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REMEMBER: The 3 Keys to Successful Self-Prep:
1. A well-planned study schedule
2. High quality prep materials
3. Peer support (A study partner or a study group might work wonders!)
If you’re still not doing well enough, look for a QUALIFIED TUTOR.
THIS MONTH: Let’s take a quick look at where things stand for you!
MCAT: Hopefully you took your test already. If not, you’ll need to wait another year to apply. Also, most applications were due last month or earlier.
PCAT: Some schools will accept the January exam. If you haven’t scored your best, keep studying!
LSAT: If you aren’t signed up for the December test and don’t have a previous official score, you will only be able to apply to those few schools that will accept February as your first score.
If you will have an official score by December, it’s to your advantage to also retake the test in February and submit this as a supplemental score. You’re probably already sick of studying but a few more months of prep will make a significant difference. If you feel like you’re not improving, try something different. See our hints on test prep options.
GRE/GMAT: Depending on where you’re applying, your deadlines could be early December to March. If you will have taken the test by December, it will be to your advantage to retake the test in late January or early February. Let the school know you plan to do this.
Let’s talk about verbal test sections. All the tests have verbal sections.
For the MCAT, it is only a reading comprehension section. For the others, the verbal consists of a variety of types of questions, including reading comprehension, which is on all of them.
In future posts I’ll talk about reading comprehension and about complex logic questions on the LSAT and GMAT. Today we’ll talk about the sentence completion on the GRE and the sentence correction on the GMAT.
Remember that for all verbal question types, there is a basic hidden agenda that the correct answer must be defendable by something that you can point to in the passage. The correct answer is never correct simply because the test writers think it is more elegant ( even if it seems that way to you!); it is more about the right logic.
GRE Sentence Completion:
Here you have one or more blanks in a sentence.
You have to choose the word that goes in the blank from a list of several options.
If there is more than one blank, you need to choose the correct word for all blanks to get credit for the question.
You don’t get partial credit for getting one blank right. For this reason, questions with two or three blanks are good choices for skipping if you aren’t going to have time for all questions or are unsure of the answers.
Look for the relationships in the sentence. Consider:
Even though John is usually a happy person, today he is _____.
There are two parts to the sentence. In the first part John is happy. The words “even though” tell us that in the second part he must be the opposite of happy. Do you see these sentence relationships?
Most sentence completion questions are based on contrasts between two or more elements, just as in reading comp the structure is based on a dichotomy between two elements. (We’ll come back to this again in the reading comprehension post, in case you haven’t gotten to that yet.)
It works well in Sentence Completion to think in simple and absolute terms. The above example could have read:
Even though John is usually a gregarious person, today he is _____.
You simply have to know that gregarious is a “good” thing. The second blank must be a “bad” thing.
GMAT Sentence Correction:
This is a challenging section in which you have to determine whether an underlined component of a sentence is grammatically correct or needs to be changed to one of the other answer choices.
You need to learn lots of grammar rules. The good news is that there are a relatively small number of patterns that they test.
Do study each question very thoroughly, having someone explain the grammar to you if necessary (A grammar book might help)
Chances are you’ll soon see that same type of error on another question.
Next month we’ll talk about the critical subject of timing.
Jay Cutts is the director of the Cutts Graduate Reviews and lead author of the Barron LSAT Prep Book, Barron’s MCAT Prep Book, and Barron’s MCAT Flash Cards. He has helped thousands of students get into graduate and professional programs since 1990.
He is the creator of the STEPS to the LSAT self-study support program.
Mr. Cutts offers free admissions planning help at: