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View Full Version : WTF is up with the GRE (verbal section specifically)?


Cubsfan
10-21-2004, 11:49 PM
Where the hell do they come up with these words that they expect you to know how to use? I realize that there are alot of words out there that I don't know the meaning of, but typically I can figure it out by reading it used in a sentence.

What is the purpose of seeing if someone knows that antonym of the word EBULLIENCE?

And then they give you choices that are once-in-a-lifetime use words as the antonym so I can not only not know the question, but not understand the answers either.

Granted I've only taken some practice tests to get ready for the real deal but I'm guessing that they are similiar in format and word selection.

I just don't understand how testing someone on their knowledge of the definitions of obscure words is a useful tool for seeing if someone is ready for grad school.

FTR, I'm an engineer who had a 3.75 GPA in my undergrad. I'm routinely scoring between 690 and 750 on these practice tests for quantitave scores but am boucing around bigtime on verbal scores betweem 320 and 600!

WTF?!?!

pepperlandgirl
10-21-2004, 11:58 PM
I'm taking my GREs on Monday, and so far, I haven't done too badly on the practice verbal tests.

I don't think they actually expect you to know the definitions to all those obscure words. It's better than that. They expect you to figure it out based on the process of elimination and knowledge of the root, prefixes, and suffixes.

So take heart!

I'm going to get fucked over in the math section. It's awful because I remember learning all those things 7 years ago in high school--none of it looks foreign to me--but I'll be damned if I can remember any of the actual steps for solving them.

ouryL
10-22-2004, 12:28 AM
I do well in general, but I am slow...

Bryan Ekers
10-22-2004, 12:46 AM
Are there any online practice tests? I like any opportunity to act smug.

Helen's Eidolon
10-22-2004, 12:57 AM
I took the GREs a few months ago, and I actually surprised myself with my scores. Are you, by any chance, using the Princeton review book and finding the antonym to ebullient is vapid? God, I got so annoyed at that question.

Zoe
10-22-2004, 03:21 AM
The GRE was waived for me.

Smugly yours,
~Z~

Scissorjack
10-22-2004, 04:49 AM
Ebullient/Ebullience are not obscure words. Off the top of my head, I would have picked "glum" or "morose" as antonyms, but I'm assuming this is multi-choice and designed to test your vocabulary. Do you pit all tests you don't know the answers to? I'd suggest more study, less pitting.

Helen's Eidolon
10-22-2004, 07:49 AM
Middlecase, you have clearly never taken the GRE. I knew most of the answers and got a fantastic score, so maybe you'll believe me when I say that it is a STUPID test.

Typo Negative
10-22-2004, 07:53 AM
Ebullient/Ebullience are not obscure words. .Just because you recognize them does not mean they are not obscure.

Finagle
10-22-2004, 08:12 AM
Has the GRE changed in the 20 years since I took it? I recall the verbal as being insultingly easy -- much easier than the SAT.

Cubsfan
10-22-2004, 08:29 AM
The math sections are easier than the SAT IMHO. Nothing beyond the most basic algebra. The verbal is supposed to be much harder than the SAT and it is. At least in practice.

I read quite a bit and I don't recognize 30-35% of the words in the practice exams.

It's ridiculous.

asterion
10-22-2004, 09:13 AM
Are there any online practice tests? I like any opportunity to act smug.

Yes. There is a practice program called GRE PowerPrep (and it looks like it was designed for either Windows 95 or Windows 3.1) available somewhere at gre.org. I believe it is somewhere under the test prep section.

tremorviolet
10-22-2004, 09:38 AM
The math sections are easier than the SAT IMHO. Nothing beyond the most basic algebra. The verbal is supposed to be much harder than the SAT and it is. At least in practice.

I read quite a bit and I don't recognize 30-35% of the words in the practice exams.

It's ridiculous.

