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GRE Reading Comprehension: Red Light, Green Light

May 26, 2015 by

In an earlier blog post, we introduced a very challenging GRE reading comprehension passage about fractals and offered some tips on how to improve your accuracy when it comes time to answer difficult reading questions.

In the example from that post, we explained that the colon at the end of the passage should clue you in on how to better understand the context of difficult or unknown terms—in this case, “self-similarity.” Regardless of whatever minute details come before it, the colon suggests that the important thing you need to know about “self-similarity” is about to follow.

The traffic signals of GRE reading comprehension

Another way of putting this is to think of language as signaling you to either speed up, slow down, or read with caution. You’ll need to learn when you have a “green light” to cruise through the details in your reading, but you should be on the … Read full post

How to Simplify GRE Math Calculations

May 21, 2015 by

Did you know you’ll have access to a calculator when completing the computerized GRE math section on Test Day?

ETS, the maker of the GRE, also offers a guide to using the on-screen calculator. While this guide comes in handy, it doesn’t tell you what you really need to know: Correctly using—or, more importantly, not using—the GRE on-screen calculator on Test Day has a big impact on your performance.

Use the on-screen calculator sparingly

Our favorite part of the test maker’s guide was this provocative suggestion:

“Avoid using [the on-screen calculator] for simple computations that are quicker to do mentally, such as 10 – 490, (4)(70), 4,300/10, sqrt(25), and 30^2.”

We call this advice provocative because, though it’s absolutely correct, the author doesn’t specify why the example computations provided are considered “simple.” Some students may not know why, for example, (4)(70) should be computed mentally, and thus the purportedly … Read full post

How to Stay Motivated Studying for the GRE

May 19, 2015 by

It’s almost inevitable that, for any number of reasons, you’ll get discouraged or lose motivation while studying for the GRE.

Maybe you’ve seen the vocab word “aggrandize” pop up five times in your practice and you still can’t remember what it means. Maybe your scores have leveled out on your practice MSTs despite the work that you’ve been putting in. Maybe you’re just struggling to balance your GRE prep with school, work, and life in general.

If this sounds familiar, or if you’re in a GRE rut for any other reason, don’t despair. Here’s four things that you can do to get your studying back on track before Test Day:

1. Take a break from GRE prep

Take a breather from all things GRE-related, to clear your head. Give yourself at least 48 hours completely free of GRE practice problems, vocabulary flashcards, and essay prompts, and do something … Read full post

GRE Reading Comprehension: Speed vs. Accuracy

May 14, 2015 by

“I’m worried about GRE reading comprehension. I’m a slow reader.”

Does this sound like you? We hear it in just about every GRE class—and it’s natural to think that way: if you read each passage slowly, you’ll have less time to finish the questions. With less time on the questions, the reasoning goes, you’ll do worse on the GRE.

Consequently, we get asked all the time for advice on speed reading, since students often believe that if they read faster and thereby get to the GRE reading comprehension questions more quickly, they’ll perform better.

Smart reading, not speed reading

Let’s analyze this belief about the value of speed reading more closely. Imagine that you’re visited in the night by the GRE reading comprehension fairy. She gives you a choice between one of two magical powers: Option A makes you read twice as fast, while Option B makes … Read full post

Comprehending GRE Reading Comprehension

May 12, 2015 by

One of the biggest bogeymen of the GRE is a shadowy entity we like to call “That Passage.” Students often tell us they feel fine with the GRE reading comprehension section generally, but they’re afraid that when they take the test, they’ll get That Passage—you know, one of those murky, dense, and all-around incomprehensible ones.

Parsing “That Passage”

The fear of GRE reading comprehension, however, often arises from a misunderstanding of what “comprehension” really means. Many seem to believe that comprehension is an understanding of things. Then, when GRE students read a passage full of things they don’t quite understand, they feel overwhelmed, confused, and defeated.

Let’s look at a quick example. What do you think of this sentence, which opens a famously difficult reading comprehension passage:

“Ronald Dworkin argues that judges are in danger of uncritically embracing an erroneous theory known as legal positivism because they think that … Read full post

Seek Support While Studying for the GRE

May 7, 2015 by

Remember in high school when you were preparing for the SAT and/or the ACT? Almost everyone you knew was getting ready for a standardized admissions test—and when you sat for the exam on Test Day, it was on a specific date with hundreds of thousands of other people your age all over the country answering the same questions.

It may have been agonizing or annoying, but at least it was a shared experience. Everyone who knew you was supportive of your endeavors; no one questioned why you’d want to go to college. Now that you’ve decided to apply to graduate school, you’re realizing that studying for the GRE is different.

The solo trek to Test Day

Getting ready for graduate school and facing months of GRE prep can feel daunting. You may not know anyone else who is preparing for this test right now. Even people who took the GRE … Read full post

Applying to Graduate School: Full Time, Part Time, or Both?

May 5, 2015 by

When applying to graduate school, you’ll be asked on the application to indicate which division you want to apply for: full-time or part-time. For the majority of graduate school applications, you’re allowed to check only one. Some schools, however, allow you to apply to both program divisions.

Most candidates applying to graduate school prefer the full-time program, opting to dedicate the entirely of the next few years of their lives to study rather than balancing their coursework with employment. However, it’s not the only option.

How to make applying to graduate school part-time work for you

If a grad school permits you to apply to both divisions, you should strongly consider doing so. Why not increase your chances of being accepted? Generally—and you’ll want to verify this with the admissions office—after you complete your first year of graduate school as a part-time student (and as long as you are not … Read full post

Should You Earn a Graduate Degree?

April 30, 2015 by

In deciding whether to attend graduate school, think about which factors hold the most weight for you. It may interest you, for example, to know that U.S. workers with a graduate degree earn on average 35–50% more than those with just a bachelor’s degree.

Money, however, is not the only reason to pursue a graduate degree—and arguably shouldn’t even be the preeminent one. Here are some common reasons that people go to—or go back to—graduate school.

Looking for a career change?

Many people make the decision to return to graduate school after working in “the real world.” Some feel that their career options are limited. Others find that their interests and abilities have developed over the years and have perhaps outgrown the focus of their undergraduate education. A graduate degree can therefore be the key to making a career change or advancing your career…. Read full post

Could a graduate degree get you

How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement

April 28, 2015 by

Statement of purpose, personal statement, candidate’s admission statement… these terms send a shiver down the spine of many a prospective graduate student who feel at a loss for how to write about themselves effectively.

A graduate school personal statement or similar type of application essay, however, is your opportunity to show the admissions committee what you’re made of. They want to know why you’re applying to their graduate program, and the application essay is your chance to communicate that to them as clearly and compellingly as you can.

How do graduate schools use your application essay?

The graduate school personal statement serves two basic purposes. First, they show whether you know how to write a clear, coherent essay that’s logically and grammatically correct. These days, students’ writing ability is often presumed deficient unless proven otherwise.

Second, the application essay gives you the opportunity to present the admissions committee with more … Read full post

Tame the GRE Verbal Beast before Test Day

April 23, 2015 by

Grab your net and binoculars. We’re going on safari to observe the behavior of GRE vocabulary in its natural habitat—words in the wild!

Sharpen your GRE verbal skills

What kind of new words might we observe on such an excursion? Difficult words—GRE words, if you will—the kind that casual readers would probably skip over, or that many listeners would likely ignore. When you’re preparing for Test Day, however, you are no longer a casual reader or listener. You’re on the hunt to expand your GRE vocabulary.

To earn a high score on the GRE verbal section, you must have a strong vocabulary. There’s no getting around that simple fact—but do you really need to know a whole lot of difficult words? Only if “know” means “have heard or read them somewhere before.” As long as you can remember how or where you encountered these new words, you’ll be able … Read full post


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