GMAT Grammar Time: The Complete Consort Dancing Together

Need more GMAT tips?

The good news: This is a “dance” you can learn!

The GMAT Verbal section overall tends to focus less on individual words and more on the meanings of whole sentences.  When comparing the GRE vs the GMAT, vocabulary is essential on the GRE, but students need worry considerably less about vocabulary on the GMAT.  If GRE Verbal tests words, GMAT Verbal tests sentences.

The GMAT Sentence Correction expects you to recognize well-constructed sentences.  What is a well-constructed sentence?  The title, a line from the fourth of the Four Quartets by TS Eliot, gives Eliot’s rather fanciful description of a well-constructed sentence.  Let’s be a little more practical.

Of course, good grammar is essential.  The GMAT will expect you to have subjects and verbs agree, to use correct tenses, and to recognize the difference of that vs. which.  Every nugget of grammar has to be correct, but that’s just the start.

By way of analogy, part of a city planner’s job is to make sure every traffic light in a city is working, but getting each individual light working is only part of the challenge.  An effective city planner has to think about “higher level” issues — timing of the lights, patterns of congestions, etc.  How does the whole picture of city traffic, the “complete consort,” fit together?

Similarly, the GMAT expects you to analyze sentences not just at the level of grammar but at the higher levels of syntax and meaning.  Parallelism is a perfect example.  It’s hard to define parallelism precisely because it higher level — we can put individual words in parallel (noun, verbs, adjectives, etc.) or, as is much more typical for the GMAT, we can put entire phrases and clauses in parallel.  If we have structure such as “not only [phrase #1] but also [phrase #2]“, it’s not enough that each individual phrase be free of grammar mistakes —- the two phrases must “match” (e.g. both participial phrases, or both infinitive phrases).  Parallelism is about whether different parts are “dancing together.”

A very different issue of words “dancing together” concerns idioms. How important are idioms for GMAT Sentence Correction?  Very!  Here, we mean idioms in the sense of which words “belong” with each other.  For example, we would say “an ability to do X”, not “an ability for doing X” or “an ability in doing X.”

Higher level issues extend to logical problems, such as misplaced modifiers or pronouns with unclear antecedent.  Finally, the sentence overall must be work rhetorically — it must be unambiguous yet succinct, overall making a direct and powerful statement.  That, indeed, is the “complete consort dancing together”!

Part of achieving a good score on the GMAT entails mastering this hierarchy of sentence-construction skills.  How you learn this stuff?  It’s important to find a tried and true GMAT study schedule, and to avail yourself of the best GMAT material.

It’s important to read high-brow material, such as the Economist magazine.  With good materials and practice, this is a “dance” you can learn!

MBA 5 Fatal Flaws

MagooshThis post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

Related Resources:

• That GMAT Score: Implications for Your MBA Application, free webinar
• The GMAT Score Preview and Application Boxes
• GMAT vs. GRE: Harvard Business School Weighs In

Not so Nostalgic for the Standardized Test of Yore

Looking for grad school admissions advice?

No longer are your parents waking you up to study or take a test.

In the twilight region of your brain, there is buried a memory. It probably goes something like this: against your will, you woke up very early one Saturday morning to crowd into a room of similarly groggy teenagers. A vaguely authoritarian figure handed out number two pencils and yelled “start” and “stop” at 30-minute intervals.

You emerged from the experience frazzled, probably wondering why you had to take a stupid test that didn’t test what you really knew but seemed intent on tricking you. A few weeks later you got a score and then went on your way, a sour taste in your mouth whenever anyone uttered the letters—SAT.

Now, what seems a lifetime later, another very similar test stands between you and your academic career: the GRE. Like the SAT, you will have reading passages, big vocabulary words, and, of course, answer choices that are designed to trick you. Unlike the SAT, you may have a very different attitude towards education. No longer are your parents waking you up to take a test or telling you when to study (or at least I hope not); you are in charge, and you are set on doing very well on the GRE.

Much of that success depends not just on the size of your vocabulary or your knowledge of integer properties, but on how well you understand how the test is designed. Below are some points to keep in mind.

1. The SAT and the GRE are not exactly the same

The information above may lead you to think that the GRE and the SAT are exactly the same. First off, the GRE is much more difficult (makes sense since it tests knowledge in grad school bound students). And students often find themselves confused with the different scoring. The GRE score range is from 130 to 170 on a math and a verbal section (the GRE doesn’t have a writing section—though, like the SAT, it does have an essay).

