GREady: Get Ready for Graduate School

Do you want to attend graduate school? If the answer is yes, shift the gear in drive. This blog will help you 1) stay informed about graduate programs, 2) decide on graduate schools, 3) apply for graduate schools (including the GRE and personal statements), 4) prepare for interviews, 5) find funding and lots more. Although this site cannot guarantee a masters or doctoral position, it does promise that you will be a very competitive candidate for your desired program!

Friday, March 31, 2006

GRE Questions of the Week (03/31/06-04/06/06)


tyrannize : revolt
shade : tree
solve : problem
accumulate : collection
cover : eclipse
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If 450-3x = 320 +5x, what is x?
16 1/4
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Results to GRE Questions of the Week (03/23/06-03/31/06)

The statement that the other senses compensate for partial loss of hearing indicates that the hearing loss is not prevented or corrected; therefore, choices (B) and (E) can be eliminated. Furthermore, the ability to compensate for hearing loss certainly does not facilitate its early treatment (D) or early discovery (A). It is reasonable, however, that early detection of hearing loss is complicated by the ability to compensate for it. The best answer is (C).

Since Minnesota produced 2/3 and Michigan produced 1/6 of all the iron ore produced in the United States, the two states together produced 5/6 of the iron ore. Therefore, the 18 million tons produced by the rest of the United States was 1/6 of the total production. Thus the total United States production was 6 · 18 = 108 million tons, and Minnesota produced 2/3 (108) = 72 million tons. The best answer is (D).

Quote of the Week (03/31/06-04/06/06)

"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."
--The Buddha

Free Practice TOEFL Internet Tests

Take the below listed tests to determine how well you score without studying. Once you compile the raw data, you will know which areas to focus on prior to taking the official TOEFL.

Free TOEFL Software and Practice Exams

Free TOEFL Practice Test

Free TOEFL Videos

Free TOEFL Tests

Free TOEFL Structure Tests

Sample TOEFL Test and Free Tutorial

Free TOEFL Preparation Exercises

Free TOEFL Study Practice Guide

Free TOEFL Test and Other English Exercises

Free TOEFL iBT (Computer Based) Test

Thursday, March 30, 2006

TOEFL Study Aid Books

In order to do well on the TOEFL, it is absolutely essential that you study. Some great study books are listed below. To find the best price on TOEFL books, go to Best Buys for Textbooks for sources.

TOEFL iBT : The Official ETS Study Guide (McGraw-Hill's TOEFL iBT) (Paperback)by Educational Testing Service (Unknown)
This is really the best book to have if you are taking the computer based version of the TOEFL. It includes an audio CD and a CD that contains a real TOEFL test. This will give you a great idea of how the reading passages will look like. It is a great book for practicing grammar; however, you will need to find another source to practice speaking the English language.

TOEFL Test Preparation Kit (Book, CD-ROM, and 4 Audio CDs) (Paperback)by Educational Testing Service (Editor)
This book contains 14 hours of practice materials with 980 questions from previously administered TOEFL tests. Included are a workbook with five tests plus an additional 140 practice questions; a sealed test exercise book and answer sheet; four audiocassettes with 248 minutes of recorded listening comprehension material and answer sheet instructions; and the
TOEFL Sampler CD-ROM. The CD-ROM contains both Windows and Macintosh versions and includes tutorials, essay topics and sample student essays, and 67 additional practice questions.

Cracking the TOEFL with Audio CD, 2006 (College Test Prep) (Paperback)by Douglas Pierce, Sean Kinsell
In addition to having audio CDs, this book allows for TOEFL test takers to go online and practice real TOEFL tests. Also, it includes the revised version to the TOEFL (the speaking portion). In addition, it includes a supplemental text for foreign students interested in attending a university in the United States.

Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL® Test Book with CD-ROM (Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test) (Paperback)by Jolene Gear, Robert Gear
This comprehensive test-preparation course is ideal for classroom use and self-study. The third edition also includes a CD-ROM component containing seven complete practice tests. Learners may take the tests in study mode, which generates feedback on their responses, or in test mode, which simulates the experience of taking the exam by computer. Fully revised and updated, the text provides a complete tutorial and a wealth of new activities to introduce students to the new computer formats and activity types. Other key features include more than 200 skill-building exercises fully updated for the new exam, 6 hours of listening material available on Cassettes or Audio CDs, a complete grammar review, and an in-depth mini-writing course.

TOEFL Listening Practice (CD-ROM)by Inc. Kaplan
TOEFL Listening Practice offers 2 audio CDs that will help build listening skills.

Vocabulary for the Toefl Test (In a Flash : Vocabulary for the Toefl Test) (Paperback)by Milada Broukal "At some point there may be a word you do not know the meaning of, and there may be no prefix or root to help..." (more)
This item has pre-made flashcards that will increase your vocabulary score on the TOEFL. It features the most commonly used words in the TOEFL.

Delta's Key to the Next Generation TOEFL Test: Advanced Skill Practice Audio CDs [UNABRIDGED] (Audio CD)by Nancy Gallagher
Advanced Skill Practice A complete preparation course for high intermediate and advanced students 36 skill units in reading, listening, speaking, and writing Four full-length practice tests Over 1,200 questions in the format of the next generation test Complete answer key and audio scripts Charts to record progress on quizzes and tests Enough material for 15 weeks of study Advanced Skill Practice Audio CDs Companion audio texts for all listening activities in the coursebook Over 9 hours of material on 10 compact disks

How to Prepare for the TOEFL iBT with CD-ROM (Barron's How to Prepare for the Toefl Test of English As a Foreign Language) (Paperback)by Pamela Sharpe Ph.D.
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is now being offered as an internet-based test, or iBT, and the new edition of Barron’s TOEFL manual and accompanying software have been completely revised and updated to reflect the new format. The manual presents seven full-length model TOEFL iBT tests with explanations or examples for all questions, including sample essays and speaking responses. The author also offers general orientation to the new TOEFL iBT, as well as a review of academic skills, which include note taking, paraphrasing, summarizing, and synthesizing. There is also a review of language skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The optional CD-ROM presents seven on-screen TOEFL iBT exams that simulate actual test conditions and provide automatic scoring.

