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Improving reading comprehension

February 19th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Test Preparation

Create your destiny

Clients often ask me how to improve reading comprehension. In particular, they want to learn to read faster to succeed on standardized admissions tests, e.g., iBT, GMAT and GRE.

Let me reiterate a few essential points about reading in general and reading in particular for your tests. These points may seem obvious to you, but you would be surprised how many applicants seem to ignore the practical advice they consider obvious.

  1. There are few shortcuts to improving reading ability other than to read.
  2. You can’t learn to read more effectively in English unless you read in English.
  3. It is ludicrous to sit in a training course somewhere (and pay an expensive fee) listening to an instructor translate an English passage from a test and believe that training is going to teach you to read in English.
  4. During the period you are preparing for your tests you must make sacrifices and trade off reading materials you might find more comfortable reading in your native language with newspapers, magazines, and web postings that you can read in English.
  5. Most Japanese have learned to read word for word, sentence by sentence. This is painstakingly slow on your test exams. It is also slow for the preparation you must make for school next year itself, during which you will be expected to read reams of English language material daily: case studies, textbooks, other materials. You must push yourself to read faster and to read first for ideas and second for the detail that backs up the main points the author makes.
  6. Learn to recognize easily the “signposts” that signal when to zero in on some aspect of a reading passage. Mastering these “signposts” will save you time.
  7. One of the blocks to improving reading comprehension is lack of vocabulary. I have written a previous blog post that provides tips on building vocabulary and an effective tool for that purpose
  8. You should construct your own word lists acquired through actual reading. Give up trying to write down every unknown word you encounter, especially “one-of-a-kind” technical terms you may never see again. Concentrate on basic words found in good English language materials that come up again and again and you don’t understand. This may be tedious in the short-term but will pay handsome dividends over time.
  1. Standardized tests are administered online. That means you had better practice reading online, reading articles on the Internet. Give up fooling around reading blogs that are poorly written, and dedicate that time to reading daily good articles online. The choices are unlimited, as for example:

Asian Wall St. Journal

Scientific American

National Geographic

Try this exercise daily:

  1. Pick out an article online of your choice. Choose whatever interests you.
  2. Read the article at your fastest pace.
  3. Write down in a few sentences the main point (s) of the article and support for that point.
  4. Go back and read the article again, this time as a slower pace, to see how well you did in the summary and to study vocabulary.
  5. Push yourself faster and faster as you gain experience with the exercise. It will build your ability in reading comprehension and also give you practice in writing. In speed reading, people are trained to use an index finger as if it were a baton to develop their speed. On the computer you can achieve the same purpose by using the “scroll down” function.

Here is a full list of excellent online English language reading sources:

Business Newspapers & Magazines:

Asian Wall St. Journal

This is one of the best newspapers in the world. Although the focus is business, the Asian WSJ also includes well-written articles about art, culture and technology and country-focused news around Asia including Japan Real Time. You should be reading it daily. You can even read onsite the Asian WSJ in Japanese, although that defeats the purpose of improving your English-language reading comprehension.

In business school, to be well-prepared for in-class and out-of-class discussions many students read the WSJ as a first step in the morning.

The Asian WSJ is subscription-based, although many of the articles in the online newspaper can be read free of charge.

Business Week

Business Week is an ideal source for tracking the currents global business trends. It has extensive information on investing, technology, small business, and careers. It has three print versions: US, Europe and Asia. Online versions of all three are also available.

Harvard Business Review (HBR)

If you are headed for business school, you may think of this magazine as required reading. Its articles are trenchant and thorough in research. The HBR is a subscription-based product, although plenty of the articles are available without subscribing. You can go back into the archives and find articles published in 1956 (two years after the term “cash flow” was first introduced in the English language).

In the HBR you can find case studies adapted for the magazine and a wealth of value-added content, for example, Toyota’s Recall Crisis: What Have We Learned—published February 11, 2011.

International Herald Tribune

I have been reading the International Herald Tribune ever since I was a graduate student in Europe. I liked the paper because it is compact and focused on international news. Then a joint venture of the Washington Post and the New York Times, the IHT was the best English language daily available at the time. There were no online newspapers to read because there was no internet! A few years ago the New York Times acquired a controlling interest in the International Herald Tribune. The style of the paper changed somewhat. I still read the IHT but prefer the Asian Wall Street Journal as a primary reading source.

Scientific American

Scientific American covers a vast array of emerging technologies, enabling readers to stay on top of the ever-changing world of science. The technical nature of this magazine makes it an excellent primer for the GMAT Reading Comprehension passages, which are often cover advanced scientific subjects like those found inside the pages of Scientific American.

The Economist

The Economist is the preeminent British business magazine. It is famous for hashing out the underlying broad trends behind seemingly isolated economic and political events. It is also well known for stronger editorial opinions than most business journals. It goes well beyond business, in that it also covers Science and Technology, Popular Culture, the Arts, Books, and the like. If you want to impress people at cocktail parties with your wide knowledge and interests, then this is the magazine for you. It is the magazine for choice for you particularly if you plan to study in Europe.

Financial Times

Britain’s leading business daily, the Financial Times publishes several editions, including FT Asia. In addition to extensive European and North American Business coverage, it also an excellent resource for looking at Japan Inc from an “outsider’s” perspective. Areas covered include markets and funds, macro economic issues (Bank of Japan, Federal Reserve, etc.), technology, business life, arts, and even sports. If you are considering attending business school in the UK, this is a must read. The FT is subscription-based. It is well-written and overall excellent.

Fortune Magazine

Fortune is the business magazine of choice of most Fortune 500 executives, often for vain reasons (they love reading about themselves). To give an idea, the average net worth of Fortune readers is over $2 million. The magazine is famous for its lists. In addition to the eponymous Fortune 500, it also ranks the most admired, fastest growing, and best run companies. In addition to its primary North America version, it also has Europe and Asia editions.


Forbes calls itself the “Home Page for the World’s Business Leaders.” To an extent this is an accurate statement. Like Fortune, Forbes is a favorite of corporate executives. Forbes is also a good source for business rankings and other lists of interests. Its topics include Technology, Markets, Employment, Personal Finance, and Lifestyle issues. Like many business magazines, it is personality driven, in that it focuses much attention on celebrity executives in sometimes softball interviews. Overall, however, with the broadness of its content, including video and audio, it is a good source of timely and interesting business information.


Barrons offers a high value online and print magazine for investors and investment professionals focused on stocks, bonds, and structured finance. It is a member of the Wall Street Journal digital network that includes the flagship WSJ, MarketWatch, FINS (finance), and SmartMoney. Barrons is subscription-based but some of its content is available online without a subscription. If you are in investment industry or plan to transition to investments, this magazine is right for you.

Institutional Investor

The Institutional Investor is a premier online destination for financial professionals. This is an excellent source for current and future financial analysts and fund managers. It covers the global world of finance, including special sections on Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. It has in depth information on corporate financing, derivatives, hedge funds, technology, and pension funds.

Fast Company

Fast Company is a monthly magazine focused on new industries. It provides information that gives entrepreneurs and business professionals insight on leadership and organization. The magazine also offers practical business tools and tactics, and it is a good source for interviews with the leaders of leading-edge companies.

Inc. Magazine

Inc’s editorial focus is on the people who run growing companies. It offers business and technology solutions to help current and aspiring entrepreneurs and executives run their businesses more effectively. In addition, it has features on capital finance, marketing, managing people, etc. Probably the strongest point of Inc. is the way it presents important information: The authors get straight to the point without wasting time with petty discussions or attempts to soften the blow of an undesirable fact. It provides good advice on how to help grow a young business.

Business 2.0

B2.0, a monthly print magazine with daily online updates, which unlike its former rival Red Herring, survived the crash of the Internet bubble. It remains the prototype “New Economy” magazine, offering a nice balance of traditional and contemporary business analysis, by covering the latest in developing technologies, business models, and trends. Regular features include “Startup” (“People, trends, wild conjecture”), “What Works” (“Tactics, tools, true-life adventures”) and “Self Serve” (“Navigate your life, enhance your view”).

School-Specific websites:


Updated every two weeks, this website/newsletter offers information and insight from both internal and external sources. The articles are both timely and insightful. Topics include analysis of current business trends, interviews with industry 9leaders and Wharton faculty, and book reviews. Nice features include a searchable database of related articles and links to hundreds of industry specific external sites.