Yeah, there really is a bizarre disconnect between the level of difficulty on the two sections. I read a lot and did very well on the SAT verbal yet found myself really floundering on the GRE. The math section was almost trivial...

Podkayne
10-22-2004, 09:39 AM
To answer your question, the purpose of finding out if you know the antonym of ebullience is to see if you are well-read at the college level. It's a word I've encountered several times. It's somewhat obscure, yes, but far from a once-in-a-lifetime word—unless, that is, you are not reading the sort of material that you really should be reading to get a well-rounded college education. I've heard many engineering students complaining bitterly because they are forced to take liberal arts courses. I don't know if the OP is one of those students, but guess what! This is why.

On the other hand, remember that many other students who are taking the GREs have spent the past four years doing little else besides reading great books and looking up every word they don't know. You should not expect to place in the high percentiles of the verbal exam, because you can't compete with these folks; you have been concentrating your effort in a different area. (Right now, they're freaking about the math portion, if that's any comfort to you.)

If you're an engineer, nobody's going to care about your verbal unless it's exceptionally high or exceptionally low, anyway. Just thank your lucky stars that they've eliminated the Engineering subject test. (*Still nauseated at the thought of the Physics GRE*)

DaddyTimesTwo
10-22-2004, 09:54 AM
I took the GRE about 13 or 14 years ago. I was thinking I'd head into a master's degree in math. I was never a great student in math incollege, I didn't put a lot of effort into it. I have always read quite a lot, popular fiction, mysteries, sci-fi mostly, nothing very "literary". Anyway, score-wise, I did better on the quantitative than the verbal, but I did much better percentile wise on the verbal (I don't remember any of the numbers...isn't it scored like the SAT? And I never took the SAT either, but I scored 30 on the ACT! I remember that!). And the analytical stuff completely crushed me. Those logic questions with the boxes and the rules and which box has what in it. Ick. Of course, I did absolutely no prep work whatsoever, and I never went to grad school either.

hajario
10-22-2004, 10:08 AM
I took the GRE and was accepted into an engineering graduate program. Fear not, they're not going to care very much about the verbal portion of the GRE. If you do well on the math and logic portion, you'll be fine.

Be warned though, I saw the stats from when I took the test (1988) and the median scores for people with engineering degrees are in the mid-90th percentile for the math and logic portions and in the mid 70's for verbal.

Think of the verbal portion as a logic problem. As someone noted, you can eliminate choices based on the word roots for example.

Haj

overlyverbose
10-22-2004, 10:40 AM
I actually found a lot of the study for my GREs quite helpful. I read a lot, but there were some words that popped up fairly often in my research that I wouldn't have known if I hadn't studied for the GRE.

Also, the word ebullient isn't all that obscure - I've run into it on several occasions. I guess it just depends on which field or study program you're in.

Excalibre
10-22-2004, 10:46 AM
I took the GREs a few months ago, and I actually surprised myself with my scores. Are you, by any chance, using the Princeton review book and finding the antonym to ebullient is vapid? God, I got so annoyed at that question.
Yeah, that's a real freaking stretch in my opinion. I'm not familiar with any usages of those words that would count as antonyms.

Just because you recognize them does not mean they are not obscure.
Am I being whooshed here? I haven't taken an English class since high school, but I knew the word then and now. "Ebullient" certainly doesn't strike me as obscure.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
10-22-2004, 12:35 PM
Yeah, that's a real freaking stretch in my opinion. I'm not familiar with any usages of those words that would count as antonyms.


Am I being whooshed here? I haven't taken an English class since high school, but I knew the word then and now. "Ebullient" certainly doesn't strike me as obscure.

Ebullient's not that rare a word, but I'm not sure I'd think of vapid as its opposite.

