Tag Archive: Titanic

Try this one out for size…

P = 300c² – c

c = 100

Quantity A    Quantity B

P                      29,000c

A. Quantity A is greater

B. Quantity B is greater

C. The two quantities are equal

D. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given



Why would anybody in her or his right mind take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), let along undergo this mental torture twice?

I know for a fact that I cannot be the only masochist on this planet, who would choose (and charge to my credit card) four hours of essays, readings, obscure vocabulary questions and then bewildering math problems such as the one above.

Make that eight hours, spread over four years.

And why can’t mathheads use numbers instead of letters? I thought letters were for the right-brain folks, who study journalism, public relations, advertising, philosophy etc.

One of my friends from my Sacramento days asked me on Facebook, why someone of my “advanced age” (nice) would put himself through all of this agony? The short answer is that I want to compete for the big degree, and the GRE is a necessary evil.

So what limited wisdom can I impart based upon these grueling experiences to anyone considering following in my footsteps?

First, resolve yourself to no more kicking and screaming. Take a GRE prep class. It does make a difference. For little ole me, I raised my cumulative score by 270 points (conservative interpretation) or 300 points (less conservative interpretation), when one equates the new scoring system (e.g., scale of 130-170 points) compared to what was used (e.g., traditional 200-800-point scale) just four years ago.

I signed up for the GRE course offered by the University of Oregon Teaching & Learning Center for $155 for four consecutive, three-hour Saturday morning classes. There is no reason in my humble estimation to pay $1,200 or more to one of the GRE prep centers that are easily found with a Google search. It’s your money.

At a minimum, a GRE prep course makes you more confident heading into the test center. And more importantly, it teaches you some of the tricks of the trade.

Now you wouldn’t think the wonderful Homo sapiens at ETS (Educational Testing Service) would try to deceive test takers? Think again.

ETS employs smart cunning people, who are put on this planet for the sole purpose of devising answers that appear to be right, but are actually wrong. And they know they are wrong. This is either Machiavellian or just plan evil.

For reading comprehension (count on: Unbelievably boring, convoluted turgid text … excuse me for the understatement), the GRE gives you five answers. Two absolutely suck. That leaves you with three answers that are plausible, and maybe they are all right … but damn it, two are wrong.

The GRE gurus are looking for the “best” answer based upon the reading. What may be the best interpretation to you may not be the best to ETS? Sounds subjective? You’re right and there is a high probability that you are not selecting the best answer. Only ETS’ opinion matters.

Sorry. Life is not fair. As my future mother-in-law would say: “Grow a pair.”

Second, forget the calculator, if you can.

Wasn’t the Titanic not equipped with enough lifeboats? ETS is kind enough to provide you a basic calculator with its onscreen program. Shouldn’t you use it, particularly a numbers-challenged journalism graduate? You can, but you are costing yourself precious time.

The GRE prep class counterintuitively recommended dispensing with the calculator, answering the questions based upon pure logic. The problem at the beginning of this blog post gives you four answers (okay, I added one more). Some problems have five potential answers in ascending numeric order. Two will be ridiculous. If you can throw one out that gives you no worse than a 50 percent chance of getting the problem right … without your crutch calculator.

Then there are the problems in which you have absolutely no clue, and only a 20 percent chance of getting it right … regardless of whether you use the calculator or not. Should you respond to the problem anyway? The answer is an emphatic, yes. If you luck out and get it right, you are also recording a right answer for a high difficulty question, and that raises your quantitative score.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Third, manage your time as a good quarterback does trying to pull out victory from the jaws of defeat, when precious seconds are running down to zero.

You have an option of having the descending clock running, while you are taking the test or you can hide the clock with one click of the mouse. Keep in mind, that similar to the Wicked Witch of the West and her hour-glass in the Wizard of Oz, time never stops.

My verbal scores and the results of my two essays (scored 0-6 by ETS essay readers) are the most important to me. I do not plan on competing for a Ph.D in physics or rocket science at MIT or Cal Tech. Instead, I am looking to attain my doctorate in public relations. That means I needed a verbal score on steroids.

The verbal section includes text completions with as many as three fill-in-the-blanks for each sentence; sentence equivalence that test your synonym capabilities; and the above mentioned reading comprehension texts, the latter which drains time at an alarming rate.

My humble advice: Skip around and complete the text completions and the sentence equivalence questions first. Why? They don’t take as much time. There is a higher probability of getting these right. Most of all, you don’t want to leave these blank if you run out of time. That’s what happened to me taking GRE Test 1.0.

Once you have completed the text completions and sentence equivalents then turn your attention to the readings. But first … read the questions CAREFULLY. One question may say:”… if true, the following will support the author’s contention”… Another may say: “… if true, the following will undermine the author’s contention.” Undermine is the opposite of support, and these two competing questions may be attached to the same reading. Yikes!

