Gourmets and Gourmands; Photographers and Philistines: Food, Photos and a GRE Vocab Feast

(The following passage on food photo sharing contains 38 GRE words. If you find it difficult to understand, read through the explanation of the meanings of the words (given with illustrative sentences) and then reread the passage.)

The food photo sharing phenomenon (or what you might call the visual department of gastronomy) is in full swing. New tools such as Foodspotting and Eat.ly are constantly proliferating. Add in the photo-handling capabilities of sites like Foursquare and it’s no surprise that the “eat and tweet” trend has inundated social media feeds. Interestingly enough, this flood of food images is being engendered not just by gourmands or even specialist food sites, but ordinary philistines like you and me who have no expertise in food beyond our own pedestrian predilections. Showing – not just telling – others what you’re eating is becoming mainstream. So is vicariously enjoying others’ food. Why is everyone suddenly so keen to snap their snacks (and gorge on images of the food that others eat)? Does this simply reflect a universal human desire to share things that gives us pleasure? Is it showing off or, is it a drive to gain status? What is the genesis of this new drive? And how is it changing our approach to food and eating?

There are lots of theories about why people like to share pictures of food. Some experts suggest it’s because eating is one of society’s most essential communal activities, and sharing food photos is the next best thing to convivial experience of eating together. Others speculate that food photos allure us because we have always started a meal by ‘eating with our eyes’, preparing ourselves for the actual culinary experience by savoring its visual aspects first. Others still, conjecture that food has become something of a status symbol, and sharing a photo of a meal, particularly from a buzz-worthy restaurant, is as much about establishing one’s place in the social media hierarchy as it is about documenting what we ate today.

The interesting thing about food photography is that it combines two subjects that really resonate with society as a whole: food and culture. Meals, for example, are often a time when people come together to celebrate life and human relationships. So, a food photographer is a visual food anthropologist. It’s not just about the food on the plate; it’s also about the context: the moments, the connections, the scenes, the places, the stories. Think about how people relate to food and what connects them to it. Some of the most interesting photographs come out of this relationship. Mobile phones and social media are at the heart of the food image vogue because social media provide the space where a lot of us document and curate our lives and, mobile phones allow people to capture and share their experiences wherever they are. A new element has enlivened the routine of dining: snapping photos of your meal before you eat is now becoming commonplace in places ranging from the fanciest restaurants to your local café and even in less reputable dives.

Of course, filtered photos of food are no surrogate for the experience of the meal itself: they cannot replace the aromas and sensations of preparation and consumption or, the conversations that take place at the table. As for the snaps themselves – these are merely the yeast with which we leaven the pleasures of the Net. Now that’s food for thought!

1. gourmets (noun): people who are experts in food and wine (often contrasted with gourmands – see below) “He’s very easygoing about everything else, but where food is concerned, he’s a gourmet, eating only the best he can afford.”

2. gourmands: people who enjoy eating fine food and often eat in excess (for the gourmet quality is the important thing; for the gourmand quantity is more important than quality): “He’s a typical gourmand and is quite capable of finishing off two whole tandoori chickens all by himself.”

3. phenomenon (noun): an observable thing or event; a remarkable or astonishing thing or person: “Tsunamis used to be a rare phenomenon, but in recent years they have become alarmingly frequent.” “Nobody had any idea that this small-budget independent film would become such a phenomenon at the Oscars.”

4. gastronomy (noun): the pursuit of refined eating experiences; an appreciation of good food: “Gastronomy is one of the traits that separate humanity from the animals.” “As a lover of fine food, I believe that any man who knows nothing of gastronomy does not deserve to be called civilized.”

5. proliferating (from the verb proliferate): multiplying; increasing in number: “During the nineties, call centers were rapidly proliferating in Mumbai and Bengaluru.” “NGO’s do not seem to be proliferating at the same rate as they were a few years back.”

6. inundated (verb): flooded with something; poured into (something) in great quantity: “After the storm, an underground pipe burst and inundated our housing society with drain water.” “When they heard the news of my mother’s death, my friends and family inundated my inbox with condolences.”

7. engendered (from the verb engender): given birth to; produced; created: “Hailstorms are engendered by atmospheric conditions that used to be rare in this part of the world but have recently become quite common.” “The current mood of anger against government and corporate corruption was engendered by a wave of scandals in recent years.”

8. philistine (noun): someone who lacks higher culture; an ignorant, crude and unrefined person: “She is a well-read person, but she’s very lonely because her husband is a philistine who does nothing but watch the idiot box and play video games.” “He’s such a philistine that he thought that Satyajit Ray’s notable film ‘Apu Samsaar’ was a Salman Khan film.”

9. expertise (noun): a high level of knowledge and skill in a particular domain: “The professor declined to supervise my PhD because her expertise was in a slightly different domain.” “Although he was the president of a major computer manufacturer, he had no expertise in programming.”

10. pedestrian (adjective): commonplace; ordinary; unexceptional: “All the reviews of the film were extremely positive, but I found it pedestrian.” “As a singer he is pedestrian, but as a guitarist he is really extraordinary.”

11. predilections (noun): preferences; likings: “His fatal heart attack was the result of his lifelong predilection for ghee-rice.” “Our dear old dog Nandi had a predilection for chasing cars which ultimately led to his death.”

12. mainstream (adjective): commonplace; conventional: “Twenty years ago, almost no one had a mobile phone; now they have become so mainstream that even labourers have them.” “Once, only village people and goondas got tattoos, but in recent years they have gone mainstream, and now any college student or housewife might have one.”

