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Non-Native English Speakers and the GMAT

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Ethan Hein is an editor and social media guru at Knewton.

As a non-native speaker of English, you may find the verbal section of the GMAT especially daunting. You’re not alone. English is a particularly difficult language to learn as an adult. It’s a blend of several different older languages that still coexist uneasily in the grammar and vocabulary. The roots of English in German rub uneasily against its roots in Latin in ways that resist intuition. A lot of “wrong” usage by non-native speakers is more logical than correct usage. Knowing some of the back story can hopefully make you feel less frustrated as you try to absorb it all.

England wasn’t even the first home of English. In ancient times the people there spoke indigenous languages that are the precursors to Irish and Welsh. When Germanic tribes invaded, they pushed the indigenous British tongues to the corners of what are now the British Isles. Old English was a blend of German and Scandinavian languages. A few Latin words also entered via the Germanic tribes’ long interaction with the Roman Empire.

When the Norman French invaded and conquered England in the 11th century, they brought their Latin-based language with them. While common people continued to speak their German-based language, the ruling class used the Latin-based vocabulary and grammar of French. Eventually the two blended to form a single language, but divisions remain. German-based English words have a “lower,” more casual connotation, while French-based words sound more formal. Compare the Germanic “sweat” to the Latinate “perspiration,” or Germanic “friendly” with the Latinate “cordial.”

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Written by Knewton

November 2, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Business School Celebs

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Why should anyone go to business school? Bill Gates never went, and neither did Steve Jobs. But you know who did? All these people. They used business school to develop the tools they needed for real-world success. If you’re serious about business, maybe you should go too…

Starring Chris Black
Produced by Ian Parker

Written by Knewton

October 15, 2009 at 1:17 AM

The GMAT or the GRE?

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joseinclass225pxJose Ferreira is the Founder and CEO of Knewton.

You may have heard that some business schools* have started accepting GRE scores in place of GMAT scores. And you may be thinking: “Awesome! I hear the GRE is easier. I’m taking that!”

After all—there’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE. Sounds great, right?

The problem is: There’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE.

The GMAT has been designed and perfected for business school students. GMAT questions mirror the tasks you will perform every day in business school. Reading Comprehension—because you’ll be reading 50 -100 pages in case studies every day. And Data Sufficiency—because you’ll be skimming each case’s exhibits and financials to determine which numbers are key to cracking the case and which are irrelevant. What about Critical Reasoning? Well, every day in class you will comment on other students’ arguments. And they will comment on yours, sometimes in pretty snarky ways. So you need some facility in arguments, if only to protect yourself from that loudmouth ex-banker in the Skydeck.

In fact, the GMAT is a great test. By that I don’t mean that it will bring peace to the world, or spiritual enlightenment, or that a good time will be had by all. I mean it’s extremely well-constructed, with very high scoring consistency. In short, the GMAT does an excellent job of testing the skills you need to excel in business school.

In contrast, the GRE General Test is, well, general. It is designed to provide a sense of the fitness of a student for graduate-level work, whether one is interested in pursuing a PhD in English or a Masters in Psych. But the aptitudes needed to succeed in one discipline are very different from those of other disciplines, and no single test can measure them all well. Success in business, and success in business school, requires very specific skills that the GRE measures poorly, and the GMAT measures very well.

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Written by Knewton

October 7, 2009 at 6:11 PM

My September 2009 LSAT Experience

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IMG_4851From Knewton student, Garrett Gunchick

I must admit, the September 09 LSAT was not as scary as I made it out to be in my head. I felt confident in my preparation, and decided to go in with success in mind. None of the sections caught me off guard, and I even thought the RC was a little easier than it was on previous PrepTests I had taken. The LR was about average, with nothing sticking out in my mind as something I hadn’t seen before. The Logic Games were all pretty simple, except for the last game, which turned my brain into jello — luckily it was the last section I had to take.

The test center I took the test at is my own college, and I have spent many hours in the room I took the LSAT in so I felt comfortable there. I also knew that they keep that room like -30 below, so I layered up. I felt really sorry for people who didn’t know better and showed up in shorts and t-shirts. Nothing unusual happened, and time flew by; 5 hours passed in what seemed like just an hour or so. I’m a good standardized test-taker, so I wasn’t nervous per se — apprehensive would be a good adjective.

As I write this, though I don’t get my score for another couple weeks, I still feel confident I did well and hit my goal score.

Written by Knewton

October 5, 2009 at 2:39 PM

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Reverse Engineering and Knewton

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When evolutionary biologists encounter a trait in nature, they perform a process known as reverse engineering to understand why that trait existed in the past and continues to exist in the present.

Take, for example, the peacock’s tail.

Evolutionary theory is based on the idea that every adaptation must increase the organism’s reproductive fitness or it would long ago have been bred out of existence. On the face of it, the peacock’s tail poses a problem to the theory. It’s big, heavy and impractical to the point of being downright counterfunctional. The recent theory is that the tail’s very cumbersomeness advertises the peacock’s high level of overall reproductive fitness. The tail announces to peahens, “look at me, I can schlep around all this excess plumage, I must be a pretty impressive peacock.”

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Written by Knewton

September 30, 2009 at 5:27 PM

It’s Wordy, It’s Awkward, It’s… Correct!

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BersinWritten by Joanna Bersin, Knewton’s resident GMAT Sentence Correction expert.

Like a salesman trying to trick you into purchasing an expensive item by appealing to your emotions, the makers of the GMAT try to trick test-takers into both “buying” grammatically incorrect answer choices by making them concise, and eliminating answer choices that are grammatically correct by making them appear awkward and unwieldy.

How do we typically avoid splurging on unnecessary purchases? We train ourselves to shop wisely, basing our decisions on a range of criteria and not solely on what “seems” to be the most attractive option in the store. We focus on specific features, using logic to compare items. How can you choose the correct answer on test day? You don’t just listen to your ear; first make sure that each sentence you eliminate violates a concrete rule of English grammar. When choosing between the remaining, seemingly error-free, constructions, use the differences between the options to identify errors; all other things being equal, always pick the less wordy, less awkward, and more active answer choice.

But buyer, beware: The test-makers, like salesmen, want your ear to tell you what to do. Before going into “negotiations” with these tricksters, it’s best to learn some of their most common tricks. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Knewton

September 25, 2009 at 6:41 PM

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Sample of a GMAT Essay Scored a “5”

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Knewton is your source for the best advice on your GMAT essays. Go to Knewton.com for more sample AWAs.

Analysis of Issue Prompt: Of all the manifestations of power, restraint in the use of that power impresses people most.

Displays of great strength are misguided attempts to gain ground or leverage over another party. In school, children are taught to respect the “strong, silent type.” And for good reason: those able to hold back the use of power should be held in the highest regard. “Heroes” more than willing to throw themselves into harm’s way before all facts are known should not be held up on a pedestal. Instead we should honor those who walk quietly and hold a big stick.

Private citizens aren’t the only ones who benefit from this modest mindset. Governments should strive to restrain the use of their power, in both domestic and international affairs. Leaders must make sure that we exercise caution and humility before diving into something for which we are not ready—not just in war or war planning, but in everyday decisions. Just because a nation can exercise its power to gain leverage over another nation or an individual, doesn’t mean it should. The world already knows the United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. We should let it be known that the lives of our soldiers are far more important than the displaying of our strength.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s is one the most well known example of a Presidential restraint in the face of possible calamity. President Kennedy could have sent the message to the Soviets that America would not back down in any way.  He didn’t and instead chose a deal unpopular even among his own cabinet. The United States showed restraint by removing missiles from Turkey, and the Soviets followed our example and pulled back from Cuba. Almost undoubtedly, this restraint stopped World War III.

This is not to say that America always uses restraint. For example, the current financial crisis happened because people believed that “might is right.” Gain all you can, as quickly as you can, and step on anyone in your path—for years this was the American motto. Just because a company can destroy its competition doesn’t mean they should. We do not need corporations flaunting there power for everyone to see. We need safe, transparent markets. The wealthy and powerful should use only honest practices in the business world.

History has judged that restraint will always gain the most respect and admiration from one’s peers, and enemies. We are impressed by greatness, but, perhaps more importantly, we cherish and honor humility.
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Written by Knewton

September 23, 2009 at 1:03 PM

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