INSEAD Knowledge

This online resource contains abstracts of INSEAD-produced working papers, case studies, journal articles and books. Themes include Business, Society & Environment, Change & Innovation, Economics, Trade & Policy, Entrepreneurship and Family Business, Finance & Banking, Knowledge Management, Marketing, Operations Management, People & Leadership, and Strategy/

London Business School Business Strategy Review

A quarterly research journal that covers the latest research, ideas, and issues related to the global business environment. It provides a forum in which the very latest research, ideas, and issues animating the global business environment can be debated as well as a rigorous analysis of the concerns facing today’s business leaders. It contains original research, global case studies, and corporate profiles.

Working Knowledge (Harvard Business School)

This weekly website/newsletter is updated is subtitled “for business leaders.” It provides information from HBS in a concise and practical way. In addition, it offers information on new management books and other external resources. Topics covered include Career Effectiveness, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Globalization, Innovation, Leadership, Marketing, Operations, Social Enterprise, Strategy, Technology, Corporate Governance, and Moral Leadership.

Stanford MBA Admissions Newsletter

This newsletter is targeted at prospective Stanford MBA applicants. It provides information on Stanford road shows, provides perspectives from current students and recent graduates, and provides answers to frequently asked questions such as “I’ve heard that I need at least three years of work experience to be a competitive applicant.” Current GSB news and links are also provided. A useful resource.

Columbia Business School News & Information

This online site provides current information on events and programs at Columbia Business School. Typical topics include Career Services Forums, a Media and Information Conference, and a Women in Business Conference. The sight also has a news archive.

Northwestern University Press Series

Northwestern University Press launched a book series last year. The first book was titled “Kellogg on China, ” written by Kellogg professors Anuradha Dayal-Gulati and Angela Y. Lee. The information was drawn from the Kellogg School’s Global Initiatives in Management program. This year’s book is “Kellogg on Biotechnology.” Both books are available at commercial book stores. More information is available on the website.

Chicago Booth Magazine

This magazine is published in print and online three times a year. It covers alumni accomplishments, faculty research as well as school news and activities. The e-Newsletter provides timely GSB news, announcements and information on global GSB-related events.

Cornell Business

This is an online and print, student-run monthly publication. It covers on-campus events, global Johnson School-related happenings, and does feature stories on current students and alumni. It provides information on career opportunities as well.

Company-Specific Websites:

The McKinsey Quarterly

This is McKinsey’s business journal, containing the leading global strategy firm’s latest thinking on management, strategy, and finance across a global range of industries and functions. Typical topics include Merger Valuation, Governing Joint Ventures, Trends in India, and US Trade Deficit issues.

Strategy + Business

This is an online and print quarterly magazine published by Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the world’s leading strategic consulting firms.
It is primarily a thought leadership magazine targeted at corporate executives and those who aspire to be corporate executives.

Ernst & Young

This global accounting and audit giant, provides links to important surveys, White Papers and reports. Also connects readers with EY professionals and their views on the issues that most affect their clients—which include many of the world’s most important companies, in a cross-section of industries. Areas of expertise include auditing and accounting, tax, financial services, technology, communications, real estate and retail.

Deloitte Research

From the global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu, Deloitte Research “identifies, analyzes and explains the major issues confronting businesses today and shaping tomorrow’s marketplace. From provocative points of view about strategy and organizational change to straight talk about economics, regulation and technology, Deloitte Research delivers innovative, practical insights companies can use to improve their performance and gain competitive advantage.”

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

MBA bound? English Vocabulary Building

February 9th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Test Preparation

Japanese Noodle Shop Lantern

When I was in elementary school, I happened to watch a TV program in which a commentator was explaining how to increase vocabulary. He recommended that every time you see a word that you don’t know, look it up in a dictionary, and write down the word and its meaning in a notebook.

At the time I was sharing a room with a brother four years older than I, and his bookshelf was filled with books that I browsed, mostly classical literature (fiction). I started writing down words that I did not understand just as the commentator had suggested—and went a step further. From the novel borrowed from my brother, I wrote down the sentence containing the word that I did not understand.

As you can imagine, I filled up many notebooks over the next few years. It was a tedious process but eventually I came to the point that rarely would I find a word that I did not know. Thanks to my older brother (and his library!) and the tips given by that TV commentator, my reading level was always several years ahead of my age.