13. vicarious (adjective): done or experienced indirectly or through a substitute: “This video game gives you the vicarious experience of being a fighter pilot in Afghanistan.” “Today I used Bing Maps to take a vicarious walk through the streets of Tokyo.”

14. keen (adjective): eager; enthusiastic: “I have to admit that I’m not very keen to accept his lunch invitation: I find his company so boring that I have difficulty staying awake.” “I have always been very keen on horror films: I’ve seen about thirty in the last year alone.”

15. gorge (verb, always in the phrase gorge on): to eat a huge quantity of something (also figuratively): “On Saturdays I stay at home and gorge on chivda while reading vampire novels.” “On Saturdays I stay at home and gorge on vampire novels while eating chivda.”

16. universal (adjective): occurring everywhere; valid for everyone and everything: “The Canadian government provides universal health care coverage.” “A universal dengue vaccination would totally eliminate the disease within a generation.”

17. genesis (noun): origin; birth; beginning; process of coming into being: “Today, the world is witnessing the genesis of a new political world order.” “The American space program owed its genesis to the country’s military rivalry with Russia.”

18. communal (adjective): relating to a community: “Eating is the most basic communal activity.” “As a radical individualist, I have no interest in communal activities like festivals.”

19. convivial (adjective): characterized by collective happiness and enjoyment; relating to enjoyable group activities: “The convivial atmosphere of the wedding reception was ruined when the bride’s brother punched her new husband in the face.” “Even though he was generally a solitary man, he did look forward to convivial family occasions like birthdays, weddings, and holidays.”

20. speculate (verb): to guess on the basis of evidence: “Police speculate that the serial murderer may have known his victims personally.” “Environmental scientists speculate that global temperatures may have begun to rise not long after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”

21. allure (verb): do draw; to attract; to fascinate: “The fundamental principle of advertising is this: if an advertisement can allure the viewer’s senses, then he will remember the product.” “I didn’t want to accept the university’s job offer because I could see that it was not a first-rank institution, but they tried to allure me by telling me that it would be a permanent position.”

22. culinary (adjective): relating to cooking and food: “Among the things that most attracted her to him were his culinary skills.” “For me, the most memorable thing about our trip to Europe was the great variety of culinary experiences we had in the countries we visited.”

23. savor (verb): to attentively appreciate a positive experience, particularly a taste: “Just savor the feeling of a cold, sweet drink sliding down your throat on a hot summer’s day .” “I hate it when other audience members talk at concerts while I’m trying to savor the music.”

24. aspect (noun) one side or dimension of something: “Every aspect of a problem must be considered if an effective solution is to be found.” “Rightly understood, religion and science are two mutually complementary aspects of the same single, unified reality.”

25. conjecture (verb): to make an informed guess; to speculate about something known on the basis of known facts: “The detectives conjecture that the murderer must have thrown the murder weapon in the nearby river and fled on a train from the nearby station.” “Historians conjecture that the temple must be about one thousand five hundred years old.”

26. buzz (noun): chatter; excited discussion of a popular thing: “This popular new clothing store has generated a lot of buzz all over town.” “You can gauge the success of a new establishment by how much buzz it’s creating.”

27. hierarchy (noun): an ideal structure in which things are ranked in ascending grades of value: “Human beings have always tended to place themselves at the top of the hierarchy of living things.” “Within his first year at the company he was already getting promoted and climbing the corporate hierarchy.”

28. document (verb): to record in writing; to record with written or photographic evidence: “We have to document all our expenses on this trip so that the company will reimburse us.” “The photographs in this book document the story of India’s struggle for independence.”

29. resonate (verb): to be meaningful to someone; to make sense; to express feelings that reflect and bring out one’s own feelings on the subject: “The prime minister’s speeches, which paint an optimistic picture of a prosperous future for the country, resonate with the country’s ambitious youth.” “The story of his struggle to escape from poverty through education and hard work resonates with millions of poor people.”

30. anthropologist (noun): a scholar who scientifically studies human behavior: “An anthropologist must be a completely objective observer of human culture, and must never interfere in what he observes.”

31. context (noun): the situation and circumstances surrounding a thing; the “bigger picture”: “A biography cannot effectively tell the story of its subject’s life unless it also presents a full picture of the social context in which he lived.” “You can’t believe everything people say in the context of a heated argument.”

32. vogue (noun): craze; popular interest in a particular thing: “Italian cuisine is currently enjoying a vogue, but like all vogues it will soon pass and be replaced by another one.”

33. enliven (verb): to make something lively or interesting: “We can always count on the professor to enliven a dull party with his vast general knowledge and bizarre comments.” “Amir Khan briefly enlivens this otherwise boring film with a hilarious five-minute appearance.”

34. reputable (adjective): having a good reputation; respected: “No matter how smart you may be, if your degree isn’t from a reputable university you’ll have trouble finding a good job.”

35. dive (noun): a cheap, low-quality restaurant: “I love eating in this dive, but my wife thinks the place is so disgusting that she won’t even enter it with me.”

36. surrogate (noun): replacement; substitute: “For ensuring good health, there can be no surrogate for vigorous daily exercise.” “Saccharine was the first surrogate for sugar.”

37. aroma (noun): a smell (almost always in a positive sense): “I actually prefer the aroma of coffee to its taste.” “The aroma coming from the kitchen tells me that today’s supper is really going to be something special.”