Finally, make sure that you really want to attend graduate school either to compete for a master’s or for your doctorate. Some schools put more emphasis on the GRE than others, but all the good ones require taking the friggin’ test.

You get as much out of the GRE as you put into it. Take the prep course.




Maybe the dreams of so many will finally be realized.

Instead of the detested Bowl Championship Series (BSC), there really will be a playoff system to determine the national champion. DeVry University will play Capella University in one national semifinal and in the other the Ashford University will take on Kaplan University. The winner will play for all the marbles in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

GlenDale AZ

Sounds a little far-fetched? Right? Wonder if the management of Borders really ever appreciated the nature of the sinister threat to its bricks-and-mortar business model by Amazon and its unique ability to serve the “long tail.”

The local and regional newspapers with their 20th Century dependency on classified revenue really didn’t comprehend the impact of Craigslist until it was too late. They have not recovered and the carnage is just starting; they have not even reached the end of their beginning of the end.

As I start my first day tomorrow as a full-time instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, I am wondering whether I am one of the band members sitting on the deck of the Titanic…BEFORE the luxury liner hit the iceberg.

On the surface everything looks amazingly robust. A college education is now seen as a virtual entitlement for all, not the province of the privileged few. For example, the student population of the University of Oregon has expanded from 19,000 10 years ago to 24,000 now. The average GPA for the incoming freshman this past fall was a record 3.59. The J-School has a total of 2,000 students and the classes for the most part are packed, including the two that I am teaching. There is a reason for the campus wide swagger at Oregon besides the football team winning the Rose Bowl.


In addition, there is the perception shared by some chief executives, even those hailing from the innovative Silicon Valley, that those “attending” online universities are essentially buying a degree, not earning one at a “real” school.

And yet I drive past the shuddered Borders. I remember walking up and down the aisles, checking out books that grabbed my eye or thumbing through CDs. I would take the books over to the in-store coffee shop and peruse them over an overpriced upscale coffee and maybe buy a book or two. Those days are part of the not-too-distant past.

As everyone knows, you can download individual songs, not CDs, from iTunes and instantly load them onto your iPod. Books can either be instantly downloaded to electronic readers or quickly shipped. The bricks-and-mortar model limited the revenues of a Borders because physical space only allowed so much commerce. The “long tail” means that Amazon is not restricted by space and anybody who is looking for an out-of-print book or obscure music beyond the Top 40 can find it at Amazon, but rarely at Barnes and Noble or at now-defunct Borders.

Do these same bricks-and-mortar and ivy-covered walls also maximize the revenue potential of traditional universities, while online universities can teach literally an infinite amount of students on a global scale on a 24/7/365 basis? That may seem like a stretch, but how big of a stretch?

The perception that students are merely buying a degree is a public relations problem that can be solved with time and success stories. What if the public starts to see more-and-more University of Phoenix or DeVry University graduates in positions of power and authority, just is the case for graduates of Ivy League Schools, Stanford, Cal and yes, Oregon? Will we see a president of the United States (POTUS) hailing from an online university before we have a woman president…or will these firsts come at exactly the same time?

A key advantage for on-line universities is their classes never close, there is always a space and they can be taken anywhere at virtually any time. They are highly adaptable. Their non-tenured instructors are less prone as Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote today to advance a social justice agenda and actually teach the course they were hired to teach…maybe even actually helping students find a real job. Bummer: There are no administration buildings to storm and occupy.

For the bricks-and-mortar presidents, administrators and department deans they should be afraid, very afraid of the digital future. Having said that, they have some time…but not unlimited time to devise a strategy to fight back. One important weapon in their arsenal is their well-established brand: a University of Oregon degree carries great weight. The same is true for other major universities.

There is absolutely no reason why these brand names can’t be married to online teaching technology to effectively compete or maybe even outcompete the University of Phoenix et al. crowd. Why can’t English 101 be taught online? Why can’t electrical engineering be taught online by renowned engineering schools? Of course, they can. The analog way of thinking and teaching needs to accommodate the digital reality of the new world.

Are there some limitations to the online teaching model that points to a sustained future for the fittest bricks-and-mortar universities? Sure. This week, I am teaching Public Relations Campaigns. I will be dividing up students in groups of four to work with non-profits on “capstone” projects. They need to learn how to work with others face-to-face, to not love each other but to respect each other. They need to appreciate that not everyone will carry exactly the same load, but that is life…just as long as no one is AWOL.


How can you effectively teach real-time tactile teamwork online? E-mail, texting and social media provides for universal connectivity on an immediate basis, but it does not replace face-to-face communication…in fact it allows introverts to avoid eyeball-to-eyeball contact. That is not what we are trying to achieve in bricks-and-mortar Public Relations Campaigns.






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