Spotting Consistent Ideas in GRE Sentence Equivalence

Sentence Equivalence is one of the newer GRE Verbal question types (replacing the older Sentence Completions). Like Sentence Completions, Sentence Equivalence consists of one sentence with one blank. Unlike Sentence Completions, there are two correct answers and not one, and you must get both to get the question correct.

To solve Sentence Equivalence, you’ll need to know 1) the relationship of the blank to the rest of the sentence, and 2) the meaning of the entire sentence. There are approximately 8 total Sentence Equivalence questions on the GRE, 4 on each Verbal section. These questions should take approximately 1 minute each.

Consistent Ideas is one of the four types of Sentence Equivalence questions. In Consistent Ideas questions, the blank will mirror or extent the logic of the rest of the sentence. Like it sounds, the blank will continue the ideas of the rest of the sentence. You’ll be able to recognize this type because of certain constructions.

Here are common “Consistent Ideas” key words and phrases to look out for: for this reason, again, to reiterate, along with, in addition, for example, to illustrate, thus, likewise, similarly, since, also, and, next, as well as, as a result, to sum up, concluding, additionally, etc.

Let’s look at an example Sentence Equivalence question:

1. As a teacher of creative writing, Mercedes demanded her students’ best work; likewise, her own fiction was often subjected to ———– analysis by those same students.

A. scrupulous
B. equitable
C. reverent
D. spiteful
E. malicious
F. rigorous

We know this is a Sentence Equivalence Consistent Ideas question because of the keyword “likewise.” The semicolon tells us the second half of the sentence will mirror the logic of the first half. The key phrase is “demanded” which explains the relationship. We can predict something like “demanding” for the blank. We need a word that is neither positive nor negative, but shows a strong, exacting demand.

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How to Solve 1-Blank GRE Sentence Equivalence Questions

In Sentence Equivalence questions on the New GRE, the blank(s) will always have a relationship to the rest of the sentence. We identify keywords because it helps us understand this relationship. Some blanks will have a “defining” relationship, meaning the blank will be defined by the rest of the sentence, so you’ll look for a word to embody the description. Other blanks will have a “contrasting” relationship, and you’ll need to choose the word that provides the best contrast to the describing keywords.

On harder Sentence Equivalence, you will often see a more complex relationship, such as “causation.” Let’s see an example of how we can identify keywords to show us the relationship, and allow us to predict for the blank.

Although appliance manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, items like blenders and toasters are not requirements for the creation of a delicious meal; for centuries, our ancestors cooked without these modern _______.

A) conveniences
B) hindrances
C) requisitions
D) creeds
E) incidents
F) utilities

Let’s pick out the keywords:

Although appliance manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, items like blenders and toasters are not requirements for the creation of a delicious meal; for centuries, our ancestors cooked without these modern _______.

“Although” is a common keyword that introduces a contrast. The manufacturers want you to believe the “blenders and toasters” ARE requirements. The word “these” in the second clause refers back to the “blenders and toasters” in the first clause. The clauses here contrast with each other, but the blank is going to be a word that describes “blenders and toasters.” A good prediction would be a word like “appliances.” Essentially, a word that could describe an tangible object.

Scanning the answer choices, B, C, D, and E do not refer to tangible objects. The correct answers must be A and F. After identifying the keywords and making a prediction, we barely had to consider each answer choices. Process of elimination allows us to identify the correct choices (always two for sentence equivalence questions) quickly and effectively! There’s never a need to re-read the sentence 6 times with each answer choice plugged in.

Strategies and Formulas for Tough GRE Sets

For some advanced Data Analysis and Probability questions, it will help you achieve better scores to know the logic and formulas behind set theory. Set theory hinges on two concepts: union and intersection. The union of sets is all elements from all sets. The intersection of sets is only those elements common to all sets.

Let’s call our sets A, B, and C, and use a Venn diagram to express their relationship.

If n = intersection and u = union, then we can describe the relationship between the sets thusly:
P(A u B u C) = P(A) + P(B) + P(C) – P(A n B) – P(A n C) – P(B n C) + P(A n B n C)

To find the number of people in exactly one set: P(A) + P(B) + P(C) – 2P(A n B) – 2P(A n C) – 2P(B n C) + 3P(A n B n C)

To find the number of people in exactly two sets: P(A n B) + P(A n C) + P(B n C) – 3P(A n B n C)

To find the number of people in exactly three sets: P(A n B n C)

To find the number of people in two or more sets: P(A n B) + P(A n C) + P(B n C) – 2P(A n B n C)

To find the number of people in at least one set: P(A) + P(B) + P(C) – P(A n B) – P(A n C) – P(B n C) + P(A n B n C)

To find the union of all set: (A + B + C + X + Y + Z + O)

Number of people in exactly one set: (A + B + C)

Number of people in exactly two of the sets: (X + Y + Z)

Number of people in exactly three of the sets: O

Number of people in two or more sets: (X + Y + Z + O)

If you’re like me, and formulas like these sometimes seem complicated and intimidating, let’s look at how making a Venn diagram and applying it to a tough GRE question can provide a little relief!

In 1997, N people graduated from college. If 1/3 of them received a degree in the applied sciences, and, of those, 1/4 graduated from a school in one of six northeastern states, which of the following expressions represents the number of people who graduated from college in 1997 who did not both receive a degree in the applied sciences and graduate from a school in one of six northeastern states?

(A) 11N/12
(B) 7N/12
(C) 5N/12
(D) 6N/7
(E) N/7

The key to understanding this question lies in the last sentence:

…who did not both receive a degree in the applied sciences and graduate from a school in one of six northeastern states?

We have two categories to sum: the people who ONLY received a science degree but NOT from one of the 6 schools, and the people who ONLY went to the 6 schools but did NOT receive a science degree. I made up variables for these categories (x and y).

If N = 12, there are 4 applied science students, 1 of which is both. That means x = 3. If 4 students are applied science, then 12-4 = 8 are from one of the six states but NOT applied science. y = 8.

3 + 8 = 11

So we are looking for an answer choice that gives us 11 when N = 12; the answer is A.

You aren’t likely to see many questions at this difficulty level on the actual GRE, but if you continue to challenge yourself, the medium GRE sets questions will soon look easy!

7 Tips for a Perfect GRE Issue Essay

If you get a perfect score on the GRE’s Issue Essay (a 6), it can really boost your graduate school admissions chances! The best schools want good Verbal and Quantitative scores, but also students who are clear, competent writers. Lots of students have excellent transcripts and are good at taking tests – but not everyone can demonstrate impressive writing skills! Here are 7 tips to take your Issue essay to that perfect 6!

1. Write at least three practice essays. Practice makes perfect! You can 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: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/issue/pool

2. Don’t waffle. 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!

3. Choose very specific real-world examples. Don’t be general! Every reader would like to see more specific examples: Mitt Romney, the War of 1812, Keynesian economic theory, the mating rituals of octopii, an anecdote about your Uncle Ralph the compulsive gambler, etc. You can have some fun with it, and your examples don’t have to be the most scholarly. What are you an expert on?

4. BUT, make sure your examples are relevant to the topic. You can absolutely choose examples from a wide range of subjects: personal experience, pop culture, history, sports, literature, current events, politics, etc. But make sure you explain HOW your example clearly supports your thesis.

5. Avoid first-person and self-reference. “I think” or “I believe” are obvious. You are the person writing this essay! First-person pronouns should ONLY appear in a body paragraph if you are using personal experience as an example, and telling a story from your own life to support your thesis. Never use “I” in your introductory or concluding paragraph.

6. Make strong, declarative statements. Look for ways to add charged adjectives, adverbs and “because” clauses to make your sentences sound more confident. EX: “The president shouldn’t allow Congress to pass the law.” Or, “It is unacceptable for the president to permit Congress to pass the law because it unconstitutionally overextends Congress’ powers.”

7. Refute the opposing view in your conclusion. Many GRE students wonder what to do in their conclusion. Try introducing the opposing viewpoint, showing that you recognize that in fact some people do not support your position. Then refute their argument in 1-2 sentences, and reinforce the validity of your own thesis.

Learnist: How to Achieve Perfect Pacing on the GRE

Finishing all sections is essential to a high GRE score. Even if you come to the end of a section and realize you have more questions than you have time to work on, make sure to click an answer for each one before the time runs out. This discipline on your GRE practice tests will set the right habit for Test Day, even if it’s painful at first to answer questions you can’t solve quickly. You can download TWO FREE GRE practice tests at gre.org!

For each Verbal section, you will have approx. 20 questions to answer in 30 minutes. This is approx. 1.5 minutes per question. But remember, that you’ll need a few extra minutes for Reading, so try to do the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions in less than that time. Try to do pacing drills where you work on doing them in 1 minute each. Don’t rush and lose accuracy, but remember the importance of finishing the entire section. If you feel up to the challenge, Major Tests.com offers 7 free GRE reading comprehension practice tests with explanations.

The Quant sections of the GRE will each contain approx. 20 questions and you will have 35 minutes to answer them. That works out to 1.75 minutes a question. Divide the section into 4 parts:

Around 9 minutes, you should be on question #5.
Around 18 minutes, you should be on question #10.
Around 26 minutes you should be on question #15.
Around 34 minutes, you should be around question #20

Review some basic Quant tops on this blog before you attempt you next full-length exam. A combo of great benchmarks and strong content knowledge will help you move quickly and confidently through each section.

Check out more tips for GRE pacing on this Learnboard!

Where to Find Challenging Text for Non-Native Speakers

If you’re studying for the GRE or GMAT and English is your second (or third) language, you’ll definitely want to get some extra reading in by looking for challenging, high-quality GMAT-like publications.

Here’s a few suggestions free online suggestions!:

– NY Times book review (I really like this article’s description of how to use these articles for practice: http://smartestprep.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-new-york-times-exercise-reading-comprehension/)

– Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/

– The Economist: http://www.economist.com/

– The Spectator: http://www.spectator.co.uk/

– Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/

Keep in mind that the GMAT and GRE RC is not “hard” because of it’s incredibly advanced language. Most of it is readily comprehensible, although it may occasionally use unfamiliar scientific or business terminology. The challenge of RC lies in breaking down the rhetoric of the passage, and grasping not only what the author’s argument is, but HOW he/she makes it. Absolutely seek out tougher study materials, but make sure to apply your RC method to new passages as well!

GRE Quant Question of the Day: Rates!

Try this “rates” question on your own!

A hiker walked for two days. On the second day the hiker walked 2 hours longer and at an average speed 1 mile per hour faster than he walked on the first day. If during the two days he walked a total of 64 miles and spent a total of 18 hours walking, what was his average speed on the first day?

(A) 2 mph
(B) 3 mph
(C) 4 mph
(D) 5 mph
(E) 6 mph

First, let’s consider Day 1 and Day 2’s hours.

If x = hours on Day 1, then x + 2 = hours on Day 2. The question said he walked 18 hours total, so we can set up a simple equation:

x + (x + 2) = 18
2x + 2 = 18
2x = 16
x = 8

Therefore he walked 8 hours on Day 1 and 10 hours on Day 2.

We are told he went 1mph FASTER on Day 2. So if Day 1’s mph is y, then Day 2’s mph is y + 1.

Let’s look at the D = R x T formula.

D1 = R1 x T1

D2 = R2 x T2

If we plug in what we know:

D1 = (y) x 8 hrs

D2 = (y + 1) x 10 hrs

We know that D1 + D2 must equal 64, so we can sum the two equations and set them equal to 64.

(y) x 8hrs + (y + 1) x 10hrs = 64

Simplifying…

64 = 8y + 10y + 10

64 = 18y + 10

54 = 18y

3 = y

The answer is (B).