The takeaway I got in this experience was the importance of learning vocabulary through the context of reading itself. It’s as simple as this: if you want to improve your reading comprehension in English or in any other language, read.

For those of you preparing for the TOEFL iBT and GMAT or GRE standardized tests, you may be studying word lists to improve your vocabulary. These can be helpful to accelerate the acquisition of basic vocabulary but never restrict your study of English language vocabulary to a word list. Read English language materials daily, and read when possible on-line, as your tests are administered on-line.

If you are looking for a basic English language list containing words frequently found on TOEFL tests, check out the word list below.  It contains a basic set of English language vocabulary containing more than 1500 English words.

1.     Over time go through the list and check off the words that you believe you know.

2.     For those words, compose a sentence in which you use the word.

3.     Select any word that you do not know by clicking on the word.  It should open up to the website of Merriam-Webster, the English language dictionary that I have used since I was a kid.

4.     For example, select the world trivial. You can select the sound icon to hear the word pronounced. Pronounce trivial out loud. If you scroll down you will also find the word defined, sentence examples using the word trivial, and its antonyms and synonyms. Read the sentence examples out loud to exercise your tongue and reinforce your memory of trivial.

5.     If your file does not open up to the Merriam-Webster website, here is the URL: Use the search function to locate the word you are studying.

6.     Every time you use the vocabulary list, review the words you learned in the previous study session to make sure that you have not forgotten that vocabulary.