38. leaven (verb): (said of yeast) to make bread “rise” when it is being baked; (figuratively) to make anything more lively or interesting: “He knows something about everything, and has the most interesting way of talking, so he’s always been the leaven of any get-together he attends.” “Novels were the leaven of my life during the four mind-numbing years I spent earning a bachelor’s degree in a subject I hated.”

Have you Met our Roommate Finder!

 

Living in a foreign country can be both exhilarating and daunting. So can finding the ‘perfect’ roommate.

Anyone who plans to do an ‘MS in US’ has to stay away from family and venture out on their own; and most of you will have come a ton across of horror stories about staying with complete strangers. Differences over how to arrange the apartment, food preferences, keeping different hours or even a sharing a bathroom can turn your dream of studying in America pretty sour! What may not have been significant when you lived with your family may become huge issues when you start sharing living space with others. So, maybe this will sound like advice for someone who is looking for a life partner rather than just a room partner but remember you are going to be sharing cooking, washing up and even laundry duties with that person (or those people). You are going to have to make arrangements to pay the rent and other bills and to share the keys – if that’s not like being married then what is? So, you have to make up your mind about what you are looking for in someone you are probably going to see, be with and work with almost every single day of your stay in the United States.

Do you simply need someone to help pay the bills or are you looking for someone you could be comfortable just being with as well? Would you like to work together with your roommates on cooking and washing and laundry or would you prefer that everyone made their own independent arrangements. Are you the social, friendly, partying type who would like to invite friends over for get-togethers on weekends? Or are you more of a reclusive loner who would prefer others to respect his or her privacy? And so, for example, would you like your roommates to welcome social ‘invasions’ or strongly resist them.

Even if you are the more gregarious type, remember that your new-found roommates may not automatically become your new best friends; people come with their own social circles ‘pre-loaded’. So, if you expect to immediately integrate into the social life of your roomies, you may end up feeling shut out for a while. Conversely some lifelong friendships begin when people started sharing a room, and you too might discover that meeting your roommate was one of the best things that ever happened to you.

On another note, you also need to find good accommodation. You are going to a foreign land, but you can still use your common sense to sniff out and avoid bad options. Here’s a simple pointer: if something seems too good to be true it usually is. Be especially careful if:

  • An ad quotes rates that seem too low for the area and the standard shown in the photos.
  • The landlord tries to get you to pay before you have seen anything (they may sometimes claim that they can’t show you the place but you have to pay if you want to seal the deal – in such cases, just say, “No thanks!”).

But as they say, joys are doubled and sorrows halved when you share them with friends – or roommates! A fresh, completely free and, very importantly, safe way of finding a room or roommate is Dilip Oak Academy’s Roommate Finder. This feature will help you find other students who are already in your desired US University or who are headed there.

Here’s how it works: if you are a signed up member of Dilip Oak’s Academy Online, all it requires is that you update your application status. Once you’ve done that, the names of other students going to the same university as you are will automatically be updated on your Roommate Finder page. Then, just hit the contact button.

If you’re not a member then, joining up is free and easy – it just takes a minute or two – and then you will be able to find roommates.

Remember, Dilip Oaks Academy Online is free to join! So, tell all your friends who are applying for an ‘MS in US’ to join and update their admission updates. The more people join, the more everybody benefits! But, even now there are enough folks like you signed up with us to make this feature a big help to you!

Centre Shock: The Unexpected Challenges Your GRE Test Center May Throw at You!

Hi folks! Today’s post is a write up by Shraddha Barawkar, an engineering student (see brief bio below) about her GRE test experiences at the Prometric Center at Goregaon. We thought it might be interesting for all you GRE candidates out there to hear about how things worked out for her.

 


  • Name: Shraddha Barawkar
  • Branch: Mechanical Engineering
  • College: Pune Vidhyarthi Griha’s College of Engineering and Technology
  • GRE Date: 5 December 2014
  • GRE Center: Prometric Testing Pvt Ltd
  • Center Location: Techniplex I, Goregaon (West), Mumbai

 

Ideally, you should enter your GRE test center full of pep and leave it with a smile! But if you don’t prepare for conditions at the test center or think about travelling there, you may be in for an energy drain that can wipe the smile right off your face. And that can throw off your performance in the GRE!

One of the first things I realized is that it would have been better to be at the test location the day before. I live in Pune and my GRE test center in Goregaon West, Mumbai, was about 120 kms. away – that’s for non-Maharashtrian readers! (Google map and more details here) So, I had to wake up at 4 a.m. and eventually left my house at 6.30 for Mumbai. Not a good idea on the day of the exam!

However, it was early morning, there was only light traffic and so we reached the outskirts of Mumbai at 10 a.m. I heaved a sigh of relief: I had a 12.30 p.m. slot, there were still 2-½ hours for my test and we thought it would take only half an hour to cover the approximately 25 kms to the test center. But by then, the traffic had started up and so, it took us 1-½ hours. As a result, I didn’t even get to have breakfast in peace. Luckily though, my father was able to grab a couple of wadas for me from the vendors outside the center. Finally, at 12.25 p.m., I walked into the center.

My test room was on the 8th floor. As I entered the room, I saw 50 expressionless faces looking blankly at me: those of my fellow test-takers. Simultaneously, I was hit by a sharp temperature drop, from 300C outside, to around 180 inside. I felt as if I had entered a graveyard, and my hands started shivering. Nevertheless, I put a smile on my face and tried to converse with some of the folks there, but they were very reticent, adding to the nervousness I felt because of chill in the room. I could feel myself losing focus and giving in to the desire to just to get the exam over as soon as possible! The atmosphere at the test center, I realized, doesn’t help you to settle into the right frame of mind to take the test.

Shraddha's Overall Evaluation of the Test Center

Somehow, eventually, the formalities got over (passport, ID checking etc.) and, a painful half an hour later, we were asked to put our bags and accessories in the lockers. Then, one by one, we were sent to the main exam room. I relaxed a bit at that point, since I thought that the formalities were finally over. But I was wrong! Inside there was yet another room where I was asked to remove my blazer, unchain my back pockets, raise the collar of my formal shirt and unfold the lower portion of my jeans. This was all done by male authorities, which as a woman, I found quite embarrassing. Finally, I was sent to the test room.
During the exam itself, I encountered two important problems: firstly, typing with nearly numb fingers was a tough job in the analytical writing section. Secondly, during the 10 minute-break halfway through the test, I thought going to the waiting room would be a simple matter. But again I had to complete formalities involving signatures and time entry in order to check out. After the break the whole process of apparel checking was repeated which, took another 3-4 minutes. I was not aware that I had to include time for these things in the break as well and it was only by luck that I had come back early from my break. These circumstances made the GRE a tougher nut to crack!

You might wonder, why I am telling about you my frustrating experiences. It’s because I don’t want you to get demoralized by these things; I want you to be prepared for the worst. The first challenge lies in overcoming the unfavorable conditions at the test center. Only then can you attain the calm state of mind that you need to solve tricky GRE questions!

In conclusion, here’s my advice: if your test center is not located in your home town, you should be at the test location a day before. Find out about nearby places to eat and travel routes and times. Take into consideration traffic conditions too, and try to reach an hour early! You should also eat properly before the test and wear warm clothes. Sometimes the washrooms are far from the test rooms. So, be prepared for a long trek there and, if you are at the Goregaon center, all the formalities of signing in and signing out too!

Hope this helps folks.

This is Shraddha wishing you all the best to give your best!

ETS ScoreSelect for the GRE: a Boon …More or Less!

For students who have given the GRE more than once, the worry has always been that the universities will see their low scores along with their high ones. To deal with this problem the ETS launched the ScoreSelectTM feature some years ago. ScoreSelect allows you to decide which GRE scores will go to universities and colleges which means that you can omit poor scores from your graduate school applications. If you are retaking the GRE therefore, or have GRE scores that you are not keen to show the universities, it seems that ScoreSelect will allow you to breathe a little more easily. But you should be aware that this apparent boon does have its limitations.

Firstly, you won’t be able to mix and match your best maths and verbal performances from separate tests to create a super report. ScoreSelect only allows you to send score reports as a whole. Secondly, if you want the full flexibility that ScoreSelect offers then, it comes at a price.

As the ETS explains, after test day, you can send Additional Score Reports and select the ScoreSelect.

  • Most Recent option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from your most recent test
  • All option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from all tests in the last 5 years.
  • Any option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from one OR many tests in the last 5 years.

As you can see, it is the third option that gives you full scope to exclude the ‘bad’ scores you don’t want the universities to get. But, at this point, i.e. after test day, you will have to shell out $27/- per report. On test day, on the other hand, when you can choose 4 universities to send your score report to AT NO ADDITIONAL COST, this magical option is not available. All you have is the ScoreSelect Most Recent and All options. In short, if you want to get the full benefit of the ETS’s ScoreSelect option, you will have to pay for it at the rate of $27 per score report. As someone once said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

The third problem is that universities are all aware that you may be making use of this facility – and so, some may ask you to send score reports of all the GRE tests you have taken in the last 5 years anyway! If that’s the case with a university that you have selected, then you are stuck, and ScoreSelect is not going to help you.

So, the option exists. But it’s expensive, and it may not always be possible to use it. But, if the university you are applying to is willing to let you show them just the best side of yourself then, if you need it ScoreSelect is always there. Proceed thoughtfully!

How to Save 180 Dollars When You Take the GRE and TOEFL

Most of you know that preparing for the GRE test involves things like hours of practice and learning lots of words and formulae by heart. For the TOEFL, as you are aware, you have to brush up on your grammar. But you most probably never thought that preparing for these tests would involve thinking through which universities or colleges you would like to apply to. But it does, and here’s why: saving the 180 dollars referred to in the title is as simple as selecting the 4 names of universities from a drop-down list. Here’s how it works.

At the end of the GRE test, the ETS allows you to choose 4 universities to which they will send your GRE test score to WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL CHARGE. This is the ‘free score reporting’ feature, so called since the payment for reporting the score to those four institutes is included in the GRE registration fee. The TOEFL has a similar feature. The difference here is that the selection of the university or college you would like to send your free scores to needs to be done BEFORE the exam – any time after you have booked the TOEFL exam date up to 24 hours before your TOEFL test date.

Most students don’t make use of these useful money saving features since they generally don’t decide which universities they want to apply to before their GRE or TOEFL exams. The reasoning is that the choice of university depends on the GRE test score hence, university selection can be done only after the test. So, students normally request what the ETS calls Additional Score Reports (ASRs) only after they have selected universities to apply to (according to their GRE score). At that point they end up paying a fee of 27 dollars for each additional GRE ASR they request and 19 per TOEFL report. But, if you have already made use of the free score reporting feature, you make a saving of $27 + $19 = $46/- per university and $184 for all 4 universities!

