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Predicting the Passage in GRE Reading Comprehension

November 23, 2011 by

Perhaps more than any other section of the GRE, reading comprehension is the subject of a lot of mysticism. People seem to think that reading is a “life skill,” and that if you haven’t mastered it by the time you take the GRE, you’re out of luck. Those who have the skill can read the most abstruse of passages and “just get them,” as though struck by divine bolts of understanding. Meanwhile, those less fortunate are doomed to wallow in perpetual ignorance and confusion.

All of this is nonsense. Reading comprehension is a skill, and like all skills, it is statistically impossible that every single person in the world will be equally good at it. The fact that some people are naturally better than others is not a surprise, but a mathematical certainty. Those who are good at reading comprehension aren’t good because heavenly inspiration keeps showering their brains; … Read full post

Acquiring New Vocabulary the Old-Fashioned Way – By Reading!

October 10, 2011 by

So, you are preparing yourself for the GRE and you need to add some egghead words to your prodigiousand more commonly utilized line-up of text-speak, pop culture jargon, and  4-letter expletives (hey, studying for the GRE can be stressful!) Certainly, you are aware that there are tools for such a task to be found on many websites – Kaplan, of course, includes in our course offerings many effective means to increase and enrich your vocabulary.

Additionally, reading novels and certain newspapers and magazines (the ones that don’t cater to a fifth-grade reading level – all apologies to USA Today and People magazine, which are just fine for their purpose of informing and entertaining) will aid you in realizing heretofore unexplored words. However, perhaps even better fodder for the acquisition of headier, grad-level words can be found by examining trade journals and works of non-fiction. Try delving into the … Read full post

Grammar and Style Brush-Up: Prefixes

October 3, 2011 by

Knowing the correct words and constructions is key to writing successful GRE essays, as well as statements of purpose, cover letters, and any academic and professional communications you will put forth in the future. So let’s brush up on grammar and style.

A few weeks ago [SEPT 14] I blogged about the usefulness of knowing word roots.  I’m sure I will write more about them in the future as well — understanding where words come from helps you to understand what they might mean (and what other words they are related to). Today I’m going to talk about the prefixes we add to those roots.

Many words have commonly used cousins with very different meanings. For example, disinterested doesn’t mean uninterested, much like accept does not mean except. The differences between such pairs of words are found in their prefixes.

A Wake-Up Call for Vocabulary Strategy on the New GRE

September 28, 2011 by

If a stranger stops you in the street and asks, “Is the new GRE harder than the old one?”, say yes. On the whole, the new GRE is more difficult, but it’s not more difficult in every individual respect. The most notable way in which its content has been simplified is that vocabulary is no longer a nightmare.

Vocabulary has always been a blessing and a bane to standardized test takers. There’s something irresistibly romantic about the notion that a higher score may be as close as one or two memorized definitions away, but the words you memorize never seem to come up on the test, do they? Back in high school, I memorized what felt like a billion words in preparation for the SAT; only one of them appeared. (Though I still remember it to this day: soporific. Sleep-inducing.)

Since the old GRE could just as easily spring up … Read full post

Taking on the Analytical Writing Section

September 19, 2011 by

Recently, I took on the challenge of writing some sample GRE Analytical Writing essays to serve as models for our courses. Frankly, I didn’t think this would be a particularly difficult assignment. After all, barely a week goes by in which I don’t teach students how to write at least one of the two types of essay. In addition, I’ve graded hundreds of them in the course of my years teaching at Kaplan. Piece of cake, right?

Well, maybe not. First of all, I spent an inordinate amount of time procrastinating getting started. Could I find 30 straight minutes when I could be sure of being uninterrupted? What word processing software could I use to simulate what is found at the testing center? What should I use as a timer? How could I choose an essay prompt at random without risking seeing it for more than the allotted time? … Read full post

Taming the Verbal Beast before Test Day

August 8, 2011 by

Grab your theoretical net and binoculars; we’re going on safari! Behold the behavior of language in its natural habitat –words in the wild!

What kind of words might we observe on such an excursion? Difficult words – GRE words, if you will – the kind that casual readers would probably skip, or that many listeners would likely ignore. But when you are preparing to take the GRE, you are no longer a casual reader or listener. You are on the hunt!

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 must you 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 heard or read them, you’ll be able to tackle even the toughest vocabulary words … Read full post

So… you want to take the New GRE? Part 2: Same… But Different

June 15, 2011 by

Do you like GRE Verbal? Do you hate GRE Verbal? If you like it, you’ll be happy to know that the upcoming GRE has a few… twists to make the new GRE more, um… fun and entertaining. If you hate it, you may have heard the rumor that the new GRE no longer tests you on vocabulary. Yes it’s a rumor, and yes it’s fortunately (or unfortunately!) untrue. Antonyms and Analogies will indeed be phased out, but Sentence Completion (now revamped and renamed Text Completion… more on these developments in a future post) is joined by her big sister, Sentence Equivalence. Let’s kick this warm welcome off with an example!


After three months in the underground bunker, the three prisoners found themselves __________.


(A) enigmatic

(B) enraptured

(C) exhausted

(D) enchanted

(E) enervated

(F) emaciated


Oh big deal… so it’s a Sentence Completion question with one … Read full post

Let’s Talk GRE Resources

May 25, 2011 by

Greetings once again, intrepid GRE-Nauts!

After a couple of super-content-heavy posts,  I thought we’d slow it down a bit and discuss other places ‘round this vast Internet that can help you on your GRE Test Quest. And, no, I’m not just plugging other things around the Kaplan website (though, seriously, have a look around…).  Here are some other great places to hone your GRE Verbal skills:

1) Free Rice: This website seems to be a simple trivia game. The kicker, however, is that, for every answer you get right, you’re giving ten grains of rice to someone in the world who needs it. And, no, wrong answers don’t steal food out of people’s mouths. Affiliated with the UN, has games on various subjects including—and very relevant to our purposes—ENGLISH and GERMAN (see previous posts here and here) VOCABULARY, and ALGEBRA. It’s a great, altruistic time-waster, … Read full post

Germanic Practice II: Pikachu, I A-Choooooose You!

May 16, 2011 by

You sneeze in class. A couple of people say “Bless you,” but one or two say “Gesundheit.” Now, contrary to popular belief, GESUNDHEIT is not simply German for “Bless You.” Let’s use what we learned last week about Germanic roots to take it apart.

For this we get to learn two more important things about German that might help us out in our quest to break down unfamiliar GRE words using their roots.

First, GE- is a particle used to make the past participle, like if in English we said “Today I make cake, yesterday I made cookies, and I have GE-MADE sandwiches, too.”  So GE- is just kind of a past-marker.

Second, the suffix -HEIT (along with its variant -KEIT) just turns words into nouns, just like the English suffix -NESS; it appears in several German words borrowed straight into English, like GEMÜTLICHKEIT (“coziness”) and FAHRENHEIT (a proper name, … Read full post

Word Roots on the GRE: Haben Sie die deutschen Wörter gehört?

May 9, 2011 by

Guten Tag, fellow GRE-Nauts!

[A word of warning: This post is pretty heavy on the Mario Bros. imagery, so if any of you out there are young enough to not know what I’m talking about, do yourselves a favor and pick up an NES controller before you read on. We’ll call it Test Day Stress Relief.]

So lately I’ve been learning German, and it’s gotten me to thinking about the GRE’s use of our Father Language (while I would consider Latin and Greek our Overbearing Stepmother and Stepsister-We-Have-to-Share-a-Room-With Languages, respectively).

As you know, the current GRE is a Computer Adaptive Test, and the revision coming this August 1st turns the GRE into a Multi-Stage Test. But whether the test adapts question-by-question or stage-by-stage, German-rooted words tend to be the King Koopas guarding that score of 800 at the end of a well-taken test (or a 170 on the new … Read full post


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