6 Learning Tips for Studying Smarter for GRE Verbal Section

Staying late in the night for those last few weeks before GRE? Trying to learn a new way to read fast a month before the GRE? Cramming hard, devoting a whole day to nothing but mugging 1000 Frequently Asked Words in GRE?

We do appreciate your efforts. But sorry to say, you’re doing it wrong!

The art of studying right for GRE is an absolutely scientific task. At DIKSHA, we follow the GRE Verbal course specifically designed by a couple of our Verbal Advisors – one from the State University of New York (SUNY) and the other from Ohio State University, both having cracked GRE with 95 percentile plus scores in the Verbal section. Here are the top tips for your successful GRE Verbal Test preparation.

  1. Start Reading Online: Reading is a skill. While Reading Comprehension (RC) has multiple technical aspects that need to be considered, if you cannot read fast and comprehend faster, then whatever efforts you have put in to master RC’s technical aspects will simply go in vain. Unfortunately many of us are not into serious reading anymore. Today everything is learnt through diagrams, flow charts and videos. As a result, most of us seriously fall short when it comes to our reading skill. And believe me, reading online is tougher. Here you cannot highlight phrases or underline words. So start spending at least 30 minutes every day for reading practice. Read high quality AND complicated English passages online – from various International Journals, Blogs, Newspapers and magazines. Try to read as fast as possible and try to comprehend through a bullet point summary. If you continue this for at least about 3 months, I am sure you will find a marked improvement in your reading skills. One of the key success factors of students of DIKSHA in GRE Verbal is that in the class we often make students read online and help them to master the art of reading.
  2. Get into the habit of taking notes while reading online: When you are reading from a computer screen, your mind at times may go numb for a while as it is a very passive process. Besides, it is a proven fact that you tend to retain information better if you write it down in your own way. So at DIKSHA, we ask the students to start taking notes in their own way when they are reading something online. Notes don’t mean well written sentences or paragraphs. But these are mostly some words or some bullet points or even at time some schematic diagrams – whatever students can put in while keeping their eyes almost glued to the computer screen.
  3. Don’t just keep on Reading — Start Applying: Stop re-reading the same Sentence Equivalence question and the answer options 5 times at a stretch to understand it better. There are chances that the more you read, the more you will start getting confused. So whether it’s a Sentence Equivalence question or an RC passage, try to read once while taking notes in your own way. Then put your grey matters to task. Use your brain to retrieve and process the information to come up with answer to the question. In our GRE Verbal classes after discussing the concepts, we straightaway move forward with class practice questions – where the students are tasked to answer the questions within a time frame. While initially many of the students find it difficult, but within a month or so their brain muscles get used to such stretching. Thus at the end of the day, they become better equipped to retrieve and process information in a short span of time. And that’s what GRE — or for that matter various real life situations — demands from us.
  4. Start your preparation early & Space it up: Cramming puts a lot of information in your head fast, but it also leads to fast forgetting. “Spacing helps embed learning in long-term memory”. So start your preparation for GRE at least 4 months before your planned exam. While I have come across many students, who get fascinating GRE scores just by studying for a week or so (in fact one of my friends from IIT got a perfect score in GRE with ABSOLUTELY no preparation at all), here we are not talking about the geniuses of the world. For a person having average IQ level, spacing up the GRE preparation for a span of 4 to 5 months is really helpful. At DIKSHA we suggest our GRE students to study everyday for at least an hour for the initial 3 months. In the last 1 or 2 months, this can actually go up to about 2 to 3 hours a day. But that’s it! Don’t ever try to put in 10 hours a day just for a month before your GRE and dream of a perfect score.
  5. Think & Sleep on the Words: We know that GRE Vocabulary is definitely a tough job. At DIKSHA we use various scientifically proven learning techniques to ensure our students can crack the words. But apart from these techniques, it’s very important that you start thinking & sleeping on the words! Sounds strange? Not really. Do learn the meaning of the words, but don’t simply try to mug up everything. Learn 50 new words in a day and the next day try to make sentences with the words. Read some high quality articles and see if any new words that you have read are there or not. If yes, can you remember the meaning? Again the trick is to stretch your brain to retrieve and process the information that it already possesses. And most importantly, after learning new words go for a sleep. Your brain needs time to catch up with new information and process all you’ve stuffed in there. Sleep is when it happens.
  6. Multi-task & Switch Topics: Maybe on a particular day you are in mood for “Vocabs” and thus spend the entire day learning 200 new words. You think you have achieved much! Sorry, but actually you have not utilized your day properly. A much better utilization would have been if you would have learnt 50 new words, solved 3 RC passages and written one Argument Essay (AWA). A study shows that we’re more likely to confuse similar things when studied together. So at DIKSHA while making study plans for our GRE students, we always keep in mind to ensure that a student devotes a bit of time every day to each of the subjects or topics. Switching between subjects or topics during your GRE Test preparation shall help you to keep your mind fresh enough to repeat the process over a period of time.

If you have any queries regarding your preparation for GRE Verbal section, please feel free to speak to our GRE Counselor @ +91 9674350993 or 033 40658338 or visit our Office: “Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd.” 15/1, Hindustan Park, Gariahat, Kolkata – 700029 (all days, between 11 am to 7 pm).

 

 

 

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6 Winning Strategies for Visa Interview for Study Abroad

Congratulations that you have got an admit with 100% Scholarship at a top Global University in US and the University has sent you the coveted I-20 required for the US Student Visa!

After toiling so hard for a top score in GRE & TOEFL exams, after researching for hours for your application essays and after preparing hundreds of documents for your applications, now it’s the time to relax and cherish the moment!

Sorry, but most probably you have forgotten the most important last step. The Visa Interview!!!

For the uninitiated, Visa Interview can be one of the biggest challenges that students face during the entire study abroad application process is the visa interview.

In order to make sure to sail through your Visa interview, here are some tips and guidelines from DIKSHA LEARNING SERVICES that specializes in Study Abroad Test Preparation and Abroad Study Admission guidance:

1) Documentation shows Dedication

Ensure that you have copies of all the required documents with you during the interview, arranged in proper order and ideally coded with a proper marking.

Ideally you should classify the documents in following categories & in following order:

  1. Visa related: I-20, Visa Fee receipt & Visa Interview confirmation letter
  2. Admission related: Admission Letter, Scholarship Letter (if applicable), University Fees receipt, Education Loan Approval Letter (if applicable), Any other Letter from the University related to admission that you deem fit
  3. Academic related: Degree transcripts, Degree Certificates, School Leaving & High School Leaving Certificates, Test Scores of SAT/ GRE/ GMAT and IELTS/ TOEFL, any significant academic achievement certificates
  4. Work experience related (if applicable): Appointment Letter of current and last 2 employers, last 3 month salary slips (as applicable)
  5. Extra-curricular related: Any significant extra-curricular certificate

At DIKSHA we always tell our students that the ordering & marking of the Document Files is important so that it becomes easier for the interviewer to find things easily. And in case he/ she asks you to show something from your file, you should not fumble – you should be prompt and confident. A neatly arranged document file gives an impression of the application as someone who is highly dedicated, systematic and thorough in his approach. And trust us, the Visa interviewer is going to like that.

2) Focus on Finance

To get your student visa, you need to furnish several financial documents. These documents prove that you have the necessary resources to pay for tuition fees, living expenses, accommodation etc. If your parents (or any relatives) are funding your education, then you will need to submit their bank statements (or, liquid asset statement) including original bank records, Income Tax returns of the last three years along with fixed deposit receipts or certificates. This may also include Scholarship Confirmation letter or Education Loan Approval Letter.

But we have already included these in the “Documentation” part. Why are we repeating? Very simply because we have seen that most of the Indian students don’t know their finances! And during the interview if asked a question on this matter, some of the brightest students just go numb!

“Well my dad is paying. Go and please ask him…” It’s a typical attitude of many Indians. But this doesn’t go well with the interviewer. At DIKSHA we always advise our students aspiring for abroad studies that they should actually know their finances well.

“How much will it cost? How much can I afford? And from where do I get the funds?” Get your calculations thorough on these lines. Don’t miss out possible escalation in expenses (like a provision in the University Fees rule that says Tuition Fees will go up next year or can increase in next semester if you opt for Subject X or even the possibility of the living cost going up next year). Ideally you should comfortable show that you can afford more than what it will take to study for 2 or 4 years.

And one more thing, talk in Dollars ($). A visa interviewer is certainly going to be more comfortable if Indian Rupee is avoided. 

3) Prepare or Perish

Just like the way we prepare thoroughly before going for a job interview or the grand viva, the preparation is the key. Remember the following points that you need to be prepared for:

  1. Course related – the duration, subjects, electives, important dates, study breaks, internship options, credit points and credit hours. If you are not very acquainted with the concept of “Credit Points” and “Credit Hours”, please learn it from someone who knows it well.
  2. University related – about the particular university, which campus (if there are multiple campuses) you will be studying, any significant landmark in the history of the university, eminent professors or alumni (if any)
  3. Country related – about the country, its demographics, about the city/ place where the University campus is located, a bit of history and culture, food habits, important cities/ monuments/ places to see, important personalities

4) Making the logical Match

This may be the tough part that moves away from information into the realm of “persuasion”. Questions like “Why this Course” or “Why this University” can make or break your interview.

So be well prepared and match these four things: Your skills and qualities, your career aspirations, the course and the University. You can refer to your SOP or Application Essay and try to ascertain that how this particular program in this particular university is going to help you in achieving your career goals.

DIKSHA suggests its students not to be dramatic and emotional in their responses to such questions. Ideally you should just be logical and establish the relationship between these four things – how they connect. The facts will certainly help here, but the focus should be on the logic in match making!

5) Unsettling the “Settler” trap

A visa interviewer is like a gate keeper and the visa interview is a process to “close the gate” for a potential “settler” or an immigrant i.e. a person with an intention of settling down permanently in a foreign country.

So, the interviewer may try to trap you. Some of the students of DIKSHA have come across questions like “Ok, so after your MS in Artificial Intelligence would you like to join Google Head Office in California or a Tech Start Up in San Francisco?” or something like “Don’t you think that once your course is over and you join a job, you should bring your parents to the US so that you can take care of them?”. Beware of such questions. These are blatant traps! The Visa Officer is trying to catch you on the wrong foot regarding your intention. Don’t fall for them.

Your answers should be perfectly clear in stating that your purpose for studying abroad is Higher Studies only and it has nothing to do with settling down in that country. Please find logic and passion in convincing the interviewer that you are not seeking employment in the foreign country. After the course you will plan to return to your home country equipped with the degree, knowledge and skills that you have acquired there.

Here it’s important to note that your long term career goals should be related to your home country.
Just for example, if you are going abroad for an MS in Biotechnology you should be able to tell the interviewer how you see the potential of qualified Biotech professionals in India in near future. Or, if you are going for your PhD in Artificial Intelligence you should be able to convince the interviewer that how this PhD from this reputed University would help you to get a dream job of an Assistant Professor in one of the IITs.

Please remember you should categorically try to distinguish yourself from a potential immigrant or a potential job seeker.

6) Overall Impression is Important

Finally, it’s about your soft skills. This is the usual staff. But many a times, students tend to overlook these basics. Don’t be one of those “over-lookers”!  Remember:

  1. Be on time
  2. Be well groomed, dressed in formal wear
  3. Be courteous and polite but don’t be submissive
  4. Don’t get agitated or irritated on any particular question or remarks
  5. Be calm, composed and confident
  6. Be ready for some “strange” or “intimidating” or “trap” questions. Don’t panic. The questions are just to test your intention, attitude, skills, knowledge or common sense. Answer them with conviction. If you don’t know, please say so!
  7. If you can’t understand a particular question first apologize and then ask to repeat the question
  8. Keep your answers short and relevant. Don’t go overboard. Be specific.

And last but not the least “be positive”. Despite following everything as mentioned above there is always a probability that the Visa officer is not convinced. In an unfortunate situation where you are denied a student visa, please refrain from arguing with the interviewer. Instead you can request the Visa Officer to provide the reason(s) for the denial along with a list of documents that he or she would suggest that you bring next time to ensure that you are granted the student visa.  Ensure that you leave with a lasting positive impression.

For any query regarding your Visa Interview for Abroad Study please feel free to connect to Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd. You can call us at +91 9674484100.

Reading Strategies to crack Reading Comprehension (RC) in GRE, GMAT

Students, who have the luxury of preparing for the test over several months, should definitely take the Reading Comprehension (RC) section bit more seriously. Our recent experience shows that the reading passages are getting complicated (and longer as well) with every passing day. And to do well in the Reading Comprehension section there’s no better way than to substantially improve their reading skills in general, both in terms of comprehension and reading speed. But this is always easier said than done.

Students keep asking us: What topics should they read? What are the general reading references from reliable sources that can help them to improve their reading skills? And, what’s the best way to read such material?

Today, let’s answer these questions in steps.

Q1. What should you Read?

Reading is necessarily a skill. It’s like exercise. Just like you exercise daily to keep yourself fit and in shape, you should read daily to keep your mind fit and in shape for the exam.

 

  • Do you find an article on the effect of Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitorsand tricyclic antidepressants on REM and non-REM sleep phases interesting?
  • What about critical remarks on a book called “Systematic Phylogeny” by Ernst Haeckl – an eminent German naturalist of the 19th century?
  • Would you be delighted reading about an excerpt from Lorenzo Forni’s dissection of the Calmfors – Driffill Hypothesis on Economic Performance and indexes of bargaining system?

 

By now, you must have got it! And we understand it as well. Just like most of us, you might actually hate such reading experiences.

 

But let’s make it simple. To get into your dream grad-school or B-school you need to write an exam like GRE or GMAT that gives you credit for reading, understanding and analyzing such complex and boring passages. Thus, it’s not a question of our choice anymore. Whether we love it or loathe it, we have to focus on reading such passages from now on. In general, the RC passages in GRE or GMAT come in one of the following categories:

  • Physical Sciences
  • Biological Sciences
  • Social Sciences
  • Art & Culture
  • Business & Economics

 

So absolutely anything and everything that falls in these categories should be read. While reading please keep in mind:

  • The passage should be in high quality English
  • US English is more helpful
  • Complicated (even, confusing) Writing style always help
  • Complex matter/ content is better
  • Good to read boring articles
  • Anything between 300 to 1000 words passages are fine

 

Q2. From where should you Read?

While authentic test-prep books and materials give you a good source for actual reading for Reading Comprehension passages, we always suggest to students to improve their reading skills by daily online reading. These non-GRE or non-GMAT sources of reading are truly essential for your practice. But wait, the moment we say “online” please don’t assume that we are suggesting you to read the FB updates of your friends! While the internet is a great place to improve your reading habit, it is actually overloaded with articles. Most of it is either trash or irrelevant. Even if some are relevant, the writing may not be of that high quality or the style may not be apt for your GRE or GMAT test preparation. In such a situation we suggest the following resources to be pretty authentic and reliable for your reading practice.

The University of Chicago Magazine (On Business, Economics, Science, Arts, Laws): http://mag.uchicago.edu/; when you check a specific issue of the magazine, try for the Investigations section: http://magazine.uchicago.edu/1008/investigations/

Harvard Magazine (On Science, Social Science, Humanities): http://harvardmagazine.com/

Smithsonian (On Science, Innovation, Art & Culture): http://www.smithsonianmag.com/

The Economist (On Business & Economics): http://www.economist.com/

Arts & Letters Daily (On Philosophy, Literature, Art, Culture): http://www.aldaily.com/

Scientific American (On Science, Innovation): http://www.scientificamerican.com/

The Atlantic (On Business, Health, Social Science): http://www.theatlantic.com/

The New Yorker (On Science, Culture, Book Review): http://www.newyorker.com/

The New York Times (Articles, Reviews, Critique): http://www.nytimes.com/

Washington Post (Blog, Analysis, Review, Policy): http://www.washingtonpost.com/ ; check out the Opinion section http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ and the Blog as well http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/

The Wall Street Journal (On Business, Economics, Policies): http://online.wsj.com/india

If you are dead serious about some really complicated topics you can also try some academic journals: http://www.academicjournals.org/journals.htm

If you are a bit more adventurous and want to get a hang of confusing yet high quality article you can opt for something like these:

http://ideas.time.com/2013/02/28/happy-90th-birthday-time/ or

http://alaindebotton.com/a-new-priesthood-psychotherapists/  or http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/04/07/mcconnells-stale-inflated-claim-on-health-plan-cancellations/

 

 

 

 

Q3. How should you Read?

Sorry, but we are not underestimating you. We know that you have been reading since your childhood. But here we want to ascertain how should you read from the abovementioned source so that there can be a significant improve in your reading skills.

A) Speed it up: In Reading Comprehension (RC) section you have to read fast. It’s not a pleasure reading. Thus right from the word go, keep your focus on improving your speed substantially. While the RC section doesn’t demand from you to read each and every word of the passage and remember each one of them, but still you have to actively read the passage. For a short 400 – 500 word passage you can devote maximum 2 to 2.5 minutes for the reading part. For a longer 700 – 900 word passage you can maximum go up to 3.5 to 4 minutes. And this includes time spent on taking some notes as well. Thus we always suggest you to improve your online reading speed to a level of 300 to 400 words per minute (wpm). You can check the practice test given in http://www.readingsoft.com/ to assess your current speed level and then adjust accordingly. Another way is to set a benchmark by reading a standard 1000 word passage. Let us suppose, it takes you 10 minutes to read and comprehend this passage satisfactorily. Then in next two months your reading target should be to bring down the reading time by 40% to 50% (i.e. to 6 minutes, maximum) to read a similar passage with almost same level of comprehension.

B) Mark Pointers: While reading a passage, you should start taking notes. Taking notes is an art that helps you to be more engaged with the passage. This needs practice. While doing it, your focus should not divert from the passage. Even your eyes may not divert much. Always keep the notes as short as possible. Just scribble some facts, content language (data, information, processes, categories) and judgment language (opinions, hypotheses, comparisons) along with their placement paragraphs. Or you can even write down the flow of the entire passage (like, description of the hypothesis à examples in support à limitations à counter hypothesis). Your job is to identify relevant information, theme, tone, opinion, difficult words/ phrases and signaling/ directional words (words which help you to understand the direction of the passage e.g. furthermore, finally, most importantly, however, in contrast etc.) from the paragraphs and write these down in simple language or shorthand or even chatting lingo that you are used to. You can also use various forms of illustrations like flow chart, tree diagram, Venn diagram, relationships, front and back arrows if you are comfortable. Always remember that visual learning helps you to comprehend and retain with higher efficiency.

C) Summarize or Recap: Once you have finished reading the passage and taking notes, just give yourself a well deserved break. Close your eyes and relax for a few seconds. Then without going back to the passage, try to articulate the following:

  • The main idea of the passage
  • The main point of each individual paragraph

Doing this should not take more than a minute; but this practice will help you to go a long way in successfully comprehending complex passages in the RC section.