But how do you select which universities you want to apply to before you have even got your GRE score? Well, you should have some idea of what universities you want to apply to beforehand – after all, on the basis of your GRE test scores you will only be making a selection of 4 for ‘free score reporting’ from that list; and though you may not have your GRE test scores in hand before the actual test, your mock tests will give you some idea of what scores you can expect. To make that list, talk to seniors or get on to some good discussion forums. This is something that you have to do in any case.

If, on this basis, you can make you make up your mind about what universities you would like to apply to before the GRE and TOEFL exams, you’ll be able to keep that $184 /- in your pocket! That works out to over 11,000 rupees, and you could buy a pretty decent smartphone with that amount or… plan a trip to Goa!

Also check out the link at the end of this sentence for what to do about sending scores to ‘unlisted institutions

Vocabulary Vitamins for the GRE Available Here!

Here’s our challenge for you: a cursory glance at this blog (and even this introduction!) will radically improve your vocabulary. Read it and see if it doesn’t! If you find the words challenging, take a look at the explanations below the article below. They are all from the high-frequency GRE list.

Any journey gives you a chance to take an exciting break from the soporific routine of everyday life. In fact, travelling to places and cultures very different from your own can be a visionary experience. In some cases the sights and sounds of an exotic locale can seem surreal. But going solo takes travel to a different level altogether.

It is true that solo travel can have its disadvantages. Most of us would be wary of going solo because of the difficulties we might face: communication problems, cultural misunderstandings and loneliness among them. On the other hand, people who have never traveled on their own before often describe their first solo trip as a liberating experience. Traveling alone gives you the chance to fully indulge your own curiosity and predilections without being hampered by a companion’s prejudices, tastes, or preferences. You can do exactly what you want to do – all the time. Always wanted to try surfing? Sign up for a class and go for it! There’ll be no one sitting on the beach bored and impatient while you’re out on the waves having a great time. If you are connoisseur of food, a vacation alone will give you opportunities to experiment to your heart’s content with the local cuisine. And there are attractions that will augment the pleasure of the experience. A frenzied shopping spree at the local markets, especially for a solo woman traveler, can be an exhilarating experience.

Further, a little preparation and common sense can spare you the difficulties of solo travel. A detailed itinerary, a meticulous study of maps and other local information is the ticket to a smooth vacation. Also, as unfamiliar sights and sensations inundate you, you must take care not to be gullible or overconfident.  Without a companion to watch your back, you are potentially vulnerable to antisocial people and hazardous situations. However, a solo traveler can also blend in more easily than a group; and not drawing too much attention is a good way to stay safe. And there may be compensations: solo travelers who clearly need assistance often have the good fortune to experience the benevolence and magnanimity of the locals. So, traveling solo need not necessarily is more dangerous than going to the movies or having dinner by yourself in your own city.

And, there is a final reward for the adventurous of soul: if you are willing to put away your fear of the unknown, you will discover the paradox at the heart of solo travel: traveling alone far from your roots and all you have known, you will discover not merely new places, you will discover yourself!

vocabulary vitamins

OK, for those who had a little difficulty with the blog or just want a sharper understanding of the vocabulary, here are the 23 high-frequency GRE words that this blog covered along with their meanings, and illustrative sentences. Find the ones you had trouble with and read them through.

Cursory (adjective): done or made quickly: “Even the most cursory look at the organization’s records shows problems.”

Radical (adjective): favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions: “The new president has made some radical changes to the company.”

Benevolence (noun): an act of kindness, disposition to do good: “People either think their benevolence benefits them materially, or gain satisfaction from altruism.”

Visionary (adjective): relating to a vision (that is, a hallucinatory dreamlike experience); marvelous and unreal: “His visionary paintings seem to come from another world.”     (Noun) having or showing clear ideas about what should happen or be done in the       future, [She is considered a visionary leader amongst her peers]

Prejudice (noun): a bias or assumption; a poorly founded belief: “Many people have the prejudice that only native speakers can teach a language well.” “At first I doubted that he could really be an expert programmer because he didn’t have a degree, but I abandoned that prejudice as soon as I saw how brilliant his coding was.”

Surreal (adjective): seemingly unreal; giving the impression of being unreal; very strange: “I just had a rather surreal conversation with a man who came up to me on the street and told me that aliens from another planet were about to invade the earth.”

Indulge (verb): to give free rein to something; to allow something to follow its own inclination: “I didn’t really want to listen to him talk about his problems, but I indulged him because he was obviously so lonely.” “When someone insults you, you should not indulge your impulse to insult him in return: just walk away.”

Predilection (noun): a preference or tendency: “She has a predilection for chocolate soy milk.” “My dog has an embarrassing predilection to steal people’s floaters and chew them to pieces.”

Soporific (adjective): causing sleep; boring: Only an enormous cup of coffee can keep me awake during one of his soporific lectures.”

Wary (adjective): cautious (of something): “I’m wary of getting into a conversation with her, because once she starts talking she doesn’t stop for hours.”

Augment (verb): to increase something by adding something to it: “You need to augment your CV a bit. Are there any projects or work experience you may have left out?” “We can augment the effect of this drug by adding another.”

Inundate (verb): to flood; to overwhelm; to come at in great quantity; to flood with something: “I assure you that once you complete your M Tech at our college, companies will inundate you with job offers.”

Gullible (adjective): too ready to accept what one is told; too easily persuaded: “Shortly after getting off the plane at Mumbai, a gullible tourist paid a street vendor five thousand rupees for two samosas.”

Itinerary (noun): the plan of a journey: “Why is the bus stopping here? I didn’t think this town was on the itinerary.” “Once I actually start driving I tend to forget about the itinerary and just follow my heart.”

