I can't get my brain working to prepare for the GRE quantitative! AARRGGGHHHHH!December 4, 2012 2:31 PM   Subscribe

How best to reabsorb all the math and tricks of the quantitative section of the GRE?

I'm getting close to taking the GRE. Unfortunately I have been procrastinating a bit on the quantitative study. Mostly this is due to the fact I'm having trouble taking in and processing all the math at one time. It's been almost 20 years since I have seen most of this and it was all learned over a lengthy period of time the first time around. I'm feeling a little spun and annoyed by it all.

I took a practice test and did horribly and I mean HORRIBLY on the quantitative! I have several prep books but they just don't seem to be doing the trick. I know it is recommended to do as many practice tests and problems as possible, but I'm still stuck getting the rules all back into my head so I can't even seem to perform well on the practice questions.

Any ideas or recommendations? Unfortunately tutoring is not an option.

I do extremely well on the verbal section of the practice tests. I'm not a dummy. This makes it even more frustrating to so poorly on the other part.
posted by Che boludo! to Education (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry, practice is the only way. Do a set of problems (I loved having Barron's on my iPad), then when you finish (after ~10 problems), it will tell you the tricks or rules you used/should have used to solve each. When you do practice tests, too much time goes by between your first crack at the problem and getting the solution, IMO. Barron's is adaptive, so you should be able to work up from scratch.

Do you know where to start a problem, and then forget the rule (like volume of a sphere) that would allow you to finish it? Or is initial technique (getting started) the problem? The big rules/tricks are trig (SOH CAH TOA), geometry (eqns for area & volume), and factorial rules. Put those on flashcards. Starting problems just requires practice.
posted by supercres at 2:39 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a GRE book and work through it.
posted by naturalog at 2:56 PM on December 4, 2012

Have you checked out number2.com? They have a comprehensive guide to all types of GRE questions, as well as a bunch of practice questions.
posted by littlegreen at 3:33 PM on December 4, 2012

What type of grad program are you applying to? Because if it is in the humanities, nobody cares about the quant score. If it is in the social sciences they probably care a bit more but likely not the thing that is going to determine getting accepted.
posted by Pineapplicious at 4:14 PM on December 4, 2012

I had to practice the basics and move up to the harder things. Cliff's is the book I used and it really starts you from the beginning. That got me to the point where I could benefit from a class or a book like Barron's.

Khan Academy was good for just getting started and feeling "mathy" because you can do so many problem sets.

- Fellow "great at verbal, 'ugh!' at quant!" test-taker
posted by ramenopres at 4:25 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just took the GRE a couple weeks ago and got myself up to a 159 on the quant with a couple weeks of practice. In addition to the bits supercres suggests, make sure you know the quadratic equation and how it works. I just kept practicing tests, but if the Barrons app works as suggested, that would have been super helpful. I also had some help from a friend who's going to be a Kaplan tutor soon, and he gave me some good strategy advice about how to make sure I do things the quick way rather than the half-assed way I'd been doing a lot of stuff. Wish I could remember his specific suggestions to offer them now. :/

And in case you haven't seen it mentioned somewhere, you get to use an on screen calculator during the test, so it'd be good to do that during your practices. I had no idea I could do that and did everything on scrap paper during my practice sessions, which made me a lot slower.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:02 PM on December 4, 2012

One thing to remember is that the math on the GRE is less technically difficult than the SAT, but does its best to trick you more. (This feels opposite to the verbal section, but then again standardized tests and I get along fine when I am not calling them bad names.)

All of the advice that I was about to give out is better presented here (sparknotes guide).

Are you having trouble remembering that math (I have friends who ran into that problem- they had not taken a single math class since high school) or are you having trouble with the tricks and methods?
posted by Hactar at 8:22 AM on December 5, 2012

I used the Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE book, and the test-taking strategies were even more useful for me than knowing the math really well. I went through each section sequentially, even if it covered something I felt I already knew well. The book broke down the specific kinds of questions that were likely to be asked, and how to eliminate some of the tricky answers; it made the whole test-taking process easier and less stressful for me. It had been a while since I'd done math regularly, and I got a pretty good score, something in the 700s on the old scale, I think.

I wish you success!
posted by strivesc at 8:49 AM on December 9, 2012

Follow up - thanks to ramenopres. The Cliff's book was the thing that got me going and a pretty decent score. All those "tips and tricks" "crack the GRE" books do a poor job of explaining the basics before getting into the "tricks".
posted by Che boludo! at 5:57 PM on February 6, 2013