Monthly Archive for January, 2011

GRE Verbal: Two Example Problems and Solutions

So just to clarify on our last post, the GRE will be offered in the month of July. Sorry about the confusion, folks! Time for some example problems!

Example Sentence Completion Problem

Example Sentence Completion Problem

All sentence completion questions are about half vocabulary and half context clue detective-ery, which is a word I just made up. Vocabulary is vocabulary — the only way to improve your vocab is to read more or study some vocab lists.

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No GRE Test Dates in July! (UPDATED)

Hey! Listen! No GRE in July! UPDATE: Just kidding!


The nice folks over at HappySchoolsBlog were kind enough to tweet this announcement. Apparently several students were trying to sign up for tests during July and found that they couldn’t. moseyed on over to the ETS website myself and tried to register for a July exam, and, indeed, the dates are all grayed out.

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3 Graduate School Essay Tips: Learning From My Mistakes

Please don't hunt and peck.

1. Make sure that every word serves a purpose

Though there is nothing wrong with a little stylistic flourish to liven up your essay, extraneous words need to be cut out. It’s often difficult to identify words or phrases that don’t need to be in your essay, which is why it’s important to get other people (preferably those who are good writers themselves) to read your essays and provide feedback. Here is an actual sentence from an essay that I submitted that would have benefited from a little verbal liposuction.

“Right now, my goal for the future is to one day…”

I almost barfed on my laptop when I saw this sentence — and yes, I actually submitted an essay with this sentence in it. Whoops.

For those of you who aren’t sure why this is an absolute and unmitigated disaster, let me explain. A goal is something that is inherently understood to be in the future; therefore there was no need for me to explain that it was “my goal for the future.” To add insult to injury, I decided to tack on the phrase “one day,” which is yet another way to say the same thing. And was it necessary to say that it’s my goal “right now?” Come on, Past Jason!

Overall, this phrase contains seven unnecessary words that add absolutely nothing to the meaning of the sentence. It could read “My goal is to…” and mean the exact same thing.

2. Remember your goal (for the future!)
It is NOT to demonstrate your writing abilities! Obviously, a well-written essay will leave a great impression, but the primary goal of application essays is to convey your interest in the program. The more directly and clearly you articulate why you want to go to graduate school and why you would be a good candidate for graduate school the better. Admissions officers will be impressed by your ability to clearly elucidate your goals, interests, and qualifications, not by your ability to use complex sentence structures and high-level vocabulary.

Not surprisingly, this point is related to the above point. If a sentence or paragraph is not demonstrating your interest in a program or shedding light on who you are as a student, then it’s probably doesn’t serve a particularly important purpose. Hard as it may be, consider removing or replacing it.

3. Start early

No, but seriously, cutting the fat from your essays takes time. The drafting process is like making a fine cheese — it stinks, but the longer you take doing it, the better the final product will be.

(Can I get a high five for that analogy???)

Should I Take the GRE or the GMAT?

GRE or GMAT, that is the question

For those of you who are unsure about whether you want to apply to graduate school or business school, you’re probably also thinking about whether you should be taking the GRE or the GMAT. Well here’s an article that discusses trends in business school admissions that may be of interest to you.

From the article, “The New GRE — GMAT Killer?“:
Since 2006, the ETS has been campaigning schools to accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. According to a press release by the ETS, “About 450 MBA programs worldwide now accept the GRE test, including 45 percent of the U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 U.S. programs and seven of the top 10 global MBA programs according to The Financial Times.” These schools include some of the top-ranked business schools in the world, such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton at UPenn, Stern at NYU, and Sloan at MIT.

Additionally, the revised GRE, coming in August of this year, is in part meant to make the exam more attractive to business schools. The ETS website states, “ETS has revised the test to better reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school and improve your test-taking experience. New types of questions now more closely align with the skills you need to succeed in today’s demanding graduate and business school programs.” Removing analogies and antonyms, for instance, shifts the focus away from memorization and towards analysis and understanding.

It’s no surprise that more and more schools are starting to accept the GRE. The ETS estimates that there are approximately 700 GRE testing centers in 160 countries around the world; contrast this with a 2010 GMAC press release, which estimates that there are 500 testing centers in 110 countries.  Schools that decide to accept the GRE can expand their applicant pools by making it more convenient for international applicants applying to US business schools in this era of globalization. Additionally, the move to accept the GRE is beneficial to students as well. Those who are trying to decide between going to graduate school and going to business school don’t have to choose one over the other or worry about taking two tests (and paying two registration fees) — they can simply take the GRE and apply to both. Testmasters recommends that prospective students take both tests and submit the higher score.

TL;DR: You may be able to take one test and apply to both! Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me!

Graduate Assistantship: One Student’s Experience

Assistance needed!

Graduate assistantship (GA) is a great way to help deal with the financial stresses of graduate school. Some schools will not only waive tuition — they’ll even pay you to go to school with monthly stipends! Needless to say, getting a GA is something that every prospective grad student should be thinking about.

Here’s an interesting post about one student’s experiences getting graduate assistantship during his first semester in grad school. Although it’s written by an international student, the principles are applicable to all students looking to get financial assistance from their schools. Click the following link to read the article.

“How To Get Graduate Assistantship in First Semester — Student Experience, Tips”

From the post:

Find out who’s the person responsible for appointing GAs and get in touch with him/her. Don’t directly show your interest in being appointed, go slow. E.g., if the person is an Advisor, seek help in deciding on the courses, getting to know the department and start showing interest in his work. If it’s a professor, ask him about his works, research interests, etc. In the conversation, get to know him, show your interest in learning new things, and show that you have strong communication skills. In short, tell him you have got whatever he wants in a potential GA and later tell your interest in the position and state how it will corroborate to achieve your goals. A person in the second sem has more chances of getting a GA because he is already there for one sem and people know him. So, by letting the concerned person know you, you are putting yourself to the same level as that of a student in the second sem.

The point that the author is making is that visibility and demonstrated interest are key. You’re going to be competing with other current students who are already known by the professors, so your best bet of getting early assistantship is to reach out and communicate with advisors so that they can get a feel for who you are and why you qualify. It’s already an important part of the research process to bounce around some emails to ask questions about programs anyway.

Applying to Doctoral Programs: It’s All About the Match!

Not a good match.

My advisor told me today that Ph.D stands for Piled High and Deep. I’m not quite sure how to interpret this but at least I love what the program piles on. For those that are interested in a research doctorate, whether it’s a Ph.d in Biology, Chemistry, History, English, Sociology, or Psychology, there are various commonalities to the graduate school application process.

The first and foremost important thing to know about applying is that it all comes down to the match! In the world of academia, faculty members view their students as colleagues they will be working intimately with for five or more years. If the student and the professor do not share the same passion, those five years could be pretty unpleasant.

For example, suppose Harvard is your top choice and Dr. Smith at Harvard is studying depression in adolescents. You apply with your perfect GRE and GPA, have numerous publications and conference presentations, and feed blind homeless children three meals a day seven days a week.  A letter arrives in the mail and you have been invited to attend interview day! Yayyyy…time to book a flight!

You and Dr. Smith really hit it off during the interview. The two of you have so much in common. You both are hikers, dog lovers, Harry Potter readers, and super-liberal. It’s a match made in heaven with the exception of one thing; you are interested in ADULT depression.  Sorry dude but you won’t be going to Harvard this year. This may seem blunt but it really all comes down to the match.

Finding the Match:

Now you may ask yourself, “How do I decide if I am good match?” I recommend getting into the literature and figuring out who is publishing research that catches your interest. After doing this, Google them and see what institution they are affiliated with. Next, see if they mentor graduate students. Sometimes this information is visible on the department website but if not, contact them directly. Repeat the above steps and you will have a preliminary list of schools. I did this for days straight and eventually created an Excel document that included the faculty member, their university, admissions data, contact information, and hyperlinks to bio pages and application documents.  This made my life so much easier and I recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing a Doctorate.

Sentence Equivalence on the New GRE: The New Kid on the Block

Awesome handwriting won't help you on the GRE (but it's still cool).

Sentence equivalence problems are a new type of question on the Verbal Reasoning section of the new GRE (aka the revised GRE, coming August 2011).  In this type of question, you will be given a sentence with an omitted word.  You will choose two answers from a list of six answer choices that will give the sentence the same (or as close to the same as possible) meaning.  No partial credit is given for partially correct answers.

Sentence equivalence may be new to the block, but actually, they’re a lot like another type of question with which you’re probably already familiar — sentence completion.  You can (and will) use pretty much the same strategies to solve these problems.  The most important of these strategies is context clues, which is using other words in the sentence to help you figure out what word should go in the blank.  Of course, having a strong vocabulary is also key to performing well on sentence equivalence questions.

Let’s look at an example.

Given the existence of so many factions in the field, it was unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect any kind of ——- of opinion.
(A) freedom
(B) homogeneity
(C) reassessment
(D) uniformity
(E) expression
(F) formation

In this problem, the most important piece of context is in the beginning of the sentence: “the existence of so many factions in the field.”  The existence of many factions implies the existence of many opinions — therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to say that it would be unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect all these opinions to be exactly the same?  Using this logic, we can identify (B) and (D) as the correct answer choices, because “homogeneity” and “uniformity” both mean “the same.”

It’s also important to remember with this type of question that, while another answer choice may fit well, there must be another answer choice that gives the sentence the same meaning.  Even if you find an answer choice extremely attractive, if no other answer choice means the same thing, then it can’t be right.

GRE Math: Two Example Math Problems

Example Problem #1

Example Geometry Problem

This is a fun problem.  The problem tells us that ∆ABC and ∆DEF have the same area.  It also tells us that AD > CF.  The problem is asking us about altitude, which is height.

From this second piece of information, we know that the base of ∆ABC is longer than the base of ∆DEF.  How do we know this?  From the picture, we see that the base of ∆ABC is composed of two segments: AD + DC.  The base of ∆DEF is also composed of two segments: DC + CF.  Both triangles share DC — this is the same for both triangles.  But we know that AD is bigger than CF, which means that AD + DC > DC + CF.  Thus, the base of triangle ∆ABC is larger.

Now, since we know that both triangles have the same area, but the base of ∆ABC is bigger, this means that the height of ∆DEF has to be bigger in order to compensate.  The answer should be B, but let’s prove it.

In math terms:

Area∆ABC = Area∆DEF
½b1h1 = ½b2h2

We know that b1 (base of ∆ABC) is bigger than b2 (base of ∆DEF), so let’s just choose some arbitrary numbers to make it a bit easier to see the relationship.  Let’s let b1 = 6 and b2 = 4.

½(6)(h1) = ½(4)(h2)
3h1 = 2h2
h1 = ⅔h2

Therefore, we know that the height of ∆ABC is smaller than the height of ∆DEF.  Thus, the answer is B.

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