Meticulous (adjective): very careful and thorough; giving attention to details; reflecting or characterized by such carefulness: “He is an extremely meticulous programmer: his code is always perfect the first time.”

Vulnerable (adjective): in danger of being injured or attacked: “Homeless women are far more vulnerable than homeless men.” “The country was vulnerable to attack from the east because all its forces had been moved to meet the attack on its western border.”

Hazardous (adjective): dangerous; perilous: “He has been convicted twice for hazardous driving.” “This housing society was built on ground contaminated with hazardous chemicals.”

Magnanimity (noun): bigheartedness; greatness of heart; selfless generosity: “It requires great magnanimity to truly forgive someone who has badly injured you.” “He was known for the magnanimity he showed to his friends, whom he never hesitated to help with money or other assistance whenever they needed it.”

Connoisseur (noun): someone who has gained a profound knowledge of some thing or activity by frequently exposing himself to it over a long period of time: “He became a connoisseur of Japanese films by watching thousands of them over the years.” “I consider myself something of a connoisseur of idlis, having eaten tens of thousands of them over the years.”

Cuisine (noun): a type of cooking, usually defined by its national origin (Chinese cuisine; Continental cuisine; Mexican cuisine): “I don’t like Italian films much, but I love Italian cuisine.”

Frenzied (adjective, past participle of the verb to frenzy): characterized by extreme excitement, agitation, and distress: “When the dogcatcher caught the dog in his net, the animal at first made frenzied attempts to struggle free, then became still as if he realized that there was no point.”

Exhilarating (adjective, past participle of the verb to exhilarate): thrilling; causing a feeling of extreme happiness and excitement: “Climbing to the summit of a mountain is an exhilarating experience.”

Paradox (noun): an apparently self-contradictory or impossible thing, situation, or statement: “The most intelligent men are often the least effective leaders: history shows us this paradox again and again.”

Don’t Read This Unless You Have a Good Vocabulary!

The passage below has 20 high-frequency vocabulary words in it. See if you can understand their meaning from the context. If not read the meanings and sample sentences given below the passage.

When was the last time you played a game or pursued a hobby?

One can choose a hobby from a plethora of options, and explore them more or less deeply. Some try to develop their culinary skills, or attempt writing a book, or indulge in more erudite hobbies like numismatics or philately. Some set their heart on playing a musical instrument, like the guitar.

But people often abandon their culinary journey when their first curry turns out to be insipid. Those who take up writing may love the idea of writing, but when it comes to actually writing, they find themselves staring endlessly at a blank page or computer screen. Most people are too capricious and lazy to stick with a hobby that requires a bit of discipline to be really rewarding. In the end, many become disillusioned when it turns out to be more work than they expected, and their initial euphoria fizzles out. I do not wish to flippantly claim that a hobby is all play and no work; but once you have decided which hobby you want to pursue and have familiarized yourself with the basics of it, you will find that the work that is involved is pleasurable and rewarding in a way that your regular paid work can never be.

And how do you go about choosing a hobby? Above all, don’t be a skeptic: unless you believe in your right and ability to enjoy being a neophyte in a new field, you will not be able to take pleasure in it – and pleasure is the whole point. In choosing, you should use your intuition, and choose something which fits the soul. The trick is to know your inner self, and to be both idealistic and pragmatic at the same time in following it. To find a hobby that will suit your nature and circumstances, you need to make a list of the things you enjoy doing, and then consider how much free time and money you can devote to the activity you choose. No matter how ludicrous your idea for a hobby may initially seem, you have to boldly transcend your doubts and prejudices, and savor the excitement of novelty and uncertainty.

No matter how diffident one is when taking up a hobby, no matter how casually one pursues it, it is still important to have one. A hobby can kindle a new interest in life and reveal hitherto unsuspected aspects of oneself, even on occasion leading to a new career.

Now here are the meanings, with illustrative sentences. Read them through and then see if you can understand the passage.

1. plethora (noun): a large quantity:

“It was raining on the day the politician arrived at his next campaign stop, so when he got to the podium and looked out at his audience, all he saw was a plethora of umbrellas.”

“The response to the director’s new film was a plethora of disappointed reviews.”

2. culinary (adjective): relating to cooking:

“The man I marry will have to have good culinary skills, since I will be too busy with my career to cook, and I love good food.”

3. erudite (adjective): learned; having a deep knowledge of something; reflecting such deep knowledge:

“Let us now hear what the erudite professor himself has to say about this matter to which he has devoted so many years of study.”

“Based as it was on 20 years of research, his writing was erudite; unfortunately, however, he was unable to make his subject interesting.”

4. numismatics (noun, plural): the study of coins:

Numismatics is an important branch of archeology.”

5. philately (noun): the collection and study of stamps:

“When he told me that he had a passion for philately, I thought I would find him intolerably boring; instead, he introduced me to a fascinating new hobby.”

6. insipid (adjective): lacking taste (in both a literal and figurative sense); dull; uninteresting:

“The restaurant reviewer complained that everything on the menus was more or less insipid: he would have liked a little more spice in everything.”

“I once made an effort to read his poetry, but I found it too insipid to continue.”

7. capricious (adjective): impulsive; affected by short-lived bursts of enthusiasm; frequently changing one’s mind; resulting from or reflecting such impulsiveness:

“Being capricious by nature, he had started learning five different languages at one time or another, but had never progressed beyond the basics before giving up.”

“Thanks to your capricious decision to buy a dog, we have yet another mouth to feed in the house.”

8. disillusioned (adjective, past participle of the verb to disillusion): having the feeling that one’s expectations and beliefs about something have been disappointed and proved false:

“I had grown up believing that the university was a temple of learning filled with young people who were devoted to the search for knowledge and truth, so my first year of undergraduate study left me feeling deeply disillusioned.”

“After twenty years of work in the environmental movement, he retired a disillusioned man.”

9. euphoria (noun): intense happiness; extremely high spirits; exhilaration:

“I have never felt such euphoria as I did on the day of our marriage.”

“Most mountain climbers report that they feel a tremendous euphoria upon reaching the mountain’s summit.”

10. flippantly (adverb, from the adjective flippant): in a frivolous, non-serious, thoughtless manner (generally referring to acts of speech):

“I flippantly told her that our friendship meant nothing to me, but immediately regretted it.”

11. diffident (adjective): lacking confidence; unsure of oneself:

“Despite being told again and again that he was a musical genius, he remained diffident about his ability, and as a result retired early from his career as a concert pianist.”

“Let me assure you that your writing is of the highest quality: you have no reason at all to be diffident.”

12. kindle (verb): to light a fire; to bring something into being or inspire it, starting from a small beginning:

“As night fell, the trekkers gathered sticks and leaves and kindled a fire.”

“In his campaign speeches, the prime ministerial candidate tried to kindle his audience’s patriotism with fiery speeches about the nation’s growing importance on the international scene.”

“I gave her many books of poetry, trying to kindle an interest that we could pursue together, but she just wasn’t interested.”

13. skeptic (noun): someone who doubts:

“I used to be a skeptic in matters of religion, but at this point in my life I feel more inclined to admit that there may be a lot of truth in it.”

“The average voter is much more of a skeptic today than he was thirty years ago, and much less likely to believe politicians’ campaign promises.”

14. neophyte (noun): an absolute beginner in some field or activity:

“Despite being a neophyte in politics, the chief minister’s son was immediately given important posts and responsibilities.”

“Even when he was a neophyte in chess, he used to defeat serious players with years of experience.”

15. intuition (noun): a feeling about something that is not based directly on reasoning or logical processes of thinking:

“Most managers do not actually think through their decisions in a logical and systematic way, but depend on intuition to tell them what they should do in a difficult and complex situation.”

“I can’t really tell you why, but I have an intuition that something terrible is about to happen.”

16. idealistic (adjective): having high, noble, and possibly unrealistic ideals and principles; characterized by or reflecting such an attitude:

“When I was younger, I was very idealistic, and frequently chose to do what I thought was right, even if that meant sacrificing my own interests for the benefit of others.”

“The prime minister’s idealistic decision to institute a universal health care system proved to be an economic disaster for the government.”

17. pragmatic (adjective): realistic; having a sound sense of what is really possible and necessary; characterized by or reflecting such an attitude (opposite of idealistic):

“The new president of the company was much more pragmatic than the previous one, and instituted reforms which quickly made the company profitable again.”

“I take a pragmatic view of marriage: it should be seen as an institution that exists to make both partners happy, and if it ceases to be this, then it should be allowed to come to an end.”

18. ludicrous (adjective): ridiculous; absurd; laughable:

“Your plan to equip the doghouse with a solar-powered heating system is ludicrous.”

“On his first day of work he came to the office dressed in a ludicrous multicolored costume adorned with peacock feathers, mirrors, and chains, and was immediately fired.”

19. transcend (verb): to rise above; to overcome:

“Great works of art are the ones that deal with issues of universal and eternal importance, and thereby transcend the particular historical circumstances in which they were created.”

“Amazingly, she was able to transcend the terrible problems and challenges in her life and become the first person in her family to go to university.”

20. savor (verb): to enjoy the taste of something; to fully enjoy something:

“Just savor the wonderful taste of this garlic and carrot pickle!”

“As he felt his life drawing to an end, he made more and more of an effort to savor each and every moment and experience to the fullest.”

‘MS in US’: Eligibility, Costs, Job Prospects

M.S. in U.S.

When you are thinking of getting a Master’s or doctoral degree in America, some of the top questions on your mind would be:

• What are the academic requirements in order to be able to apply?

• What are the costs of getting a degree in the US?

• What are the job prospects?

Here’s a quick look at the answers to those questions.

 

What is the eligibility for applying for a Master’s course in America?

The basic eligibility requirement is 16 years of formal education (12 + 4), the last 4 from an accredited university. So, students who have bachelor’s degrees in engineering (whether they joined engineering courses directly after the 12th Std. or after a diploma course) can directly apply for American Master’s courses. However, students who have completed a three-year degree (e.g. B.Sc.) should ideally complete their Master’s degrees (e.g. M.Sc.) in India and then apply.

Note: External degrees and degrees from open universities that are not accredited may not accepted by American universities.

 

What is the cost of education in America?

The cost of education in America varies from Rs. 12,00,000 to Rs. 30,00,000 depending on:

• the type of university (private or government-aided)

• its rank

• its geographical location

 Apart from tuition fees you also have to bear the costs of:

• insurance

• living (food + housing)

• transportation.

There are many ways to reduce these financial burdens however. Many students manage to get some kind of financial assistance in the form of:

• research and teaching assistantships

• tuition waivers

• on-campus jobs etc.

Such kinds of financial assistance take care of a large part of the expenses incurred when  studying in America.

 

What are the job prospects after completing a Master’s degree course in America?

