Manhattan Prep GRE Blog

Friday Surprise: ETS Releases Newly Converted GRE Scores


I was all set to write a post about the Chupacabra that we caught in the Manhattan Prep utility closet today but then something more exciting happened “ The New GRE Scale was spotted in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest (aka the ETS website).

 A few hours ago, we noticed that ETS has started to add an Estimated Current Score column to the scores listed on the website. So far, only exams taken in the old format seem to have been scored. Presumably, folks who took the new GRE will still have to wait until their designated score reporting date to learn their fate.

As the numbers roll in, we are starting to comb through the data that we have to get a better picture of the new GRE. Here is what we know so far. ETS has indeed dealt with the old disparity between verbal and quant scores. On the old exam, a 700 verbal was the 97th percentile, while a 780 quant was an 89th percentile. Those scores have now been adjusted such that a 700 verbal is equivalent to a 166 on the new scale, while the 780 quant is equivalent to a mere 163. (These numbers come from a source very close to this blog post my own score report).

As far as we see it, the more interesting impact of this adjustment, is the drop in value of a perfect 800 on the old GRE quant. We are seeing that an old 800 on quant has been converted down to a 166! While this isn’t a total surprise due to the fact that an old 800 only fell into the 94th percentile, the concept of going from a flawless score to four point below perfect hurts me a bit inside. We will have to wait and see how this pans out as more and more scores are released so we will be staying on top of this in the coming weeks.

I for one am interested to see what message ETS is giving to admissions officers (for instance, how does one deal with the no longer perfect 800?). ETS is starting to hold webinars in two weeks where they will discuss the new scales in depth. My guess is that we will know a lot more after those session take place. Manhattan GRE will be in attendance at those webinars, and we’ll be sure to relay the information to you posthaste.

In the meantime, you can help us gather information! If you took the old GRE, we’d love to hear what your old scores and estimated current scores are. If you’d like to share your stats with us, send an email to

Flashcard Sneak Peek: Vacillate and Its Slippery Synonyms


Take a sneak peek into Manhattan Prep’s 500 Essential Words and 500 Advanced Words GRE flashcard sets!

When writing these cards, we wanted to make sure that everyone could get something out of every card — even if you already know the word on the front. So, you may know vacillate, but do you know tergiversate? Check it out:

Want to adopt 1,000 new flashcards? Visit our store here.



fail Thank you to all who caught our mistake, now corrected, on “Yippee!”, our Math Beast problem for the week of 10/17/11. As the posted explanation revealed, both Quantities were intended to have a factorial in both numerator and denominator. However, the posted question was missing that crucial exclamation point in the numerator of Quantity B, an omission that affected the answer. The error occurred for the most mundane of reasons: fancy fractions and figures must be created separately and posted as image files, not a simple cut-and-paste. We regret that we lost the “!” during image creation, and apologize for any consternation this may have caused. Thanks for keeping us on our toes! <-- Exclamation point pun intended.

Occupy Wall Street Vocab: Hackneyed, Pithy, Genuflection


Have you been following the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Check out this article, Occupy Wall Street: Beyond the Caricatures: Outsiders are criticizing a heterodox movement that they choose not to understand — or at least check out some of the vocab from the article.

For instance, what does heterodox mean?

Since hetero means “different” and dox means “belief” (as in orthodox, doctrine, and doxology), heterodox is basically just a synonym for unorthodox.

From the article:

It’s very easy to decree from afar that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators flooding Lower Manhattan right now are there for no other reason than to recite hackneyed leftist bombast.

Hackneyed means “made commonplace or trite; stale; banal.”

Bombast means “speech too pompous for an occasion; pretentious words.”

While there’s no question that the Occupy movement has an ethereally left-leaning tilt”and to be sure, the appearance of traditional unions can make that tilt more pronounced”all the “End the Fed” advocates, Ron Paul supporters, Internet freedom activists, and even some who identify as “Tea Party Patriots” in the mix make this phenomena difficult to characterize with pithy soundbites.

Ethereal means “light, airy, or tenuous.” In this context, it means “idealistic” or “impractical.”

Pithy means “brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse.”

Of course, the type of loudmouth gadflies who show up at all large outdoor political events, whether Tea Party gatherings, GOP coffee klatches, or Democratic National Conventions, can be found in Liberty Plaza.

A gadfly is any of various flies that bite or annoy domestic animals, or “a person who persistently annoys or provokes others with criticism, schemes, ideas, demands, requests, etc.”

A klatch or klatsch is “a casual gathering of people, especially for refreshments and informal conversation.”

