I made the sudden decision to apply for graduate school a few weeks back. My surprise at the speed of my decision was not the most surprising. However, it was more surprising when I realized that I only had three days to prepare for my GRE because I was leaving the country. However, I was quite confident, having been a GRE verbal and SAT tutor for almost ten year in NYC. In addition, I was applying for MFA programs to study creative writing. Because I didn't have to do any math problems in 12 years, I could just skip the quant portion. How difficult could it be?
But there was one problem. I had never taken it.
In order to become a GRE teacher, I had previously taken a practice test. While I was able to take the test from my couch, I didn't expect to be able navigate this one. After all, this is what I do for work! It was much more difficult than I expected, especially the last sections. My test-prep obsessed brain was baffled by the way I had to think. I had to pull out all my mental conditioning and strategies, and I found it difficult to concentrate. Today I'd like you to learn some GRE strategies and mental alertness tips.
GRE Fill in-the-Blank Questions Strategies
The GRE can be a difficult test. Because it is one among the most recently-overhauled US standards tests, it has been designed to be somewhat resistant to coaching. Its verbal portion is more difficult and unpredictable than its closest competitor, the GMAT. GRE questions are more difficult than GMAT. Let's take a look at the fill-inвЂ“the-blank type questions. (Reading comprehension passages will be in my next post.
TEXT COMPLETIONS/SENTENCE EQUALENCIES
These are the technical terms used for fill-in the blank questions. Both will likely be filled with what a GRE writer would call supererogatorilyprolix pleonasm. These are a bunch of useless and meaningless words that often mean different things. Each type of question has a slightly different task. TCs require you to complete sentences or paragraphs with up three blanks. These can include single words and phrases as well as complex sentences like "the audacity for hope". These questions are easy to understand because they have two levels of difficulty.
- Figure out exactly what point this inordinately-complicated text is making
- Figure out which of the inordinately-complicated answer choices lend themselves to making that point
SE's have a shorter answer time and are only limited in number of words. Each SE presents a different challenge.
- Figure out exactly what this inordinately-complicated sentence really means.
- Find the words that are connected to the prediction from the list of answer choices.
Each case has its own unique set of tasks. These are very different tasks. That is why you need to break down each fill-ins-the-blank question into two steps. First, you need to pay attention to the text or sentence itself. You must understand what it is saying. To find the correct answer, you will need to use logic and vocabulary knowledge. The prediction you make to fill in the blank is the link between these steps. It is simple, but it works.
But this strategy only takes you so far. Here is where things get a little absurd. The GRE doesn't consider connotation.
CONNOTATION Vs. DENOTATION ON GRE
These are the areas where testmakers really try and confuse you. The commonly-associated secondary meaning of the word is; denotation gives the hard-and-fast definition. Consider the many words we use to describe "thin". "Slender" and'svelte' have positive meanings. "Slim" has a neutral meaning, while "gaunt", "skinny", and "skinny," have negative meanings. They have different connotations. However, the denotationof each of these words is almost identical: "thin."
The GRE doesn't hesitate to declare that "svelte" or "skinny", are interchangeable. This is where things get really nasty, especially when you look at more complex vocabulary. There connotation can often be all we have and the correct answers need not always be synonyms. They only need to be able to convey the meaning of the sentence. Although they are not synonyms for each other, an individual's eyesight may be "undiminished" or "undamaged." Sometimes, however, the connotations can make it difficult to understand the meanings of these choices. On my test, both "notoriety", "reknown" were viable options for answering a question. They are, however, not synonyms. Their connotations, however, are in direct contradiction. After staring at the question for quite some time, I thought that ETS employees were truly unpublishable names. What is the takeaway? You must be careful when deciding between the meanings of words and their dictionary definitions.
GRE Mental Strategies
GRE students who have taken practice tests in their own homes will tell that it is very different from sitting in an office room with no airflow and a pair headphones over your ears while staring at a Windows 98 laptop. This blog has been a lot about how important it is to approach the GRE and other tests as both a psychological, physical, and intellectual test. It is nearly a four-hour test and it gets more difficult as you go. Preparing for the GRE is crucial. Every person will have their own way of approaching this. However, I want to share my experiences and the methods that I learned from past students.
IN BETWEEN CLASSES
There are short breaks of between sections on the GRE. They last for either 1-minute or 10-minutes. These breaks can be waived if you wish, but I do not recommend it. You can also leave the room if you complete a section earlier than the rest. I lost some of my 1-minute breaks and ended the section early if I felt like cooking with gas. You can roll however you like, but I made sure I took breaks before I felt tired. Do not wait to feel tired, practice tests are a great way to anticipate it and then take breaks when fatigue sets in.
Keep in mind that you need to sign out each break, empty your pockets, take your food or drink with you, return to the station, show ID, swipe your metal detector and raise your legs. It is a tedious task, but it is worth repeating it at least three times through the test. You're done. What are you going to do? The bathroom is your best option. Use water to wash your face. Exercise is the next step. The stress level is high when you're hunched at a terminal keyboard. Do what makes you happy. No matter if you're doing push-ups or stretching, move your body.
The test room is boring. There are several terminals in the testing room, each one separated by a divider made of beige. Beige is used as a color for the monitors and walls. The entire landscape is a dull, sandy color. You are beige. You will be given some scrap paper and pencils. Also, a pair noise-canceling (not beige!) headphones which reduce the room's quiet sound to an even lower level. They're not luxury cans. The screen is all that's needed to display the entire test. This test can make test-takers feel stressed and bored simultaneously, which can be a dangerous combination. It is necessary to address both boredom and stress in two distinct ways.
To manage stress, I believe knowing how to approach each question is the best way to deal with it. Working with a GRE verbal tutor is a great advantage: you will never face a question you don't know start. You will be able to quickly learn the best approach for each type of question.
Boredom? Relax. Literally. You might find yourself repeating the same question four or more times until the letters look almost like Viking runes.
Stop reading . Give it a second. Take off your headphones. Sit back and observe the rest of the suckers perched on their keyboards. Massaging your neck and shoulders. For ten seconds, close your eyes. You have the time. You can then get back on track. There is a test for cream.
This is how it worked for me. You can do the same. Although they are very simple, many of these techniques require practice. Cambridge Coaching is a great option if you are looking for GRE tutors online, in NYC or Boston. Cambridge Coaching has a team of tutors who have extensive experience helping students prepare for every type of test. Let's see what we can offer!