A common question regarding the GRE is how to improve on Reading Comp. Whether our problem is speed, comprehending the passages, or — a common complaint — narrowing the choices down to two and then picking the wrong one, RC difficulties are widespread (that is, ubiquitous).

Here’s my advice to a student’s question in the Forums:

The first thing to say is: You really do just have to read and think very fast to get a top score on the verbal GRE. To truly learn to read and process complex information more quickly could take a person years. Obviously, we don’t usually have that kind of time to prepare for the GRE. But for whatever reason, speed-comprehension is a skill being tested on this exam.

So, if speed is a serious problem, you might have to accept that you won’t really get to REALLY answer all the questions — you might want to answer all the vocab questions first, since they’re faster, and then go back and do all the shorter reading passages, leaving the longer passages for last. If you skip something, use the “mark” button, and pick a random answer just in case you don’t get a chance to come back.

(See also: Everything You Need to Know About GRE Time Management Part I and Part II.)

As for taking notes, personally I do not take notes when the passage is on a topic with which I am familiar. But if the passage is complex (usually science passages are, to me), I diagram, and even draw certain processes (for instance, I did a lovely sketch of spiral galaxy formation on one passage, with words and arrows indicating the meaning of that part of the passage). I also always diagram is a contrast is being presented so i can make a T-chart to help me keep track of which historians/scientists/etc. are on which “side.”

I also find that reading many, many GRE passages (you can also practice on books for the old GRE — the Reading Comp is basically the same — or on materials for the LSAT or GMAT) familiarizes you with certain topics and structures. I now know more about astronomy than I ever thought I would, and when I begin reading something about history, I’m always expecting the same evidence to get reinterpreted in a new light (I’d say I’ve become very familiar with the idea that historical and anthropological evidence is often interpreted by historians and anthropologists through the lens of their own time and culture).

An example — I was recently working with a student on a long, hard RC passage about a particular type of fish, and how it had evolved to have both its eyes on the same side of its head (and then there was a long description of the twisting of the optic nerves), and how these fish in some parts of the ocean have their eyes on the left side of their heads, and in other parts, on the right side. The passage investigated what the evolutionary advantage could be to having both of one’s eyes on the left side versus the right side. (A good question! What on earth COULD be the advantage to such an adaptation? Do sharks always attack from the left or something? Ha.)
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Harder quant questions combine two different areas of math, and that’s what we’re going to take a look at today.

First, try this problem (© Manhattan Prep) from our Geometry lesson during class 5.

If 2m + 20 > 100, which of the following could be the value of n
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Math BeastEach week, we post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

Quantity A

The number of different ways all 9 letters in the word TENNESSEE can be arranged.

Quantity B

The number of different ways all 7 letters in the word WYOMING can be arranged.

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5 Grad School Options for Liberal Arts Students (USA Today College)

Grad school degrees

Not sure where to go after your undergraduate studies? USA Today has a great list of options for liberal arts majors who are looking to pursue graduate school.

10 Engineering Schools With the Most International Students (U.S. News Education)

Virtually every graduate engineering school in the US enrolls international students. Check out this article to find out which full-time programs enroll the most students from abroad.

How to Get Accepted and Make the Most Out of Graduate School (Forbes)

Joe Thomas, the 10th dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, advises how to stand out in the admissions process and how to make the most out of the overall graduate school experience.

Where the Women Fortune 500 CEOs Went to School ( U.S. News Education)

Three of the 18 women on Fortune’s CEO list earned one college and two graduate degrees. Find out which graduate schools they attended.

GRE Fish in a Barrel

The verbal portion of the GRE presents many opportunities to test us on our understanding of idiomatic language. Such language can come in the form of expressions or constructions that mean something different than what the individual words might mean on their own. Alternatively, we may be looking at a secondary or more rare definition of a word. This kind of language can be tested both on vocab questions (text completion and sentence equivalence) and on reading comprehension.

First, try this problem (© Manhattan Prep). Select the answer choice that most closely represents the meaning of the original sentence.

The experiment only looks like a success.

(A) It is not possible to see the experiment as anything other than a success.

(B) The experiment might be successful, but we don’t know for sure.

(C) The experiment has the appearance of a success, but really is a failure.


Have you picked your choice? Great, let’s talk about it!

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