When it's finally time to play ball, you'll be a pro.
The worst part of studying for any standardized test is the feeling that you’re wasting your time – learning new tasks or developing new skills, like how to spot litotes, that you think you’ll never call on again. As a private GRE verbal tutor in New York, I’ve had the best luck with students in both verbal and math in developing ways to change everyday activities – activities we’re all doing constantly, whether we like it or not – into effective study opportunities. In this post, I’ll discuss three of the techniques I’ve found to be most effective while tutoring online and in person in re-wiring the way students think, both to make them more sensitive to the way ETS has designed the GRE, and to tease out more efficient critical thinking more broadly.
#1: Read 20 minutes daily from quality sources
We all read constantly – whether it’s pure procrastination with Facebook or Gawker or more substantive filler like Wikipedia and reddit. The nice thing about these sites is that the tone is straightforward and the information accessible. The bad thing is that this is nothing like the GRE verbal section. My suggestion here to students in Manhattan is rarely to add more reading, but rather to change your sources. Choose high-level publications that interest you, where the tone will be similar to the articles chosen for the GRE—magazines and newspapers like the New York Times, Scientific American, Harper’s, The New Yorker, or National Geographic. Browse around on these sites, and just pick one to start. Now try subbing-out twenty minutes of trolling every day for reading one of these publications, and I can promise that you’ll dramatically improve your ability to read critically.
#2: Read actively by annotating
One of the main techniques we try to sharpen in private GRE tutorials is active reading, or the process of marking up a passage in your own shorthand in order to make it accessible, intelligible, and easy to mine for the necessary information. Sometimes, students feel like this is one of those skills you learn simply for the GRE, the SAT, or the PSAT – anything with an arduous critical reading section. But when you bring this skill into your daily life and abandon the passive reading techniques that characterize most of our media consumption, you can see how quickly it retrains your brain to hold onto the important ideas. If you’re interested in learning more, our GRE verbal tutors in Boston (based in the MIT and Harvard area) and New York City are more than happy to help you out, but to get started you should always be reading with pen in hand. Let your pen touch every word you read and get used to scribbling little three-word notes to yourself, whether it’s in the margins or in a notebook.
#3 Use your phone as go-to study tool
We are all attached to our cell phones, so why not make that an asset when it comes to standardized test prep? The best use I’ve seen students put theirs to is vocabulary building. Lists, flashcards, and dictionary apps – if you come across a word you’ve never heard before or even feel like you know but couldn’t give a perfect dictionary-definition for, look it up immediately with your cell. You see an unfamiliar word on a train ad, in the newspaper, on your Facebook feed, don’t wait until you get back to your desk to look it up or write it down. Take a second to add it to your GRE master vocabulary list and you’ll be happy you did later.
You’ll achieve best results when studying becomes an organic part of your life, not something tacked on to the end of a long day, which creates its own dread. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about how to make standardized test prep a bit more painless, but in the meantime, give these tricks for the GRE verbal reasoning section a try: change the sources you read from everyday, develop some active reading techniques of your own, and embrace your phone as a powerful study tool!
If you’d like more tips for approaching the GRE test, check out these posts on test strategy, analyzing argument essays, and going beyond flashcard studying. If you need one-on-one support, Cambridge Coaching has private GRE verbal and math tutors in Boston, New York, or anywhere in the world online who are eager to help you succeed.