Essential Words for the TOEFL (Essential Words for the Toefl) (Paperback)by Steven J. Matthiesen Explore: Citations Browse: Front Cover Table of Contents Excerpt Index Back Cover
Students of English as a Second Language will find vital help as they build a large English vocabulary. Nearly 500 words are listed with definitions and pronunciation help. There is also detailed advice for dramatically expanding one’s vocabulary with help from a standard dictionary and a thesaurus. Practice tests with answer keys help students measure their progress as they develop increased fluency in English.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The TOEFL in a Nutshell

The TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and is required for all nonnative English speakers to take prior to entering undergraduate and graduate school. The TOEFL is also used in cases of government, licensing, and certification agencies as well as scholarship programs. It is taken at several times during the year by over 600,000 candidates and is consequently the most widely used international test of English. The TOEFL suggests that nonnative English speakers should only take the test if he/she has completed 11th grade level coursework as the test is considered too difficult to take prior to this.

TOEFL measures the ability of nonnative English speakers to use and understand English as it is spoken, written and heard in college and university settings. The TOEFL is available in paper and computer forms, although paper is the most common form being administered. The paper version lasts approximately 3 hours, while the computer based test (CBT) lasts 3.5-4 hours. The CBT listening and structure sections are computer-adaptive, which means that the difficulty level of each question depends on the correctness of the previous responses. Therefore, the final score reflects not how many the candidate got right, but the level of difficulty the candidate was able to attain. Scores range from 200-800. A score of 400 is typically considered low and a score of 600 or above is considered high. The minimum score required depends upon the program that one is applying to: technical program/2 year college (400), undergraduate program (500), graduate program (550).

The Paper TOEFL tests on 4 sections:

1) Listening Comprehension (30 min.)—Contains 50 questions pertaining to taped conversations. It measures ability to understand English as it is spoken in North America.
2) Structure (25 min.)—Contains 40 questions that focus on correct sentence structure and sentence completion. It measures ability to recognize language that is appropriate for standard written English.
3) Reading (55 min.)—Contains 60 questions that are based on several short passages. It measures the ability to read and understand passages.
4) Test of Written English (30 min.)—It measures the ability to write an essay in English on an assigned topic. This includes the ability to generate and organize ideas, to support those ideas with examples or evidence, and to compose in standard written English in response to an assigned topic.

The Computer TOEFL tests on 4 sections:

1) Listening Comprehension (45-70min.)—Section tests listening capabilities. The types of questions that appear are who said what in conversations between two or more people in academic environments.
2) Structure (15-20 min.)—Section tests the candidate’s knowledge of English grammar. The types of questions that appear sentences in which the candidate must identify the erroneous word(s) and fill in the blank with the appropriate word.
3) Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary (70-90 min.)—Section tests on the candidate’s reading and vocabulary skills. The types of questions that appear are those based on 4 reading passages (usually 300 words each) and concern content, intent of the author, and ideas inferred from the passage.
4) Essay Writing (30 min.)—Section tests candidate’s writing skills. The candidate will be required to write an essay and take a position about a general topic.

It is imperative that candidate’s check whether or not the program he/she is applying for requires or accepts the TOEFL. Some undergraduate and graduate schools require that the candidate take a special English assessment test that the institution administers. The TOEFL costs approximately $140.00 and additional score reports to be sent to programs cost $17.00. Scores are good for two years after the test date.

TOEFL Test Dates
Location/ Date
Africa, Americas, Europe, Middle East, and North Africa/ March
Asia and Pacific Region/ April
Japan and Korea /May
China /August

To learn more about the TOEFL:

Register for TOEFL


TOEFL Information and Resources


English Club

Facts about TOEFL

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Graduate School Interview: Writing a Letter of Thank You

After the graduate school recruitment weekends and interviews, the program graduate admissions committee will meet with the faculty members and graduate students you had interviews with to determine if it should make you an offer of admission. So far you have looked the part of the graduate student, done your research and asked insightful questions to both faculty members and current graduate students and have responded wonderfully to the interviewers’ questions. The only thing left is to seal the deal and leave no doubt in the interviewers’ minds that you are a perfect fit with that program. In order to do this final step, you need to write a thank you letter approximately 1-2 days (as soon as possible) after the recruitment weekend.

Key points to include in your letter are:
1) open your letter by saying that you appreciate that he/she took the time out of his/her busy schedule to meet with you
2) mention ( at least a paragraph) of what the two (or more) of you discussed
3) be sure to state that you are excited and enthusiastic about his/her research and becoming a graduate student at that particular program
4) state key points that align you with the program’s major focus
5) include any further questions that you might have, especially about his/her research
6) close by writing that you look forward to the committee’s and that specific faculty’s (or graduate student’s) response

Two example letters are listed below. Notice how the student mentions similar points in both letters but caters what he/she specifically talked, like research focus, about at the interview in his/her letter. Also, the student includes accolades that he/she is about to receive from a very prestigious summer internship.


Dear [blank: could be Dr. or Mr., Ms.],

I just wanted to thank you for meeting with me on the [recruitment date] for the [program’s recruitment weekend]. It was such a joy for me to discuss your research with Burkholderia cepacia. I find your research to be particularly fascinating, inspirational and just really cool. I am especially interested by the fact that there is a heightened prevalence of B. cepacia in patients with cystic fibrosis. I am especially intrigued by the fact that B. cepacia is able to grow at a pH of 6, which is similar to the pH found in cystic fibrosis patients’ lungs. There was one question I had that I was not able to get to during our visit. I was wondering if you were accepting new graduate students into your laboratory. Your research really combines my two greatest loves in microbiology—pathogenesis and genetics. I really would like to be a part of your lab and study the environmental cues necessary for the function of B. cepacia’s two-component signal transduction system.

I would also like to inform you that I have been chosen as the McNair scholar of the year and will be presented with a plaque on [date]. It was truly unexpected and I feel very honored and humbled by it.

Again, I would like to thank you for meeting with me during the recruitment weekend. It was such a pleasure for me to discuss your research project. I have such a genuinely good feeling about the [list program] and I hope the program has a good feeling about me too. I look forward to your reply and the [graduate program] committee’s decision.


[include e-mail so that faculty’s response is more convenient.]


Dear [include title and name],

I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to the [recruitment date] recruitment weekend. It was such a joy for me to meet with the [specific program] faculty, staff and graduate students. I particularly enjoyed our talk about the [specific program] program and what the courses and rotations entail. The [name of institution] truly has a unique program, which incorporates and emphasizes the connections between [disciplines in program]. I believe that the [name of program] program offers students research independence that really enhances their own creativity. Furthermore, the diverse fields of study allow students to feel comfortable discussing, studying and later teaching a wide array of scientific fields. This is also reflected by the [name of program] faculty. Numerous faculty members have a primary and secondary focus to their research.

I am especially excited that the [name of program] program allows for students to work on collaborative projects between different tracks. Also, it was fascinating for me to see the laboratories in [specific building]. I am especially intrigued by the no door separation policy that the [name of program] program has initiated. It really creates an openness that fosters partnerships and comradery between laboratories, which in my opinion is the purest spirit of science.

I enjoyed all of the interviews with the faculty. I really can see myself working with all of them and if I am selected for the [name of program] program, it certainly will be a difficult decision to choose only three rotations. I am extremely interested in Dr. [fill in name] and Dr. [fill in name] research and hope to discuss the science behind it more in depth with them via e-mail. I am also excited at the prospect of conducting a joint project between Dr. [fill in name] and Dr. [fill in name] laboratories. In my interview with Dr. [fill in name], he/she mentioned that this would be an excellent option since I am interested in both bacterial pathogenesis as well as immunology.

I remember from our very first meeting two years ago (as a part of the McNair program, we went on numerous graduate visits and I really wanted to view your department) that I was extremely impressed by the [name of specific program] program. This most recent visit added to my awe and fascination of all the research and classes that are ongoing at the [name of specific program] program. I also am interested in your research with integrins and tumor formation. From our last meeting, I understand that you were in the process of developing a mouse model. I was wondering if you would discuss your research more in depth with me; it really is extremely exciting and interesting.

I would also like to inform you that I have been chosen as the McNair scholar of the year and will be presented with a plaque on [specific date]. It was truly unexpected and I feel very honored and humbled by it.

Again, I would like to thank you for inviting me to the [name of specific program] program recruitment weekend. It was such a pleasure for me to discuss various research projects with the faculty. I have such a genuinely good feeling about the [name of specific program] program and I hope the program has a good feeling about me too. I look forward to your reply and the [graduate program] committee’s decision.



Friday, March 24, 2006

Quote of the Week (03/24/06-03/31/06)

"Failure is taking the path that everyone else does, success is making your own path."

The Graduate School Interview: Questions to Ask Graduate Students

In addition to meeting with several faculty and staff members from your applied program, you will also have the chance to meet with graduate students. This is a great opportunity to find out what the graduate program is really like. The recruitment weekend plan will most likely allow you to talk to the graduate students on outings. Outings might include going to lunch, dinner, shopping and touring the city. Some questions to ask graduate students are:

1) What is your specific area of interest?
2) What are you researching?
3) Whose laboratory/project are you working on?
4) What year are you in?
5) What is the most difficult aspect of being a graduate student?
6) Why did you ultimately chose this program?
7) What do you hope to do after you complete your doctoral/master’s degree?
8) Is it difficult to find an apartment/house/living area in this city?
9) Is there help available to find housing?
10) What are the first two years of the doctoral program like/ what is the first year of the master’s program like?
11) What was your favorite class?
12) What is your minor (concentration)?
13) What faculty members do you not want as an advisor/part of thesis or dissertation review board?
14) What faculty members do not get along with each other?
15) What faculty members teach well, which ones do I not want to have as an instructor for a class?
16) What is the public transportation system like here?
17) Does the doctoral stipend cover your cost of living or is it necessary to find further funding?
18) How is the medical insurance?
19) How many hours per week do you spend researching?
20) What is the emphasis of publishing in your first year?
21) What do you do to burn off stress?
22) How intense is the program?

Click on the following site for more questions to ask graduate students:

Ask Current Graduate Students

Thursday, March 23, 2006

GRE Questions of the Week (03/23/06-03/31/06)


1. Early______ of hearing loss is ______ by the fact that the other senses are able to compensate for moderate amounts of loss, so that people frequently do not know that their hearing is imperfect.

What word best completes the above sentence?
discovery . . indicated
development . . prevented
detection . . complicated
treatment . . facilitated
incidence . . corrected
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1. In a certain year, Minnesota produced and Michigan produced of all the iron ore produced in the United States. If all the other states combined produced 18 million tons that year, how many million tons did Minnesota produce that year?

What is the best answer to the above question?
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Answers to GRE Questions of the Week (03/16/05-03/22/05)


The correct answer is tone is to scale. Explaination:In this instance, the best answer must be selected from a group of fairly close choices. The relationship between color and spectrum is not merely that of part to whole, in which case (E) or even (C) might be defended as correct. A spectrum is made up of a progressive, graduated series of colors, as a scale is a progressive, graduated sequence of tones. Thus (A) is the correct answer choice.


The correct answer is 15. Explaination: Since the average of x and y is 20, = 20, or x + y = 40. Thus x + y + z = x + y + 5 = 40 + 5 = 45, and therefore =15.

The Graduate School Interview: The Overview

In previous posts we have covered graduate interview dress apparel, interviewer questions, and interviewee questions. Taking note of all the above will help your graduate interview go more smoothly. However, you still might be wondering how things will flow.