It does seem a bit ridiculous, though. Assuming the OP is aspiring to a graduate program in engineering, s/he could probably get through the entire master's or Ph.D. program without once having to use the word ebullient. Unless you're studying humanities, social science, or perhaps certain other odd fields, the vocabulary part of the test seems a bit pointless. That's not to say that other parts of the verbal test are without value, for verbal communication is important in any field. But, "ebullient" is the opposite of "vapid"? That's not so useful.

hajario
10-22-2004, 12:43 PM
Ebullient's not that rare a word, but I'm not sure I'd think of vapid as its opposite.

It does seem a bit ridiculous, though. Assuming the OP is aspiring to a graduate program in engineering, s/he could probably get through the entire master's or Ph.D. program without once having to use the word ebullient.

Which is why engineering graduate programs put some, but not a lot, of weight on the verbal portion. So what's the problem here?

Haj

Excalibre
10-22-2004, 02:03 PM
Ebullient's not that rare a word, but I'm not sure I'd think of vapid as its opposite.

It does seem a bit ridiculous, though. Assuming the OP is aspiring to a graduate program in engineering, s/he could probably get through the entire master's or Ph.D. program without once having to use the word ebullient. Unless you're studying humanities, social science, or perhaps certain other odd fields, the vocabulary part of the test seems a bit pointless. That's not to say that other parts of the verbal test are without value, for verbal communication is important in any field. But, "ebullient" is the opposite of "vapid"? That's not so useful.
Yeah, having memorized a false set of antonyms for the test is pretty much guaranteed not to help a person's engineering career. But the GRE is the same for everyone, and in theory, I imagine it's meant to test a broadish range of knowledge. What's wrong with being a reasonably well-rounded person?

Helen's Eidolon
10-22-2004, 02:29 PM
What the GRE does is often use obscure definitions of otherwise easy words. For example, I never knew that vapid can mean, literally, flat. I don't remember if the antonym was ebullient or another word that mean, by some definition, 'bubbly', but that was how it worked out.

I rarely if ever saw words I didn't know. However, with the GRE, that does not necessarily correlate to getting the right answer, IMHO.

What I REALLY hated about the GRE was the analytical essay section. I'm a historian, I write essays all the time. The crucial difference - I write essays with an actual TOPIC.

dropzone
10-22-2004, 02:47 PM
I'm an engineer...Not to pile on, but I believe we have found the problem. :D

Going beyond my own profession, what is it about (insert major or profession here) that makes its practioners instantly dismissive of (insert another major or profession that uses a different skill set)? Especially when they are going for a postgraduate degree? A masters or doctorate in (first profession) will open one up to greater job responsibilities but to be an effective manager you will have to use (skill from second profession) more often than you would as a lowly cubicle dweller. An engineering manager needs to be able to write and an English professor needs to know some math.

Generalize, people! "University" and "universal" have a common root for a reason!

hajario
10-22-2004, 02:52 PM
I hope that no one thought that I was trying to say that English skills are not important for an engineer. Nothing could be further from the truth. My point was that since Stinkpalm would be competing against other engineers he wouldn't have to worry as much about a mediocre score.

Haj

dropzone
10-22-2004, 02:59 PM
No, I thought Stinkpalm was trying to say that English skills are not important for an engineer. A common misconception shared by the ones I have known, worked with, and not hired.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
10-22-2004, 03:03 PM
Yeah, having memorized a false set of antonyms for the test is pretty much guaranteed not to help a person's engineering career. But the GRE is the same for everyone, and in theory, I imagine it's meant to test a broadish range of knowledge. What's wrong with being a reasonably well-rounded person?

Having a broadish range of knowledge and being well rounded is desirable, and I never did say that they should completely chuck the verbal section for applicants to advanced engineering programs. But there are other verbal skills that are more important, not only to aspiring engineers, but to anyone headed for graduate school. But I'd drop the antonyms and synonyms and maybe expand the reading comp subsection.

iamthewalrus(:3=
10-22-2004, 03:34 PM
As another who did rather well on the GRE (90+ percentile on verbal, I don't remember my actual score), I agree that the verbal portion is a terribly designed test. Many people have mentioned eliminating words based on common roots, suffxes, etc. But that doesn't work on the GRE because they aren't there!

