Be Thankful: GRE

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The calendar has turned over to December, but that doesn’t mean that you should forget the lessons of the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed. While spending time with my family, I was able to pause and reflect on all the things that I’m thankful for. That’s an exercise that always leaves me feeling fortunate because I take the focus off of my little struggles and appreciate the big picture. In that spirit I’ve done some thinking about the tests that I teach in order to give you that same perspective. So, without further ado, here are five things to be thankful for about your test.

 

  1. The GRE is flexible- Maybe you’re taking the GRE because you know that you want to go on to grad school, even if you aren’t sure about the details. Lots of students want to get their testing done while they are still in student mode, and the GRE is ideal for that. Not only is it the test of choice for most grad programs, but the GRE is now being accepted at over 1,000 business schools as well. So, if you decide later that an MBA is in your future, you’re in luck.

 

  1. Vocabulary in context- The old GRE was rough for non-native English speakers. Okay, let’s be honest: the old GRE was rough for anyone who hadn’t memorized the dictionary. The recent switch to put vocabulary questions into context rather than asking you analogy questions without any clues. You still need a strong vocabulary to score well on the verbal section, but your task is much more manageable now.

 

  1. The test is adaptive- Sure, the more to a computer-adaptive GRE had the consequence of giving some test-takers more difficult questions. But, the test-takers getting those tougher questions are the ones who did well on earlier sections and needed more of a challenge. Whether you’re a top student, middle of the pack or below average, the GRE is better for giving you questions at your level.

 

  1. The math isn’t so bad- Sure, there are LOTS of people who still struggle with the math on the GRE, but at least it isn’t as bad as GMAT math!

 

  1. Only half of this test may be important- Depending on the type of program you plan on applying to, only half of your GRE score may matter. Some engineering programs look only at your math scores, so if you bomb the verbal half, you’re okay! Make sure and check for the requirements of all of the programs you plan to apply to before you neglect one half of the test though!

 

Be thankful and happy studying!

 Checking All of the Boxes

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The GRE is a multiple choice test whose purpose of late seems to have been defeating decades of conventions in multiple choice strategy. With the relatively recent revisions to the test, the makers of the GRE have created a system where simply being able to estimate or get rid of wrong answers often isn’t good enough to get the job done. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t smart approaches to the new GRE.

Today we’ll consider the question type where you are asked to select one or more answer choices that satisfy the conditions set forth in the problem. So, if you’re given 7 choices, only one may be correct, or all of the the answers may be correct. You will only be given credit for the problem if you select all of the correct answers and none of the incorrect answers. Here’s an example:

Which of the following is greater than 0.33?

Select ALL such answers:

A) 3/13

B)  1/4

C) 2/7

D) 5/16

E) 3/8

F) 2/5

G) 7/17

GRE answer choices are typically listed in either ascending or descending order. This is not simply a trivial fact, but rather something you should use to your advantage. When you look at this list of numbers you’ll encounter several unfamiliar ones. If you can’t come up with the decimal equivalents of these numbers off the top of your head, you’ll be forced to either do the long division or punch all of these numbers in your calculator. That’s not a terribly tough process, but it can be a time-consuming one. However, since these numbers are listed in ascending order we can use that to our advantage.

First look at choice B, 1/4. We know that 1/4 is one quarter, which has a decimal equivalent of 0.25, so it is a wrong answer. We also know that since the answers are in ascending order, choice A must be incorrect as well. Moving down toward the bottom we find 2/5, which should also be easy to convent to a decimal, this time 0.4. Since that is greater than 0.33 we know that choice F is part of the correct answer and also that choice G is part of the correct answer since the answers are ascending.

This leaves only the middle three choices to work through in order to find that dividing line between choices less than 0.33 and choices greater than that amount. Keep this example in mind when working through practice problems so that you can use the order of the answer choices to your advantage.

 Concentrated Liquids

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If you’re looking for a technical, precise explanation on handling concentrated liquid problems, look elsewhere. For the rest of you, this may be helpful.

When I say concentrated liquid problems, I mean problems that take the following form:

5 gallons of a mixture of cranberry juice and water is 15 percent juice. How much water will have to be added in order to create a mixture that is 10 percent juice?

You see these problems in various forms, sometimes asking you to evaporate out some water, or sometimes to add some water. Sometimes you’re given the total volume of the desired mixture and asked to determine the concentration. Other times you’re given the desired concentration and asked to figure out the total volume in some form. However, despite the specific form that you’re given, I have some very eloquent advice that’s going to make tackling these problems much simpler: Find out how much stuff you’ve got.

Yup, that’s right “stuff”. Almost all of the problems of this type that I’ve encountered involve a mixture of water and something else. That something else is the “stuff” we’re interested in. Water will simply be a filler that will take up all of the space not occupied by “stuff”. Let’s take a look at the problem I mentioned earlier to illustrate this concept.

Here we have 5 gallons of mixture and we know that it’s 15% cranberry juice. That’s our stuff. We need to find out how much cranberry juice we have. The simple calculation is:

Once we know how much stuff we have, we just need to set that 0.75 gallons equal to 10 percent of x to find out the volume of the new mixture. This one is relatively straightforward, so we know that the total volume will equal 7.5 gallons. Since we started with 5 gallons, and all we’re adding is water to get to 7.5 gallons, we need to add 2.5 gallons of water and there’s your correct answer.

Regardless of the question type or form, when you see one of these concentrated liquids problems make sure you find out how much “stuff” you have! The rest will be water and you’ll be well on your way to a correct answer!

 Summer Balance

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My sister is an elementary school teacher, and around this time of year she starts to get worried about brain rot. After a year full of new experiences, challenges, and knowledge many of her students are off to a summer where they will only be challenged by getting to level 10 of their new video game.

 

However, brain rot isn’t a phenomenon limited only to children. For those of you still in school, the summer may still be a respite or an opportunity to take a mindless job to save some cash. But maybe summer should also be your opportunity to prepare for the next step in your life.

 

Taking on a challenge like a college entrance exam or a test to get you into graduate school is a great way to spend the summer. It’s not a great way to spend the entire summer obviously, but it’s a great way to add balance into the long summer days. There’s still plenty of time for cook-outs and beach days, sleeping in and golf trips. Just put your nose in a book every once in a while to balance everything out.

 

My favorite fortune cookie of all time says “Balance is essential for walking and life.” It’s not really a fortune, but it’s no less true. Trying to take relaxation to its peak for an entire summer and then trying to jump back to full mental function is the fall is a plan that’s bound to fail. At the same time, studying to the point of obsession tends to lead only to burnout.

 

During the most study-intensive summer of my life when I was preparing to take the bar exam, I took a summer job umpiring softball games a few times a week. If nothing else game me a reason to put down the books and be outside for a couple hours, which recharged me and allowed me to get back to the studying.

 

Does your summer have balance? Or is “Do Nothing” at the top of your summer to do list. If you seek that balance in your summer, you’ll be able to appreciate the times of relaxation even more and you may even put those dreams for the next part of your life one step closer.