Each graduate program is different. You can expect that you will be meeting at least 4-6 faculty members. Typical interviews can last from 30 min. to an hour. You will usually meet with one faculty person per interview; however, this is not necessarily true if you are applying to a professional school (i.e. M.D. D.V.M.). The interviews will go one after another with a possibility of a break after the first hour and 30 minutes.

Write key words about the questions you would like to ask faculty members on a legal pad, which you can keep in a professional looking folder between interviews. Prior to the interview look briefly over the titles of his/her research project. It would be detrimental if you confused interview projects.

Make sure to get to interview about 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Relax for a moment, take a deep, long breath, and get in the right mind set for the interview.

If the graduate interviews are dragging and your mind feels like it can not take another second, pack a hard candy in your pocket or briefcase. On your way to the next interview pop it into your mouth. There is nothing like a little glucose to re-energize your attention.

Most interviews will take place in the faculty member’s office, which might be connected to his/her lab. The offices should be pretty comfortable so be sure to sit on the upper half of the chair such that your back doesn’t hit the chair’s back. This will force you to stay awake and it will look like you are excited and eager to become a graduate student.

This might look like a lot to digest at first but just remember that you have had a lot harder things to face during your college and/or professional career. You have already knocked the socks off the program and now all you have to do is seal the deal. Smile, you are almost there!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Graduate School Interview: Questions to Ask

As previously mentioned, graduate school recruitment weekends are not only opportunities for graduate schools to know you, but also for graduate programs to impress you. Furthermore, this gives you a chance to really see what graduate life is like at that location. Remember rule #10- never register for a graduate school without seeing the program and the location first. Graduate school recruitment weekends in addition to letting you meet the faculty also have you meet the graduate students. Be sure to pick the graduate students brains about what attracted them to the program and the location. Graduate school interviewers will expect you to at least have 5 decent questions. Most importantly, if you know who your interviewers are conduct a search of what their current research projects are and if you have time, go and read over their papers. A great place to start for the sciences is Pubmed. Some questions you can ask are:

1) What classes do you teach?
2) What graduate school funding do you commonly give students?
3) Is there a teaching portion to the doctoral/master’s program?
4) Ask a research question…faculty love to talk about their own research
5) What is the attrition rate?
6) How many graduate students earn their degree/ year?
7) What kind of facilities do you have?
8) What is the average amount of years it takes a graduate student to earn his/her degree?
9) What do graduate students do after they earn their degrees?
10) What percent of students in the program are of a minority background? (ask this if diversity is important to you)
11) How many females do you have in your program?
12) Are you accepting graduate students in your (laboratory or research project)?
13) Do you have graduate school housing?
14) What classes should I take in my first semester?
15) Is it possible to have a co-advisor?
16) Is it possible to conduct a collaborative project between two departments for my thesis or dissertation?

Click on the following sites for more questions to ask:

What to Ask During a Graduate Admissions Interview

Questions You Should Ask During a Graduate School Interview

Preparing Your Own Questions

Questions To Ask At the Interview

Questions To Ask To Get a Feel for the Program

Great Questions to Ask

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Graduate School Interview: Interview Questions

Perhaps the most apprehensive part of the interview is what the interviewer will ask you. Depending upon the program, most interviewers will start out by telling you about his/her research or area of interest. This is especially true if you have applied for a doctoral program. The interviewer most likely is looking for graduate students to work with them during rotations. It is extremely important that you pay attention, some interviewers will go quickly over his/her project and expect you to make a suggestion for a future direction to his/her project, so that you can ask intelligent questions later. Prior to the interview be sure to read up on the interviewer, this will be discussed more in depth in subsequent articles. Furthermore, you can expect that the interviewer has read up on you as well. Sometimes the interviewer might ask you about low test scores or your area of interest. Other questions you can expect are the following:

1) What is the most recent book you have read?
2) What book has influenced you the most?
3) Why did you apply to our program?
4) What interested you most about our program?
5) Have you conducted prior research?
6) What have you researched?
7) What would you like to do with your master’s or doctoral degree?
8) What do you do for fun?
9) What was your favorite undergraduate class?
10) If you have taken time out from school, what have you been doing?
11) What is your specific area of interest?
12) What sets you apart from other candidates?
13) How has your background helped you to identify your research interest?
14) Are you seeking funding for graduate school?
15) Do you speak a foreign language?
16) Who would you like to work with?
17) Are you familiar with my research?
18) What excites you most about graduate school?

Click on the following sites to see more graduate school interview questions:

Sample Interview Questions for Graduate and Professional Schools

Graduate Interview Questions for Psychology

Common Graduate Interview Questions

Graduate Interview Tips

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Graduate School Interview: Dress to Impress

The interview is perhaps the most needlessly stressed aspect of the graduate application. If you are well prepared in advanced (advanced meaning a couple weeks), interviews should actually be quite enjoyable. Think about it: You have already wowed the graduate program such that they want to get to know you better. This is an opportunity for you to shine and stand apart from the rest of the other applicants. Remember the interview process is also a chance for the graduate program to impress you. This is what I like to call the wine and dine period! Since you are getting ready for the interview ahead of time (right?), our first article will focus on apparel. Look the part of what the program’s ideal candidate is—not looking like you have wads of $ but looking professional (absolutely no jeans).

1) Perfume. Keep perfume to a minimum. Make it a light floral scent as not to overpower your interviewers. Remember there is a difference between a wisp of perfume versus a major dowsing.

2) Jewelry. 3 pieces only. Consider silver or gold watch, silver/gold earrings (not dangles, choose studs), and a silver/gold necklace OR ring.

3) Suits. Suits should be a pant or skirt. Be sure to wear a nice blouse in case it gets too warm and you must remove your blazer. Check out the following sites for suits:
Fashion Bug.

