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Looking for Patterns in GRE Arguments

April 15, 2014 by

While students often find it easy to spot patterns in the Quantitative section of the GRE, doing so in the Verbal section can seem like a more arduous task. This can be especially true in Critical Reasoning questions—those that ask you to evaluate an argument and then point out its flaw or assumption, or strengthen or weaken the author’s conclusion. To many students, each of the arguments they see on the test seems like a unique riddle to solve. But approaching every argument as its own, separate, special argument is a frustrating and inefficient way to move through this section of the test.

As you work through Critical Reasoning questions in your practice and homework, pay attention to the common argument patterns that the GRE tests over and over and over again. There are only a small number of types of arguments you’ll see on the test, and once you … Read full post

Answer GRE Reading Comprehension Questions Efficiently Using a Passage Map

March 17, 2014 by

In a previous blog entry, we analyzed a GRE reading comprehension passage and made the notes we need to work through the questions efficiently. Before we move on to the practice questions we posted last week, let’s talk about WHY you want to analyze your reading comp passages on the GRE and make notes before moving on to the questions.

Here’s a Scenario…

You read through the passage, but don’t stop to take notes. You get to the end and think, “Wow, that was kinda boring.” You move on to the questions. You read the first question associated with the passage, run through the answer choices, and find that all of them seem feasible. So you go back and scan through the passage again. Then you read the question and the answer choices again. Sound familiar? It’s a real time waster on the exam.

A Better Plan…

When you … Read full post

GRE Reading Comprehension Practice – The Solution

February 10, 2014 by

Friday’s GRE Reading Comprehension practice question allowed you to work on your RC skills. Working through practice questions is important, and reviewing the explanations carefully is just as important, so let’s talk about the answer.

Check out the question here if you haven’t tried it yet.

The question asks you to determine which answer choice supports a particular argument: that Kanzi uses human language to communicate in abstract ways. You can predict that the correct answer will be an example of Kanzi using language in an abstract way.

A. When asking to be fed, Kanzi uses lexigrams to ask for “the same dinner I ate yesterday.”

Choice (A) is such an example. The passage indicates that “concept words” and expression of the past tense qualify as abstract communication. Referring to yesterday’s dinner, then, is an example of abstract communication, so choice (A) is correct.

B. Kanzi often points to the … Read full post

Dance Through GRE Reading Comprehension Practice – The Explanation

January 9, 2014 by

GRE Reading Comprehension Inference questions are often higher level difficulty questions because they ask you to analyze what you’ve read in a passage in order to find unstated conclusions. This requires strategic reading, paraphrasing, and critical thinking skills.

The question we gave you to try in this week’s practice question entry is an inference question, so you are looking for a statement that is implied by the passage but not explicitly stated.

The Kirov and the Bolshoi ballet companies are credited with the “Russification” of French ballet, so it is safe to infer that their productions included distinctly Russian elements. Thus, choice (A) is the correct answer.

It’s also important to understand why the incorrect answers are wrong, so keep reading.

  • Answer choice (B) is not implied by the text. While the passage tells us that some European tourists went to Russia to see the ballet, it does not make
  • Read full post

Dance Through Some GRE Reading Comprehension Practice

January 7, 2014 by

Did any of you get to see the Nutcracker ballet this year? I missed seeing it live, but I got to watch the beautiful Baryshnikov version that I’ve watched since my childhood. I’ve always been a ballet devotee – the skill and elegance, the physical strength and endurance, the beautiful music and costumes – they’re all captivating. My very favorite thing about ballet is…

Okay, who am I kidding? I’m just trying to get you on board with this GRE Reading Comprehension question because I know you need the practice. Everyone does. What’s the connection between ballet and GRE Reading Comprehension? Read on and find out.

