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Some Tips for Preppin’

Beloved 8th graders,

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you had a wonderful dinner and a consoling slumber. Well, as many of you know, the admission test for all the Montgomery County magnet programs will be December 1st, or next Saturday. At this point, you should be devoting a good amount of effort to studying, even if you are smart enough (or think you are smart enough). And if you haven’t, you better start CRAMMING (literally). Not the most popular thing to say, but without preparation, it is difficult to perform at your full potential. Thus, I will try to offer some helpful advice while you plow through the books of cruel and unusual punishment.

  1. Reading Section—It’s all speed. In fact, the challenge to the entire test is not content or difficulty, but speed. A hundred and thirty questions in two hours (and there are about 30 related to reading) means that you can only spend one minute per question. Let’s be realistic here, you can’t improve your reading speed in seven days! However, you CAN develop a personalized strategy to ‘critically’ read any piece, in other words, not reading the entire passage (or even just a fraction) and still able to understand the main ideas. I’d recommend grabbing a Time or Economist magazine off the shelf, flip to a random page, and skim through a full article on that page as quickly as you can. Afterwards, write down three to five main ideas. Now go back to the article and read the whole thing, see if your main ideas are still supported. Typically a 1200 word essay should take about three minutes to read.
  2. Vocabulary – you might actually find this section relatively easy. However, for those of you who freaks out about virtually every trivial detail in this universe, go read “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane. If you know almost all the words in this short novel, I wouldn’t be worried. You can also do some practice, vocabulary-in-context tests here: http://www.majortests.com/gre/sentence_equivalence.php, however, remember that you’ll be directly asked for definitions on the actual exam.
  3.  Logical reasoning – Oof! I’ve found this section the most time-consuming and laborious. For this type of question, you must write down every detail while reading through the problem, because sooner or later it will appear like a labyrinth of blabber. This section also tends to cause the most anxiety, partly because there’s no way to get through it quickly. The best strategy is to remain calm and collected and tell yourself you’ll do great! I’d also recommend using LSATs as study materials, since they have a pretty similar logical reasoning section: http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/prep/logical_reasoning.asp
  4. Math – It’s really a set of rules. There’s also only a finite set of problems. The book is not lying when it said only algebra and minimal geometry is required. If you haven’t taken geometry yet, just become familiar with theorems about angle correspondence and triangles. If math has never been your strongpoint, do not fret! Unlike with verbal abilities, math actually abides by the ‘practice makes perfect’ rule. There is no better tool for math preparation than the dreaded SAT books (let’s all have a big SIGH). Virtually all the problems you’ll see on the exam are modeled after the SAT.
  5. Quantitative Comparison – Cheat sheet: think about/list some basic unit/number conversions from now until the test. For example, how many ounces are in a gallon? What’s 210? Do fractions get larger or smaller when the numerator stays constant but the denominator increases? Store as many calculations in your brain as possible.

Lastly, you should utilize your break effectively to prepare for this exam. A full day without coming out of your room is common for students who get accepted into these programs. For the rest of the week until December 1st, try to squeeze in at least three hours of preparation each night. However, DO NOT study at all Friday night, for a good slumber equates infinite hours of studying.

Never be discouraged by the torments of a journey; perchance a chubby, sweet, shiny watermelon is only meters ahead.

Good luck!

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