For all values, [x] denotes the least integer greater than or equal to x. If -2.5 < x < 1.5, what is the least possible value of [2x] + [x2]?
Archives For GRE Strategies
Are you feeling incredibly stressed out when you sit down to study for the GRE? (Or maybe I should ask, who isn’t?) Do you find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand?
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara recently published the results of a study following 48 undergrads preparing for the GRE. Jan Hoffman details the research in a blog post over at The New York Times; here’s a summary:
“We had already found that mind-wandering underlies performance on a variety of tests, including working memory capacity and intelligence,” said Michael D. Mrazek, (quoted from the NYT blog post)
Ah, yes, “mind-wandering.” We’ve all had this experience. We’re taking a test, the clock is ticking, and we keep finding ourselves thinking about something other than the question we’re supposed to be answering right now. Maybe we’re stressing about our score. Maybe we’re thinking about applications. Maybe we’re even distracted by work, significant others, family, or other issues that have nothing to do with the test!
How do we stop fixating on other things and concentrate on the task at hand? This study tried to find out.
First, the students were given one verbal reasoning section from the GRE. They also completed a task that measured their working memory. These tests are the “baseline” results.
The students were split into two groups; let’s call them Group M and Group N.
Group M attended meditation classes four times a week; these students learned lessons on “mindfulness,” which focuses on breathing techniques and helps to minimize distracting thoughts.
Group N attended nutrition classes, designed to teach these students healthy eating habits.
Afterwards, the students were given another GRE verbal section and another task to measure working memory. The performance of students in group N stayed the same; the nutritional studies didn’t make a difference.
Group M students, however, improved their GRE scores by an average of 12 percentile points! Here’s the best part: the study took just two weeks. You read that correctly: these students improved their verbal scores by 12 percentile points in just two weeks.
The AWA, or Analytical Writing Assessment, comes at the beginning of your GRE and asks that you write two 3-minute essays: one on an issue, and one on an argument. I actually love the AWA – I find it satisfying (and, I’ll admit, sort of fun) to write. I’ve always gotten a 6 (out of 6) on the AWA on both the GRE and GMAT, and I always follow the same strategy.
Do you have to follow this strategy to get a 6? Absolutely not! But if it appeals to you, you might find that it helps you better organize your thoughts and give a clear, linear progression to your argument. I call it the “even if” strategy.
The “Even if” strategy
The idea behind the “even if” strategy is to structure your essay to highlight the most important points first. Basically, it allows you to nest your points, conceding one point at a time so that the issue or argument at hand has fewer and fewer problems to contend with as you proceed.
For the writer, the benefit of the “Even if” strategy is that your introduction sentences to each paragraph almost write themselves. They introduce the new concept while linking it seamlessly to the previous concept. For this reader, this provides a clarity of structure that GRE graders really seem to enjoy.
The “Even if” strategy on the Issue essay
Let’s say that the issue essay asks you to discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement, “Investment in education is the most important investment that can be made.” Like most issue statements, this is much too broad a proclamation to agree or disagree with completely. When I first take my notes, they might look like this:
- Too broad; must narrow to discuss
- Mostly agree (education allows for growth; education is vital to society)
- However, other side has many points (other investments matter; depends on needs)
I just read a really fascinating post on the New York Times’ Well blog. We’ve known for a long time that exercise has a whole host of good benefits, including benefits associated with memory. Two recent studies have delved even deeper into how this works.
How does exercise help memory?
In the blog post, New York Times journalist Gretchen Reynolds details the two new studies¾one conducted on humans and the other conducted on rats.
In the human study, elderly women who already had some mild cognitive impairment were split into three groups. One group lifted weights, the second group engaged in moderate aerobic exercise, and the third group did yoga-like activities.
The participants were tested at the beginning and end of the 6-month exercise period and the results were striking. First, bear in mind that, in general, we would expect elderly people who are already experiencing mental decline to continue down that path over time. Indeed, after 6 months, the yoga group (our “control” group) showed a mild decline in several aspects of verbal memory.
The weight-training and aerobic groups, by contrast, actually improved their performance on several tests (remember, this was 6 months later!). In particular, these groups were not losing as much of their older memories and they even became faster at some spatial memory tests involving memorizing the location of three items. In other words, the women were both better at making new memories and better at remembering / retrieving old ones!