Friday, July 08, 2011

GRE: my schedule and some notes on the test's changes

The Calendar

I've fleshed out a study schedule for myself. It's based on the five books I have:

1. my ETS/McGraw-Hill book on prepping for the current GRE (my book's cover is slightly different from the one shown in this link)

2. my ETS/McGraw-Hill book on prepping for the new GRE

3. my Kaplan book on prepping for the new GRE

4. my Kaplan workbook of math problems for the new GRE

5. my Kaplan workbook of verbal problems for the new GRE

I've got too many errands to do tomorrow, so I've set my study calendar to start this coming Saturday. I don't want Text 1 to go to waste simply because the old GRE is being phased out, so I'll be starting off by doing the remainder of the practice exercises over this coming weekend. The workbooks (Texts 4 and 5) will be what I work on during the weekdays, when I won't be energetic enough to try my hand at a full-scale test. The ensuing weekends, all through July and most of August (my second attempt will be on August 26), will be devoted to the full-scale tests in both Texts 2 and 3.

What's New in the New GRE

I've only been over the new Verbal section, but some of the changes in the new GRE look intimidating, while other changes don't seem all that scary. As I've mentioned in previous posts, analogies are history: the Verbal section of the new GRE is now all about vocabulary in context.

The three types of questions in the new GRE Verbal section are:

1. reading comprehension
2. text completion
3. sentence equivalence

The reading comp questions come in three subtypes:

a. select one answer choice ("answer choice" is the phrase used in the ETS book)
b. select one or more answer choices
c. select-in-passage

Subtype (a) is no different from the sort of reading comp question found on the current GRE: read the passage, then select the answer that best responds to the question.

Subtype (b) is new: here, the idea is that more than one correct answer is possible, and the test-taker must select all answers that apply.

Subtype (c) is also new: for this question, the examinee must click on the sentence in the text that best responds to a given question. In a sense, the entire reading passage becomes a field of multiple-choice answers, only one of which is the correct answer.

The text-completion questions also represent a significant departure from the current GRE. The reader might be presented with a simple, one-blank question like the ones we already know and love, or he might encounter a paragraph with three blanks in it. In the latter scenario, the object of the game is to select answers that fill in all three blanks correctly in order for the reader to receive any credit at all for the question (i.e., 2 out of 3 blanks correct = no credit).

Perhaps most fascinating of all are the new sentence-equivalence questions. Here, as with the Subtype (b) questions discussed above, sentence-equivalence questions are all about selecting all the correct answers that apply. As with a regular sentence-completion question, the object of the game is to select the word that best fits the context. But unlike that familiar scenario, more than one answer must be chosen: at least two selections "best complete" the sentence. Here's an example:

Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as ______ .

(a) orthodox
(b) eccentric
(c) original
(d) trifling
(e) conventional
(f) innovative

(Source: Text 2)

Highlight the bracketed text below to see the correct answers.
The correct answers are [C and F].

I might enjoy these new questions, but I admit to being leery of the new GRE's approach to reading comprehension. At the same time, the new computer-based GRE offers a feature not available on the current GRE: you can skip questions and then go back later to work on them. That, to me, is a godsend: it brings back the old test-taking strategy of doing the easy problems first, in order to save time, before moving on to the harder problems. The other reason to celebrate this change is that all questions in every section are weighted the same, i.e., a question of higher difficulty doesn't result in a heftier penalty if you happen to get it wrong.

I haven't checked out the new Quantitative section yet, but I imagine the recent changes are very much in the same spirit. Over the weekend, I'll be flipping through all my texts to familiarize myself with everything.

Ah, yes: scoring. The new GRE scores everything on a revised point scale, with 130 at the bottom and 170 at the top, in one-point increments (see here). I have no idea why ETS chose such an odd interval; then again, I never understood why the SAT and current GRE use a 200- to 800-point range. Why not make everything 0-100? Am I betraying my ignorance of statistics by flaunting my inability to grasp how test designers arrive at these weird numbers? (Analytical Writing remains on a 0- to 6-point scale.)

Lots to read. Lots to internalize. Not enough room in this thick skull for everything.


No comments: