categories of ‘unusual’ values: Zero, One, Negatives, Extremes (very large or small numbers), and Fractions.
Different unusual values are useful for different types of problems. The chart below is only a starting point. Don’t memorize it — instead, think about why it looks how it does, and what you might add to it.
Clue | Values to try |
Absolute values | zero, negatives |
Exponents | zero, one, negatives, extremes, fractions |
Fractions | zero, one, negatives, extremes |
Inequalities | zero, negatives, extremes |
Divisibility | one, extremes |
Algebra | zero, one, negatives, extremes, fractions |
You might identify other clues as you study. In the case of the problem above, the absolute values should cue you to test negative numbers. That’s because taking the absolute value of a negative will change its value, potentially changing the outcome of the problem. We’ve already found a case where A is greater than B, so to prove that (D) is correct, we need to find a case where y is less than z. That happens when you try a negative value for y and a positive one for z.
x y z ?
2 -4 3 B > A
This case is a good one to test, since it’s true that |x| + |y| > |x + z|. (If that didn’t work out, you’d just have to cross off that case and try again with another one.) It also gives you what you’re looking for — a scenario where Quantity B is greater than Quantity A. You’ve proven that (D) is the right answer.
Sometimes, you aren’t able to prove (D) by picking numbers. One quantity always seems to be greater than the other, or the quantities always seem to be equal. Logical thinking can help in this situation: can you explain to yourself, in general terms, why that quantity ought to be greater? Here’s one last problem to try:
|x + y| = 10
x > 0
z < y – x
Quantity A: z
Quantity B: 10
Try it on your own before reading on.
Here are the cases you might test. Choosing a negative value for y doesn’t change the outcome! Neither does choosing the smallest possible value for x, an extreme value.
x y z ?
5 5 <0 B > A
20 -10 <-10 B > A
0.01 9.99 < 9.98 B > A
It seems that B is always greater than A. The logic also fits. If x is positive, then y must be less than 10, in order for their sum to be either 10 or -10. If y is less than 10 and x is positive, then y – x is also less than 10.
Trying unusual values will increase the likelihood you’ll get the right answer to QC problems by testing cases. Ask yourself what values would give you the most information, and what values the test writers might not expect you to test, and then try them. With practice, you’ll be able to quickly choose sets of values that will either prove (D), or convince you that (A), (B), or (C) is correct. Don’t let doubt about which numbers to pick stop you from using this powerful GRE technique.
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.
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 How to Know Which Cases to Test on GRE Quantitative Comparison Problems appeared first on GRE.
]]>The post GRE Smart Books with Neil: A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if you Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley appeared first on GRE.
]]>Can’t get enough of Neil’s GRE wisdom? Few can. Fortunately, you can join him twice monthly for a free hour and a half study session in Mondays with Neil.
As a long-time instructor of all things standardized testing (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT), I love reading books about math, logic, learning, skill acquisition, neurology, and psychology. Is important to me to stay up-to-date with anything that will help my students use their study time effectively. In this blog series, I’ll be bringing you book reviews and recommendations, as well as excerpts and summaries you can put into practice right away on your GRE journey.
I really like Barbara Oakley’s A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if you Flunked Algebra). I recommend it to anyone starting his or her GRE journey, and anyone stuck, frustrated, or overwhelmed by a big stack of GRE books and limited time. Even though A Mind for Numbers has math and science in its title, it’s really about learning any subject or skill. With little effort, you can apply Oakley’s lessons to both Quant and Verbal on the GRE or pretty much any subject–even outside physical or creative efforts.
What you won’t get in this book
You won’t get specific math lessons. Oakley occasionally hints at math and science concepts, but usually to illustrate a point about how to create Mnemonic devices or structure your study. A Mind for Numbers is more of a user’s manual for whatever textbook you happen to have in front of you. You’ll find that her book dovetails very neatly with our ManhattanPrep Strategy guides, for instance, or any book that illustrates a concept with problem sets at the end of every chapter.
What you will get in this book
You will get some very clear, actionable lessons about learning: structuring your study, creative problem solving, building your memory, and overcoming procrastination. At first, you may be a little skeptical about some of the analogies she uses (Pinball Machine? Brain Octopus? Zombies?) but Oakley, to her credit, has done her homework and backs up her ideas with the latest published research. [Too often, books about learning are full of clever-sounding ideas that have no basis in empirical science. Remember that trend about “visual” vs. “kinesthetic” learners? It turned out to be unscientific bunk.]
If you’ve always been good at studying and learning, you can get away with sticking to GRE-specific material, but if you’ve ever struggled with learning or if you’re prone to procrastination, this is a great book for you. I wish I’d read this book when I was in 8th grade. I might have had a much easier time in high school.
Focus vs. Diffuse Mode
Here’s a cool concept that you can use from the book: In the opening chapters, Oakley makes a great distinction between two modes of thinking, which she terms “focused” and “diffuse” modes. “Focus mode” is the kind of thinking you do when you study intently — when you really zoom in to solve GRE problems, especially on test day. According to Oakley, “Focused-mode thinking is essential for studying math and science. It involves a direct approach to solving problems using rational, sequential, analytical approaches.”
Too often, though, you may find yourself stuck on a problem, unable to see the solution no matter how hard you focus. You may be focusing too much, and suffering from the “Einstellung effect.” Oakley writes, “In this phenomenon, an idea you already have in mind, or your simple initial thought, prevents a better idea or solution from being found.” I see this all too often with my GRE students, they are so focused on the first idea they havethat they miss far easier and effective methods to solve tough problems.
Therefore, you may need to switch into “Diffuse Mode” thinking. This is the kind of thinking you do when you’re not thinking—the unconscious processes that go on when you’re sleeping, taking a shower, or doing the dishes. According to Oakley, “Diffuse-mode thinking is also essential for learning math and science. It allows us to suddenly gain a new insight on a problem we’ve been struggling with and is associated with ‘big-picture’ perspectives. Diffuse-mode thinking is what happens when you relax your attention and just let your mind wander.” When you’re studying for the GRE, switching into diffuse mode is easy: Take a break. Fold some laundry. Go to bed. Leave a problem unsolved (don’t check that answer) and come back to it later, even tomorrow. You’ll be shocked at how often the solution will be there even if you don’t directly think about it. (The analogy is something about letting the bumpers on your mental pinball machine spread out so the ball can bounce to more areas of the brain.)
On GRE test day, engaging “diffuse mode” is essential, but very hard to do when all you want to do is focus and focus harder. In my experience, there are a couple of ways to let the unconscious diffuse mode do the work without wasting time. One method is to read the whole problem over, and then ignore it for a few seconds while you do the mindless “busy” work of setting up your scratch paper, copying essential numbers from the problem, drawing diagrams and figures, labeling your units, etc. By the time you get around to focusing, you may get some insight into the problem that you might have missed if you started focusing too early. Another great way to engage the diffuse mode is when you’re stuck half-way through a problem: “mark” the question, make a random guess, and move on. Come back to it a few minutes later. If you’re blocked and stuck in the Einstellung effect, no amount of focus is going to get you out of it, you must move on. Again, amazing things happen when you’re not consciously working on a problem. (Practice this “mark and move” approach often while you’re doing your GRE study, by the way.)
In future articles, I’ll dig more into other great advice Oakley offers. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How do you switch back and forth between focused and diffuse mode? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Find Neil’s musings helpful? Most do. Don’t forget that 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 GRE and GMAT. Since 1991, he’s coached thousands of students through the GRE, 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.
The post GRE Smart Books with Neil: A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if you Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley appeared first on GRE.
]]>