Improving Your Performance on the Verbal Sections of the
GRE, MCAT, GMAT, and LSAT
Is it Possible to "Study" for the Entrance and Admission Tests?
My experience has been that highly motivated students can improve their scores significantly -- enough to make a difference between getting in and not getting in to a graduate or professional program or school. However, I do not recommend the commercial test preparation centers.
MSU students can take advantage of services and materials provided at the Undergraduate University Division's Learning Resources Center. Any registered MSU student is eligible for these services.Students at other colleges and universities should find out if similar free or low-cost help is available on their campus. You can also prepare on your own. There are many test-preparation books and software packages available. Check the reference book section of your college bookstore. In my experience, the best materials are those supplied (sold) by the organization that makes up the test you're planning to take: ETS for GRE and GMAT; AAMC for the MCAT; and LSAC for the LSAT. Their practice materials seem to be more representative of what you'll actually encounter on the test. The commercial test preparation books can be quite helpful, but my impression is that the quality of the strategies they teach and the representativeness of their sample and practice problems are uneven. If you use them, do so early in your preparation. As the exam nears, use only official preparation materials.
The Discussion page is a brief discussion of what the verbal sections of these exams are testing and why it is important to prepare for them. If you just want to get to the practical stuff, skip this section and go on to the resources below. However, if you know any freshmen who are hoping to get into a graduate or professional program after graduation but don't intend to prepare for these tests until a few years from now, do them a favor and send and send them the URL for this page.
The Vocabulary page is an alphabetized list of words you are likely to encounter in graduate and professional school entrance exams. It is especially relevant for those planning to take the GRE.
The Suffixes page contains common suffixes used in the English language, what they mean, and how they affect or change the meanings of the words to which they are attached. I give a brief explanation of why this is important and how to use this information to analyze GRE verbal questions.
The Easily Confused Words page lists words that many people mistake for other similar and more common words. This list is especially helpful on the "Antonyms" section of the GRE verbal sections.
The Homonyms page is similar to the Easily Confused Words page. Homonyms are words that share their spelling and sound, have different meanings. A good example is the word fry. The first thing most people think about upon encountering this word is cooking method. However, fry also means baby fish. Note that the two words are also different parts of speech.
Homonyms are related to homophones, words that sound alike but have a different meaning. Homophones may also be spelled alike, but (unlike homonyms) don't have to be. Examples are: their, they're, and there; breech and breach, or sole and soul.
Since there's obviously considerable overlap between homophones and homonyms, I cover homophones on this page also.
The Greek and Latin Roots and Affixes page gives brief etymological comments for many English language words. The majority of English language words do not come from the Greek and Latin. However, a very high proportion of the words you encounter in academic settings does. Becoming more aware of these roots and affixes (prefixes or suffixes) has a big payoff because it helps you make educated guesses about the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Although it wouldn't hurt to learn all of these, the list is quite long, and attempting to learn it quickly as you prepare for exams is probably not the best use of your time. The idea, rather, is to become more aware of the origins of words. Since each root or affix can appear in multiple words, over the long run, awareness of them will help you comprehend and learn new material more quickly.