And read!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

English 1500+ Word List

abandon abase abate abbreviation abduct
abhor abject able abolish abominate
abort abrupt absolve abstain abstruse
absurd abundant abyss accessible acclaim
accomplice accurate accuse acid acquaint
acquiesce acrid actuate acute adamant
adapt adept adequate adhere adjacent
adjourn admonish adorn advent adverse
advocate affable affect affiliate affinity
affliction affluent aggravate aggregate agile
agitate agrarian ailment akin allegiance
alleviate allocate allot allude aloft
aloof alternative amateurish amazing ambient
ambiguous ambivalence ambivalent amelioration amenable
amiable amicable amnesia amnesty amphitheater
analogous anecdote annex annual anonymous
antagonism antagonist antebellum antedate anticipate
antique anxious apathy apollonian apparent
appealing appease applaud appraise apprise
approbation apt aqueous arable arduous
arid armistice aroma arrogant articulate
artificial ascertain assail assault assert
assiduous assimilate astonishing astute atone
atrocious atrocity attain attribute audacious
auditory augment august austere authentic
authorize autocracy automaton autonomy avalanche
avarice aver aversion avert aviator
avid avoid avouch awkward bacchanalian
bachelor backbreaking baffle bald balmy
ban bankrupt bar bare barren
barter bashful bead beam bear
beckon becoming befall bellicose belligerence
belligerent beneficial beneficiary benefit benevolent
bequeath besiege bestow betray beverage
bias bicker bilateral biography bland
blatant blend blizzard bloom bluff
blunder blunt blurry bold bolster
bond boom bothersome bough brace
breakthrough breathtaking breed breeze brilliant
brisk brittle broach brochure brutal
bulky burrow buttress cajole calamity
calisthenics calm camouflage canvass capable
captivate captor carefree caricature carnage
carve cast casual cataclysm catastrophe
caustic cautious cavity celebrated censor
censure census centennial chaffer chaos
charming chasm cherish chicanery chide
chilly choice chop chubby cicerone
cite clandestine clash classify clever
cliché cling clumsy coalescence coalition
coax coherent coin collaborate colossal
commence commerce commitment commodity compact
compel competent compile complement compliment
comply component comprehensible comprehensive comprise
compulsory concede concerted concise concoct
concord concrete concurrent condemn condone
conducive confer confidential configuration confiscate
conflict conform congenial congestion conglomerate
congregate conjecture consecutive consequential consistent
conspicuous construe contaminate contemplate contempt
contention contrive controversial controversy convenient
convey conviction conviviality cope with copious
cordial corporeal corpulent corroborate courteous
covert cozy crave crease criminology
crooked crouch crucial crude cruel
cryptic cultivate cumbersome cumulative curb
curious curt curtail damp dangle
daring daunt dazzling decadent decay
deceit deception decipher declare declivity
decompose decorate decorous decrement decriminalize
dedicate deduction deem de facto defame
defect defective defer defiant deficient
definitive defraud degenerate dehydrate deity
dejected deliberate delicate delightful Delphic
deluge delusion demise demolish denote
denounce dense deprave depress deprive
derelict deride descry desecrate deserted
desiccate desist desolate desultory detect
deteriorate detract detrimental deviate device
devise devoid dexterous didactic digress
diligence diligent dilute dim dimension
dingy dip dire directory discard
discern discipline disclose discord discrepancy
disdain dismal dismay dismissive disparity
disperse disposition disprove dispute disrobe
dissect disseminate dissolve distinct distinguished
distract diverge divulge docile dodge
dogged doleful dominate donate dot
downfall doze drain drastic drawback
dreary drench drip drought drowsy
dubious dull dumbfound dunce dungeon
durable dwell dwelling dwindle dynamic
eclipse ecology ecumenical edible edifice
eerie efface effuse effusion elaborate
elasticity elderly elegant elevate elicit
eligible elucidate elude emanate emancipate
embed embitter emblem emboss eminent
emit emulate enamored enchant enchanting
encomium encounter endeavor endorse engender
enhance enigma enlist enmity ennui
ensue enthrall entice enumerate enunciate
envelope environ envisage ephemeral epiphyte
epitaph epithet equitable equivocal era
eradicate erect escalate eschew espouse
essay essential estate esteem estrange
eulogy evacuate evade evanescent even
evenhanded evolve exacerbate exacting exalt
excavate exceed excerpt excrete excursion
execute exhaustive exhilarating exhortation expendable
expire explicit exploit explore expose
expunge extensive extol extract extraneous
extravagant fable fabled facet facile
facilitate facility fade faint fake
fallout falter famine fancy fare
fasten fatal fatigue faulty feasible
feat fee feeble feign felicity
ferocious fertile fervent fickle fidelity
fiery finance finite fire fitting
flagrant flatten flaw flee flexible
flimsy flip florid fluctuate foggy
fold fool forego foremost forestall
forlorn formative foul fragile fragment
fragrant frail framework fraud fraudulent
frenetic frustrate fugitive fundamental fuse
fusion futile gain gainsay gala
gale gap garrulous gaudy genial
gentle genuine germane germinate ghastly
glisten glitter glorify glory glossy
goad gorgeous grab grace graphic
grasp grassroots gratuitous grave gravid
gravitas gravitate gravity graze gregarious
grim grip gross grueling grumble
guile gullible gusto haggle hamper
handpick handy haphazard harangue harass
hardship harm harmony harness harsh
hasty haul havoc hazardous hector
hedonism hedonist heed heighten helical
herald heretic heterogeneous heyday hilarious
hinder hoax hoist holocaust homogeneous
homonym hospice hospitable hospitality hostage
hostel hostile hub hue huge
humiliate hurl hyperbole hypocrite idea
ideal idiosyncrasy idle illiterate illusion
illustrate imaginary imbibe immense imminent
immortal immune immutable impair impartial
impecunious impediment impel impending imperceptible
implement impose impromptu improvise impute
incalculable incandescent incense incentive incessant
incipient incise incognito incompatible incongruous
inconsonant increment incriminate incumbent indemnify
indict indifferent indigenous indigent indignant
indiscriminate indispensable indistinct induce inept
inevitable infamous infinite infinitesimal infringe
infuriate ingenious ingenuous ingredient inhabit
inherent inhibit inhospitable inimical initial
injurious innate innocuous innovative inopportune
inordinate inroad insatiate insinuate insipid
insolent insolvent inspire instantaneous instigate
insult insurrection intact integral intelligible
intense interim interminable intervene intimate
intimidate intractable intrepid intricate intrigue
intrude invaluable inventory inveterate invincible
inviting involuntary irate irreversible irrevocable
irritable itinerant jagged jeopardy jolly
jolt jovial judicious juncture juvenile
keen key knack lack lag
laggard landscape landslide languid lapse
lassitude last latent laud lavish
lax leaflet leash leavening leeward
legendary legitimate lenient lessen lethal
lethargic levity lewd liable liaison
licentious likely linger link litigate
loafer loathsome locate locomotion lodestar
lofty long loom loophole lucid
lucrative lugubrious lukewarm lull lullaby
lumber luminous lunatic lure lurid
lurk luster lustrous luxurious magnificent
magnify magnitude maiden makeshift makeup
malady malediction malice malign malignant
mandatory manifest mar maritime marked
massacre masterpiece matriculation mature maxim
meager meddle mediate meek memorable
menace mend mercurial merge meritorious
mesmerize meteor meticulous mild millennia
mingle minuscule minute mirth misanthropic
misappropriate misdemeanor misrepresent mock moderate
molest monitor monotonous monumental moral
morale morbid mortify mournful mundane
murky mute mutiny mysterious mythical
naughty nausea neglect negligible negotiate
nestor nibble nimble nocturnal nonchalant
notable notify notion notorious novel
novice noxious obese obituary objective
oblique oblivious oblong obscene obscure
obsequious obsolete obstinate obtrude obvious
odd odor offhand offspring Olympian
omen ominous ooze opportune opulent
orbit ordeal ornamental orotund ostracize
outgoing outlet outlook outrage outskirt
outspread outstanding outworn overall overcast
overcome overdue overlook override overrun
oversee oversight overstate overt overtake
overwhelm pace pacesetter pacifist pacify
pact painstaking pale paltry panacea
panic paramour particle path patronage
peculiar pedantic penetrate penurious per capita
perceive perceptible perch perennial perforate
peril perilous periodic permeate pernicious
perpetual perplexing persecute perspicuous pertain
pertinent pervade petulant phenomenal pierce
pillage placate placid plague plausible
plead plethora plush poise poky
ponder portion portray posthumous postpone
potent pounce powerful preach precarious
precept precious precipitation precise predicament
preface premier prerogative presage prescribe
pressing presumptuous pretense pretext prevail
prevalent prior probe probity proclaim
procure prodigal prodigious profane profound
profuse proliferate prolific prolong prominent
promiscuous prompt pronounced prophesy proportional
propriety proscribe prosper protagonist protracted
provenance provisional provoke prow prudent
pseudonym pugnacious pulverize pungent pursue
puzzling quaint quake quandary quarrel
quashed quench query quest quicksilver
quote radiant radical ragged raid
random range rash ration raw
raze rebellion recede reception recess
reciprocal reckless reclaim recollect reconcile
recount recrimination recruit recurring redeem
redoubtable refine refuge refurbished refute
rehabilitate rehearse reign reimburse reiterate
rejoice rejoicing release relegate reliable
relinquish relish remedy reminisce remit
remnant remote remunerate render renounce
renowned repeal repel repercussion replenish
reproach reprobate reproduce reprove repugnance
repute rescind resent reserved residual
resolute resound restless resume resurrection
retaliate reticent retract retraction retreat
retrieve retroact revamp reveal reverberate
revere revoke riddle rigid rigor
rip ripe risky roam rotundity
rough route rudiment rudimentary rugged
rummage rumor rural ruthless salvage
sanction sanctuary sanguine saturate saucy
scale scan scant scarce scatter
scattered scent scholarly scope scorch
scorn scrap scribble scrupulous scrutinize
seasoned secluded secondhand sedition seduction
seemly self-reliant sensational sentinel sequential
sequester serene serpent sever severe
shabby shatter sheer shimmer shiver
shortcoming shred shrewd shrill shrink
shun shunned shy significant signify
simulate simultaneous singular sip skeptical
sketch sketchy skew skid skinny
slack slander slender slim sluggish
sly smolder snare snub soak
sojourn solace solicit somber sophisticated
sophistry sort sound sovereign span
Spartan spawn specific specimen spectacular
spell spin spirited splash splendid
splice spoil sporadic spot spouse
sprout spur spurious squamous squander
stable stagnant stain stale stall
stately stationary status quo staunch stealthy
steep stentorian stern stifled stifling
still stoic stout strenuous stretch
strife strive struggle stubborn stumble
stun stupendous sturdy sublime submerge
subsequent subside subsidiary substantial subterranean
subtle succumb sullen summit sundry
superb superficial supplant supple supplicate
surfeit surge surly surmise surpass
susceptible suspend sway sweeping swift
swivel sybaritic synagogue synopsis synthesize
taciturn tact tactic taint tale
tame tamper tangle tantalize tantamount
tardy tarnish tart taunt tautology
tawdry taxonomy tease tedious telling
temperate tempting tender tenor tentative
tepid ternary tether thaw thermal
thorough thoroughfare thrifty thrilling thrive
thwart tidings tilt timid tint
tiresome toil tolerant torpid torrent
torture toupee tow towering toxic
trailblazer trait trajectory tranquility transmute
transparent transpose traverse treacherous tremendous
tremor trepidation tribunal trickle trigger
triumph trivial trying tug tumble
tumultuous turbulent turmoil twinkle tyro
ultimate unalienable unattended unbearable uncanny
uncouth undercover undergo underlying underscore
undertake undulate unerring unintelligible ungainly
uniform unilateral unique universal unquenchable
unruly unscathed unsound upheaval uphold
upkeep uproar uptight urge urgent
urinary usurp utensil utter vacant
vacuous vague vain valedictory valiant
valid vanguard vanish vanity variable
variation vast vaunt vehemence vein
venerate venereal venomous venturesome venue
verbose verge verify versatile vessel
vex viable vicinity vie vigilance
vigorous villainous vindicate visceral vital
vivid vogue volatile voluptuous vomit
vouch vow vulnerable wade wag
wage wail walkout wan wander
wane ward ware warp wary
waxy weary well-to-do wholesome wicked
widen widespread wile wily winsome
wise withdraw wither withhold withstand
witty woe wonder wound wrinkle
yearn yield zealous zenith zone