There is near-consensus that government’s bailout-happy genuflection to Wall Street before, during, and after the financial crisis has caused tremendous damage, allowing well-connected and financially insulated bankers to reap record profits while social services budgets are put on the chopping block.

Finally, genuflect means “to bend the knee or touch one knee to the floor in reverence or worship” or “to express a servile attitude.” A similar word is kowtow, which comes from the Chinese for “to knock one’s head” — that is, to knock your head on the floor while bowing down to someone (like, say, the banking industry).

Photos from

The Math Beast’s Challenge Problem of the Week – October 24th


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.

This week’s question is below. Get out their scrap paper and start solving!

{8, 10, 11, 16, 20, 22, 25, x}

In the set above, x is an odd integer between 13 and 21, inclusive. Each possible x value is equally probable.

Which of the following statements has the highest probability of being true?

Read more

Check Out Our Free GRE® App


Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Manhattan Prep's New GRE App is Here!Ever wish there was a more convenient way to take advantage of your morning train ride or doctor’s office waiting room session to get that nagging GRE® study out of the way? If you answered a resounding “yes!” to that question, then your wish has been granted. Read more

A Murder of Crows


This image — hilarious to those with formidable lexicons — has been making its way around the Internet lately:

Of course, this is only funny if you 1) recognize what crows look like, and 2) know that a murder is a group of crows.

Really? Yep! Just as you would say “a pack of dogs,” many other animals also have unique collective names:

Covey of partridges
Ostentation of peacocks
Charm of hummingbirds
Float of crocodiles

Here is a list of many more.

Most of these are rather silly, but a few contain good GRE words:

Horde of hamsters
Drove of hares
Aerie of hawks
Passel of possum
Coterie of prairie dogs
Bevy of quail
Rout of wolves

A horde is “a large group, multitude, number, etc.; a mass or crowd,” or “a tribe or troop of Asian nomads” or “any nomadic group.” Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu famouly led the Golden Horde.

A drove can be a number of oxen, sheep, or swine driven, but in the plural, droves, refers to a large crowd of people, especially in motion.

An aerie the nest of a bird of prey, as an eagle or a hawk, or “a house, fortress, or the like, located high on a hill or mountain.” Here is a previous post about the word aerie, which is also the name of a lingerie store.

A passel is “a group or lot of indeterminate number.” In other words, “a bunch,” as in, “I’ve got a bunch of towels here,” or “There’s a passel of condiments on the table.”

A coterie is “a group of people who associate closely” or “an exclusive group; clique.” Prairie dogs are probably called a coterie because they live in communal burrows.

A bevy is a large group or collection. From 500 Advanced Words, 1st Edition: Manhattan GRE Vocabulary Flash Cards:

Usage: The bar owner cringed when a bevy of women in ridiculous tiaras came in “ Another drunken bachelorette party, he sighed.

More Info: Bevy is most commonly associated with birds, and often used to describe groups of people who stick together like a flock of birds “ it usually implies a not-very-serious opinion about the group in question.

A rout is “a defeat attended with disorderly flight” or any overwhelming defeat. You can also use it as a verb, as in “to rout an army.” Why is it a rout of wolves? Well, a rout of wolves could certainly rout you.

And that brings us back to the murder of crows. Attempted murder! Nerd joke!

“Homing in” on the word “Hone”


According to celebrity website TMZ (quoted in the previous post on this blog), the FBI is “honing in” on the scofflaws who stole Scarlett Johansson’s nude photos.

However, this is not the usual way to use the word “hone.” Normally, you hone your skills — that is, make more acute or effective, improve, or perfect.

Hone can also mean “to sharpen on a hone” (thanks, dictionary, that was really helpful!) No, seriously, a hone is a whetstone, or sharpening tool:


Just as to “hone” your skills is to sharpen them, to “whet” your appetite is to “stimulate; make keen or eager,” or “to sharpen by rubbing on or with something (as a stone).”

Many who care about language say that “hone in” is a mistake — the speaker really means “home in.” However, over time, the two phrases have started to merge. Here is one explanation:

The original is from early aeronautics. Pilots were guided to their destinations and back to their home bases by radio beacons. In the jargon of the time ” the early 1920s ” they were said to home on the beacons. This was clearly taken from the somewhat older expression homing pigeons. In later years, beacons were fitted to aircraft so one could home on another. By this time ” around 1940 ” home had lost much of its literal association with going home and had taken on the figurative idea of guiding an aircraft to its target or destination by means of a radio signal.

…After the war, people began to use it in the current figurative sense of focusing one’s attention on a single matter.

That’s now the only situation in which most people encounter it. It’s hardly obvious to somebody who hasn’t come across it before or who doesn’t know the background. Why home? This lack of context makes it easy for speakers to change the word into something that seems to be more appropriate or make more sense. Hone in on is a classic example of the type of word shift that has become known in recent years among linguists as an eggcorn: a change in word form due to error or misunderstanding.

In this case, it seems to be the figurative sense of the verb to hone, meaning to sharpen a tool, that has led to the change, since it’s widely used to mean making something work better, for example when we say somebody is honing her skills.

A final word from Merriam-Webster:

Though “home in” seems to have established itself in American English (and mention in a British usage book suggests it is used in British English too), your use of it especially in writing is likely to be called a mistake. Home in or in figurative use zero in does nicely.

Here’s to hoping that the FBI homes in on the scofflaws (and roués!) who hacked ScarJo’s phone.

ScarJo’s Nude Photo Scandal: Some Lurid Vocabulary About a Salacious Story


It seems that actress Scarlett Johansson’s phone has been hacked, and her nude photos shared with the world.

You may have wondered about the title of this blog post — a word commonly used to describe tabloid-style “news” stories is lurid , which can mean “gruesome; horrible; revolting,” or simply, “glaringly vivid or sensational.” Websites that purport to show photos of famous people’s deaths are undeniably lurid. Made-up stories about Oprah having an affair with Nick Jonas (I just made that up!) are still a bit lurid.

Another word that seems apropos is salacious, meaning “lustful, lecherous, obscene.” I wouldn’t describe ScarJo’s leaked photos as salacious so much as I would describe other people’s interest in looking at them that way. As in, “Honey, stop being so salacious — shut down that celebrity website and come to dinner!”

A few other words on the “sexy” side of the GRE are lewd (inclined to, characterized by, or inciting to lust or lechery; lascivious) and lascivious (inclined to lustfulness; wanton). Lechery is defined in the dictionary as “unrestrained and promiscuous sexuality,” but in real life is always used in a “sexual harassment” way. A lecher is the sort of person you’d hope you don’t end up alone with in a subway car. Lewd, lascivious, lecherous and lecher are all pretty bad.

(Why would these ever be on the GRE? It seems unlikely that the test makers would write a question about anything lascivious, right? If you saw one of the above words, I would suspect it to simply be a wrong answer.)

A couple of less-terrible words are bawdy and ribald, near-synonyms that mean “indecent; lewd; obscene; coarsely mocking, abusive, or irreverent.”

She loved the bawdy humor in Wedding Crashers, but she didn’t appreciate the lascivious theater attendant who asked her after the movie if she wanted to “be a bridesmaid,” whatever that meant.

Bawdy and ribald tend to refer to “dirty jokes,” and aren’t nearly as negative as the above set of words. In fact, they could absolutely appear in a GRE sentence, as in:

While today we think of opera as ______, audiences of centuries past were more attuned to — and occasionally scandalized by — the bawdy humor and ______ scenarios.

The second blank clearly calls for something that means the same as bawdy — so, ribald would be a good match. The “while” at the beginning of the sentence means that the first blank goes in an opposite direction, so the first blank should contain a word that means “not bawdy” — something like staid, proper, conservative.

So, let’s address the TMZ article above. The photos were hacked by scofflaws? What on earth are those?

As you might guess, they are people who scoff at (that is, mock, jeer, or deride) the law! What a great word.

Scofflaw – a person who flouts the law, especially one who fails to pay fines owed; a person who flouts rules, conventions, or accepted practices.

Where do scofflaws belong? See this previous post about “hoosegow”.

Vocabulary Through Star Trek


TheMarySue has brought The Star Trek Book of Opposites to our attention!

Here is one review of the book:

“Are you tired of all those boring, pedestrian, and antiquated board books for children that you are forced to read over and over again? Of course you are! That’s why creative authors like David Borgenicht are coming up with innovative board books that will keep you, the parent, from going insane. Behold the Star Trek Book of Opposites from Quirk Books.” ”

A pedestrian can certainly be “a person who goes or travels on foot,” but as an adjective, pedestrian means “lacking in vitality, imagination, distinction, etc.; commonplace; prosaic or dull.” Related GRE words are mundane and quotidian.

Here are some images from the book:

I figured I’d try this myself with GRE-level vocabulary:


Brinkmanship is “the technique or practice of maneuvering a dangerous situation to the limits of tolerance or safety in order to secure the greatest advantage, especially by creating diplomatic crises.”


A voluptuary is “a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure.”


An argot is a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class, profession or social group.


imperturbability is the state of being “incapable of being upset or agitated; not easily excited; calm.”