10 Top GMAT Idioms

10 Top GMAT Idioms

If you look at many lists of GMAT® idioms, you’ll likely find dozens upon dozens of preposition-based constructions, e.g. insist oncharacteristic of, correlate with. Although the GMAT does sometimes test these types of idioms, it is important to understand that they are not the primary focus of the test. Because of an increase in the number of international students taking the exam, the GMAC has elected to shift the focus away from idiomatic American usage and toward more issues involving overall sentence logic.

That said, there are still a handful of fixed constructions that the GMAT does regularly test. Many, but not all, of these fall into the category of word pairs (aka correlative conjunctions). Particularly if you are not a native English speaker, you are best served by focusing on these constructions, which stand a high chance of appearing, as opposed to memorizing dozens of preposition-based idioms that have only a minuscule chance of being tested on any given exam. (more…)

New: GRE Word of the Day email program

New: GRE Word of the Day email program

If you’re studying for the GRE® and want to learn some words for which ETS has, shall we say, traditionally shown a strong predilection (i.e., a proclivity, penchant, propensity, bent), I’m starting a Word of the Day email program. One email with a top word, a GRE-level example sentence, and a list of must-know synonyms/antonyms, every day, direct to your inbox. (more…)

The exception to the “no verb after whom” rule

The exception to the “no verb after whom” rule

Note: this exception is addressed in the 4th edition of The Ultimate Guide to SAT® Grammar and the 3rd edition of The Complete Guide to ACT® English, but it is not covered in earlier versions.

 

Both SAT Writing and ACT English focus test two specific aspects of the who vs. whom rule.

 

1) Who, not whom, should be placed before a verb.

 

Incorrect: Alexander Fleming was the scientist whom discovered penicillin.

Correct: Alexander Fleming was the scientist who discovered penicillin. (more…)

What you need to know about “The Complete GMAT® Sentence Correction Guide”

What you need to know about “The Complete GMAT® Sentence Correction Guide”

I’m putting up this post because I’ve received a number of queries from people who are interested my The Complete GMAT® Sentence Correction Guide but who aren’t really sure what differentiates it from other guides on the market or whether it meets their needs. So instead of continuing to respond to people on a case-by-case, I thought I’d address some of the most common questions/concerns all in one place.

While the book does by necessity cover many of the same general concepts and strategies as the other books on the market, albeit with a different organization, there are a handful of key points that bear emphasizing.

First and most importantly: the book is designed as a “bridge” to the actual exam. All of the rules covered are derived exclusively from an in-depth study of GMAC-produced questions, and each chapter ends with a list of relevant questions from the Official Guide and Official Verbal guide. In addition, specific questions are periodically referenced during in-chapter discussions. Although there are categorized Official Guide question lists circulating online, there is no other published guide that includes this type of concept-by-concept breakdown. (more…)

GRE vocab and the limits of memorizing definitions

GRE vocab and the limits of memorizing definitions

Update to this post: I’ve now put a few sample exercises that approach GRE vocab prep from the ETS-based perspective outlined in this post. You can find them on the Quizzes page. More to come soon.

I’ve spent some time recently investigating the world of GRE® prep, and I’ve learned a few things that really surprised me. When I started reworking my old SAT® vocab material for prospective graduate students, I more or less assumed that the GRE prep world was similar to the SAT world: that is, there was a relatively cohesive network of independent tutors who shared tips, strategies, materials, etc., as well as established, well-trafficked online forums à la College Confidential where students applying to Masters and Ph.D. programs regularly congregated.

In poking around the web and talking to current/former GRE takers, however, I’ve gotten the impression that prep for this exam is a different story entirely. College seniors or recent graduates often take the exam before they know for sure whether they want to apply to grad school and, as a result, tend to have much less specific score goals. They know they should prep, and so they dutifully sign up for a class with one of the big companies but don’t end up learning much. (more…)

Putting deferrals in context

Putting deferrals in context

I’m beginning to think that high school students should be required to take a Statistics course just to be able to navigate the numeric thicket surrounding the college admissions process. As I’ve written about recently, the percentages that colleges throw around throughout the admissions process can’t necessarily be taken at face value.

Much like the overall acceptance rates that colleges release each spring, statistics involving Early Action and Early Decision deferrals require some interpreting as well. Depending on the college, a deferral can tell a lot about an applicant’s chances in the spring — or it can tell almost nothing at all. In some cases, a deferral can also act as a warning sign about the likely fate of someone’s applications at other schools of comparable selectivity; in others, it might do just the opposite. In either of those cases, an early deferral could spur you to make some last-minute alterations to your list. (more…)

GRE sentence equivalences: two strategies

GRE sentence equivalences: two strategies

 

One of the things that often gets overlooked in discussions about standardized testing is that scoring well is often a matter of having strategies, plural, rather than a single strategy.

Different items may call for different approaches, even when they are the same type of question, and nowhere is this fact illustrated more clearly than on GRE sentence equivalences.

In some cases, you may be able to identify the answer almost instantaneously using a “shortcut” approach, whereas in other cases you may need to work through the sentence very carefully, circling key words, playing positive/negative, and dodging trick answers left and right.

The key is to know which strategy to use when. (more…)

SAT vs. ACT: a quiz to help you decide

SAT vs. ACT: a quiz to help you decide

The SAT redesign eliminated a lot of the traditional differences between the SAT and the ACT, and choosing between the two exams has become more challenging as a result.

But while the differences have become subtler, there are still a handful of key factors that point in the direction of one test or the other. If you’re not sure which exam to take, this quiz is for you.

What is a clause?

What is a clause?

“Clause” is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot in discussion about grammar. It’s one of those words that students often hear but whose meaning they tend not to be 100% sure of.

It’s certainly possible to study for the SAT®/ACT®/GMAT® without knowing the exact definition of a clause, but understanding what clauses are and how they work can make things a whole lot easier. (more…)

Question of the Day is back!

Question of the Day is back!

For those of you who are looking for some bite-sized test daily practice, some good news: I’ve decided to revive my Question of the Day. Every morning, I’ll post a new verbal question along with an explanation.

For logistical reasons, I’m going to have to tilt toward the grammar side for now, but I will be posting reading as well as grammar questions. Most of the questions will SAT®/ACT®-style, but I will probably throw in some more advanced items (AP® English, GRE® or GMAT®) from time to time, just to keep people on their toes;)

Rest assured, however, that whatever test you’re taking, the material will be relevant in some form.

Eventually (soon, I hope!), I’m planning to add a subscription so that people can get the question delivered daily, but I still need to figure some things out from the tech side first.

If anyone has particular types of questions they’d like to see, please feel free to send a message with your suggestions.

Also: If any of you subscribers are wondering why you haven’t been getting new blog posts, it’s because I’m planning to send them newsletter-style, along with a few other articles related to test prep and the college/grad school admissions process, every week or two. For signup, just see the sidebar.

The biggest lie in college admissions

The biggest lie in college admissions

It took a while to happen, but college essays have begun to be placed under the kind of scrutiny traditionally reserved for the SAT. In just the past couple of weeks, articles have appeared in both the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed discussing the college essay industry and highlighting the vast sums of money some families spend on assistance with this aspect of the application.

These articles raise some very important questions: exactly how much help is too much? And how should colleges evaluate an assignment that some applicants have spent thousands of dollars to complete? (more…)

To raise your ACT Reading score, answer fewer questions

To raise your ACT Reading score, answer fewer questions

Broadly speaking, time-based ACT Reading problems tend to fall into two categories.

The first category involves students who cannot even come close to finishing ACT Reading in time. At 35 minutes, they might still be only halfway through the third passage, and often their scores are stuck somewhere in the low 20s. Even if they’re solid readers, they need to radically change their approach in order to see significant improvement.

The second category typically involves students who are scoring in the mid-high 20s. Their overall comprehension is strong, and they could likely answer nearly all of the questions right given just 10 more minutes, but they can’t quite seem to get there in the allotted time.

If you fall into the second category, this post is for you. (more…)

New! SAT/ACT and GMAT idiom lists

As part of my attempt to make thecriticalreader.com the official repository of all things related to SAT, ACT, and GMAT grammar, I’ve posted lists of preposition-based idioms for those tests. (For now, they’re the same as the ones in my SAT, ACT, and GMAT grammar books, but I will update them if I come across additional tests with other examples.)

For SAT/ACT idioms, click here.

For GMAT idioms, click here. (more…)

What Ivy League acceptance rates really mean (fun with statistics!)

What Ivy League acceptance rates really mean (fun with statistics!)

Over the past several decades, acceptance rates at the most selective United States colleges and universities have dropped dramatically. In the mid-1990s, for example, Yale University had an acceptance rate of around 18% for freshman applicants, whereas its freshman acceptance rate in 2017 was only one-third as high. Assuming that acceptances rates for the high school class of 2018 are similar to those for the class of 2017, all freshman applicants to Yale during the 2017-2018 admissions cycle will compete in a pool from which approximately 6% of freshman applicants are accepted.

Which of the following would most weaken the conclusion of this passage?

(A) Applicants who apply to Yale through Single Choice Early Action are accepted at far lower rates than they were in the mid-1990s.
(B) There is a significant difference in the acceptance rates of Single Choice Early Action and Regular Decision Yale applicants.
(C) The most competitive applicants to Yale often gain admission to multiple Ivy League schools.
(D) A smaller percentage of students apply to Yale through Single Choice Early Action than apply Regular Decision.
(E) The demographic makeup of Yale’s freshman class has changed significantly over the past several decades. (more…)

Beware of Amazon third party-sellers

Since everyone now seems to be figuring out that the big tech companies aren’t quite the saviors they’ve made themselves out to be, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon with yet another cautionary tale.

While browsing The New York Times earlier today, I came across an article discussing the fact that Amazon is now permitting third-party sellers to bid for the top seller listing. When users click on an item, the default “buy now” option may not be Amazon itself, but rather a third-party seller that purchased the right to be listed in the top spot. (more…)

What is the College Board is doing with your data?

What is the College Board is doing with your data?

A few months back, a rather startling article appeared in the Education section of The Washington Post. Written by Colorado mother Cheri Kiesecker, who decided to investigate the College Board’s use of student data after seeing the number of personal questions asked on her child’s school-administered PSAT 8/9 test, the piece explains how the College Board has effectively transformed itself into a massive data-collection organization and is profiting from the sale of student information.

The entire article is well worth reading — and I would strongly recommend that anyone who is about to take the PSAT or who has a child about to take the PSAT do so — but one of the most important takeaways is as follows: (more…)