Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Wait. There are subject tests, too?!

Remember when you took the SAT for the first time? You were so anxious because it was the SAT AND IT WAS THE BIGGEST TEST YOU WERE EVER GOING TO TAKE! And just as you got up to the front of the line to check-in, they asked you if you were taking an SAT II. A WHAT?!

And, indeed, it turned out that on top of the SAT reasoning tests there were other subject tests that were “optional.” Perhaps if you’re a strange Martian who is immune to the horrors of standardized testing, you were excited for another chance to show what you know, but more likely, your heart sank with the realization that “subject tests” meant that more future Saturdays would begin with your stomach in knots at 8 AM in a cold testing center.

You may have thought applying to graduate school would be more straightforward, but if you’re taking the GRE, you’re likely to find yourself at the same crossroads. Yes, luckily for you, if you’re applying to graduate school in the field of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Literature (in English), Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology, you have the option to take a GRE Subject Test to support your graduate school application. The tests are administered in April, September, and October and scored on a scale of 200-990 in ten point increments. The Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; and Psychology Tests all have subsections scored on a scale of 20-99 in one point increments. The question is, do you need to give up $150 and a weekend? Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests: To Take, or Not To Take” »

GRE Vocab and the Seven Deadly Sins: Part IV – Wrath

An early sixteenth century Dutch depiction of the seven deadly sins, by a follower of Heironymus Bosch.

This week we turn from some of the more fun sins like lust and gluttony to a more violent one: wrath. In Catholicism, wrath is defined as immoderate or uncontrolled anger or hatred. In his famous Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy, Dante splits wrathful sinners into two rivers: the merely angry swim about in the river Styx while being periodically poked by demons with pointy pitchforks, while the more violent ones are simmering in the river Phlegethon, which courses with boiling blood (and also has demons). There are many excellent potential GRE vocab words that have to do with the sin of wrath, including: conniption, ire, choler, irascibility, ferocity, rampant/rampage, rabid, furor, and livid.

The word conniption is something of an etymological mystery. It first emerged in American English between 1825 and 1835 (the John Quincy Adams/Andrew Jackson years), and no one is quite sure where it came from, although a number of theories have been proposed. It could be: an arbitrary pseudo-Latin sounding word meant to sound fancier than it really is; a derivative of ‘corruption,’ which was apparently used to mean anger in certain early 19th century American dialects; or, my personal favorite, a derivative of the English dialectical “canapshus,” which was probably a corruption of the word captious, which means “apt to notice and make much of trivial faults or defects; faultfinding; difficult to please” and derives from the Latin captiosus, which means sophistical. Anyway, a conniption, or a conniption fit, is a fit of hysterical excitement or anger, as in, “Don’t have a conniption fit, man! Chill out!”

One of Leonardo da Vinci’s studies for the now lost “Battle of Anghiari.”

Choler refers to irascibility, anger, wrath, or irritability in general. It can also refer to yellow bile. To find out how these two meanings are related, read my previous post on Medieval Medicine and GRE Vocab. Ferocity,  or the quality of being ferocious,  refers to “savage fierceness,” and derives from the synonymous Latin word ferocitas. It first entered the English language around 1600-1610.

Ire, rage, and fury are three words that are often used as synonyms, but they actually have subtle differences in meaning. According to, ire  suggests greater intensity than anger, rage  suggests loss of self-control, and fury  is destructive rage verging on madness. The word ire came to English from Latin by way of Old French in the 1200s and derives from the synonymous Latin word ira, as in Dies irae, or “day of wrath,” a famous part of the requiem mass, or the Catholic mass for the dead, which describes judgement day, the climax of the apocalypse. Here’s Verdi’s famous setting:

Ira is actually the Latin word the Catholic church uses to describe the sin of wrath. Irascible, which means easily angered, and irate, which means very angry, are also derived from ira. Rage also came to English from Latin by way of French around the same time as ire. It is derived from the Latin word rabies, meaning madness or rage. As you might have guessed, rage is a paronym of rabies, the disease. While the word rabid can literally refer to someone or something who has rabies, it also retains its older meaning of furious or raging. Remember, the GRE likes to test the unfamiliar definitions of familiar words, so take note! Fury of course comes from the ancient Roman goddesses of vengeance, the Furies, or Furiae, who would punish and pursue those who committed crimes in the eyes of the gods. It came to English direct from Latin in the mid-fourteenth century. The word furor, which means fury, rage or madness, has a similar derivation and came to English about a century later.

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s now lost “Battle of Anghiari.”

