Learnist: 8 Ways to Earn an Extra Point on the GRE Issue Essay

Learnist_8WaysGREEach Issue topic on the GRE AWA section consists of an issue statement — on which you must form an opinion and write an essay in support of it in 30 minutes. Here’s how to take your GRE Issue Essay from “good” to “great”!

This Introduction to the Issue Essay video from Greenlight Test Prep covers the basics you need to know: timing, instructions, and basic strategy advice.

As the video wisely points out, there’s no “right” side — so brainstorm for BOTH before you choose the one you’d like to support. Choose the position that is the easiest to defend (i.e. the one for which you can come up with the strongest logical arguments and most specific, relevant supporting examples).

Practice makes perfect! You can best study for the GRE online by looking up the AWA prompts and practicing writing several of them within the 30 minute guideline. The only way to get comfortable with the time constraints is to practice them, so set up test-like conditions and get to work. You can see the Issue essay prompts here on the official GRE website!

Make sure you write then on the computer — a simple program like WordPad or Microsoft Word will help you mimic the test-like conditions.

Choose one side of the issue only, and don’t try to “have it both ways.” Even if you don’t believe in the side you choose, you’ll only have time to argue one side effectively. If you take a middle-of-the-road approach you won’t sound as confident or clear.

Remember, according to ETS, the “readers are evaluating the skill with which you address the specific instructions and articulate and develop an argument to support your evaluation of the issue.” What exactly you say (what side you choose to defend) is less important than how you defend it!

This article also does a great job outlining the possible types of support you can include in your body paragraphs:

  • Examples
  • Statistics
  • Expert opinions
  • Anecdotes
  • Observations
  • Precedence
  • Consequence

You’ll probably use examples, unless you happen to already be familiar with the issue. But, remember, statistics alone won’t impress — it’s your argument skills and ability to explain how each piece of support bolsters your conclusion that will really take your GRE Issue Essay to the next level!

Learnist: How to Study for the GMAT in 30 Days

GMAT_30daysNeed to cram for the GMAT in only a month? Here’s how to get the most out of 30 days of study-time!

There’s only one “Official Guide,” so whether you have 30 days or 6 months to study, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy! Learn the format, content, and do a general overview of the GMAT test itself using the OG 13th edition. Make sure to go to MBA.com and take advantage of the official prep material provided there!

Study every day, and don’t procrastinate! You will need to be disciplined about your studies. Work backwards from your test date. Don’t cram on the weekends only! With only one month to study, you’ll need to do at least some GMAT every single day.

If you need a bit more structure, Magoosh offers a free 30 Day Study Schedule that you can amend to your needs.

If you struggle with GMAT Verbal and really can only emphasize one of the three question-types, you’re better off memorizing the tested-concepts for Sentence Correction:

  • Among/Between, As/Like
  • Correlative Constructions
  • Diction
  • Forms of Comparison
  • Fragments and Run-on sentences
  • Grammatical Construction
  • Idioms
  • Logical Predication/Modification
  • Mass/count words
  • Noun-verb agreement
  • Parallelism
  • Passive vs. Active Voice
  • Prepositions
  • Pronouns
  • Rhetorical Construction
  • Verb Form
  • Wordiness/Redundancy

If you can spot these errors, you’re likely to move through the SC questions quickly, and thus you’ll have more time to analyze the Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension passages. Learn more 30-Day Study Tips on Learnist!

Learnist: Biology on the ACT Science Test

Passages dealing with Biology on the ACT Science Test may feature some of these concepts: body systems, cellular biology, photosynthesis, ecosystems, evolution, and genetics. Everything you need to know about them is in the passage!

This video covers the basics of Biology on the ACT — the topics are wide-ranging as you can see in the video. Stop the video before it begins talking about Physical Sciences. You can check out the ACT Science: Physical Sciences Learn Board to focus more on that later on!
Scientists have acquired biological knowledge through processes known as scientific methods. You will see that the experiments described in the Biology passages tend to follow these 6 steps:

  • observation
  • hypothesis
  • experimentation
  • analysis
  • conclusion
  • theory/law

Looking for even more Biology brush-up so you feel more confident with the subject matter of the passages? These online Biology video lessons help students understand Biology concepts so that they can improve test and quiz scores and more easily complete homework for your high school science class! Basically every possible ACT Biology subject is covered here!

Learnist: ACT Science – Conflicting Viewpoints

In Conflicting Viewpoints passages, several different viewpoints or hypotheses will be presented on a scientific phenomenon. This is the least common of the three ACT Science passage-types.

The basic strategy for attacking this passage type is to:

  • Identify the phenomenon
  • Understand the basic theories
  • Circle the support

Unlike Data Rep or Research Summ passages, the Conflicting Viewpoints passage will not focus on data and results. This passage type is much more like RC. Keep the questions divided between the passages and don’t mix up the author’s opinions!

The main goal of Conflicting Viewpoints passages is to understand what the argument or conflict is about and what is different about each of the points-of-view.

Now that you know a little bit about the Conflicting Viewpoints passages, check out this sample passage and 4 questions. Notice the format of the intro paragraph, Scientist 1, then Scientist 2. On Test Day, you’ll be able to mark up the passages directly in the test booklet!

Learnist: How to Write a Great SAT Essay

The SAT essay is about 25% of your SAT Writing score, but you’ll only have 25 minutes to write it! Here’s how to beat the timing pressure, develop the topic successfully, and score a perfect 12!

Tip #1 – Have the directions and instructions down cold.

If you are super-familiar with the directions ahead of test day, you won’t waste precious time reading them. Bullet points:

  • you can only write in pencil
  • the essay must be written in the space provided, NOT the test booklet
  • you’ll receive 2 scores from 2 readers (between 1 and 6)
  • the “issue presented” will usually come in the form of a quote
  • the actual prompt is the question after the “Assignment” bolded word

Tip #2 – Choose one side ONLY.

We live in a world of greys, but for SAT Essay purposes, we have to pretend the world is “black and white.” In 25 minutes, you won’t have time to effectively present a “middle of the road” approach, so choose one side and stick to it. This is one of the most challenging (and most frustrating) aspects of writing the SAT Essay.

For example, let’s say you had a prompt that asked: Is honesty the best policy? In the “real world,” we know the answer is complex, sometimes yes and sometimes no. However, you must build a thesis either 100% in favor of perpetual honesty, or 100% not in favor of perpetual honesty.

As this blog points out (rather aptly), you don’t even need to agree with your thesis statement – you just need to demonstrate that you can make a strong argument for it.

Read more tips on how to write a great SAT essay on Learnist!

Learnist: 10 Tips to Rock the ACT Test this December 14th!

December 14th is the final ACT Test date of 2013. Planning to take the exam? Here’s how to focus your studies and rock the test!

Step 1 – Commit to a Study Schedule! To make sure you get the ACT test date and testing center you want, register early, at least 2-3 months before the exam. That way you can create a study schedule, working backwards from the test date. Be realistic with yourself? How much time can you commit each week to ACT practice questions? Work in 2-3 hour blocks maximum. It’s better to study 20-30 minutes a day than 4 hours once a week.

This site offers free 1, 2, or 3 month schedules! While the 3-month one is ideal, if you’re planning to take the December exam, you’ll want to modify the 1-2 month plans to fit your needs.

Step 2 – Focus on your weaknesses ASAP! Are you a slow reader? Is your ACT Math knowledge so-so? Grammar got you down? Know going in to your ACT test prep what areas need more work and plan to address them first. You’ll need more time for the weaknesses. Don’t put off studying for a section just because you dread it!

Luckily, the ACT SparkNotes website gives a great breakdown of what you’ll see on Test Day, so you can start to get a sense of what will need the most work.

Check out steps 3-10 on this Learnist board: 10 Tips to Rock the ACT Test!

Learnist: How the GMAT Tests “Volume”

Volume is the three-dimensional area — the amount of space enclosed by a shape or object. Remember that you need three different values to find volume and surface area (the length, the width and the height) on the GMAT.

Think of any box — a “rectangular solid” is a just a 3-D rectangle. Find the volume by calculating the length x width x height. Find the surface area by calculating 2lw + 2lh + 2wh.

Like the rectangular solid, to find the volume of a cylinder you will calculate the area of the base and multiply it by the height. For a cylinder, the area of the base will always be equal to the area of a circle: pi x r^2. Just multiply it by “h” to find the volume!

Try a couple practice questions on this GMAT – Volume learnboard!

Learnist: All About Data Analysis on the ACT Science Test

Data Analysis comes up in two of the three ACT Science passage-types: Research Summaries and Data Representation. Data can be presented in tables, charts, graphs, etc. Use these tips to rock these questions on Test Day!

The key to data analysis is fairly easy: actually take the time to analyze the data! Most people skip parts of the information and go straight to the questions, but you’ll need to know where to look for the correct answer!

Two variables are in “direct variation” with each other if the following relationship holds: whenever one variable doubles, the other variable doubles. Two variables are in “inverse variation” with each other if the following relationship holds: whenever one variable doubles, the other variable halves. Variables commonly have one of these two relationships on the ACT Science Test.

Data Analysis primarily is required for Data Representation passages, since they typically have more data than Research Summaries passages. For these, always identify the purpose, method, and the results. The data is usually in the form of the “results.”

For some instructional videos and practice questions dealing with Data Analysis on the ACT, check out the ACT Science: Data Analysis learnboard from Learnist!

Learnist: How to Rock the “Bolded Statement” Questions on the GMAT

GMAT “Bolded Statement” (or “Boldface”) questions ask about the structure of a GMAT Critical Reasoning passage. Since they’re rare (and fairly confusing), many students struggle with them.

GMAT Arguments have a tendency to follow predictable patterns of organization and are always comprised of a conclusion, premise (or evidence), and assumptions. This is one of the core fundamentals in Critical Reasoning!

If what I just wrote makes no sense to you, you’ll definitely want to thoroughly review this Learnboard on Argument Structure before proceeding.

According to this article, here’s some sample bolded statement question stems:

  • In the argument given, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?
  • The first boldface statement has what relationship to the second boldface statement?

Most of the bolded statement questions will follow one of these two lines: either asking about the “roles” of each boldface OR about their relationship to one another.

But remember that the REAL question behind the question will always be this: what function does each bolded statement perform within the argument?

To successfully decipher the given options, you’ll want to categorize each part of the passage and each answer choice with a predetermined, specific set of symbols. Make use of that yellow scratch pad! Here’s the symbols I like to use:

MC = Main Conclusion (the author’s argument or position)

OC = Opposing Conclusion (an argument in opposition to the main conclusion)

F = Fact (basic given information, backstory, premise, etc.)

A = Stated Assumption (think of this as part of the passage that “links” given facts/evidence to stated conclusions)

E (+) MC = Evidence Supporting Main Conclusion (this is what the author cites to support his conclusion)

E (+) OC = Evidence Supporting Opposing Conclusion (this is evidence that is cited in support of the opposing conclusion; it undermines the author’s conclusion and can also be expressed as E (-) MC).

Try out two free practice questions with full explanations on this board: How to Rock the “Bolded Statement” Questions !

All About the ACT!

Everything you need to know about registering, prepping for, and taking the ACT exam is on this learnboard! Some fast facts:

The ACT exam is made up of 5 independent tests:

  • English Test
  • Math Test
  • Reading Test
  • Science Test
  • Writing Test (optional)

The ACT is offered 6 times a year: September, October, December, February, April, and June. You can register for your test date online. You can print your admission ticket from the website. Make sure to bring it with you on Test Day!

The score of the ACT exam is based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing! That means you should answer EVERY question! Your raw score for each section of the ACT is converted to a scaled score, which ranges between a 1 and a 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.

Most scores are available for online viewing within 2 ½ weeks after your test date. Your scores are not reported any faster if viewed online.

Learn more fast facts about the ACT, and take a free full-length practice test on this Learnboard!