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What's the best way to prepare for Verbal and Analytic Writing ?

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So after prepping on and off for about 2 months, I decided to do my first practice test today (official GRE book) excluding the Analytic Writing tasks (haven't prepared for them yet), and was utterly disappointed: V151, Q159 ...

 

However after the practice test, I re-attempted the quant questions I had gotten wrong, and was able to solve most of them .. So maybe I was nervous (the English section was giving me a headache!), or maybe I need to improve my time management ..

 

HOWEVER ..

 

The thing I don't know is how do I prepare better for the Verbal and Analytic Writing sections ... I've read briefly Princeton for these, but I see that Princeton is not a recommended book .. So which book do I study from for Verbal and AW?

 

And any specific tips on how to deal with all those convoluted English comprehensions ?!

 

I'm just amazed there are some sentences there which are literally 3-5 lines long ! Shocking !!

 

I literally had to guess half the English answers because I ran out of time. How does ETS expect us to read through those paragraphs of dense English, AND answer all those questions, 25 all under 25 minutes ?!

Edited by ahmadka

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I made a test-taking tips post. I wish I had a 159 Q, I love math but I guess my strength is verbal.

 

For reading comprehension I take notes as I am reading. It takes more time, but if I don't take notes, I am too focused on finishing the text quickly and I don't actually comprehend anything!

 

I also answer the easiest questions first, both for Q and V.

 

I am prone to making silly mistakes on Q, so I always write down what they are asking for. Do they want X or 2X? Because I can solve for X and plug in that answer, but they actually want 2X!

 

Also, Algebra and Geometry are really all you need for Q. I personally need to review exponents, but most questions should be solved without the calculator. If the answer does require plugging in random numbers, then use at least 3 sets of numbers that are very different from each other (but within the provided guidelines) because a rule might work for one set but not another.

 

You can mark questions that you are unsure about, but at least plug in an answer before you mark, that way you have a 25% chance rather than 0% if time runs out.

 

For Issues: create your points and then your evidence. At least 3 points, intro, and conclusion. You can make up the evidence as long as it doesn't sound too crazy.

 

Argument: When reading the prompt, write down all the assertions, then come up with reasons they might not be true. Pick the strongest 3 or 4 and turn that in to your body. Then follow up with a paragraph about how they could strengthen the argument, then conclusion (plus and intro)

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Okay, some questions ...

 

1) How much time should I person spend reading a comprehension that is, say, 13 lines long ? .. Same question for one which is about 40 lines long ?

 

2) Is it better to first read the comprehension and THEN look at the questions, or the other way around ?

 

3) And should you skim through a comprehension ?

 

Thing is, I cannot possibility imagine how ETS expects students to do 25 Verbal questions within 35 minutes, given than about half of those questions require reading and analyzing about 80 lines of dense English ..

 

I just don't see that happening !

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My score in verbal was not that good. I got 154! 

 

However, I knew some tricks which helped me answer better:

 

1. Read the question first. Then, paraphrase the question to clearly understand its purpose. After that, read the passage and try to find the answer. When you find the answer try to paraphrase it. Finally, check the choices and choose what you think mostly resemble the answer you paraphrased.

 

2. Try to train yourself on understanding what other people means by their words in your daily communication. In comprehension passages, you are asked to understand what the author meant by his words and choose the answer accordingly. You are not asked to provide your opinion!

 

Try this and I wish you all the best :)

 

Mohammed

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I took a practice test this Monday (the first one the GRE website lets you do for free) and got a 162 on the Verbal and a 154 on the Quant, with no explicit studying for the verbal. I know my area of weakness was the vocab (mostly just needing to refresh higher level words and the more finite definitions of some of them). According to the results page, I only missed two in the comp sections. With those sections, I found it helpful to skim longer passages for the main idea in each paragraph, and then try to answer the questions. If it referenced a specific section, I went back to it. I found this especially helpful when reading a passage outside of my wheelhouse (like a scientific article, when I'm an English geek). If it was a short passage, (like your 16 line example), I just read it all the way through, and re-read specific lines if needed. I hope that helps! 

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Two questions:

 

1) Guys, which book is best to *prepare* (i.e. developing strategies, etc.) from for Verbal section ?

 

2) Which book is best for taking sample Verbal questions (comprehensions, etc.) ?

 

I'm actually a very book-oriented person as all my life I've studied from books, hence the questions :)

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I highly recommend Manhattan Prep for studying the verbal section. I ended up getting a 165.

 

I used this book for reading comprehension...it's so good at breaking down where the test is trying to trick you and gives strategies for dissecting reading passages: http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Comprehension-Essays-Strategy-Manhattan/dp/1935707957/ref=la_B0053GJ06G_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414260910&sr=1-11

 

Also highly recommend the text completion book. There's also a 5lb book of practice questions but that includes quant. I bought it but didn't end up using it because I found the smaller books covering reading comp and text completion sufficient. If you're someone who likes a ton of practice questions, that book is ideal though.

 

My method was study vocab like crazy. I particularly liked the vocab list in the back of the Manhattan Prep books because it splits the list into easier and harder sections, and an iPhone app by Dictionary.com (I think it's just called GRE), but that cost like $5. Both cover what they deem the 1000 most commonly used vocab words on the GRE, so it's more manageable than a comprehensive list. If you only have a few weeks, you need to prioritize what you're studying anyway, so smaller lists are easier. Also, take practice tests! As many as you can get your hands on! Do the ETS ones, too. Practice tests are crucial, IMO, because they teach you how to take the test.

 

EDIT: Oh! Something that really helped me: after culling the vocab lists to separate out words I didn't know or struggled with, I wrote each word's definition then wrote the word in a sentence in a notebook. This helped me master the definitions by putting the words in context. I recommend writing it all by hand--although tedious, studies show hand-written notes stimulate learning more than typed. God, I'm such a nerd  :wacko:  haha

 

If you have at least a month before the GRE, I'd also take up reading magazines with high-quality writers. I like the New Yorker, the Economist (but it's way expensive) and scholarly journals in my field.

Edited by ashiepoo72

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Okay, some questions ...

 

1) How much time should I person spend reading a comprehension that is, say, 13 lines long ? .. Same question for one which is about 40 lines long ?

 

2) Is it better to first read the comprehension and THEN look at the questions, or the other way around ?

 

3) And should you skim through a comprehension ?

 

Thing is, I cannot possibility imagine how ETS expects students to do 25 Verbal questions within 35 minutes, given than about half of those questions require reading and analyzing about 80 lines of dense English ..

 

I just don't see that happening !

 

 

You need to figure out what works best for you. Some people do better when they read the questions first, but I don't like that method because I tend to only look for the answer instead of trying to understand the passage. I personally read the entire passage (though try to do it quickly if possible) then look at the questions and answer choices. For each question, make sure your answer choice has something in the passage to back it up. If any part of an answer choice doesn't have back-up in the text (and GRE tries to trick you sometimes by making part of an answer valid but another part ambiguous or wrong), it's 99% of the time wrong. You can also mark questions you're struggling with and come back to them at the end. Don't get mired down by a single question. Like you said, you have 25 to answer in a short period of time.

 

If you dedicate 1 minute per text completion/vocab question, that's about 20 minutes. Then you have nearly 15 minutes to finish the reading comprehension. Just try to answer questions at a steady pace, don't let a difficult question take up too much of your time (mark it and come back to it at the end) and you'll get through the test just fine.

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I got a 164 the first time I took the Verbal. Honestly, I feel the best way to prepare for this section of the GRE is to read and work on retaining what you read. And I don't mean read stuff from your own field, but read things like the New York Times, The New Yorker, or Best American Short Stories. When you come across vocabulary you don't know, write the word down, learn it, and use it. Talk to other people about what you've read. This will help you with reading comprehension. Plus, it's way more entertaining than memorizing long vocabulary word lists.  :blink:

Even if you only have a few weeks before you retake, I still think this is a good way to study in addition to taking practice tests. You do not have to know the exact definition of every vocabulary word on the GRE to get a great score. You just need to have some familiarity with some of the words so that you can narrow down the choices. Solid test-taking strategies can also help with this; for example, on the fill-in-the-blank questions, immediately figure out the relationship between the blanks and the rest of the sentence (i.e., do the words need to be opposite or similar in meaning, both in relation to each other and to the content of the sentence?). Then you can go through the words you are familiar with and get rid of ones that obviously don't fit. From there, you can guess with a higher probability of guessing correctly.

For the reading comprehension questions, being able to focus on material that doesn't immediately interest you is a great skill that you can develop by reading stuff outside of your own discipline. This will also help you generate better examples for your essays during the AW section. For that section, I think it comes down to fully understanding the prompt, knowing how to execute a five paragraph essay, and impeccable timing. I used the first five minutes to read the prompt and develop an outline of a five paragraph essay (introduction, example 1 paragraph, example 2 paragraph, example 3 paragraph, conclusion). I gave myself about four minutes to write each paragraph. If I got stuck, I dropped the 3rd example paragraph. The last five minutes I spent quickly revising and proofreading as well as adding in some "big" words and more sentence structure variety.

Hope this helps!

Edited by kurumi2117

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In terms of what people are saying about the lots of reading, you kind of have to figure out what is going to work best for you.
As someone who is a speed-reader, I usually go to the questions first. Sometimes they're just "Fetch" questions, as Princeton calls them, and they ask about something specific, usually a proper noun. So literally just skim the passage for the proper noun, and read only whatever puts that in context. Don't bother with anything else. If you want to, just briefly skim whatever else is going on in the passage, but it's not really necessary.

I just find it helpful to make a distinction between reading for skimming and reading to understand. Skimming the passage should be something like "ok, first passage is a boring intro, they are talking about supernovas, something confusing about distance and speed, okay." And that's it. And then for each question you can just hone in whatever particular 2-3 sentence section you need and actually read them properly so you know what they're talking about.

Also, for the ones where they ask you to pick a sentence where something is happening, just write down like a-e or whatever for however many sentences there are and just quickly look through them. It's usually really obvious if they are going to be right for your particular question or not and there's no need to actually sit and wade through what is actually happening. 

Also, are you guys timing yourselves when you practice? I was wondering if I should time myself for 25 minutes instead of 30 for the verbal sections, just to get myself used to working fast, but I don't want to train myself to rush. Any thoughts?

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Also, are you guys timing yourselves when you practice? I was wondering if I should time myself for 25 minutes instead of 30 for the verbal sections, just to get myself used to working fast, but I don't want to train myself to rush. Any thoughts?

I think that's a good strategy. I worked fast so I could spend the remaining time (I had about  five-ten minutes) checking my answers. I caught a few errors on the first few questions and I believe this helped improve my score a lot.

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Do you guys know if English programs actually give two hoots about the analytical writing stuff? I figure I'm just going to wing it and maybe just write out a few outlines ahead of time - I don't see the point in devoting time writing essays that I can't even grade anyway.

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They care more about it than the quant, but from what I've heard it's significantly less important than verbal because adcomms will have your writing sample(s) in front of them, so what do they care about the GRE's opinion of your writing? I think it'd still raise a red flag of its below like 4ish (3.5? Who really knows) though.

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Okay, some questions ...

 

1) How much time should I person spend reading a comprehension that is, say, 13 lines long ? .. Same question for one which is about 40 lines long ?

 

2) Is it better to first read the comprehension and THEN look at the questions, or the other way around ?

 

3) And should you skim through a comprehension ?

 

Thing is, I cannot possibility imagine how ETS expects students to do 25 Verbal questions within 35 minutes, given than about half of those questions require reading and analyzing about 80 lines of dense English ..

 

I just don't see that happening !

1.  13 lines "long" can be read in 10 seconds or less.  80 lines can be read in under a minute.  

 

2.  Yes, read the passage first.

 

3.  No.  You do not need to read every single word in the passage but you should not skim.  You need to read actively. 

 

My score in verbal was not that good. I got 154! 

 

However, I knew some tricks which helped me answer better:

 

1. Read the question first. Then, paraphrase the question to clearly understand its purpose. After that, read the passage and try to find the answer. When you find the answer try to paraphrase it. Finally, check the choices and choose what you think mostly resemble the answer you paraphrased.

 

This is exactly what ETS knows you will do and wants you to do.  If you read the question choices first and then skim the passage for matching words or phrases you run the risk of selecting the wrong answer choice because the answer choice itself is only partially right.  The correct answer might not even contain a matching word or phrase. The only way to work it is actively read the whole passage.  That way, the correct answer will be more obvious. 

 

Two questions:

 

1) Guys, which book is best to *prepare* (i.e. developing strategies, etc.) from for Verbal section ?

 

2) Which book is best for taking sample Verbal questions (comprehensions, etc.) ?

 

I'm actually a very book-oriented person as all my life I've studied from books, hence the questions :)

1.  In my opinion the best book to use is The Official Guide to the GRE by ETS and other publications by them.  

 

2.  The Official Guide to the GRE.

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I received a 170 on the verbal section.

What helped me the most was memorizing the 1,000 vocab words Magoosh offers for free.

Also, for the reading passages I would recommend reading the whole passage before attempting any of the questions. Skimming through the passages is simply begging to get ensnared by a trapdoor answer.

Edited by boston_hopeful

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I got a 6 on the analytical writing section. My strategy was a mix of things I had read online and some newer strategies I developed myself. Here's what worked for me. Obviously there is no guarantee this will work for anybody else, etc.

 

1.) Practice writing simple argumentative and analytical 5-paragraph papers. If you have never done this before, then do a lot of them. You should be able to whip one of these out off the top of your head at any given moment. Get it down to a science. As in, all of your papers for a test like this should essentially look the same. There really is no reason to deviate from this structure. They GRE graders do not give extra points for cool stylistic tricks, as far as I can tell. They want the robotic, 5-paragraph essay with a bunch of at least semi-logical evidence. Whether it is your argumentative or analytical essay, the basic structure is:

 

Paragraph 1: "Catchy" hook, thesis statement which lays out your argument clearly and in detail.

 

Paragraphs 2-4: These are your "body" paragraphs, your evidence. They should have a transition / topic sentence, a claim backed up by as much evidence as you can pull off the top of your head, no matter how inane it may seem to you at the time, then a transition to the next paragraph. It is important to talk as much as possible in these paragraphs.

 

Paragraph 5: Conclusion that restates your argument. Then, what I like to do is finish strong with another "catchy" line; a quote or whatever. Basically, it is like getting the last word, or dropping the mic, or getting the last punch in just before the bell, etc.

 

Some of the Princeton Review books come with two online practice tests. The really good thing about these online tests is that you can write the essays and receive feedback from a real person, including the score they would have given you and some strategies to improve. The GRE essays are graded very differently than, say, a college timed essay. This helps you get used to how they want you to do things. Practice, practice, practice.

 

2.) Develop a strategy ahead of time. You should break up your 30 minutes into sections. This was my strategy:

 

5-7 minutes of prep: This included laying out my entire paper ahead of time. I wrote my hook, thesis, all the evidence I would use, and my "catchy" ending on my scratch paper. Develop a strategy for getting this done fast and stick with it. Once I had this done, the paper was pretty much written. All I had to do was get it in the program.

 

18-20 minutes of speed writing: I went as fast as I could, not stopping to edit, and plugged in all of the variables that I had written on my paper.

 

5 minutes of editing: This is where you fix typos and whatnot.

 

3.) Remain calm. For me, this is the most important part of the entire test. I have been doing 30-minute timed essays since AP English in high school and I was an English major in college. Trust me, being an English major did not help me on this exam. What helped me is the probably 100 30-minute timed essays I have written over my career. I did not use particularly fancy language and the structure I used was taught to me before I could drive. If you have a system and you know how to use it, you will do well.

 

Remaining calm also gives you the chance to maybe take a chance or two. I spent an entire paragraph on my analytical paper attacking the author of the quote I was supposed to analyze as a person and I still got a six on that essay. I do not recommend this strategy, but it worked for me. This brings me to my next and hopefully last piece of advice:

 

4. Get passionate. If you care about the essay you are writing, I almost guarantee you that you will get a better score. How do you prepare for this? You get lucky, I guess. But you can increase the chances of writing a passionate essay by being passionate about things. Reading the newspaper for relevant pieces of evidence to use in your argumentative essay is a good strategy. I used something that I had read in the bagel shop just before taking my test.

 

Also, for the analytical essay, get to know some common logical fallacies, quote generously from the passage in question, and suggest ways to improve the piece. Do each one of these things in every body paragraph. This is a sample of a short analytical essay body paragraph:

 

"Another way the author makes a mistake is in his logic is when he uses a red herring argument to draw attention away from the real issues by saying, "Taking guns away from children is a violation of their second amendment rights; the people who do so don't want their children to be able to defend themselves, and therefore should have their kids taken away from them by Child Protective Services." People who take guns away from kids are not doing so to prevent them from defending themselves, but rather to prevent them from hurting themselves. The author makes a false claim and derails the conversation by suggesting such a preposterous idea. There are, theoretically, better ways to argue for giving small children weaponry, and the author's claim would be better supported with statistics and facts such as the instance of armed robberies stopped by shotgun-wielding infants, if such a statistic exists. "

 

They should all pretty much look like that, but maybe longer. Anyway, I hope this is helpful to somebody searching around on this forum either in this application season or the next. Sorry for the incredibly long post. Cheers.

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ToldAgain, that was indeed very helpful. While I was considering a concession paragraph, I think it would be better to "strengthen" the authors' argument in each paragraph as you have pointed out.

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Okay, just took one of ETS practice tests online and got a 168!!! Let's hope I can replicate that next week!!! :D

 

One thing that has been REALLY helping me with the verbal is just doing all the vocab questions first. Like, I cannot praise this strategy enough. 

 

I just skip right over anything that involves reading and finish up all the verbal questions - usually takes me like 10 minutes or less, 1 minute or less per question. If you're getting good with your vocab, you can do 2 a minute or so. 
Anyway, this has been extremely helpful because with vocab you either know the words or you don't, and its easy to narrow down you list if you're not sure and just pick - no lengthy reading and going back and forth.

 

Just finish all these up, and then go back to all the reading questions. Hopefully you'll have about 20 minutes to answer the rest of your questions, so you can chill out a bit and not have your eyes go all buggy on you.

By that point you've already gotten all your easy (or just didn't know it and won't know it) questions out of the way, and you can focus in on the long passages.

At this point you know what your time budget is - if you're doing hot and moving through, great, if you're loosing time, you can at least skip around and make sure you're devoting at least a few minutes to each question.

Also - I very often skip the questions that say 'select all correct answers'. Almost all the time, I save those for last. Those are statistically the hardest to get right, so unless I'm like really in the jive of a particular passage, I save those for the end and do what I can with whatever time I have left.

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Regarding the Analytic Writing section: when you take the GRE, you should have a template in mind for how you want to present/organize your essay. In fact, before test day, you should test out this template at least once for each essay type (using the OFFICIAL prompts!). 

 

If you'd like some additional tips on organizing your essay, we have a series of free videos on the topic of Analytical Writing: http://www.greenlighttestprep.com/module/gre-analytical-writing 

 

Cheers,

Brent

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I received a 170 on the verbal section.

What helped me the most was memorizing the 1,000 vocab words Magoosh offers for free.

 

My friend got a 170 and is a flashcard person, so this might work for those of you who <3 flashcards.

 

Me? I hate flashcards. Still got my 165. I took practice tests and wrote down words I 1) missed or 2) had to guess on. I then went and looked them up in the dictionary & added synonyms (2-3) for each word. Later, I would go back and write sentences so I understood those words in context. Then, I'd force myself to remember those words & their synonyms (it was like learning multiple words at once that way). Knowing the word in context is what's important.

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