Apr
1
2013

# The Trap of Knowing Too Much

Recently, a fellow instructor sent me a GRE problem with which his student was struggling, and it led to an interesting conversation. Here’s the problem:

Which of the following is equivalent to (√3 + 1) / (√3 – 1)?

(A) 3 – √3

(B) 2√3 – 2

(C) 3

(D) 2 + √3

(E) 4 + 2√3

Several of us instructors looked at the problem, and without even glancing at the answer choices, half of us said “Whichever choice is equal to 2.” But when we actually read the answer choices, we noticed that there wasn’t one that matched our prediction.

Where did we go wrong? It was hubris. We’ve all been teaching for long enough that we know the common math tricks inside and out – in this case, as soon

Mar
29
2013

# Medium-Level GRE Vocabulary and Short Verbal Practice

The last time we looked at a short verbal problem, it was of the “ridiculously, stupidly difficult” variety. You might find it interesting to see how the GRE test makers use challenging vocabulary, but on a medium-difficulty problem. Here’s a two-blank sentence completion we cover in our GRE Bootcamp event:

The social reformer proposed locating juvenile detention facilities close to parks, playing fields, and greenbelts, theorizing that (i) _____ to such sites could have a favorable effect on the troubled youths, as opposed to the (ii) _____ influence associated with locations in the heart of high-crime slum areas.

In a multi-blank sentence completion, there are three choices for each blank. But I’m not even going to show the choices to you yet, because you shouldn’t look at them

Mar
27
2013

# GRE Reading Comp Logic: the Wrong Rabbit Hole

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

Mar
22
2013

# How to Tackle Reading Comp, Part II: Tips and Tricks to Make Mapping a Snap

In a recent entry, I demonstrated how to put together a “map” for reading comp passages that will allow you to answer questions and get points. Passage-mapping is a crucial part of reading comp success, so I wanted to discuss some additional best practices you can use to ensure that your map is as effective as possible while studying and testing for the GRE:

A problem that many students have is that they get bogged down in the details of a passage and try to remember everything that they’ve read. Reading this way is a recipe to become exhausted and overwhelmed with information that you don’t need. Instead, scan for keywords – those “howevers”, “moreovers”, and

Mar
18
2013

# Challenging GRE Vocabulary and Sentence Equivalence Practice

Back in January, I wrote about a challenging quantitative problem from one of our free GRE events, the GRE Bootcamp. As we held another Bootcamp recently, let’s take a look at another hard problem from the event — a verbal one this time!

The _______ preconcert celebrations did not seem to suit what followed; the concert itself was low key, acoustic, and featured only one performer.

ersatz
corrosive
garish
exquisite
robustious
resplendent

Since there are six choices, you know what kind of problem this is: a Sentence Equivalence. Your task is to pick two words that both fit the sentence and produce an equivalent effect. Don’t start with the choices, though: start with the sentence. Look for clues

Mar
15
2013

Who else is waiting impatiently for Season 3 of the BBC’s Sherlock? Rumor has it that filming of the new season will begin on March 18. If you are Sherlocked like me and pacing the floors, desperate to find out how he survived, here’s something that can keep you occupied until our beloved Holmes and Watson return to us.

Find solace in what Sherlockians refer to as The Canon – the original works and writings by Arthur Conan Doyle. I recently read A Study in Scarlet (you can read it for free here) and not only was my Sherlockian soul sated, but I also discovered many gems of GRE vocabulary tucked into the text. Give it a read, and keep your vocabulary notebook nearby, as you’re sure

Mar
13
2013

Climate change is a very serious issue, but as a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, I sometimes grumble that global warming can’t come soon enough. It wouldn’t be a true Wisconsin winter if we didn’t get at least one blizzard in March, and I found myself last week shoveling desperately through a waist-high mound of heavy, densely packed snow deposited by snowplows at the foot of my driveway. My usual strategy in such situations is “stay in the house until the roommate has to go somewhere first.” Unfortunately, he was out of town, so I had to excavate the driveway myself if I wanted any shot of pulling my car out of the garage.

I get the feeling that many of you view the taking GRE the same way I view shoveling snow: as a chore. Something unpleasant

Mar
11
2013

# The Most Popular Master’s Degrees for Men and for Women

In honor of Women’s History Month, one of my Kaplan colleagues sent me a recent article on the most popular master’s degrees, broken down by gender. While you might expect these lists to be very different, what jumped out at me were the following two data points:

- The MBA is the most popular degree for both men and women.

However, the percentage of each group that pursues this degree is very different: 22.3% of men get an MBA, while only 11.4% of women do.

- Various degrees in education appeared multiple times in the top 5 lists of most popular degrees for both men and women.

Once again, though, there is a big difference between the specific degrees that men and women obtain. For example, men are more likely to get a degree in

Mar
8
2013

# The Difference Between Math and Logic

Perhaps the most controversial post I’ve written for this blog so far — if “controversy” can be anything other than a comical word when talking about the GRE — is this one, which I link to a lot, in which I point out that the quantitative section of the GRE is primarily a logic test, not a math test. Several very intelligent people pushed back in the comments, arguing, essentially, “But math IS logic.”

I found some very interesting statistics recently that I hope will clarify my point.

A professor at the University of North Texas compiled a list of average test scores, by major, for 2007-2008. Not surprisingly, math and physics majors scored, on average, the highest (160.0), with econ and philosophy majors closely following suit (157.4). Engineering (156.2) and chemistry (156.1) majors also put up a

Mar
6
2013

# GRE Math Trick: Ratio Tables

When a GRE quantitative problem features multiple ratios, many of you suffer headaches. This is because the “math” way of solving the problem is brutal, and students who don’t use logic will dive head-first into a morass of ugly substitutions, mistakenly assuming that the GRE is a math test. Here’s the kind of problem I’m talking about:

In a particular mixed candy bag, the ratio of Skittles to M&M’s is 4 to 5, while the ratio of Reese’s Pieces to M&M’s is 9 to 7. What is the ratio of Skittles to Reese’s Pieces?

The “math” way to do this problem is to set up two equations, solve one for M&M’s, and plug that value into the other one. If that sounds painful, that’s because it

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