On the SAT, there are a lot of latin and greek roots and many opportunities to use general knowledge of language. On the GRE, a vast majority of the words chosen don't have any obviously evident roots. You either know the word, or you don't.

By the way, make sure you know "polemic," which was on both of my practice tests and on my actual test. And, yes, it does have a greek root, but not a particularly helpful one.

Cubsfan
10-22-2004, 05:47 PM
Update for everyone. I took the test today and (IMHO) killed the fucker.

I got a 710 quantitative and a 610 verbal! WOOT!!

My strategy for verbal was to spend very little time on the antonym / synonym questions and focus on the reading comp and sentence completion ones. Basically on the BIG WORD questions I either knew them or I didn't. I didn't waste time trying to "figure out" words that I didn't have a clue on. The reading comp and sentence completion had everything I needed to figure out the correct answer and didn't require alot of BIG WORD knowledge.

FTR, the words on the GRE didn't use many recognizable roots or anything. It was fucked.

Also, I realise that to the people of the SDMB that EBULLIENCE may be more commonly used around here than in daily life. It was just an example.

treis
10-22-2004, 06:06 PM
Thanks to this thread if my professor says that it takes 4200 Joules to bring something to an ebullient temperature I will know what the hell he is talking about.

Helen's Eidolon
10-22-2004, 06:14 PM
You know, oddly enough, the Latin and Greek roots didn't really help me either. This is odd because I can read Latin and am also learning Greek. Although I must admit I did know that a polemarch was a Greek general.

Those are fantastic scores, Stinkpalm! Congrats!

laigle
10-22-2004, 06:16 PM
The GRE was just a massive pain in the ass. It takes a long time, the scheduling sucks, and you have to squeeze it in at the end of college when you're getting your ass kicked by senior projects. On top of which, the English section seemed to have been made intentionally obtuse, which is just stupid unless you're going for a PhD in vocabulary.

I pulled an 800 on the SAT verbal. No, really, I did on the third try, mom was an English teacher and I had to or else I didn't love her. But I only made the top 10% on the GRE verbal sections. Not that it mattered, since I was an engineer and nobody even looked at that score. And of course then the math scores didn't impress, since nothing on there is indicative of what you should know after two and a half years of calculus and diff eqs. So the whole thing was just a waste of time I needed for other projects.

Scissorjack
10-23-2004, 01:58 AM
Well done, Stinkpalm.

Just for the record, from The Penguin Guide to Synonyms And Related Words {1996 edition}: "Elated and ebullient both refer, like light-hearted, to a welling-up of high spirits. Elated, however, can often refer to a response to some external occurrence or news, whereas ebullient suggests the same spontenaity as light-hearted. Ebullient stems from the root of a Latin word meaning boil out, and the English word reflects this in pointing to a bubbling over with enthusiasm, excitement or exuberance: fans who were elated when the team scored another goal; an ebullient personality that always seemed to overflow with vivacity and zest."

Synonyms: blithe, convivial, elated, genial, jovial, light-hearted

Antonyms: dismal, gloomy, ill-humoured, melancholic, morose {Ha!}, sad, sullen, tranquil


No mention of vapid, which I do agree is stretching it, so I guess Ha! for you too.

Typo Negative
10-23-2004, 02:42 AM
Well, I must be living a sheltered life. I have never once seen the word ebullience in print before this thread, nor heard it uttered in a film or play. I have certainly never heard it used in conversation. Surprising, since I am very familiar with all it's synonyms. Even sprightliness!


Go figure.

Ilsa_Lund
10-23-2004, 02:51 AM
I took the GRE this morning. I have already graduated, though. The verbal section is nothing special. Just study some friggin' word lists, weenie.

Ilsa_Lund
10-23-2004, 02:52 AM
That was meant lightheartedly. Good scores. It's late.

