GRE Math Prep

It's about that time of the year where graduating college seniors are considering where to go and what to do after graduation.  For many, this means deciding upon whether to attend graduate school.  For many such programs, the Graduate Record Exam is required for entry.  This exam usually comes in two phases.  In Phase I, a general aptitude test in mathematics and literacy is administered.  In Phase II, test takers are segregated by major subject area, and are given a test specific to undergraduate material in that area.

Naturally, the depth of material and content in Phase II would make it seem to be the harder feat, but in fact, for many of the non-mathematically inclined, the GRE Quantitative Section is by far the most daunting of all GRE tasks.  For many, the days of calculating ratios and factoring polynomials went away after the last bubble was filled on their SAT exam.  This generally instills serious fear of GRE math, for the future of a social scientist's career could be based on his/her lack of grace with math.

This raises an issue: how does one tackle GRE math prep if he/she is not mathematically inclined?  Here are some tips how.

Practice calculating percentages.  A majority of the questions in the GRE Quantitative Section focus on calculating and understanding percentages.  If you pick up a simple book and practice these calculations, you'll be ahead of the curve.  In particular, I suggest working with percentages coming from physical data in pie charts and bar graphs, as this is commonly tested on the exam.

Know what standard deviation is.  Simply knowing what standard deviation is, and how changes in data affect it, essentially gives you bonus points immediately.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not seen a standard deviation question on their GRE math section, so integrated into your graduate test prep.

Understand dimensions and conversions.  Yet another big part of the exam is knowing how to relate measurements to each other.  One of the biggest tips in this regard is knowing how changes in dimensions affects area and volume.  A very common theme in the world of GRE math test mistakes can be captured in the following erroneous statement: if the length and width of a rectangle double, the area doubles as well.

Fractions fractions fractions.  Review simple fractions, and dealing with algebraic expressions.  Get comfortable with immediately simplifying fractions and rational expressions.  This is something that is quite routine, and can be learned brute forced if need by for the exam.

Mental math is key.  Since most Graduate record exam testing now takes place on a computer, it is quite advantageous to be able to do some mathematical calculations in your head.  To get comfortable with this, carry some flash cards of two digit positive integers, randomly pick two, and try to multiply them in your head.  At first you'll be very slow, but you'll start to pick up quick.  The important part here is that you'll start observing patterns and developing your number sense, which is critical for acing GRE math.

Great luck on the exam, and use these tips to the fullest.