GRE Reading Comprehension Practice Question

The earliest histories of the Russian ballet were written in the 18th century by European tourists to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Many of these travelers were drawn from their native Paris, Berlin, or London to see the highly touted … Read full post

GRE Reading Comprehension: Passage Analysis Tips

December 12, 2013 by

What are your feelings on GRE Reading Comprehension? Good, bad, or indifferent, this is an important question type to master for success on the GRE verbal section. If you haven’t yet tried our GRE practice passage, take a look at it now and take a few minutes to answer the questions that we posted along with it. They are the questions you should work through each time you break down a reading comp passage.

Now, let’s talk analysis.

  • The TOPIC of this passage, or the broad main idea, is Shirley Jackson’s fiction. GRE passages don’t contain a lot of filler, so you usually see the gist of the topic emerge in the first paragraph, if not in the first sentence.
  • The SCOPE of the passage is a more detailed focus within the topic. In this passage, the scope is Jackson’s fictional techniques and how they illustrate her message. The
  • Read full post

Discover GRE Reading Comprehension: Passage Analysis

December 11, 2013 by

It’s always a good time to do some GRE Reading Comprehension practice. Our blog series will provide you with a GRE reading comp passage, and we’ll walk through it step-by-step to allow you to practice and get answers and explanations at each stage. First, we’ll break down this passage before moving on some practice questions. Let’s get started!

Although Shirley Jackson is perhaps best known for her macabre short stories and novels, she was, in fact, a master of several genres and a prolific and varied writer, composing essays, autobiographies, and magazine articles as well as fiction. While Jackson had a vast literary repertoire, however, she tended to use the same types of fictional elements in her stories.

For example, like Flannery O’Connor, another writer renowned for her dissection of genteel society, Jackson often paired hyper-realistic settings with surreal plots to expose the dark underside of Middle America. Many of … Read full post

GRE Reading Comprehension Practice…With Spelt?

November 19, 2013 by


Let’s practice GRE Reading Comprehension. First, read the passage. When you’re done, jot down a brief paraphrase of the main idea of the passage before going on to the practice questions. Share your answers in the comments, and we’ll post a blog entry with the full explanations in two days. Take your time here, and be sure to use the information in the passage and your passage notes to choose your answers carefully. Good luck!

Spelt is a type of wheat that served as a staple in European diets from the Bronze Age until well into the Middle Ages. Although considered the food of peasants for centuries, spelt has recently received attention as a healthier alternative to other grains, including common wheat. More easily digestible than ordinary wheat or other grains, spelt is also thought to be less likely to cause allergic reactions in individuals who cannot digest … Read full post

GRE Reading Comp Logic: the Wrong Rabbit Hole

March 27, 2013 by

Last year, I wrote a series of entries about the critical reasoning problems that were recently added to the GRE. Since it’s been a while, let’s revisit that question type — and check out another aspect of critical thinking that confounds many of you.

Here’s a type of problem that’s caused no end of consternation to a lot of my students:

Residents of this state are obligated to renew their driver’s license in two circumstances only: if they accumulate six or more points in moving violations, or if they obtain citizenship in another country. Clarice, who is a citizen of only this country, has been involved in only one accident, which added three points to her license. Therefore, Clarice has no reason to renew her driver’s license at this time.

The argument above depends on which of the following assumptions?

I’m not going to show you the answer choices … Read full post

GRE Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning, Part III: The Perils of Jaywalking

September 27, 2012 by

In this entry and in this one, I discussed two patterns of reasoning that can help you unravel tough problems in GRE reading comprehension. Today our logical journey continues with a look at a classic GRE reasoning flaw of a more quantitative bent: confusing numbers with percentages.

Here’s a silly argument that showcases the flaw nicely:

Common wisdom holds that crossing the street at a corner is safer than jaywalking (that is, crossing in the middle). But annual statistics show that many more pedestrians are hit by cars while crossing at a corner than while jaywalking. Hence, our common intuition is wrong: pedestrians who jaywalk are actually safer than those who don’t.

Are you convinced? I sure hope not, because if so you’ve just dramatically decreased your life expectancy. This argument supports a claim about safety — which is a matter of percentages — with evidence that deals in … Read full post

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