Scissorjack
10-23-2004, 03:33 AM
Well, I must be living a sheltered life. I have never once seen the word ebullience in print before this thread, nor heard it uttered in a film or play. I have certainly never heard it used in conversation. Surprising, since I am very familiar with all it's synonyms. Even sprightliness!


Go figure.

It's a perfectly cromulent word.

amarinth
10-23-2004, 12:18 PM
Has the GRE changed in the 20 years since I took it? I recall the verbal as being insultingly easy -- much easier than the SAT.As was the math (when I took it, the SAT had trig and the GRE only up to second year high school algebra) - it was funny, you were expected to know less coming out of college than going in.

Yay, Stinkpalm!

The Scrivener
10-23-2004, 12:27 PM
Count me in amongst those who found the SAT verbal mysteriously more difficult (relative to my knowledge at the time) than the GRE verbal. When I was in high school, I really studied up on the SAT, figuring that it's not just the words themselves you need to know, but also the kinds of questions the tests asks. After putting in all that time and effort, and taking the test twice, the best I could do was a 700 verbal score, which was pretty good, but frankly I was hoping for a lot better.

Flash forward a few years; I'm applying to grad schools. My test prep strategy is to focus on my GRE subject test and review the old math and "logic" skills for those sections on the GRE general test, and completely eschew verbal prep altogether. I really sucked at the analytical section, and even after practicing those skills (which basically doubled my first practice scores), I was still dicey at the analytical stuff. The math came back to me rather easily. I take the GRE once, and it's enough: 800 verbal! 760 math! and a rather mediocre score in analytical, but who cares? The grad schools didn't...

The verbal test; it's a Zen thing. :D

pasunejen
10-23-2004, 01:20 PM
I did really well on the verbal portion when I took it, and I'm still going to check in as thinking it's absolute bullshit. I did ten points better on the quantitative section, and that would never, ever have happened if the difficulty levels were anywhere near consistent with each other--I read constantly and have a pretty damn good vocabulary (even if I don't use it too actively), whereas my math skills are practically nonexistent.

While I'm complaining: what is with the written section? Seriously. My writing ability is probably my strongest academic asset, but I scored in the 44th percentile. I guess I just wasn't smart enough to realize it was all about gaming the scorers. Standardized essay tests need to die.

(Okay, I know, this is basically sour grapes. But we're in the pit, and that's allowed.)

WernhamHogg
10-23-2004, 03:10 PM
Taking a few practice tests are the way to go, even if you have to pay for them. I did very well on the GRE (>700 on all three portions), but I did the best on the logic part which is no longer part of the test. Damn ETS is out to get me.

Studying word lists can only help boost your score by 10 or 20 points, by the way, unless you start early. Even if you learn 10 new words a day for three weeks, chances are that only one or two will be on the test. Most of the questions actually require you to know several words, anyway, by the way they are written. They do tend to recycle words, so when you take practice tests, be sure they are actually GRE's from the last 10 years.

WernhamHogg
10-23-2004, 03:13 PM
BTW, the Princeton Review type crap helps a little bit. In a nutshell, remember that (a) there has to be an obvious and unambiguously right answer or they'd get sued, (b) if you can eliminate one option, it's in your favor to guess, (c) they're out to trick you, so look for eliminations based on what they'd do trick you. For example, if they ask for an antonym to EBULLIENT, they might but COWARDICE, thinking that the average moron would pick on BULL and COW and pick it. That's not a great example, but generally something that looks good but you don't know why is there to trick you. Cross it off and guess from among the others.

Digital Stimulus
10-23-2004, 06:52 PM
Well, I must be living a sheltered life. I have never once seen the word ebullience in print before this thread, nor heard it uttered in a film or play. I have certainly never heard it used in conversation.
Don't know if you follow politics, but Chris Matthews used "ebullient" to describe Karen Hughes' state in "spin alley" after the 2nd or 3rd presidential debate.

I'm just sayin'...

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