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

Changing the world

February 4th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Leadership

2010 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry

He gave a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan today, which I was privileged to attend.

He is 80 and energetic, with a dry wit, self-effacing, confident yet modest, the epitome of a virtuous Japanese nobleman.

He is Akira Suzuki, 2010 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Emeritus Professor at Hokkaido University.

Akira Suzuki, together with Richard Heck and Ei-ichi Negishi, won the Nobel Prize for “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.” If you are a chemist, you will understand what that means. If you’re not, like most of us, you will be impressed with the loftiness of the scientific description but be clueless as to its significance in real-world application.

What these scientists innovated was a way to use the catalyst palladium, so that in its presence carbon reacts more easily, the so-called ‘Suzuki reaction’. It is used in chemistry labs and pharmaceutical companies around the world and has produced many applications, including fluorescent marking used in DNA sequencing and the production of more effective drugs to counter high blood pressure. Professor Suzuki joked that a doctor had recently discovered that the Nobel Laureate had high blood pressure and prescribed an anti-hypertension drug that his research had influenced. He never obtained patents on his invention and half-jokingly remarked that at the Stockholm award festivities for the Nobel Prize many participants thanked him for his unselfish contribution to the world. He was proud that anti-hypertension drugs utilizing his innovation are used by 3.5 million people in Japan and 22 million people worldwide.

Professor Suzuki did not especially want to discuss chemistry at the press conference. Rather, his interest was in discussing how to reignite a spirit of innovation in Japan in science and technology through educational reform. Central to his message was to encourage Japanese young people to study abroad, as he did (at Purdue University). He felt it unfortunate that in general Japanese companies continue to prefer hiring of science graduates with bachelor’s degrees rather than those with advanced degrees, believing that they (the companies) can best educate new hires themselves on-the-job up to a doctorate level. The MBA holder is sought in Japan by company recruiters but PhD holders are far less so.

Professor Suzuki commented that the level of education in Japan in chemistry was high but study overseas adds great value in helping young Japanese scientists and engineers master English, gain exposure to diverse perspectives, and learn different ways of thinking. He lamented the gap between the quality of research produced in Japan and the level of commercial applications of that research, and recommended that companies put people with scientific and engineering backgrounds in the management of companies to close the gap.

He talked about the different circumstances in Japan when he went abroad, in the post-war period when Japanese were “hungry,” and today’s environment in which young Japanese are more comfortable and less “aggressive.” Professor Suzuki made reference to the frontier spirit at the University of Hokkaido when he was a boy and the contribution of William S. Clark, as a government-invited advisor to establish the Sapporo Agricultural College (presently Hokkaido University, where he was appointed Vice-President).

Professor Clark’s advice to his Japanese students was: “Boys be ambitious!”