Rampage and rampant are two other related words that have to do with wrath. As you might have been able to guess from their -age and -ant endings, these words are derived from French, specifically the verb ramper, which means ‘to rear up on one’s hind legs.’ Generally, when animals rear up on their hind legs, they are not happy. Rampant can thus mean violent in action or spirit, raging, or furious, and a rampage is a state of violent anger or agitation characterized by wanton destruction. Rampant has also come to mean unchecked or widespread, as in, say, ‘rampant corruption.’

The word livid entered English around the 1620s, coming straight from the Latin word lividus, which means ‘black and blue.’ Today, livid has come to have several meanings, which I have arranged in an order that suggests how the meanings may have evolved. Livid means: dull blue or dark, grayish-blue; having a discolored, bluish appearance caused by a bruise, congestion of blood vessels, strangulation; feeling or appearing strangulated because of strong emotion (especially anger); enraged or furiously angry; reddish or flushed; or even deathly pale, pallid, or ashen. Thus, because it has developed this emotionally charged meaning, livid can now mean red, white, or blue.

An allegorical depiction of Patience by Hans Sebald Beham, 1540.

So, with all this anger in the world, what’s a poor, lost soul to do? Cultivate the heavenly virtue of patience. In Catholic theology, patience is not merely the ability to wait for something; it is the ability to restrain one’s violent impulses and to understand the point of view of others. Patience is thus seen as the ultimate weapon in the fight against wrath. The word patience is derived from the synonymous Latin word patientia. A number of good GRE vocab words relating to patience include: ataraxy/ataraxia, equanimity, clemency, and forbearance.

Ataraxy, or ataraxia, is a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety, or tranquility. It derives from the ancient Greek word ataraktos, which means untroubled (the verb tarassein means ‘to trouble,’ and the prefix a- in Greek means without). It was the goal of several ancient philosophies – Epicureanism, for instance. Attaining a state of ataraxia required great patience, since you couldn’t let the little things in life get to you. Equanimity refers to mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain. It derives from the Latin aequanimitas, which is a combination of aequs, which means equal or even, and animus, which means spirit, soul, or mind. It entered English at the same time as ferocity, in the 1600s, and ataraxia first began showing up around five years before that.

Clemency means forgiveness or leniency, and a person who shows clemency is said to be clement. That’s why Popes sometimes like to take the name Clement – Clementine is the feminine version of the name, as in the song “Oh my darlin’ Clementine”:

Inclement weather” is thus unmerciful weather. Clemency is derived from the Latin clementia, and it entered late Middle English/Anglo-French in the late fourteenth century. Forbearance, which also refers to patient endurance or self-control, is a quality you may have needed in order to have made it this far into this post. The verb, to forbear, is a very old English word (before 900 AD – I don’t think people wrote anything in English before then), that derives from the Old English forberan, which is related to the Gothic (as in the Goths who helped destroy the Roman empire) frabairan.

That’s enough for today, I think. Always remember that if you want even more help preparing for the GRE, you can study with experts like me through Test Masters. Which sin could be next? Sloth? Envy? Pride? You’ll just have to wait and see. Until then, keep studying!

What is a good score on the GRE?

One of the most common questions on this blog is, “What is a good score on the GRE?” Invariably, the answer is “it depends,” and it does. Generally speaking, whether a GRE score is good (or not) is relative to the goals of the individual test taker. Please keep this in mind as we explore the question, what is a good score on the GRE?

The ETS, the makers and administrators of the GRE, recently released a report entitled A Snapshot of the Individuals Who Took the GRE revised General Test. This report is primarily intended “to provide score users with the most relevant information” possible about the GRE test taking population (‘score users’ means admission officers, university administrators and faculty, etc.). Much of the information within this report will not be particularly useful to you as an individual test taker; however, this report does give us a great deal of insight into what constitutes a good GRE score in terms of means and averages and (more importantly) field of study. Let us take a look.

Note: This is not an exact reproduction of Table 1 as it appears in the GRE Snapshot Report. The author has edited this info-graph for space and relevance.

The table above doesn’t quite answer the question what is a good score on the GRE?, but it does tell us what is an average score on the GRE. This table shows us that the mean Verbal Reasoning score is a 150.6 and the mean Quantitative Reasoning score is a 152.2. For those of you not familiar with Standard Deviation, in this case, it simply tells us how close to the mean most students scored. This indicates that the majority of GRE test takers scored between 142.3 to 158.9 on Verbal Reasoning and between 143.4 to 160.4 on Quantitative Reasoning.

