The post GRE-Style Reading and Comprehending appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>The Kaplan New GRE Verbal Workbook includes a chapter devoted to Reading Comprehension, as well as sets of practice questions and additional resources. One of these resources is a list of additional tips for tackling the Reading Comprehension section, including Bolded Statements questions. These tips are found on pages 78-80, and I’m going to borrow from them here.

There are differences between real-world reading and reading GRE passages is that on the GRE:

- On Test Day, you don’t care about the facts in the passage — you only care about ideas. A passage might tell you that the character Superman first appeared in 1938. You don’t care what year Superman was introduced, but you care about WHY the author told you that. The passage may then go on to describe how the powers attributed to Superman have changed over time. In that case, knowing that Superman has been around for 70+ years might be important.
- Prior knowledge is not welcome on Test Day. Forget everything you might know about Superman — everything you need to know will be contained within the passage. Wrong answer choices play on things that test-takers understand to be logically true, but if those facts aren’t mentioned in the passage, you don’t care.
- If a passage tells you Superman has a twin sister, then as far as you are concerned, he has a twin sister. The passage text is TRUE. Period. You may question texts as much as you like in real-world reading, but on the GRE, accept that whatever the passage is telling you is correct.

Bolded Statement questions should be tackled the same way as other Reading Comprehension question types. In these questions, you REALLY don’t care about the facts or details. You ONLY care about the purpose of the statements, and you consider each statement separately. Is it an opinion? An example? An argument? If it is an argument, is it the passage’s primary or secondary argument, or perhaps a counterargument? Is it evidence, and if so, of what? You care about the purpose of each statement *in relation to the other sentences in the passage*.

Let me repeat that. Just as with other question types, you must consider Bolded Statements in the context of the passage as a whole. Do not skip the un-bold statements; they are your context clues for figuring out the role the Bolded Statements play.

Have a question about grammar, punctuation, usage, or style? Email me at jennifer.land@kaplan.com and put “blog question” in your subject line. Then look for a response here!

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]]>The post Your First GRE Homework Assignment appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>But I’m not writing this to pat myself on the back or share yet another Kaplan success story. The most interesting feature of Becky’s email is that she didn’t even bother to mention her math score.

This isn’t because she did poorly, or because we didn’t work on the math section. As a matter of fact, Becky told me at our first tutoring session that she wanted to spend all 15 of her tutoring hours on math. She was an English major, so her confidence with the verbal section — and complementary fear of the math section — was hardly surprising. Well, we did spend the first session doing math, since that was what she wanted. I was skeptical, however, that English literature programs were all that interested in her math score.

“Do you know where you’re applying?” I asked her. She rattled off a list. “And have you contacted them to see what they want on the GRE?” Becky, it turned out, had no idea.

I smiled. “Great! That’s your first homework assignment,” I said. “Contact the programs you’re interested in and find out what they want on the math and verbal sections.” Becky did her homework that week, and that was how she discovered that **none of her programs cared a rat’s butt about her math score**. She also learned that what they *did* want was an extremely high verbal score — much higher than what she had scored on the diagnostic, even as an English major.

We proceeded to spend the entire remainder her tutoring package working on verbal.

Had we beaten down the math section as Becky initially wanted, the results would have been very hilarious but also very tragic. Since everyone takes the GRE, from French historians to theoretical physicists, there is no universal concept of a “good” performance — “good” varies drastically from program to program.

So now I ask you: have you contacted the schools you’re interested in? Do you know what they actually want you to get on the GRE?

If not, that’s your first homework assignment.

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]]>The post GRE Math: Get To Know Your Circle Relationships appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>I always thought of myself as more of a verbal person than a math person. As my tenure with Kaplan enters its fourth year, however, I find myself falling harder for math every time I teach a Quantitative class. Kaplan’s strategies, combined with the innate tricks and shortcuts of mathematics, make answering many GRE Quantitative questions a breeze. Really…I promise!

Don’t believe me? Ah, but you will.

Let’s consider a Quantitative Comparison problem that calls on our knowledge of circles. Many test-takers see circle problems and begin to hyperventilate, but you should not be one of those test-takers. Circles are often fantastically easy to work with once you learn a few tricks.

Of course, you will need to know the basic circle formulas such as area and circumference. However, another incredibly useful tool to add to your toolbox is the proportional relationship between the measures of a circle.

Let me share an example:

In this Quantitative Comparison problem, we are given the measure of the central angle *O* (45^{o}) and the length of arc *XYZ* (3). We are then asked to compare 6π to the circumference of the circle. At first glance, it may seem that we don’t have enough information to answer this question. After all, many of us have been taught that the radius is everything to a circle, and without it we can do nothing.