 • After completing your course you are allowed to undertake Optional Practical Training (OPT) for 12 months. OPT may be extended for another 17 months if you fall under the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) category

• Ample job opportunities exist in the fields of engineering and computer science (much tech talent in America is Indian and many Indians hold top positions the field – as is evident from the case of Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft).

Note:

• Professors’ recommendations carry a lot of weight. To get a job you must get excellent references from professors who taught you during your master’s course.

• When you are working in America, your company may apply for H1-B visa (work permit) on your behalf. After this you can apply for a green card.

So, get ready to get your MS in US!

 

Higher Education in America: What Tests You Need to Take

 

If you are considering higher education in America, either an MBA or MS you will need to take the following tests:

Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®): Those seeking admission for a Master’s degree in any field apart from management are required to take the GRE test. The GRE® is a computer-based test and consists of verbal, quantitative and essay sections. The GRE test is scored as follows. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130-170 each and the essay section is scored on a separate scale of 0-6. The score is valid for 5 years. The test can be taken throughout the year at certified test centers.

Graduate Management Aptitude Test® (GMAT®): The GMAT test is required for students seeking a management (MBA) degree in America. The GMAT test too, is computer-based and consists of verbal, quantitative and essay and integrated reasoning sections. There is a combined score on a scale of 200-800 for the Verbal and Quantitative sections. There is separate score for the essay section on a scale of 0-6 and one for the integrated reasoning section on a scale of 1-8. The score is valid for 5 years. The test can be taken throughout the year at certified test centers.

Test of English as a Foreign Language® (TOEFL®): Since English is not our native language, all Indians seeking a degree in America are required to take the TOEFL test to prove English proficiency. The TOEFL test is internet-based and consists or reading, listening, writing and speaking sections. The TOEFL test is out of 120 and can be taken on weekends throughout the year at certified test centers. The score is valid for 2 years.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Like the TOEFL® test IELTS too, is an English test required to prove English proficiency. Many American universities now accept IELTS test scores. Hence you may choose to take the IELTS test in place of the TOEFL. The IELTS is paper-based and consists of reading, listening, writing and speaking sections. The score is out of 9.0 and can be taken throughout the year at certified test centers. The score is valid for 2 years.

Note: Prior registration is required for all these tests.

If you are looking for coaching for these tests click this link

Cracking the Verbal Section 2: Turning Verbal Debility into Verbal Ability

Cracking the GRE Verbal Section

(Note: debility means weakness or disability; verbal debility here means a weakness or disability relating to the verbal section. Also, check out the other difficult words in this post. To get the meaning, just hover your mouse over them.)

 

How to Improve Vocabulary

1. Get those Vocab Lists, Look up those Dictionaries

As we said in our previous post, a good grasp of vocabulary is instrumental to achieving success in the Verbal Section. To improve your vocabulary, start by learning word meanings, synonyms, and antonyms. In order to do this you will need to find a good GRE list on the net – there are several available – and look up the synonyms and antonyms on a good online dictionary e.g.

On every handy piece of software to download and install on your laptop, phones, tablets, PCs etc is wordweb (http://wordweb.info/free/): it will give you words, meanings, sample sentences etc. for every word you hover your cursor over.

(Note to Dilip Oak’s Academy students: you already have VaiVocabulary – this gives you the word list along with synonyms, antonyms, easily confused words and a whole lot of revision features.)

2. Learn, Revise, Repeat

Developing an effective vocabulary also means consistent learning and revision so, start learning well before the exam – at least three months is recommended – and set up a learning and revision schedule. Make regular revision an integral part of your schedule: unless you revise regularly and repeatedly, you won’t remember any of that difficult vocabulary you are learning.

4. Target the Tough Ones

When you revise, mark out any words that you tend to forget: they need extra revision. The more you tend to forget them, the more they need to be revised; and the more you revise them, the better you will remember them!

5. Start Small

Doing all the learning and revision required can be an arduous task so, start with a good 500 high frequency GRE® word list. A short list like this will be a good stepping stone to the longer ones; and learning it will help you in overcoming the mental blocks associated with vocabulary learning.

6. Put it in Context

Keep in mind that simply memorizing words by rote is not enough, however; and developing a good vocabulary is not merely a matter of memorizing meanings of thousands of words. Often students notice that simply knowing the meaning of an obscure GRE word does not guarantee selecting the right answer in the exam. A proper understanding of exactly how to use vocabulary is necessary. It is this knowledge of usage that helps you to choose the right word for the given context. It is therefore advisable that, along with all your efforts to increase your vocabulary, you focus on getting a clear understanding of how to use these GRE words and which words fit in a particular context.

 

Developing Good Reading Habits

Apart from going through word lists, developing good reading habits is also crucial. One way in which this helps is getting an understanding of usage and context as we saw above. Secondly, though the GRE® is not a test of general knowledge, the reading comprehension passages in the verbal section cover a variety of topics and areas. Some background knowledge of the subjects being discussed in the passage you are reading is always useful since it is always easier to understand something that is at least somewhat familiar than something that is completely unfamiliar. For both these reasons it is imperative that you read a variety of articles from newspapers, magazines, and the web. Sites like the ones below give you access to an eclectic collection of very high quality writings.

http://thebrowser.com/ (easier but nevertheless intriguing reading – good to start with: it stimulates your interest and gets you reading without bogging you down with difficult words or convoluted sentences)

http://www.aldaily.com/ (more complex stuff, really long articles – get into this slowly)

Reading through this material at random can ensure both plenty of practice for comprehension and exposure to vocabulary in context.

(Note for Oak’s students: check out this link)

 

 

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