Vocab Journaling: Let's Do It!

Posted by Jonathan Evans on


In my last post I discussed the importance of vocabulary, not as an exercise to be done in isolation but instead as a habitual tool for learning and reinforcing unknown or unfamiliar words you come across. As I noted, this skill translates not only into improvements on Sentence Completion and Equivalence problems but also on Reading Comprehension, Short Passages, and your writing skill on the essays. 

One tried-and-true vocabulary-building tool is an old fashioned journal, either in the form of a spiral notebook or (if you want to be fancy) as a note-taking app on your smartphone or tablet. Personally, I am a big fan of legal pads, but probably more because of nostalgia than utility.

For this post, I thought I would recap a couple vocab entries I wrote for our PowerScore GRE Facebook Page as examples of the kind of entries you can write for yourself, if you are feeling enterprising about your journaling. I would like to emphasize the importance of both learning the exact dictionary definition of each word as well as producing a sentence in which you use the word in an appropriate context. Since your work with difficult vocabulary on the GRE is heavily context dependent, your practice with these words should also reflect the kinds of scenarios you will encounter on the test.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension

Using GRE Argument Topics to Prepare for Reading Comprehension

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Reading Comprehension passages often present arguments. By argument, I don’t mean a messy quarrel. I mean an attempt to give reasons called premises in support of a (usually) novel or debatable claim called a conclusion. Analyzing arguments is a crucial skill for Reading Comp, and ETS, maker of the GRE, offers tons of free practice passages in the official pool of Argument topics for the Analytical Writing section.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, Analytical Writing

Speed Reading for GRE Reading Comprehension?

Posted by Ryan Born on

The GRE is timed. So when it comes to Reading Comprehension, you might worry that reading speed is being tested, too. Speed does matter. But you don't need to be a speed reader to excel at GRE Reading Comp.

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Topics: GRE prep, Reading Comprehension

Real-World Prep for GRE Reading Comp & The Argument Essay

Posted by Ryan Born on

A sizable chunk of the GRE requires you to think about arguments. Half of Analytical Writing is the Analyze an Argument task, and about half of Verbal Reasoning is Reading Comprehension, a question type that often uses argument-based passages.

Conveniently, you can prepare for Reading Comp and the Argument Task simultaneously using free (and modestly priced) practice material from ETS, maker of the exam. Other free, high-quality resources can sharpen your critical thinking skills, too. You just need to be open to supplementing your GRE prep materials with some real-world reading.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, Analytical Writing

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 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

Most Common and Most Difficult GRE Reading Comp Questions

Posted by Ryan Born on

GRE Reading Comprehension makes up about half of the Verbal section. Passages range from roughly 50 words to almost 500. Most (about 75%) are just a single paragraph that's under 150 words. Subjects include the arts, sciences, and humanities as well as a smattering of non-academic topics. You might think that longer passages or less familiar subjects (as, say, Physics might be to an English major) would yield tougher questions. But an analysis of official practice tests shows that question difficulty depends, as it should, on the level of comprehension a question demands.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension

Doing GRE Reading Comp Exercises to Prepare for The Argument Essay

Posted by Ryan Born on

In the Analytical Writing section's "Analyze an Argument" task, you’ll critique a short argument that’s being made for or against some prediction (“profits will rise”), explanation (“genetics is the cause”), recommendation (“repeal the ban”), or other topic of debate. Your directions may be to ferret out hidden assumptions or to identify evidence that could help or hurt the argument. Either sort of analysis takes practice, and doing certain Reading Comprehension questions can help.

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Topics: Verbal, GRE prep, Reading Comprehension, Analytical Writing