March 30, 2009

New Vocab

As some of you know, I'm planning to take the Graduate Record Exam in April. I'm contemplating a return to school, and it's required if I want to enter a graduate program. My future is somewhat in flux, so I'm looking at my opportunities. I'll keep you folks posted when anything significant is actually decided.

So that explains why I have been reviewing vocabulary. I'm not hitting the vocab too hard because I'm relatively strong in vocabulary, but I have looked through some tools to help bolster your vocabulary with words you're likely to encounter in the test. Shades of meaning are important, since you're asked to identify synonyms and antonyms for words. A subtlety of the meaning will often make the difference in your answer.

Maggie has made up some flash cards, which will definitely be helpful, and we've got some study books. But in this age of MP3 players, there are also vocabulary podcasts. Some are even free!


I came across one such podcast and listened to an episode at random. The voice was a bit difficult for me to understand; the speaker did not sound like English was his first language. Still, I figured I could manage it even when he stressed the wrong syllables in his pronunciations. I learned a word that I had never used before, which was encouraging. The podcast was enhanced so that you could see the words displayed on the screen of an iPod while you were listening -- a bonus!

But then I hit a big speed bump. It was another word I had never used before: "BELLINGERENT."

The reason I have never used it before is because it is not a word. It's a misspelling of the word "belligerent." He had the definition correct, at least. But his pronunciation and his spelling wrong, like a cross between "belligerent" and "malingering."

As you might imagine, this was the end of my use of this particular podcast. If you're going to give me vocabulary, you need to do it accurately.

I looked up the word I had never used before: "badinage." Synonyms are "banter" and "ribbing." The definition given by the podcast was "witty banter." I feel like that definition has an additional shade of meaning not found in any of the references I have since checked, and it seems just enough to sink a tricky exam question.

Thanks, but no thanks! Sometimes, free can cost you more than you expect!

Posted by James at March 30, 2009 2:07 PM
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It's been years sicne I took the GRE, but I do remember being surprised to find that it was only marginally more difficult than the SAT. At least it felt that way. Take some practice tests to bone up and you should ace it. :)

Posted by: briwei at March 30, 2009 2:46 PM

Some people have even told me it was easier than the SATs. I never used to be nervous about test like this, but it's been a long time.

I've done well on the practice tests for verbal reasoning. I feel I have to focus on the quantitative reasoning portion. Then there's the analytical writing portion. I figure blogging is halfway decent practice for that.

Posted by: James at March 30, 2009 2:57 PM

To clarify: I'm not that nervous about the test, above my general level of anxiety about the future in an uncertain economy.

Posted by: James at March 30, 2009 2:58 PM

When I took the GRE, it was a lot like the SATs -- a paper test, you could skip and return to problems, there was no essay. Now they've changed it. The computer decides what problems to give you based on how you've answered prior problems, so part of your strategy is to get those early problems right so you get to harder problems, because they're worth more points. And then there's the essay. I'm pretty sure I would tank this one. I panic when I know I'm being timed. I took the practice test pretending that I had to do the questions in order, and I scored about 200 points lower on the quantitative than I did originally! Yikes! If I could look over all the problems, then I could relax. Which one did you take? I think they switched it over not long after I took it.

Oh, and what I've read is that the GRE quantitative is easier because many students (B.A.'s, primarily) haven't had math in college as they did in high school and have forgotten it. That's what I've read. I haven't looked at any SAT prep books so I have no idea what's in them.

Posted by: Maggie at March 30, 2009 5:30 PM

Yes - the self-adjusting test means you actually now should have a "strategy." Before, my strategy was just to try to get the answers right, and you knew you were getting the same test as everyone.

I guess an adjusting test tries to make everyone feel that they didn't ace it. :)

But, yeah, if you get the early questions wrong it may decide to give you low-value questions that you ace, and make it harder to get a good score within the time period.

I think at this point I'm just hoping I don't wake up with a migraine that day.

Posted by: James at March 30, 2009 5:39 PM

Let me know if a podcast offers you "supposably." That's big in my office, right up there with "mute" point.


Posted by: Patti M. at March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

LOL, Patti. I love "supposably." I had a friend who used to say "irregardless" just to aggravate me.

Posted by: Maggie at March 31, 2009 7:28 PM

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