4) Make-up. Light and neutral. Do not overdo this as there is a chance you might appear to look like you will be clubbing.
Mary Kay.

5) Hair. If getting a haircut and/or dye do it a week in advanced. Get something easy to style that is not too wild.

6) Folder. Bring a nice folder or brief case. No purses as they are sure to distract and get in the way.
Office Depot.
Garrett Specialities.

1) Watch. Wear a gold or silver watch (and wedding ring if applicable) only. Chains and necklaces look tacky.

2) Cologne. Use a light sprit of cologne; remember not too much.

3) Hair. See rule #5 in Women’s section.

4) Facial Hair. Keep facial hair to a minimum; don’t look scruffy. Graduate schools are looking for a sophisticated male graduate student not Paul Bunyan.

5) Suit. Wear a 3 piece suit or a nice business top with long sleeves and dress pants. The business top can be a tasteful sweater as well. If wearing a suit top, be sure to use a tie. Also, never, never, never ever wear jeans or khakis. Check out the following sites for suits:

6) Folder. See #6 in Women’s section.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quote of the Week (03/19/06-03/03/25/06)

"No dreamer is ever too small; no dream is ever too big. "

Graduate School Decision: Informing the Program That You Will Not Be Attending

The deadline date to make a decision about which graduate school you will attend is typically on April 15th. If you have applied and been accepted to numerous schools, you will have to inform which programs you will not be entering and why. Below is a formed letter you can use. Please note that there are blank spaces which you must fill out for your specific program.

[today’s date]
[address of program]
[attn to a specific person]

Dear [Name of Program or Director],

I regret to inform you that I must write to tell you that I will not be attending [name of program] for the fall of 2006. I sincerely appreciate your offer. My financial situation this year prevents me from making the commitment of enrolling in your program.* This decision was not an easy one to come to and I hope that my spot will given to another worthy student who is on your waitlist. Again thank you so much for your admissions offer.


[your name]

*Frequently, graduate schools will ask why you have not decided to enroll in their program and what program you decided to enter and why. Please feel free to change the reason in the indicated line and add your chosen graduate school.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

GRE Questions of the Week (03/16/05-03/22/05)

The average (arithmetic mean) of x and y is 20. If z = 5, what is the average of x, y, and z?
8 1/3
12 1/2
17 1/2
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Color : Spectrum
tone : scale
verse : poem
dimension : space
cell : organism
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Answers to GRE Questions of the week (03/09/06-03/15/06)

Verbal: The correct answer is GYRATE. Gyrate is the most opposite word to stockstill, which means motionless. Gyrate means to spin and move above. Inert and paralyzed are synonyms to stockstill, while dearth (scarcity) has no relation at all.

Math: The correct answer is 3.

4x + 3 = 2x + 9
Subtract 3 from both sides of the equation

4x = 2x + 6
Subtract 2x from both sides of the equation

2x = 6
Divide by 2 on both sides of the equation


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Online GRE Tips and Techniques

This site has great strategies for taking the verbal portion of the GRE.

Overview for the GRE
Tremendous tips to use for the entire GRE.

GRE preparation Tips
Basic help for improving your score.

GRE suggestions
Broad suggestions for taking the GRE

GRE Test Taking Tips and Strategies

1) Know the Directions Now. This will save on time. Simply dismiss the directions and start answering questions.
2) Carefully Answer Questions in the First Portion of Each Section. Remember this is an adaptive test so if you answer questions correctly in the first portion of each section, you will have higher scores.
3) Do Scratch Work. Think your answers out on paper if they are especially tough. The testing center should provide you with scratch paper. Think it over and use Process of Elimination (P.O.E.) if necessary.
4) If using the paper test, do all the easy questions first and come back to harder questions.
5) Don’t spend too much time on any one question. Remember you are working against the clock; only spend a couple of seconds on easy questions and at most 1-2 minutes on harder ones.
6) Practice, use the study aids described in the previous posting.
7) Bring IDs and ETS voucher with you to the testing center. Forget to bring a calculator since you are not permitted to have one.
8) Have breakfast with a lot of protein. Protein is guaranteed to make you stay awake and feel good.
9) Coffee. If you feel your attention is waning, be sure to get some coffee on your ten minute break or during breakfast.
10) Bring a watch to the testing center. It is easier to use the watch on your wrist than to rely on the one on the computer. Test takers tend to get nervous when they see the computer clock flashing so if you think you might be one of these people, click the clock to make it disappear.
11) If you are getting fustrated with a question, simply take your eyes of the computer for a couple of seconds and take some deep breaths. Remember, you have seen this material before and you have already been successful with it during your college career.
12) Bring some extra pencils. There is no guarantee the testing center will provide with pencils.
13) Know where the testing center is and how to get there. This will reduce stress on test day.
14) Use the headphones. Some testing centers offer headphones to block out excess noise caused by other test takers.

Monday, March 13, 2006

GRE Study Aids and Programs

From the previous post, you already know what you can expect to be tested on during the GRE. However, it is absolutely necessary that you study at least 2 months prior to taking the GRE. There are two renowned programs that offer help to students: Kaplan and the Princeton Review. You can expect that both programs will cost you a lot of green. These programs are designed for students who cannot really focus and need someone to be watching and urging them to study. I think that if you seriously want to attend graduate school you do not need someone looking over your shoulder. In addition to supplying the program information, this article highlights books, CDs and flashcards that will be extremely helpful in studying for the GRE. My first suggestion in obtaining these study sources is not to buy it out directly but to see if your local or university library has a copy. If not, you can buy these items for less at Amazon or Half.com.

Kaplan Test Preparation for the GRE:

Kaplan states that by taking their course you will improve your scores by 100 points. Kaplan has a number of online tests for you to take so that you can see what you are weak in. Furthermore, Kaplan offers private tutors that will review math, vocabulary and writing with you. Kaplan offers several plans that you can register for such as an Online course, Private Tutor Sessions, and Classroom course. If you register for a combination of these course you receive graduate admissions consulting for free.

Online Course: $559
Classroom Course and 5 hours: $1,659
Classroom Course: $1,099

The Princeton Review GRE Preparation:

Similarly to Kaplan, the Princeton Review promises a jump in your scores by 100 points. They offer the same options as Kaplan such as the classroom course and online course. The classroom course is stated to have a maximum of 8 students so that all students will have one-on-one time with the tutor. Groups are arranged based on areas of weakness, which are assessed by a practice GRE test. Furthermore, the Princeton Review promises that you will be able to use 4 online tests and receive a free subscription to TIME magazine.

Online Course: $799
Self directed Online Course: $499
Express Online Course: $99

GRE PowerPrep Software

This is provided for by ETS for free. You can either download it from ETS website or request to have it sent to you in the mail. The software contains to full GRE tests and practice problems for math, verbal and the writing analysis. Be sure to use this source as it will give you an idea of how the computer test is set up.

Score It Now

This website, for a fee, will grade your writing analysis. This is great and I do suggest buying at least one test so that you have some idea of how you will be scored. If your score is about a 4 or lower see what you can improve upon. If need be, seek help from the writing center at your university. For one present your perspective and one analysis of an argument, the fee is $10.

The Very Best Coaching and Study Course for the New GRE
Staff REA, David Bell, Pauline B. Travis, Lucille Freeman

This GRE book lists the most common words tested on by ETS. Also, it gives a short but concise math review. It also stressed the importance of knowing angles and other aspects of geometry. Furthermore, it is worth getting this book for the simple fact that it has the most GRE practice tests, 6 to be exact. Also, in the answer section it gives you a full explanation of how ETS arrives at that particular answer.

Cracking the GRE with Sample Tests on CD-ROM, 2005 Edition (Graduate Test Prep) (Paperback) by Karen Lurie, Magda Pecsenye, Adam Robinson, David Ragsdale

If studying for the GRE is something that drives your brain to tears with boredom, be sure to check out this book. Cracking the GRE offers humor when trying to memorize certain words and reviewing over parts of mathematics and grammar. Also, the analysis writing is better explained in this book; it really lets you know what your options are and what to look for in strengthen an argument.

How to Prepare for the GRE Test with CD-ROM (Paperback), 3ed.by Sharon Weiner Green, Ira K. Wolf

This book goes over a great overview of what you can expect to find on the GRE. Although you will find other books to be more complete, this one is worth getting just for the CD. The CD-ROM feature shows what an actual GRE test will look like and gives you a wider range of sample problems in comparison with the GRE-Prep from ETS.

The Ultimate Math Refresher for the GRE, GMAT, and SAT (Paperback) by Lighthouse Review Inc, Lighthouse Review Inc (Editor)

If your math is a little rusty, this is the perfect refresher book. The Ultimate Math Refresher really hits hard on geometry and algebra. Also, it goes over how to solve for standard deviation, which appears in the GRE. Furthermore, the math refresher reviews over graphs and figures.

The Ultimate Verbal and Vocabulary Builder for the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT
Lighthouse Review, Lighthouse Review Inc (Editor)

This book works similarly to the Ultimate Math Refresher. It hits on areas that are heavily tested in the qualitative section. It is a great companion with the math book.

GRE Vocabulary: With 750 Flashcards and Study Book
Easy-Prep Flash Cards

Why waste your time writing down a bunch of vocabulary words that may or may not be on the GRE? Instead buy GRE flashcards, which list the most commonly tested vocabulary. In addition to having a definition and the part of speech, the flashcards also lists antonyms.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

GRE in a Nutshell

The majority of graduate school admissions, with exception, require every applicant to submit an official GRE score. The GRE consists of three sections: verbal (qualitative reasoning), mathematics (quantitative reasoning), and analytical writing. Each one of these sections are scored separately and then are reported in sections and a total score (1600, not including analytical section).

Verbal Reasoning (score range: 200-800):
The Verbal Reasoning section consists of 38 questions, which will be answered in the time limit of 30 minutes. ETS states that the verbal reasoning section measures the ability to analyze and evaluate written material, relationships in sentences and relationships between words and concepts. What you can expect: antonyms, sentences with missing words to fill in, reading passages, and analogies. Sentences and antonyms are the most straight forward; in the case of sentences choose the word the makes the most sense and in the case of antonyms choose the word the most opposite to the major word the test gives you. In the ETS test preparation they include reading passages involved in science and other diverse topics. WARNING: Do not believe test preparation materials. English, History and Art are the topics predominately covered. I know that when I found this out, everyone in my test preparation group could hear me groan. For most of us, history and English just do not hold our enthusiasm and attention. Solution: Prior to taking this section (will appear after analytical writing), bring or see if the testing center has some coffee or other caffeinated beverage. I know most test preparation groups will tell you not to do this as it might make you jittery. However, I say risk being jittery as opposed to falling asleep and or having to re-read the passage more than twice to get just one answer. Furthermore, be aware that there are some key questions that ETS will ask of every passage such as: what is the author’s main point, mood and inference questions (I will go more in depth about this in future articles). Analogies are another topic that is a bit sore for students. For some reason, ETS believes that all graduate students need to master this area. Again, like the reading passages, there are some key relationships ETS is look for: part to whole, whole to part, profession to workplace, thing to function, and intensity (meaning if something is stronger than the other word, i.e. scarcity is to dearth…). If you do not know the answer to a particular question and the Process of Elimination (P.O.E.) is not working for you, just make an educated guess and move on.

