You may already know the basic rules of exponents for the GRE. These rules tell you what to do if you want to multiply or divide two exponential numbers, or raise an exponent to another power. Once you’ve memorized them, exponent problems become exponentially easier (I’m so sorry). But there are two types of exponent problems that many students find intimidating, because the basic rules just don’t seem useful. In this article, we’ll go over those two problem types, how to recognize them, and what to do if you see one. Read more
Happy 2016! This is the year you get an awesome GRE score and are accepted to the graduate school of your dreams. Even if you’re reading this well into the year, or you’re half-way through your GRE prep, you could probably use some guidance, motivation and focus. Here are some New Year’s resolutions to get you started or re-started on your journey to a great GRE score. Read more
This 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.
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.
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
So, 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:
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).
While 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.
Okay, the title shouldn’t describe them as activities that teachers hate, so much as activities that this teacher hates. I don’t hate them because they’re completely useless, but I hate them because they distract well-meaning and hard-working students. Studying for the GRE is time-consuming and hard enough without inefficient strategies.
There are certain study strategies that exasperated students have in common. When a student tells me that they’re following one of these strategies, the rest of the story is usually, and my score isn’t going up at all. Here are, in my opinion, the four big ones, and their better alternatives.
Binging on problems
This is a big one. Stories that start with, I did all the problems in the book or I bought an extra set of problems and did every single one usually end with but I’m not getting any better!
It’s not that doing all the problems in the book is a bad thing, but chances are if you’re doing that many problems, you aren’t giving them the time they deserve. Doing problems is a good way to assess what you know, but it’s actually not a great way to get better at doing problems. That comes when you review what you’ve done.
Wonder if you’re doing too many problems with not enough review? Go back and do 10 problems you did last week, timed. Do you remember how to tackle them? If so, you’re probably reviewing enough. If not, you might want to tackled fewer problems in more depth in order to see a better payout.
We recently read a great article over at Gradhacker titled: Gaming Grad School. This article analyzes the question that plagues us all: why do we find it so easy to spend 14 straight hours launching plasma grenades at aliens (or birds at pigs, or batarangs at clowns, or Tetris blocks at other Tetris blocks), but so hard to spend the same amount of time on our studies?
This article from the Wall Street Journal analyzes the best and worst conditions in which you can study for tests, which got us thinking about how study practices can impact test scores. It makes sense that certain environmental factors can be detrimental to your studies. In college, I always found it difficult to study during neighbor’s marathon dubstep spinning sessions. Right now, I am writing this post in between bites of falafel, while listening to Super Bass on repeat, after I night where I lost about 4 hours of sleep in order to stay up and play Batman: Arkham City “ clearly, I am in no state to be studying for a test. But common sense alone won’t provide you with the perfect study setup.
I know many of you don’t want to tear yourselves away from your GRE flashcards for long enough to read that link, so here are the highlights.
Your brain, like most of your other vital organs, needs nutrients to run. During the GRE, your brain will be running a marathon, so you need to carbo-load for your mind “ and not just on test day. The Wall Street Journal suggests that for a full week before the test you should stop freebasing pixie stix (our advice, not theirs) and instead eat a diet of high-carb, high-fiber, slow digesting foods like oatmeal. Keep an eye out for a post, coming to our blog soon, with a full analysis of the role food and nutrition play in test taking.
Turn the stereo off while studying. Years of baby Mozart and Tom Lehrer have taught us the joys of musical learning. But, while listening to GWAR’s greatest hits might make you more relaxed, it will also make it harder for you to remember everything that you review. I can personally attest to this; my GRE scores improved dramatically when I started practice testing under real conditions without music. I used to run my vocab lists while listening to music, but I had a lot of difficult keeping lyrics out of my head when I was trying to commit definitions to memory. Also, I had a lot of trouble pacing myself on practice tests when I was listening to tunes I think music does strange things to the space time continuum.
It is a given that you should get plenty of sleep on the night before the test, but you should also try to line up your study schedule so that you are learning right before you go to bed. The things that you think about right before you go to sleep are easier to recall later on.
Studying helps, but only if you are actively learning. Don’t just read through your flashcards, actually test yourself to recall the information before you flip a card over and check yourself. Repetition helps too.
These tips will help you maximize the benefit of your studies, but you still need to put in the hours. Oatmeal alone will not allow you to ace the GRE. When it comes right down to it, you have to learn the material. Now stop reading this and go run your flashcards one more time.