This gives us a basic understanding of what constitutes a “good” score: if you are scoring below the standard deviations you have a bad score, if you are scoring above the standard deviations you have a good score, and if you are scoring in between, then you have a relatively average score.

This information is useful in understanding how GRE scores are broadly evaluated; however, as many university admission officers will be quick to point out, every applicant is evaluated individually. For example, you would not expect a person applying to a Masters of Fine Arts program to have a better Quantitative Reasoning score than somebody pursuing a Doctorate in Engineering. This means that when you are trying to determine whether your GRE score is good or not, you should consider it within the context of your application.

Luckily, the GRE Snapshot Report contains information relevant to this endeavor. Consider the following chart:

Data taken from Tables 6 & 7 of GRE Snapshot Report.

This spreadsheet shows the average Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores by intended graduate major; this shows how you compare to students who plan on pursuing a degree in the same field as you. For example, say you score a 155 on the Quantitative Reasoning section. This score is several standard deviations above the aggregate mean of 152.2, and so could be considered a relatively good score, unless, of course, you intend to apply to an Engineering program, in which case it would be several deviations below the mean of 159, and a relatively bad score. The above information should give you a good grasp of what constitutes a good GRE score by field of interest.

As many of this blog’s readers are international students, it is worth noting that your international status will be taken into account when you apply for a graduate program in the United States. For example, admission officers do not expect a potential graduate student from South Korea or India to score as well on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE as a native English speaker. If you are an international student, refer to pages 40-45 in the GRE Snapshot Report to get an idea of how you compare to other international students.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that whether a GRE score is good (or not) is ultimately relative to your own personal goals. If you are planning on applying to an elite university or program, then you will need a correspondingly higher score; conversely, if you are targeting a less prestigious institution or degree plan, then a good GRE score for you may be slightly lower than what is traditionally considered an exemplary score. On this note, let me remind you how important it is that you research the institutions you are planning on applying to so that you know what GRE score will be good for you.

ETS’ GRE Snapshot report attempts to break down the GRE scores of the global test taking population into more distinguishable categories. This means they examine average GRE scores by gender, race, nationality, educational objectives and fields of interest, among other categories. By and large the specific sub-categories and cross categorization of these breakdowns are of no interest to most of us; however, knowing the average GRE score for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree in your field gives you the significant advantage of having a score to compare your own to. Hopefully the information above has helped you determine whether you have a good GRE score (or not); of course, if you need more help or have additional questions, please feel free to comment below or Ask Test Masters!


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How to Write Your Statement of Purpose (Part I. What do I Write About?)

What Should I Write AboutHow to Write Your Statement of Purpose

One of the most daunting tasks of applying to graduate school is writing and submitting your statement of purpose. This is one of the few times throughout the entire admission process that the objective aspects of your application are momentarily set aside so that admission officers can really get to know you. You should view your statement of purpose as an opportunity, not an obstacle. This article is one of a series dedicated to unraveling the challenges of writing your statement of purpose.

Part I. What do I write about?

Deciding what to write may seem like the most difficult part of the entire endeavor, so you might be surprised to discover that the opposite is often the case. Prospective students are usually provided with clear instructions on what to write about and why. Most universities want you to use your personal statement to tell them the following things:

  • Why do you want to pursue a graduate education in this field?
  • What have you done to prepare yourself for a graduate education in this field?
  • What are your academic goals?
  • What are your professional goals?

We will address each of these topics individually. As you read on, note that many of these topics interrelate. For example, your reasons for attending graduate school could stem from your professional experiences post-college, or, if you are considering a research-heavy program, perhaps your professional goals are academic in nature. This is okay! The point of this post is to help you figure out what you want to write about, not how you will structure all of this information into a coherent essay (we will cover that in a future post).

Why do you want to pursue a graduate education in this field?

Your reasons for choosing a particular field are important. Your explanation should be succinct, avoid platitudes, and be unique but relatable. Also, do not turn your answer into an autobiography; only share a personal story if it is pertinent to your application. Good reasons to pursue a graduate education in a particular field include:

  • Talent and interest in a particular field.
  • The opportunities available from an advanced degree in a particular field.
  • The skill-set obtained from an education in this field will help in another.

What have you done to prepare yourself for a graduate education in this field?

This part of your essay should convince admission officers that you are not only capable of doing well in their program but that you have taken steps toward improving your chance of success. This would also be a good time to discuss how you plan to utilize your experiences in a way that would benefit the campus community and classroom.

Do not be mistaken – this is not the same thing as ticking off all the points on your résumé. They already have your résumé; don’t waste their and your time retyping it in essay format! This is not to say you should disregard your achievements or be afraid to discuss them; rather, elaborate on those accomplishments that actually pertain to the field you are applying to, and avoid going into great length about those things that do not.

What are your academic goals?

Academic goals will vary from field to field, but everyone’s personal statement should share a few characteristics. Good things to talk about here include:

  • The knowledge and skills you would like to acquire and develop in your time with this program.
  • The aspects of the program that impress you.
  • Research or papers you find interesting that have been published by current or past faculty members.

You should also use this part of your essay to demonstrate knowledge about the field you are interested in studying. You are more likely to impress admission officers if you can show them you are already competent in the field and have done an appropriate amount of research regarding their program.

What are your professional goals?

Consider this the “What is your five-year plan?” question. Specificity is good here, but it’s more important that your goals and plans be believable and realistic. Your answer should emphasize the importance of attending graduate school, but in the context of hoping to attain something greater.

This should be enough to start you on the journey to writing a good personal statement. As you begin the brainstorming process, remember who you are writing this essay for. The person reading your essay will have read dozens, if not hundreds of these statements. Think about it from his or her perspective, and ask yourself, “What is the point of including this in my application?” After reading your personal statement, admission officers should be firmly convinced that you:

  • Know how to write.
  • Know how present yourself.
  • Will not drop out of their program.
  • Have ambition and will be a credit to the program.

Ask Test Masters or comment if you have questions; otherwise, return soon for the second installment of It’s Not GREek’s How to Write Your Statement of Purpose.




Obscure Curses & Interesting Insults – GRE Vocabulary at its Worst!

One of the problems with the continued devolution (u kno wht i mean) of the English language is that we have lost our touch for awesome and clever insults. Rather than relying upon carefully crafted vituperates, most people express themselves with simple, cheap put-downs. Instead of “quiet, you feeble-minded imbecile,” we usually settle with phrases like “he dumb,” or “you dumb,” or “hey dummy, you stupid.” A larger vocabulary will not only help you ace the GRE Verbal Reasoning and Text Completion section, but may also reverse this recent societal trend… besides, the satisfaction you receive from insulting your myriad acquaintances will be doubled by the fact that, by using your newly expanded GRE vocabulary, they probably won’t have any idea they’ve been insulted until you are walking away.

So… let’s start with a classic putdown, “You are old.” Yo momma so old

We have all heard of The Flood, “the universal deluge recorded as having occurred in the days of Noah,” but many of us are less acquainted with the history of the world prior to that torrential downpour. Antediluvian literally translates to “before the deluge”, and wild theories persist today concerning antediluvian civilizations and what they may have done to cause The Flood (this article posits that God had to send The Flood to thwart the Babylonians’ nuclear ambitions). Though the literal connotation associated with the word antediluvian has weakened over time (today, the word is more closely associated with being old-fashioned), as an interesting insult antediluvian is the perfect word to help an older foe or friend feel their age. Shall we use it in a sentence?

“That antediluvian hag next door hates my rock and roll lifestyle.”

“Which of you hate-mongering antediluvians wrote ‘You’re too old to dress like that!’ on my door?”

(Or, more seriously) “Partisan Congressional politics exemplify the antediluvian nature of America’s two-party system.”


In addition to being a fun word to tease your older brother or sister with, antediluvian serves as a useful vocabulary lesson for students preparing to take the GRE. The lesson behind this word can actually be found in front of it, in its prefix ante-. “Ante-” means before in time or position to, previous to, and in front of. Other GRE words with “ante-” include antebellum, antecedent, and antepenultimate. Notice that each one of these words refers, in some way, to coming before something else; so, in the future, if you see the prefix “ante-” but don’t recognize the base or root word to which it is attached, you should at least be able to make an educated guess.


This concludes the first entry of what will be a series of outrageous and (hopefully) creative insults. Check back soon to see our next installment!

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ETS Says Students Should NOT Trust Their First Instincts on the GRE

ETS logoAs you should all know, the GRE was revised in August 2011. Among the many changes introduced by the ETS was a “mark and review” feature. This feature allows students to bookmark questions and return to them before moving onto a new section of the exam. According to the ETS, the past year’s testing data shows that this new feature has helped students excel on the GRE in a surprisingly significant way.

After reviewing a survey comprised of about 8,000 instances in which students returned to bookmarked questions and changed their answers, the ETS found that students who changed their answers on bookmarked questions increased their GRE scores more than 70% percent of the time.

This information has led the ETS to release a press statement saying, “The results of this study disprove the fallacy that the first instinct is always correct when answering multiple-choice questions.”

This is a bold, yet fairly safe, statement on part of the ETS. What does it really mean?

It seems a bit disingenuous to assume that this information proves that we shouldn’t trust our instincts when it comes to standardized tests. Really, the results of this survey could be taken to indicate that test takers should trust their instincts more than ever; after all, your instincts must be at least tangentially responsible for causing you to mark a question down for review in the first place. Specifically, they name your “First Instinct” as the boogeyman behind bad scores, which really just seems to be a codeword for students who pause only to answer a question, not solve it. The bookmark feature is the Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT) equivalent of drawing a star next to questions you were uncertain about on a paper-and-pencil exam in high school and undergrad. The fact of the matter is that uncertain students have been changing their multiple choice answers and receiving better scores as a result, most of the time, for generations.

Does this mean that a student’s instinct is always right? Of course not. However, just because your instincts can be wrong doesn’t mean you should totally disregard them. One of the purposes of preparing for an exam like the GRE is to hone your instincts and thus minimize the number of mistakes you are likely to make on test day. With proper preparation, including practice and a familiarity of the exam, our advice remains when in doubt you should rely on your first instinct.

Revisiting questions has always been a frequent staple of standardized test-taking, and that tradition continues today with the redesign of the GRE. In the article linked above, a Senior Researcher for ETS is quoted as saying, “It is important that students know that the research supports response changing when there is a good reason for doing so.” This sort of conspicuous couching essentially phrases the statement to mean if you have a good reason to change your answer, you should probably change your answer.  This is not ground-breaking or paradigm-shifting information, and you should not let it influence how you approach the exam.

This is not to say that the success of the New GRE’s bookmark feature is not astounding; however, the headline should not be about the success of the feature, rather it should be about the fact that the GRE now has this feature (which was probably the point of ETS’ Press Release all along). Our take on this article is trust your instincts, but be willing to change your answer if “there is a good reason for doing so,” with the semi-exasperated (because people should really know this already) side note that it is neat that the GRE now allows you to do so.

If you have any questions about the GRE, we encourage you to comment or ask!

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GRE Vocab – Country Mouse, City Mouse


Arthur Rackham’s classic illustration of Æsop’s fable.

In this GRE Vocab post, we’ll discuss words that have to do with the country and the city. Comparisons between country life and city life have probably been around since urban centers first arose some 10,000 years ago (give or take a few), and one of the most famous examples can be found in Æsop’s fable of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, reproduced in Joseph Jacobs’ 1894 translation below:

Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said: “I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life.” No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse’s residence late at night. “You will want some refreshment after our long journey,” said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking. “What is that?” said the Country Mouse. “It is only the dogs of the house,” answered the other. “Only!” said the Country Mouse. “I do not like that music at my dinner.” Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. “Good-bye, Cousin,” said the Country Mouse, “What! going so soon?” said the other. “Yes,” he replied; “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”

Gustave Doré’s depiction of the interrupted feast in the city.

While the moral of Æsop’s original fable was that riches aren’t worth risking one’s life for, when Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit fame) retold it in 1918, she changed the story up so that the moral would be that tastes differ: some people prefer country life while others prefer city life. This is perhaps the most familiar version presented to children today, with its emphasis on tolerance rather than mortal terror.

One word that perhaps illustrates the city mouse’s self-image as a suave sophisticate is urbane. Urbane means having the polish and suavity regarded as characteristic of sophisticated social life in major cities. It came to English from Latin by way of French in the 1530s, when it originally simply meant urban. The sense of elegance and sophistication only came later in the 1620s. In many ways, rustic can be considered the opposite of urbane. Rustic can mean literally of, pertaining to, or living in the country; or it can mean simple, artless, or unsophisticated; it can even mean uncouth, rude, or boorish. It entered English in the 1440s from the Latin rusticus, meaning “open land or country.” The noun for the quality of being rustic is rusticity, but the noun rustication means something a little different. The verb to rusticate refers to the going to live in the countryside, but in the U.K. it can also refer to being expelled from an educational institution, thanks to the remarkable English talent for euphemism.  Back in the old days, when the sons of the English gentry came of age they would leave their family estates in the countryside to study at Oxford or Cambridge for university. If they did poorly, they would be “rusticated” – sent back home to their country estates – as punishment.

17th century French painter Claude Lorrain was famous for his pastoral subjects.

Lest one get the impression that all city words mean something good while all country words mean something bad, it is worth noting that there are also plenty of words that idealize the countryside, such as bucolic, idyllic, and pastoral. Pastoral means having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas, and is often used to describe works of art, music, or literature that idealize the countryside. When it originally entered English from French, it simply meant having to do with shepherds; the words “pastoral” and “pasture” both derive from the Latin root pastor (which, incidentally, is also the root of the word pastor – pastor originally meant “shepherd”). An idyll is a poem or prose composition, usually describing pastoral scenes or events or any charmingly simple episode, appealing incident, or the like. If something is suitable for or suggestive of an idyll by virtue of being charmingly simple or rustic, then it is idyllic. The word idyll first entered English around the year 1600 from the Latin idyllium, although the genre of poetry goes back millennia to ancient Greece, where such poems were referred to as eidyllion. Bucolic means pastoral or of, pertaining to, or suggesting an idyllic rural life. It attained its current English form in the 1610s, although it existed as “bucolical” from the 1520s. It is derived from the Latin bucolicus, which is in turn derived from the Ancient Greet buokolikos, which came from the Greek work buokolos, which literally meant “cowherd.”

The word bourgeois, on the other hand, is a citified word with a somewhat negative connotation. As an adjective, it can simply mean conventional, middle-class, or even materialistic; as a noun it can refer to a member of the middle class or a person whose political, economic, and social opinions are believed to be determined mainly by concern for property values and conventional respectability. It derives from the French word bourgeois, which referred to the middle classes from the 1560s on. It in turn derives from the Old French borjois, which simply meant “town dweller.” Ultimately, the root of this word was the Frankish burg, which meant “town,” and continues to be used in modern German. For a thoroughly bourgeois and kitschy song and dance routine from the 60s further explaining the difference between urban and rural, see the video below! (Also, this is totally how my parents discuss their retirement plans.)

For one final pair of country/city words, consider agrarian and oppidan. The word agrarian means rural or agricultural (although it can also have more technical meanings related to agriculture and agricultural law). It entered English in the 1610s from the French loy agrarienne, or “agrarian law,” a term which was adopted from the Roman lex agraria. Interestingly, scholars believe that agrarian and acre share the same Proto-Indo-European root, agros, which originally meant “field.” Oppidan is a rather unusual word that is simply a synonym of urban. It entered English in the 1530s from the Latin oppid, which means town. While this word is rather uncommon, it’s a good one to save for when the dukes and maharajas invite you to tea – it’s sure to impress!

Always remember, if you want that extra edge on the competition on test day, you can always study with GRE experts like me at Test Masters. Until then, keep up the good work and happy studying!


GRE Text Completion

GRE vocab

GRE Text Completion is no mystery, you just have to know your GRE vocabulary!

Here is an example of a simple Text Completion question you might see on the GRE.

  1. Despite the best efforts of our nation’s most thorough reporters, the candidates’ economic reform policies remain _____; it is not enough to comment on the country’s financial straits, clearly explain to the public exactly how you intend to fix them.

A. Perspicuous

B. Loquacious

C. Diffusive

D. Opaque

E. Gratulatory

Explanation: The key phrase in this passage is “clearly explain.” The biggest reason someone would be desirous of having something “clearly explained” would be if that subject or topic is unclear. This phrase suggests the candidates have not yet “clearly explained” their positions. The answer choice in this example would then be the word that best suggests the candidates economic policies are not “clearly explained.” Of the available answer choices, only “opaque” refers to something that is not clear. Thus the answer is (d) .

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Something is perspicuous when it is clearly expressed and easy to understand.

People are loquacious if they are very talkative or garrulous.

To be diffusive is to physically disseminate something, as in to pour, scatter, or spread something about, to speak at length, or to make something less brilliant, to soften.

Opaque is the opposite of transparent and translucent. To be opaque is to be murky and unintelligible.

Gratulatory is a great word because it is a less common way of saying congratulatory; the biggest difference between the two words is that gratulatory is more closely associated with the emotions of being thankful or grateful.

There are many difficult questions on the GRE, but vocabulary-type questions should never be one of them. The Text Completion question type is simply a matter of memorizing your GRE vocabulary. If you continue to have difficulty with these question types there are certain strategies you can employ to aid you in answering them on test day. One of the best strategies for GRE Text Completion questions is memorizing common word roots.

Want to know more about other study strategies for GRE Text Completion questions? All you have to do is ask. Want more example problems? Find them here.

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