If the proportional relationship of circle measurements—the beautiful, and appropriately circular relationship that is true to all circles, everywhere—is in your toolbox, however, you can do this problem in under a minute.

Here is that relationship:

*Arc length/circumference = central angle/360 degrees = area of sector/ area of circle*

Notice how the three relationships are “anchored” by the relationship between the central angle and the full degree measure of the circle. If we know the fraction of the circle that the central angle represents, then we also know the fraction that the resulting arc length is of the circumference, and the fraction that the area of the sector (the “pie piece” of the circle determined by the central angle) is of the entire area of the circle.

Based on the information that we’re given for a particular circle question, we can use any two of the three proportions above to solve for a missing measurement. For example, to solve this particular problem, we can use these two proportions:

*Arc length/circumference = central angle/360 degrees*

When we plug in the values that we’re given for the central angle and arc length, we can solve for the circle’s circumference:

*3/circumference = 45 degrees/ 360 degrees*

Simplifying the second proportion, we get:

*3/circumference = 1/8*

Now we know that the arc length (3) is 1/8^{th} of the circle’s circumference (because the central angle is 1/8^{th} of the full degree measure of the circle). Continuing forward, we can cross-multiply to solve for the circumference of the circle:

*3 x 8 = 1 (circumference)*

*24 = circumference*

Let’s look back at the quantities we were asked to compare:

If we remember that π is slightly more than 3 (3.14159… to be more precise), then we can estimate that 6π is slightly more than 18, which is clearly less than 24. Thus, Quantity B is greater than Quantity A.

If the proportional relationship of circle measurements is not in your GRE toolbox, be sure to learn it (and practice using it often) before Test Day!

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]]>The post Translating Words into Expressions and Equations – Part Two appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>There will be more to come in my next post relating to the order of operations, so let’s continue working with words as they relate to equations and expressions. My **last post** delved into a specific word problem typically found on the GRE’s quantitative section, and we saw that some words are fairly routine in translation: “sum” always means to add (+), “is” indicates an equal sign (=). But do you have the same automatic determination when faced with terms like “will be” (becomes “=”) or “per” (equates to “divided by”)?

The goal of practicing word problems is to create a proficient and accurate word-by-word translation of words into math operations and, in turn, the symbols that represent those operations. If we gain the ability to make a literal translation of all of a given word problem’s expressions, then we have only to complete the calculations to arrive at the correct answer.

Let’s look at a few examples of word-for-word translating:

Anne is 7 years older than Bill was 5 years ago.

Typically, we use single letters to represent a person’s name: Anne becomes A, Bill becomes B. As we’ve already seen, “is” translates to “=” while “older than” signals addition. Since the word “ago” refers to the past, we need to subtract that amount when relating our numbers back to the present, such that:

A= (B-5) +7

Too simple for you? Let’s kick up the difficulty level:

If Mack’s salary (M) were to be increased by $5000 (+5000), then the combined salaries of Mack and Andrea (+A) would be equal (=) to 3 times (x3) what Mack’s salary would be if it were increased (+) by one-half of itself (1/2M).

Putting it all together, we arrive at:

M + 5000 + A = 3(M + 1/2M)

As you can see, the solution involves understanding the given scenario and then translating the information while carefully taking things one step at a time. Come to think of it, that’s good advice for dealing with any of life’s challenges…

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]]>The post Big numbers? No Biggie! Use Prime Factorization To Simplify appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>You were probably with me right up until the last two words of that sentence, right? “Prime factorization” is a highly unfortunate bit of math vocabulary, as it sounds really scary but is actually just a fancy phrase for “split apart the number until you can’t split it apart anymore.” Let’s use 75 as an example.

How can you split 75? Well, it has a 5 at the end, so it’s got to be divisible by 5. In fact, it’s 5 times 15. So:

75 = 5 * 15

5 is a prime number, so you can’t split that anymore. 15, however, is 5 * 3. Altogether, then:

75 = 5 * 5 * 3 = 5^2 * 3

That’s it — 5^2 * 3 is the “prime factorization” of 75. Not so scary. This extremely easy technique takes problems that look terrifying and makes them a snap. Here’s great example:

*If 75^3 is a multiple of 5^m, what is the largest possible value of m?*

*A) 3*

*B) 4*

*C) 5*

*D) 6*

*E) 7*

This is exactly the kind of problem that makes many GRE test-takers’ hearts freeze over — and possibly yours as well! But when you see it on Test Day, think: “Okay, there’s a really big number — 75 cubed. What should I do when I have big numbers? Prime factorization!”

We just found the prime factorization of 75 – it is 5^2 * 3 — so plug it into the problem in place of 75, and distribute the exponent of 3 to everything inside the parentheses:

75^3 = (5^2 * 3)^3 = 5^6 * 3^3

The question asks for the largest possible value of m in the expression 5^m. So m is a power of 5, and what power of 5 do we see in the problem? 6. Pick D and move on!

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]]>The post Grammar and Style Brush-Up: Relative Pronouns “In Which” and “When” appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>Recently a reader asked me to explain the appropriate uses of two relative pronouns: *in which* and *when*. (I am adding *where* to the mix, as well, because it has some of the same issues as *when*.)

A relative pronoun is one that introduces a subordinate clause. As with all pronouns, the relationship to the antecedent must be clear. This isn’t usually a problem; the tricky thing about these relatives is determining appropriateness.

The basic rule of thumb for written English is that you should NOT use *when* or *where* unless you are referring to a time or a place, respectively. Consider the following fragments:

- The shop where we ordered the invitations…
- The season when trees are bare…
- The episode in which Peter was cast as Benedict Arnold…

Because an episode of a television series is neither a place nor a time, it is not appropriate to use *where* or *when*. An episode is a setting *in which* something is portrayed. Other examples are as follows:

- Situations in which one party is at fault…
- Opportunities for which one is improperly dressed…
- Books in which there is an unnamed narrator…
- Theaters where
*Macbeth*is performed… [*in which*would be OK here as well] - Evenings when
*Macbeth*is performed… [*on which*or*during which*could be OK here]

Sometimes either construction would work. In the *Macbeth* examples above, *where* or *when* are appropriate because they refer to a specific location or time; using a preposition with *which* would work, too, but most writers prefer the simple, concise *where* or *when* whenever permissible.

Keep in mind that the rules are not as stringent for informal spoken English. Peppering your conversations with “in which” would probably sound strange to your friends. The creators of the television series *Friends* noted this, and they named the episodes the way viewers would casually describe them: “The One Where They’re Going to a Party.”

Unless you are naming something as creative and hugely popular as episodes of *Friends*, stick to the formal and appropriate constructions when writing. GRE essay graders don’t award points for humor or creativity, but they do reward correct usage. Graduate and professional programs do, too!

Have a question about grammar, punctuation, usage, or style? Email me at jennifer.land@kaplan.com and put “blog question” in your subject line. Then look for a response here!

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]]>The post Translating Words into Expressions and Equations – Part One appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>Let’s examine the following Quantitative Comparison question:

Dave is *x *years old and Phyllis is* y* years

older than Dave, where *x*>*y*>0.

Column A Column B

The sum of Phyllis’s 3*x*

age and Dave’s age

As always with Quantitative Comparisons, the answer choices never change. They are:

A – The quantity in Column A is larger than the quantity in Column B

B – The quantity in Column B is larger than the quantity in Column A

C – The quantities in Column A and Column B are equal

D – The relationship between the quantities in Column A and Column B cannot be determined

First, walk through a translation of the centered information step by step. Dave’s age is x years and Phyllis’s age is y years older than Dave, or *x*+*y* years. Next, let’s look at Column A. The sum (adding them together) of their ages is *x*+*x*+*y*, or 2*x*+*y* years. Now, subtract the 2*x* from both columns and we are left with a *y* remaining in Column A and an *x* remaining in Column B. The centered information tells us that *x*>*y*, so Column B is greater.

Translation is many times the slippery part of an algebra problem. Practice will make you better – using Kaplan methods will help you determine when you should bother with calculations or whether there is an easier route to finding the correct answer choice.

Next time, I will discuss some more convoluted wording found within GRE word problems…

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]]>The post Set Realistic Expectations for GRE Test Day Success appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>“Expectations” may seem like a topic of meaningless corporate fluff-talk. But they *matter*. Equally intelligent, equally dedicated students can succeed wildly or fail horribly, all depending on the expectations they set. The story about appeasing customers may seem completely irrelevant to the GRE, but it’s actually completely analogous. In test prep, you are your own customer.

It’s October now. Let’s say that at the rate you’re studying for the GRE, you’ll be able to get your dream score in February. If you tell yourself you want to master the GRE by March, you’d be thrilled to achieve your goal score in February. If you tell yourself you want to master the GRE by January, you’ll be panicking and self-destructive if you haven’t hit the mark by then. It’s the same as the customer story, only the scale is in months, not days. Since you’re both the employee and the customer, bad expectations can actually cause the project to fail. Students who set arbitrary, pointless deadlines for their own success begin to self-destruct upon seeing that those deadlines won’t be met, and to what end?

When you hold your graduate degree in your hands several years from now, will it make any difference whether you mastered some concepts in January or in March? Will it make any difference *at all?* Sure, it would be nice to finish the GRE sooner, but your top priority is to get a good score, not to get the GRE over with. Focus on what actually counts.

This all seems perfectly obvious on paper, but it’s not how people actually behave. All the time I hear, “I should already know this,” and my heart breaks because I can hear the anger, worry, and frustration welling up in my student’s voice. “I should already know this.” No, you shouldn’t! You should know it by Test Day. Get your expectations right, and you’ll have an infinitely happier test prep experience.

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]]>The post Grammar and Style Brush-Up: Dashes appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>Earlier this month, a student asked me about dashes. “What about dashes? Are they too informal for use in a GRE essay?”

So I turned to my grammar and style bible, the flagged and bookmarked 1974 edition of *Words Into Type*, and looked up the appropriate use of the em dash. (That’s the proper name for the dash–like this, with or without spaces–that we use to express an interruption of thought within a sentence. They are different from the smaller en dash and hyphen, which are always used to join words.)

Dashes can’t really be classified as formal or informal, but they can be classified as correct or incorrect. There is a relatively short list of appropriate ways to use an em dash:

- To set off an appositive where a comma might be misread.
*The book, which is actually a collection of short stories–*The Gift of the Magi*,*The Ransom of Red Chief*, and*The Last Leaf*–was a gift from the author.*The dashes keep the list separate from the appositional phrase. (For those who have forgotten, an appositive is a noun or phrase that renames another noun or phrase.) - To set off a parenthetical expression that includes commas. My example for the appositive above fits here, too, as does this non-appositional example:
*George Washington–leader, fighter, sage–had no children of his own.*Or,*Although the group members were active–easily agitated, ready to fight, but nonetheless reliable–their services were not needed.* - To split a quotation.
*“You can’t be serious”–her voice began to rise–“That isn’t true, and you know it.”* - To indicate an unfinished thought or sentence.
*“How can we–” he began to ask, before changing his mind.*

Fortunately for all of us, these situations seldom arise on the GRE. You don’t want to have any unfinished thoughts or broken, dramatic quotations in your essays. The appositional or parenthetical phrases may pop into your writing from time to time, but usually you can restructure the sentence to avoid having to bring in punctuation you are unsure of–unless you just really want those dashes.

(Last point, exemplified by that last statement: Em dashes always appear in pairs when used to set off phrases UNLESS the phrase concludes with a period. Either another dash or a period must follow the initial dash in these cases.)

Have a question about grammar, punctuation, usage, or style? Email me at jennifer.land@kaplan.com and put “blog question” in your subject line. Then look for a response here!

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]]>The post Circles Are Your Friends! appeared first on Grad School Insider.

]]>Among people who can admit they liked math, there are usually two camps: those who preferred algebra, and those who preferred geometry. I am 100% in the former category. I still have my high school geometry notebook, in which two of my pals (also named Jennifer — it was the ‘80s) and I wrote our own theorems about how Pythagoras was in alliance with the devil. However, teaching for Kaplan has taught me something very important about geometry:

Circles are your friends.

Triangles and quadrilaterals are OK, too, but circles are your friends because EVERYTHING you need to know will be given to you. A GRE problem may give you a triangle or a square inside a circle, which makes many test-takers cringe, but the only reason the circle is there is to help you! I’m serious!

All circles have a golden ratio, and you only need to know one piece of information to find out everything you need to know. Here it is:

the measure of an interior (center) angle |
: |
360 (the measure of the circle) |

the area of the sector formed by that angle |
: |
π r^{2} (the area of the circle) |

the length of an arc formed by that angle |
: |
2πr (the circumference of the circle) |

So if you know the center angle is 90°, you can put it in the ratio and determine that everything you need to know about this circle fits the 90:360, or 1:4, ratio. The area of the sector — the slice of pie the angle carves out — will be 1/4 the area of the circle, and the length of the arc — the curved edge of the pie slice — will be 1/4 the circumference of the circle.

Of course, you can also use the circumference or the area to solve for r and identify the radius, which will help you determine lengths and ratios of any other shapes drawn in, on, or around a circle in a GRE problem. A full explanation of the friendliness of circles begins on page 407 in the Kaplan Math Workbook (8th edition).

Next time I’ll be back to my usual verbal-related posting. Have a question about grammar, punctuation, usage, or style? Email me at jennifer.land@kaplan.com and put “blog question” in your subject line. Then look for a response here!

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