2-12-Sleep-GREThis is going to be a short post. It will also possibly have the biggest impact on your study of anything you do all day (or all month!).

When people ramp up to study for the GRE, they typically find the time to study by cutting down on other activities—no more Thursday night happy hour with the gang or Sunday brunch with the family until the test is over.

There are two activities, though, that you should never cut—and, unfortunately, I talk to students every day who do cut these two activities. I hear this so much that I abandoned what I was going to cover today and wrote this instead. We’re not going to cover any problems or discuss specific test strategies in this article. We’re going to discuss something infinitely more important!

#1: You must get a full night’s sleep

Period. Never cut your sleep in order to study for this test. NEVER.

Your brain does not work as well when trying to function on less sleep than it needs. You know this already. Think back to those times that you pulled an all-nighter to study for a final or get a client presentation out the door. You may have felt as though you were flying high in the moment, adrenaline coursing through your veins. Afterwards, though, your brain felt fuzzy and slow. Worse, you don’t really have great memories of exactly what you did—maybe you did okay on the test that morning, but afterwards, it was as though you’d never studied the material at all.

There are two broad (and very negative) symptoms of this mental fatigue that you need to avoid when studying for the GRE (and doing other mentally-taxing things in life). First, when you are mentally fatigued, you can’t function as well as normal in the moment. You’re going to make more careless mistakes and you’re just going to think more slowly and painfully than usual.
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2-19-Grammar-PtIII-2In a way, the environmental movement can still be said to be _________ movement, for while it has been around for decades, only recently has it become a serious organization associated with political parties and platforms.

The above sentence is a SE example from the 5Lb Book of GRE Practice Problems, #89.  Today’s discussion explores a third element of sentence structure that is easily overlooked – pronouns!  They can greatly help you clarify the meaning of a sentence.  (And if you didn’t notice already, do you see what I did in the previous sentence?  They – did this pronoun catch your eye?)

The challenge with pronouns isn’t that they are difficult to address, it’s that they are nearly invisible to us, because we have spent our entire adult lives ignoring them when we read and speak.  As a test, how many pronouns have I used just in this short paragraph?

Here’s one way I want you to ‘see’ the earlier SE example:

In a way, the environmental movement can still be said to be ________ movement, for while it has been around for decades, only recently has it become a serious organization associated with political parties and platforms.

Stop mid-sentence, and address those ‘it’s.  This mental exercise is not about finding the target, clues, and pivots, although you should be aware a pronoun could certainly be the target.  This is about making sure you understand the sentence.  Mentally, you should read the sentence as
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2-17-GrammarPtIISo, in my last post, I discussed finding the core sentence, using punctuation to help us break a sentence into manageable chunks.  We looked at two sentences; I’ve re-copied one of them below.

The director’s commercially-motivated attempts to (i)_______ the imperatives of the mass marketplace were (ii)_______, as evidenced by the critical acclaim but low attendance garnered by his film.

We focused on how the comma breaks the sentence in half: one half is the actual core sentence, and the other half describes how the director’s attempts were critically, but not commercially, successful.

This time, let’s dive into what’s happening with that first blank, and now I’ll give you the answer options:

sequester

obey

secure.

Many, many students in my classes choose ‘secure’, and that really puzzled me.  If a class doesn’t know the answer, there’s usually a fairly even division among the choices.  What I saw wasn’t students guessing; they thought they had the correct choice in ‘secure’.  Somehow, the third option was a trap.  How?

I have a theory: ‘secure’ is a trap because students link the first blank to the wrong element, the wrong target.  I think many students link that first blank to the word ‘marketplace’, and then think about how someone would want to ‘secure’ a ‘market’ for a product (in this case, a film).
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The following article comes from our friends at AdmitSee. We’ve invited them to share their insight about peer mentors in the grad school application process.

AS1As you begin the grad school application process, you will have plenty of opinions at your disposal.  From your parents, to your current educational institution, to grad schools themselves–you may be bombarded with conflicting opinions on where you should apply. Add to that the plethora of free (and sometimes unreliable) information on the web, often written by anonymous sources, and you’re likely no clearer than when you started!

If you’re fortunate enough to have an older sibling with a tight group of friends who’ve taken career paths that interest you, you’re in luck! Spend lots of time talking with these folks about how and why they picked their grad schools, what they like and don’t like about their programs, and what they wish they knew when they were considering their options.

But, if you’re like most applicants, you need to seek out your own mentors.

Often, people with similar interests who are just a year or two ahead of you will be your most effective mentors. There are many reasons for this, but, to start, you will have an easier time connecting with your near-peers than with someone who’s 20 years older than you. You’ll find more common connections and more shared experiences to bond over. A strong personal connection is the foundation for a great mentor-mentee relationship.
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2-9-LittleGrammarWhile studying for the GRE Text Completion (TC) and Sentence Equivalence (SE) questions, you naturally want to study vocabulary.  After all, that’s what the test is testing, right?

Yes and no.  The GRE does test vocabulary, but it also tests your ability to analyze a sentence and divine the author’s intended meaning.  (And for those of you keeping score at home, did I use the word ‘divine’ correctly?  Are you familiar with this less common usage?)

And so, we preach (sorry, with the word ‘divine’ earlier, I had to!) a method for TC and SE that involves identifying the Target, Clues, and Pivots in the sentence.  All well and good, but how do you to this?  Here’s where the following limited grammar discussion should help, because although the GRE does not directly test grammar, a little grammar knowledge can be immensely helpful!

We begin with the core elements that every sentence contains: the subject and the verb.  Separating the subjecting and the verb from other elements (which I will generically call descriptors) is part 1 of my TC and SE analysis.  Part 2 is matching each descriptor to what it describes.

So let’s see two examples.  One is a TC example from Lesson 1, the other is a SE example from the 5 lb. Book.
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NYC-Audition-2Manhattan Prep offers instructors flexible hours and great pay ($100/hour for all teaching and $116/hour for all tutoring). As a Manhattan Prep instructor, you will have autonomy in the classroom, but you will also be joining an incredibly talented and diverse network of people. We support our instructors by providing students, space, training, and an array of curricular resources.

Our regular instructor audition process, which consists of a series of videos and mini lessons, usually takes weeks, even months, to complete. Through this process we winnow an applicant pool of hundreds down to a few people each year.

We are offering a one-day event on March 1st for teachers interested in working with us. Candidates who attend will receive a decision that day. The event will take place at our company headquarters at 138 West 25th St., 7th Floor, in Manhattan, New York City.  It is open to candidates who live in the tri-state area, have taught before, and are experts in the GMAT, LSAT, or GRE.

The day will include several rounds of lessons, as well as other activities. Each round will be pass / fail. The day will begin at 10 am. It may last as late as 5:30 pm for those who make it through the final round. Candidates will need to prepare lessons for some rounds; we will send more detailed instructions to candidates when they sign up for the event.

To register, please email Rina at auditions@manhattanprep.com by Thursday, February 26. Please include in your email a resume including your teaching experience and a score report.

2-6-HabitsDistractions are bad. Routine, concentration, and hard work are good. These all seem like common-sense rules for studying, right? Surprisingly (for many people, at least), learning science tells us that these “good habits” may actually be hurting your learning process!

When you were in college, your study process probably looked something like this: for a given class, you’d attend a lecture each week, do the readings (or at least most of them), and maybe turn in an assignment or problem set. Then, at the end of the semester, you’d spend a week furiously cramming all of that information to prepare for the test.

Since this is the way you’ve always studied, it’s probably how you’re approaching the GRE, too. But I have bad news: this is not an effective approach for the GRE!

Taking notes then cramming the night before the test is beneficial for tests that ask you to recite knowledge: “what were the major consequences of the Hawley-Smoot tariff” or “explain Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.” You can hold a lot of facts  -for a brief time – in your short-term memory when cramming. You memorize facts, you spit them out for the test… and then, if you’re like me, you find that you’ve forgotten half of what you memorized by the next semester.

Why the GRE is Different

The GRE doesn’t reward this style of studying because it’s not simply a test of facts or knowledge. The GRE requires you to know a lot of rules, of course, but the main thing that it’s testing is your ability to apply those concepts to new problems, to adapt familiar patterns, and to use strategic decision-making. You’ll never see the same problem twice. Even with vocabulary, you need a robust understanding of words, not just memorized definitions.
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Boston

Manhattan Prep offers instructors flexible hours and great pay ($100/hour for all teaching and $116/hour for all tutoring). As a Manhattan Prep instructor, you will have autonomy in the classroom, but you will also be joining an incredibly talented and diverse network of people. We support our instructors by providing students, space, training, and an array of curricular resources.

Our regular instructor audition process, which consists of a series of videos and mini lessons, usually takes weeks, even months, to complete. Through this process we winnow an applicant pool of hundreds down to a few people each year.

We are offering a one-day event on March 9th for teachers interested in working with us. Candidates who attend will receive a decision that day. The event will take place at our Boston center at 140 Clarendon St., Main Fl (Back Bay), Boston, MA 02116.  It is open to candidates who live in the Boston area, have taught before, and are experts in the GMAT, LSAT, or GRE.

The day will include several rounds of lessons, as well as other activities. Each round will be pass / fail. The day will begin at 10:30 am. It may last as late as 5:30 pm for those who make it through the final round. Candidates will need to prepare lessons for some rounds; we will send more detailed instructions to candidates when they sign up for the event.

To register, please email Rina at auditions@manhattanprep.com by Thursday, March 5. Please include in your email a resume including your teaching experience and a score report.

Decision

Manhattan Prep is holding a two one-day auditions for new GRE, LSAT, and GMAT instructors in Dallas and Fort Worth! Come join us February 7th  in Dallas or February 8th in Fort Worth at 10:00 AM and transform your passion for teaching into a lucrative and fulfilling part-time or full-time career.

Manhattan Prep offers instructors flexible hours and great pay ($100/hour for all teaching and $116/hour on all tutoring). In addition to teaching classes, instructors can work on other projects such as curriculum development.

Our regular instructor audition process, which includes a series of video, online, and in-person mock lessons, usually takes weeks, even months, to complete. However, we are offering one-day events on February 7th and on 8th for teachers interested in working with us. All candidates who attend will receive a decision that day.

The events will take place in Dallas and Fort Worth at the locations listed below. It is open to candidates who live in the area, who have teaching experience, and who are GRE, GMAT, and/or LSAT experts.

The audition will include several rounds of lessons, as well as other activities. Each round will be pass/ fail. The day will begin at 10 AM and may last as late as 5:30 PM for those who make it to the final round. Candidates will need to prepare lessons for some rounds; we will send a more detailed instruction packet to those who sign up for the event.

Dallas, TX (Saturday, February 7, 2015)

Meridian Business Center
6060 N. Central Expwy
Suite 560, 5th Fl.
Dallas, TX 75206
 

Fort Worth, TX (Sunday, February 8, 2015)

Courtyard Fort Worth at University
3150 Riverfront Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76107

To register, please email Rina at auditions@manhattanprep.com. Make sure to include in your full name, an attachment of your resume detailing your teaching experience, and an official GRE, GMAT, or LSAT score report. We look forward to meeting you in February!

greSo, at the risk of boring you with some personal information, my girlfriend is planning on taking the GRE this spring.  And, of course, she wants my advice.  While thinking about how to best help her, it occurred to me that many of the things I’m telling her apply to everyone who is beginning her GRE preparations.

  1. Vocabulary is much more than just flash cards.

So you will, of course, be studying vocabulary.  And one of the most effective ways to create a base vocab level is to create flash cards.  Let’s be honest, some of this is just memorization, pure and simple.  But if you stop at flashcards, you’re not preparing yourself for the GRE.  The test will ask you to use your vocabulary in context, so why not study that way?  Take a deck of 10-20 cards, and use each word in a sentence (bonus if you can get more than one in the same sentence!) to make a story.  Anything you can think of that will push your vocabulary studies beyond flat memorization is helpful.

  1. The quantitative sections test strategy selection, not math.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in the Quantitative Comparison questions.  Do you need to know math?  Of course.  Will math by itself get you a great score on the GRE?  A resounding, definitive NO.

Think about it for a moment: you need to do some of these math questions in 60 seconds.  There is no such thing as a challenging math question that can be answered in one minute; the GRE can’t be testing math, because the math simply isn’t at a terribly high level.  There is no calculus, no trig.  So what is the GRE testing, if not math?

It’s testing your ability to quickly and accurately analyze an abstract problem (in a mathematics context) and select a method that will supply an answer.  Many times, if not the majority of the time, application of pure mathematics to arrive at an exact answer is wasting your time.  So what other methods are there?  Sometimes you’ll just want to throw numbers at a problem; other times, you may want to estimate a “close enough” answer.

The key is to REVIEW the questions you do, and identify exactly WHY a particular strategy is the best!  While there are some general guidelines, the key is to identify why you like a particular strategy for a given problem.

What follows is the reason I wrote this post.  The above is important, but I left the best for last!!

  1. You need a plan.

After all, it’s the New Year and we’re all trying to keep up with resolutions. What is a resolution?  A commitment.  A plan.  You need one.

One challenge you may face is direct: how do you maintain the energy to study, and study well, after an exhausting day of work?  In thinking of how to address this, I have tried to apply a method commonly used in a non-test preparation setting: exercise.  (Again with the New Year’s Resolution theme, I guess!)

You need a plan, and you need variation in that plan.  For example, many weight training programs alternate exercises by muscle group.  Marathon trainers recommend switching exercises; you’re not running every day.  And also, very importantly, you need REST.

So how does this apply to a GRE study plan?  You can model your GRE plan on an exercise regimen; in an odd way, exercise is what you’re doing – exercising particular skills in the hope that these skills will improve.  Here’s a sample plan for one week’s worth of GRE studies.  (Important note: Just as you warm up before beginning an exercise routine, there is an unstated warm-up for each of these days: vocabulary.  Each study session should begin with a vocabulary warm-up, and end with a vocabulary cool-down.)

Day 1: Intense Quant.  Pick an area of math tested on the GRE, and push yourself to learn as much of this math as you can, both by reading and working problems (and REVIEW!  Always review your work!).  Maybe you’ve decided to learn everything there is to know about exponents?  Or maybe you want to find out all the ways the GRE will test circle geometry?

Day 2: Text Completion.  Do a set of one blank TC questions, then a set of 2-blank TC questions, and finally a set of 3-blank TC questions.  What were some similarities in how you addressed the different questions?  Where there any differences?  Did you find a particular type more or less difficult?

Day 3: Rest.  This is your day for outside reading.  What novel, periodical, or journal are you reading that, while not directly related to the GRE, uses GRE level vocabulary?  Or are you perhaps reading some science journals, because you really struggle with science-based Reading Comprehension passages?

Day 4: Quant v. 2.0.  Dive into a particular question type. Maybe you want to focus on Data Interpretation questions, or perhaps you want to examine strategies for Quantitative Comparison questions?

Day 5: Reading Comprehension.  Time to do the longest passage(s) you can find! Do you have a strategy to read effectively?  And does your method for answering a RC question change based on how specific the question is?

Day 6: Vocabulary.  This is the day to pull old vocabulary words into the more current studies.  What words did you learn 4 days ago?  10 days ago?  Note that this goes beyond just “what words will I learn today?”  This is the day to create connections between words you learned in the last few days with words you learned a few weeks ago.

Day 7: Rest.  Truly rest today.  No GRE stress at all!

There are a few things you should keep in mind looking at the above plan:

  1. It’s a model, not a prescription.  This is meant merely to show you the kind of plan you can create on a weekly basis; it’s not a “Do This and Exactly This!” thing.
  2. This is for one week; you should plan on several months of GRE preparation. Each week’s plan should change a bit – you want a plan, with planned variety!
  3. Just as you don’t spend 4 hours at the gym, you shouldn’t try to study for four hours. Take it one hour at a time; if you’re going to double-up, give yourself some rest in between study sessions.
  4. Take your practice tests, but take them purposefully! Check out this post for how that’s done.

 

Finally, I highly recommend you read this next!