Japan has great strength in science and technology. It has ranked 2nd or 3rd in the world for the number of research papers published and citations in these fields. Now is the time for young Japanese— “boys and girls”—to embody Professor Clark’s famous motto (and Professor Suzuki’s exhortatin):

Be ambitious! Innovation is not a risk-free enterprise.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

Integrated iBT Exercises

February 3rd, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Test Preparation

I learn only to be content.

If you are just beginning your test preparation for graduate study overseas, the first hurdle that you will face is scoring sufficiently on the iBT, a computer-based test developed to measure your ability to use English interactively in the real world, at the university level.

Don’t make the mistake of limiting your iBT preparation to standardized iBT test materials.

Supplement your formal classroom studies of the iBT with English practice in the real world— reading, listening, writing and speaking English as often as you can—ideally every day. It requires sacrifice to spend less time reading Japanese language newspapers and magazines and listening to Japanese language TV in order to make time available for your intensive study of English.

You should also recognize that language ability is developed steadily over time. When you are starting iBT preparation from a zero base you may experience a quick initial jump in your test score, but then the harder work begins, to build your capability to reach your targets in time. Unless you immerse in English you may find it difficult to achieve the iBT level you need to gain admission to the leading, most competitive schools.

Time management is always a challenge but there are ways to make the most efficient use of your time.

For example, when you are riding the trains, or at home, listen to iPod broadcasts to develop your English listening ability. Among the best iPod broadcasts are those of Scientific American magazine. You can listen to 60-second Science, 60-second Mind (psychology) and 60-second Earth (environment) podcasts, and they are available with transcripts to check your understanding:

You can subscribe to these podcasts via RSS or iTunes. They are fast-paced broadcasts that simulate the lectures you will be expected to comprehend in Task 6 of the iBT. Take a look at the transcripts and you will find that the topics and reading difficulty provide excellent training for GMAT reading, so you are building skills concurrently for GMAT as well.

iBT integrated listening, speaking, reading exercise

Here’s an exercise you can try when at home using Scientific American podcasts. You will want to read out loud. This may seem funny at first, but speaking out loud is necessary to get your mouth and tongue moving.

1.       Listen to any Scientific American 60-second podcast.

2.       Take notes as you listen to the podcast.

3.       Summarize the main points of the podcast verbally in a loud, clear voice.

4.       Now read the transcript of the podcast, also in a loud, clear voice.

5.       Listen to the podcast again to check your listening comprehension, referring to the transcript as needed.

iBT Integrated listening, speaking and writing exercise

To develop your listening and written ability in English using podcasts, try this exercise. It is aimed at teaching you to write one paragraph that summarizes the main theme in a thesis statement and the supporting points of the podcast.

1.      Listen to any Scientific American 60-second podcast.

2.      Take notes as you listen to the podcast.

3.      Referring to your notes, summarize out loud what you heard, first stating the main point and then stating whatever support you can remember for that point in the podcast.

4.      Now write one sentence that you believe is a good main theme sentence or thesis statement, using this prompt:

This talk is about……..

5.      Suppose you wrote this sentence based on the podcast you heard:

This talk is about science.

Is it a good thesis statement?

Nope, much too general.

How about this sentence?

This talk is about the environment.

Is it a good thesis statement?

Well, it is better, but still too general.

How about this thesis statement?

This talk is about the destructive impact of deforestation on our environment, our Earth, our only home.

Notice that this sentence is much better. If it were the only sentence someone read, or listened to, that reader or listener would have a clear idea of what the talk is about.

6.      Now you are ready to write your summary paragraph.

Deforestation is destroying our environment, the Earth, our only home, leading to famine and severe water shortages. (thesis statement)

7.      You complete your paragraph with supporting detail from your notes.

Deforestation is destroying our environment, the Earth, our only home, leading to famine and severe water shortages. Every month a part of our rain forests the size of the state of New Jersey is wiped out by greedy people. As a result, the air we breathe becomes less fresh, the land is not farmed and water sources eventually dry up. Already in India, people wait hours to get water trucked in to help them survive. We must stop destroying our only home now!

You can check with what you wrote against the transcript of the podcast provided by Scientific American.

And guess what? When you do this exercise, you are developing your writing ability, training for the iBT speaking section (task 6) and for the listening sections of the test as well.

That’s multi-tasking and a good use of your limited time.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier