# @onlynoor: The GRE is not an IQ Test

@onlynoor, I couldn’t help say, “Yes, you are right!”

Knowing a word like “prevaricate” or “abstruse,” is not indicative of your knowledge. Nor is it a reflection of your intelligence or IQ. That’s because the GRE, and a lot other standardized tests, don’t test anything closely related to knowledge or IQ. And even tests that claim to measure a person’s IQ are deeply flawed.

A person’s knowledge and intelligence is malleable and plastic—changing throughout a person’s lifetime. Not only does it change over the years, but it can change in a matter of hours. Just think of how different you would perform on a test if you slept only two hours and didn’t eat for twenty-four hours. I guarantee members of Mensa would struggle to qualify for their “intelligence” club. Even the founder of the Princeton Review knows this.

So what does that mean for you, the test taker? Do not think of this as a measure of intelligence, but rather think of it as measuring tape. Every student takes the test and the test makers use their measuring tape to see how they did. Imagine that students walk into a doctor’s office and they stand up against a wall and the doctor marks a line for their heights. Then they pull out that measuring tape to see how tall you are. They record the results in a table and send you on your way.

The GRE is the same thing. Students walk into a testing center, “backs against the wall,” and do the best they can. The test makers then measure how each student did and record the results for colleges. These results are a standard measure that allows schools to get a sense of how one student compares to another—to see who is taller.

But the difference between your height and your score on the GRE is that your height is fixed at a certain age (unless you live in a world similar to Gattaca). Your score on a standardized, though, is not fixed because you can prepare in advance and actually increase your score. By learning the question types, practicing problems, completing practice tests, and learning common wrong answer traps, students for decades have improved their scores. This is a fundamental flaw in the test: test makers claim that students should get the same score on the test regardless of how many times they take it. That’s why they call it a standardized test. But anyone who has put in a couple hours a week to study and prepare knows that scores do increase, sometimes dramatically.

Another part to these standardized tests is just to see who really cares. Schools can see what students prepared, put in the time, and did well versus the students who show up one day and take a test. And even taking the test a second time, and increasing your scores, will show colleges that you care and that you are putting in the effort to succeed.

So, Noor, don’t let studying for the GRE get you down. I am sure that you will do fine if you put in the time to study, and I am sure that you will become an awesome speech-language pathologist in the future.

Good luck! I know you won’t need it.

# Answers Don’t Crawl Out of The Rubble

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment to watch this video which shows one of the more feel-good stories to come out of the horrific damage caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

This woman goes into the storm with a plan. Granted, it’s not the best plan, but it’s a plan nonetheless. Then the storm comes and throws everything around and all that’s left is a pile of rubble. And somehow, under a pile of debris, appears the dog that was feared to be lost. It’s a tremendous story, but it’s not a model for you to take in your test prep.

Some students have what I call “Mad Scientist Disease”. They imagine that upon seeing numbers and equations they should immediately start performing calculations, scribbling notes so quickly that smoke rises from the paper as the sweat pours down the intensely furrowed brow. After several moments of this process they imagine that an answer will reveal itself as correct. They create rubble and hope that the thing they hope for will crawl out from under it.

Math problems are not best solved by hoping for the miraculous. Unlike the tornadoes in Oklahoma, students who go down this road are creating the disaster rather than dealing with a force beyond their control. Rather than jumping directly into calculations you should begin at the end. Figure out what it is that you need to solve for in order to find your answer and then figure out what information you need in order to get that intermediate information. Once you’ve plotted out your steps, THEN it’s safe to begin the process of doing calculations.

Planning your approach before the danger comes is the best way to minimize the danger of a natural disaster, and the best way to survive your test unscathed.

# Excuse Me, But Do You Speak Math?

In three years of high school Spanish, I learned a lot of words. I am confident that if dropped into a Spanish-speaking country I could successfully order food, find the bathroom and greet the people I met in an awkward and excessively formal way. In my three years of law school I learned almost as many words, which seems surprising given that all of my classes were taught in English. The fact is that although theoretically in my native tongue, joinder and mandamus came off as foreign to me as cebolla and encantado once had been.

While sitting in a business meeting recently and struggling to keep up with acronyms, who was working in which “space” and whether or not the team had sufficient bandwidth to take on a project, I had a realization. Many areas of our lives have a different language that seems completely natural once we’ve familiarized ourselves with it, but can be extremely difficult to penetrate at first.

Math too has a language all its own. The string of words that appear in the question can seem impossibly far from the equation that you know is supposed to be elicited. Here are some quick tips for gaining some comfort with the words that compose math problems.

1. Find the equal sign- If you’re untangling a word problem, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. Start in the middle. Any equation has two sides and separating those two sides is a word that is equivalent to the equal sign. It may be “is”, “equals”, “are”, “was”, or “will”. Focus on finding that word that means equals and start from there.
2. Represent percents as x/100- One of the common language issues is translating percents into an equation form. Just remember that per means “out of” and cent means 100 (just like century or centipede).
3. Take your time- Most of the mistakes made in translating from English to math are not gaps in knowledge, rather they’re careless errors. If you take your time you’ll certainly realize that 10 liters of a substance evaporating means to subtract or that separation into equally sized groups means division. Walk it through step-by-step.

Here’s an example problem for some practice:

A positive number y is multiplied by 3, and this product is divided by 2. If y percent of this product is 10, what is the value of y?

Focus on that key language “y percent of this product is 10”. The “is” in that phrase signifies the equal sign, to that’s where we’ll start. Something equals 10.

The next step is to unpack that something. We start with the y. Multiplying by 3 yields 3y. Then we divide that by 2.

“y Percent Of”$\frac{3y}{2}=10$

Remember the second tip. We can translate that “y percent of” language by simply substituting y/100:

$\frac{y}{100}(\frac{3y}{2})=10$

At this point we have a common equation that you can surely solve. Remember to find the equal sign first and take your time and you’ll get your translating done with ease.

# Single or Double Quotation Marks?

When should you use single quotes and when should you used double quotes?

A straightforward question with a not so straightforward answer.

The first answer is that it depends on where your readers are, and the second answer is that it actually doesn’t matter where your readers are. In the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, convention tends toward double quotes.

In this quote from The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, the reader is confronted with the narrator’s musing about his characters at the end of the story: “I am of the earth, earthy; I can only admire the radiance of such a rare creature, I cannot step into his shoes and enter into his innermost heart as I sometimes think I can do with a person more nearly allied to the common run of man.”

In the United Kingdom and South Africa, convention tends toward the single quote, but even here double quotes are not uncommon.

And earlier in The Razor’s Edge, ‘He is without ambition and he has no desire for fame; to become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than himself.’

Ultimately, your preference can outweigh any regional convention. But whatever your decision, don’t mix—remain consistent with quotation marks throughout the piece.

But sometimes, you need them both. Both single and double quotes are necessary when quoting a text that contains direct speech or when there is speech within speech.

Original text:

She came to the door to see me out and kissed me on both cheeks.

‘We’ve had some good times together. Keep a good recollection of me.’

Quoted text:

“She came to the door to see me out and kissed me on both cheeks.

“‘We’ve had some good times together. Keep a good recollection of me.’”

Remember that quotes are used to indicate a special use of a word or to indicate irony or to tell the reader that you are talking about the word not using it. In these situations, a single or double quotation mark can be used. (If you missed the earlier articles, click here to learn about punctuating quotes and click here to learn about when to use quotes.)

Special Use (the original text without quotation marks):
That which will be shrunk
Must first be stretched.
That which will be weakened
Must first be strengthened.
That which will be torn down
Must first be raised up.
That which will be taken
Must first be given.
This is called “subtle illumination.”

– Lao Tzu, “36” Tao Te Ching

Irony:
“What a ‘deep’ voice you have,” said Little Snarky Red Riding Hood.
“What do you mean? Are you saying I have a squeaky voice? Take that back! Why are you so mean to me?” cried the mealy wolf.

Talking about the word—not using it:

The word “penumbra” can be used figuratively to great effect.

As a recommendation, use the quotation mark that you are not using for your citations or direct speech. So if you use double quotes for citations, use single quotes for the special use of a word. And if you use single quotes for citations, use the double quotes for a special use of a word. In this way, you can further signify your intent as well as delineate the different ways that quotation marks are used. This, however, is merely a suggestion and something you won’t likely find in a style manual.