Quantitative Reasoning (200-800):

The Quantitative Reasoning section consists of 30 questions, which you will need to answer in 45 minutes. This section is more difficult than the verbal reasoning section so more time is given. ETS tests for mastery of basic concepts in arithmetic, geometry and data analysis, reasoning quantitatively and solving problems in a quantitative setting. Expect a lot of geometry questions. Be sure to review over this heavily. If you are like me, you have not seen geometry since high school. ETS especially likes testing you on angles; look over the rules for interior angles, anterior angles and corresponding anterior angles. The reasoning in a quantitative fashion takes place in the form of a graph or figure. Do not assume these to be easy. The GRE will purposely try to trick you be marking the graph as 10 and having that number represented in a legend saying that 10=10,000. The possible answers to each question are created to stump the student; basically, ETS officials determine what the most common mistakes students would make and then the place those mistakes in the answer choices. Devious, huh? Also, be aware that ETS states that they will only be testing on math encountered by every college student. WARNING: Do not believe ETS. If you are scoring well in the math section, there is a possibility you will receive a calculus question.

Do not spend a lot of time on any one question. Time is your enemy here, even more so than the verbal reasoning section. If you do not know the answer, use P.O.E. and move on. If you are lucky enough to have the paper version, remember you can always go back. Your best bet to do well is just really review over parts of high school and college mathematics.

Analytical Writing (1-6):

Believe it or not folks, this is the easiest section in the GRE. Analytical Writing is usually tested in the beginning and offers a ten minute break afterwards. I suggest that you take this optional break and slam a cup of coffee to wake up for the qualitative section. The analytical writing section consists of two parts, which are combined to give you a score ranging from 1-6. The sections are:

Analyze an issue (45 minutes):

The GRE gives you two prompts, which are a couple sentences stating 2 perspectives that ETS wants you to evaluate. You chose one prompt. Before you click on which issue you want to evaluate (remember, you can’t turn back), make an outline of the one you think you want. Be sure to only spend 5-7 minutes on this since you are working against the clock. If in the start of your outline, you cannot think of what to put next, you know that this issue is not the one for you to discuss so you better chose option B. In your essay you must either: 1) accept the perspective, 2) disagree with the perspective, 3) state that only time will tell or 4) reject the prompt.

The first two options are pretty much straightforward, you like it or you don’t. The third option means you have to give cases for both views and in conclusion say that it is premature to conjecture at present but the future will determine which side will prevail. The fourth option, the one that is less commonly used and is my personal favorite, means that you do not even agree with how the prompt was given. In other words, you can say that the prompt oversimplifies the issue and how or the prompt is too narrow and how that is so. In either case, you must give supporting evidence.

Be sure to leave extra time so you can re-read and edit your response. Your analysis should consist about 5 paragraphs. Intro., three supporting with evidence, and a conclusion that sums up your major points.

Analyze an Argument (30 minutes):

This section is a little bit more challenging. The GRE prompts you with someone’s opinion in a form of an article about a particular issue. Instead of writing about your own perspective, you must evaluate how this argument was given, if there are any apparent flaws and what should be done to strengthen it. Your analysis, like the perspective task, should consist of 5 paragraphs with supporting evidence (also create an outline). Note: these paragraphs need not be long. A lot of the prompts use the argument by anecdote. This is a major problem because it oversimplifies the issue, which you need to highlight. The best way to do this is to state how it oversimplifies it and give examples or scenarios. Also, many articles will focus on numbers, such as the annual sales revenue of Mark’s Apparel for men is $200,000 so if Sally’s Clothing Store produces a men’s line, we should see a jump in sales. You can state that is assuming that men do not care about the specialty of the store and would go to any store that sells men clothing. Furthermore, you can state that it is not certain if that was for a particular month or year. It is expected that during holidays, such as Christmas, sales would go up. In addition, I would put that a cost-benefit analysis should be done or even a poll should be conducted. If you get into specifics, your score should jump to at least a 5.

To learn more about the GRE, go to:

GRE and Psychology Subject Tests

ETS website

GRE Guide

Friday, March 10, 2006

Attention All GRE Test Takers: GRE Overhaul

Starting in the fall of 2007, ETS will be initiating a revised GRE test, which it says will be geared more towards students entering graduate school. Some of the changes will include a huge decrease in vocabulary testing (gosh, ETS, you don’t think graduate students will need to know what a sycophant is?), more reading passages that will have a broader subject range, graduate reasoning, reduction in the amount of geometry problems, real life scenario problems and use of an on screen calculator. Students planning to register for the GRE in 2007 are shouting cries of joys, those unfortunate to have taken it or need to take the GRE prior to 2007 are also shouting but it is definitely not shouts of joy.

First, on behalf of all students who took and will take the GRE before 2007, I would like to thank ETS for its’ truly innovative idea to revamp the GRE. How revolutionary it was of ETS to implement a computer calculator! Okay, I will admit that I might be making more of the revised GRE than is necessary; however, it does bring into question of how previous test takers will be compared to the ones in 2007. Consider this scenario: two students are applying to the same program for entrance in the fall of 2008. One student, who took the GRE in 2006, decided to take a year off of school and would apply the following year to graduate school. The other student took the revised version. Obviously, the revised version is much more geared towards students applying for graduate students and will result in higher scores in comparison with the older version. This begs the question of how graduate schools will grade the two very different versions of the tests.

I believe that in addition to creating these new test changes, ETS should send with every score report a comparison of the total score of the revised version with that of the older version. For example, a 720 on the new version might only compare with a 510 on the older version. This way graduate programs will be able to accurately evaluate test scores.

To learn more about the revised GRE, click on the ETS website below:

GRE Changes

Let us know what you think about the revised GRE:

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Quote of the Week (03/10/06-03/16/06)

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. "
- Anatole France
Antole France (1844-1924) also known as Jacques Anatole Francois Thilbault was a major French literary character, writer and critic. In much of France's writing he illustrates hostility towards the bourgeois value system which dominated Europe. During the 1920s France's writings were put in the Index of Forbidden Books. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.

To Learn More about Antole France, go to:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Undergraduate Curriculum: Getting To Know Your Advisor

Networking is essential to the business and academic field. The best place to start your networking experience is in college. One faculty member that you will have to meet on a semester basis is your major advisor. Simply put the undergraduate advisor is the single, most important person to come to for information. Your major advisor will suggest the order of classes you take, propose summer programs to apply for, and most importantly write letters of recommendation. Ah, yes, the letter of recommendation one of the key elements to a successful graduate school application. Many graduate school admission committees will require a letter of recommendation supporting your talent for graduate research from your advisor. For most heavily populated universities, advisors tend to be very hard to reach and will usually just sign off on student schedules. Therefore, it is necessary for you, the student, to initiate what could be a very fruitful relationship with your advisor. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology states that “If you get to know your advisor well at the beginning, there is more of a chance to start an excellent advising relationship.” Here are a few tips to get your advising relationship jumpstarted:

Tip 1: Don’t Be Shy About the Situation. Go ahead and introduce yourself (obviously, first make sure it is during his/her office hour) and tell your advisor how excited you are to be enrolled at your institution and in your program. Make sure to give a firm handshake, while maintaining eye contact. For how to conduct a proper handshake and what to avoid click on the following websites:

The All American Handshake and Measures to Stay Clear Of

How to Give a Proper Handshake

The Secret to a Perfect Handshake

Tip 2: Come Prepared. For every schedule meeting you have with your advisor, make sure you have 1) a print out of your recent semester grades, 2) a list of required classes that still need to be completed and 3) a list of classes that you are planning to register for the upcoming semester.

Tip 3: Enroll. Do not be afraid to enroll in a class that your advisor is teaching. Once your advisor sees your academic performance in one of his/her classes, your letter of recommendation will instantly become much more personal and worthy for graduate committees to see. This could also backfire if you do poorly, so be sure to plan your schedule ahead of time to maximize studying efforts for your advisor’s class. Try to sit within the first two rows so that he/she sees your commitment to the class and to the field in general.

Tip 4: Do Your Research. Conduct a PubMed or other journal research to view recent articles your advisor has published. Approach your advisor during office hours or semester meetings and ask well-thought out questions about his/her research. If you are really interested in your advisor’s research, ask if he/she is accepting undergraduates into their research project or if he/she might consider you for a research position in the future.

Tip 5: Incentive. Find out if your advisor likes coffee, soda, or candy. If you bring one of his/her favorite items into the advisement meeting to share, your advisor will most likely extend your meeting time and ask you questions about your goals and/or graduate considerations.

Best Buys for Textbooks!

As any graduate student knows, saving on the price of textbooks means more money to pay the rest of the bills. Check out this article I found on Markdownmom:The Bargain Diva, which lists the best ways to find great condition textbooks without getting a hit in the wallet. Thanks Markdownmom!

Textbook Tribulation-How To Save On The Costs of Books
Another semester begins in the life of the college student and among the many necessary expenditures are class textbooks. Here are a few sources MDM recommends for finding bargain textbooks:
Check the Campus Bookstore. Now you may be saying here, "dah-uh, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out." However, the store does sell used books at a cheaper price, usually $10-$2o off and the advantage is that you will have your book for the first day of class, usually. Also, campus bookstores will offer a sale on textbooks if you buy them a month or two in advance.
Check Student Bulletins and Campus Information Billboards. The buyback price of student textbooks by university and college bookstores reflects the greatest depreciation. Therefore, students attempting to recover a bigger share of their investment, will post textbooks for sale at these sites. This is a win/win situation for both parties because the price is more than a buyback by the campus bookstore for the seller, and less than purchasing the book from there by the buyer. The seller should include besides the title, the class number, price, condition, contact phone number and/or email address.
Send Out a Campus-Wide E-mail Alert. University and college servers have a campus-wide email address that faculty and students can use for assignments, events and other notifications. You can send out an S.O.S. message that you are in desparate need of a textbook and are willing to pay x amount of dollars for it. Most likely, you will receive a reply in 1-2 days.
Surf the Net. Textbook Warehouses, Stores, and Auction Sites usually offer better prices for your textbooks since they they increase the pool of potential buyers/sellers. Be sure to keep in mind when buying the cost of shipping and any possible delays that may entail in receiving the book. Here are a few sites to get you started:
Half.com. MDM loves this site. I once bought a zoology textbook for $10, yes that includes shipping, that was $50 used at the local bookstore. Half.com which is owned by ebay works similar to the student bulletin. Sellers list the textbook for sale by typing in the ISBN number, author and/or title in the categories button and the price with shipping options. Be sure to check the seller's feedback rating prior to purchase. Any negative feedback should be checked out to see what the actual complaint was, often times it is the disparity in the stated condition of the book or that the book never arrived. In a hurry? Then do not select media mail for shipping because that can take up to 2 to 3 weeks. Instead choose ground or expedited shipping if offered. Remember to always calculate shipping into the final cost of the textbook!
Barnes and Noble. This is more $$$. One way to lessen your costs is to have a B&N membership (fee is $25). Members save $10 to $30 on books, DVDs, tapes, calendars, cds and Starbuck's Coffee. Shipping is usually free for textbooks of $25 or more. Following the lines of half.com, B & N now features a used textbook section with private sellers listed. The used textbooks are generally $5-$10 cheaper than the regular B & N price. Again, check shipping costs and delivery dates.
Amazon. MDM gives this site a mixed review. Amazon works like Barnes and Noble, but with better prices; items usually are $5-$20 cheaper. However, delivery typically takes longer and unless you do not need your books in a hurry, click on FREE super saver shipping (for purchases over $25) and add "group my items into as few shipments as possible." Before purchase check on when the item ships. If it is usually within 24 hours, you are good to go; however, if it states item will ship in 6-11 business days, watch out! You can face not receiving the book until two weeks into the semester!!! Amazon also features individual sellers for used books.
CheapestTextBooks.com. Cheapest TextBooks acts like a server that will find you the store that is selling your textbook for the best price. Simply type in the name of your book or ISBN number and click "find the cheapest price." A number of stores with a range of prices for your textbook will appear and this will give you a good idea of the best price.

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