No Vocab No Cry

Posted by Jonathan Evans on


Let's be honest: No one can memorize all the vocabulary you might encounter on the GRE. There are lists of words everywhere, so much so that it's become a cliché, "SAT words." Most of the lists of "GRE words" are just "SAT words" on steroids, and prep books frequently instruct students to keep a vocabulary diary, make flash cards, or do a lot of reading to expand your working vocabulary and familiarity with the scholarly or academic jargon and style of the GRE. All that is great advice! By all means, read more and keep track of words you learn. It will serve you well on the GRE, in grad school, and in life in general. 

Fortunately for those of us who struggle with difficult vocabulary, the GRE has become less vocabulary intensive than it used to be. When I first started teaching GRE preparation, the test included Antonyms and Analogies problems, both of which were pretty much make-or-break vocab questions. If you didn't know the definition of the words, you could employ some ingenious strategies and logical deduction to improve your odds of getting the answers right, but you could never really be sure.

While the test now includes fewer problems that are outright vocabulary questions, Sentence Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems still require a strong working vocabulary. So does Reading Comprehension but in more of a passive sense. A great knowledge of the definitions of difficult words still helps a lot, but let's discuss what to do when you're stuck on unfamiliar language.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, SAT Prep, GRE Challenge

GRE Text Completion Challenge: Follow the Clues

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Text Completion gives you a sizable chunk of text to parse when you have multiple blanks to fill. Putting all the context clues together can be tricky, and any hard vocabulary that pops up, whether in the text or the answer choices, won't make your work any easier. Get some practice with this challenging three-blank question.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, GRE Challenge

GRE Reading Comp Challenge: Weaken the Argument

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Reading Comp questions that make you think critically are rarely easy. In fact, some will be very hard. But others will be medium difficulty, like this week's "weaken the argument" question.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, GRE Challenge

GRE Data Analysis Challenge: Avoid Silly Mistakes, Do Simple Math

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Data Analysis will, true to its name, require you to analyze data. Sometimes the data will be a series of large values in a graph or table, and you may feel tempted to punch lots of numbers into your calculator. Yet the necessary math may be simpler—and less error-prone—than you realize. Try this table-based problem to see what I mean.

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Topics: GRE prep, Quantitative, GRE Challenge

GRE Sentence Equivalence Challenge: Work Around Unknown Words

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Sentence Equivalence has a knack for finding the limits of your vocabulary. Fortunately, the GRE isn't a vocabulary test. You don't have to know every word in a question to know the answer. Sometimes filling in the blank is a matter of relying on easier words and eliminating answer choices. To see what I mean, try this tough Sentence Equivalence question. 

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, GRE Challenge

GRE Reading Comp Challenge: Deconstruct the Argument

Posted by Ryan Born on

Argument passages in GRE Reading Comp vary in complexity. If you're asked to weaken or strengthen an argument, then the passage probably contains just one conclusion. But if you're asked to identify the roles that parts of the passage play in an argument, then the text may include a main conclusion and an intermediate conclusion. See whether you can spot the conclusion(s) in this passage.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, GRE Challenge

GRE Reading Comp Challenge: Strengthen the Argument

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Reading Comp passages usually try to persuade you of something. An argument is given, and your job is to analyze it. Some of the hardest Verbal questions require you to identify information that would strengthen an argument. For practice, try this Reading Comp question that likely just 2 in 10 test takers would get right.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, GRE Challenge

GRE Data Analysis Challenge: Compare Standard Deviations

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE data analysis includes some tough Quant topics. One is standard deviation, a measure of how far the values in a data set tend to fall from the set's mean. This statistic can be confusing and tedious to calculate. Luckily, you probably won't need to calculate it when it comes up on the exam. Try this hard standard deviation question to see what I mean.

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Topics: GRE prep, Quantitative, GRE Challenge

GRE Geometry Challenge: Use the Volume Formula Wisely

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE geometry can sometimes seem like a formula fest. Formulas matter, for sure, but simply memorizing them isn't enough. You also need to know how to use them  efficiently. For practice, try this Quantitative Comparison question that requires you to apply the volume formula for a cylinder.

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Topics: GRE prep, Quantitative, GRE Challenge

GRE Arithmetic Challenge: Find the Expression that Must Be Negative

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE arithmetic questions can challenge you to think abstractly about simple concepts such as squaring or subtracting numbers. Meeting this challenge often becomes easier when you replace any variables with specific values. See for yourself with this arithmetic problem that only about half of test takers would get right.

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Topics: GRE prep, Quantitative, GRE Challenge