 2. Understand why the right answer is right and the wrong answer is wrong

For SAT test takers there is a tendency to want to argue with the answers, especially on the dreaded SAT reading passages. The key is to not fight the correct answer but understand why the test writers consider the right answer and why your original answer is considered incorrect.

3. You must learn vocabulary

In high school you were probably loath (which means reluctant) to study vocabulary. For the GRE, you have to turn your initial revulsion to all things multisyllabic into an all-consuming passion. Think of a GRE word list as your ticket to a good score.

4. How did you do before?

If you did well on the SAT, you should do quite well on the GRE. There is no SAT to GRE score conversion, but unless you spent college unlearning your math and reading skills, your good SAT score should translate into a good GRE score.

If the SATs did you in and sent you sailing in a different direction in life, don’t despair. That’s what this post is for: to galvanize you to approach GRE studying differently from how you approached SAT studying. An average SAT score doesn’t have to translate into a mediocre GRE score. You can overcome the past. So get cracking on those vocabulary flashcards!

grad 5 Fatal Flaws

MagooshThis post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For help with GRE vocabulary, check out our free flashcards and Vocab Wednesday videos on the Magoosh GRE Blog.

Related Resources:

• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
• Why You Don’t Need a Perfect GRE Score
• GRE vs. GMAT: Trends

I Stink At SAT Math: What Next?

Looking for more SAT tips? Check out our SAT blog posts.

Help! I Stink at SAT Math!

It’s pretty much inevitable that at some point during your SAT, you’re going to look at a problem and think, “Nope. Not happening.”

Or maybe it will be a few moments after, which can be even more frustrating—you work through what seems like the best way to attack a problem, but then after a good minute or so of work you’re still nowhere near an answer and don’t know what you’re even trying to do anymore.

What you do at that point is key, because the SAT is timed, after all. Every moment you spend looking blankly at a question is a moment gone to waste.

That’s part of why SAT math isn’t really like the rest of the math you do in school. One of the most important skills in the math section is knowing when to guess. That’s one thing you don’t really get from math class.

The principle is pretty simple: if you’re just starting to answer a question and you don’t know what to do, spend ~15 seconds exploring (don’t worry too much about the exact time, but realize this step has to be quick). Rework any equations you have. Label any measurements of a figure that you can infer. Write out the first elements in a series or look for other patterns.

And if, after exploring, you don’t know what to do next, don’t go back to square one and re-live your frustration. Instead, look first at whether there are any answer choices you can definitely rule out. Then circle the question in your test book, select a your best guess the answer sheet (this is why ruling out any answer choices you can is so important), and move on to the next question. Remember that every question in a section is worth the same, so it’s key that you give yourself enough time to get right every question that you can get right. Only after you’ve done that should you resume chewing your pencil and loathing that roadblock question.

As a side note, though, if you find yourself getting stuck on SAT math questions often but, at the same time, really think you know all the material that you need to for the test, then you might want to take a stab at the ACT instead. There’s a huge overlap between the tests, but there’s also a pretty subtle difference in SAT vs ACT math: the ACT tends to be a little bit more straightforward, so knowing the material is enough to answer most questions—it’s less often that you need to figure out subtle twists like what the SAT might throw at you.

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

MagooshThis post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep. For more SAT resources, check out Magoosh SAT vocabulary flashcards and the Magoosh SAT Blog!

Related Resources:

• Writing an Interesting SAT Essay in 25 Minutes
• Getting Ready to Apply to College Series
• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep

What Score Do You Need on the TOEFL?

If you’re an international student applying to the U.S., you’ve probably asked yourself this question: what TOEFL score do I need to get in? You might have heard that making it to the 100’s will guarantee you admission, but you’ve also had friends who reached that score and were turned down from schools. Confused yet? We’d be too!

But before you give up hope, our friends at Magoosh TOEFL have good news for you! They’ve just released a new infographic that shows what TOEFL sores you’ll need to get into top graduate schools in the U.S. It’s based off their research on the minimum scores required at top schools as well as what other students at those schools score on average. That means you now have a place to start and a goal to aim for when you decide to take the TOEFL. Cue sigh of relief!

TOEFL Scores Infographic