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Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 2)

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Can You Ace GRE Quant if You're Bad at Math? (Part 2) by Chelsey Cooley

You’re here because you’re bad at math, and you want to ace GRE Quant but aren’t sure how. But if you read the previous article, you know that you weren’t born without a “math organ,” and your brain is just as suitable for learning GRE Quant as anybody else’s. That doesn’t mean you don’t have challenges to overcome. But you should really be asking, How can I ace the GRE with limited math experience? Or How can I ace the GRE when I don’t know how to study math? Or even How can I get over my math anxiety and get excited about the GRE?

Don’t Panic

There’s a lot of common sense involved in solving GRE Quant problems. If the price of a couch is marked up by 15%, it shouldn’t end up costing $180,000. If you want to know how many eighth-graders are in a classroom, you shouldn’t end up with 2/3 of a student. But when you let math anxiety get the better of you, it’s easy to lose that common sense.

When you start a GRE Quant problem, take a deep breath. This reduces anxiety—and gives your brain some oxygen. Read the problem slowly and calmly. Don’t immediately start asking yourself which equations to use. When you start trying to do the math immediately, you stop trying to understand the story the problem is telling you.

It’s okay to slow down at the beginning of a GRE Quant problem. On the GRE, you don’t run out of time because you read math problems too carefully! You run out of time because you don’t understand the problem, but you try to solve it anyway.

If you struggle with math anxiety—and a lot of people do!—you probably won’t fix it by studying more. Actually, things tend to work the opposite way: studying and practice will be far more effective if you reduce your math anxiety first. Staying calm makes you better at GRE Quant, not the other way around. Here’s another article with some great tips for reducing test anxiety.

Don’t Go from Zero to a Hundred

One huge study mistake I see from “bad at math” students is this: you choose one topic, say, solving linear equations. You drill away at that topic during a killer multi-hour study session, or even over a period of days. You watch videos, read articles, and do practice problems. When you’re finished, you’re exhausted, but confident that you totally understand how to solve an equation. So, you move on to the next topic.

Then you see a linear equation on your practice GRE a week later, and you get it wrong.

The study style described above is called “blocking.” I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something satisfying about it. It’s nice to feel like you’re finally done with a topic that’s challenged you for a long time. But your brain hates it.

This analogy might be a little crude, but just work with me: teaching yourself GRE Quant is a little bit like training a dog. If you want your dog to learn to sit, you start when it’s calm and relaxed, and you don’t try to get it to master the trick in a single marathon session. Instead, you interleave, which is what you should do when you study basic math.

Here’s a great rundown on interleaving. (The article is from our GMAT blog, but everything there applies to the GRE as well!)

In short, give yourself permission to walk away without 100% mastering something. In the long run, that’s actually better for your brain.

Where Should You Start on GRE Quant?

Some math-phobes get along just fine in our 8-week GRE course. If you have a lot of time to devote to the GRE, and you’re confident that you’ll pick up the basics quickly—for instance, if you always did well in math in school, but you’ve gotten rusty—go ahead and dive in!

However, if you’re weak on the math foundations, you might struggle to get as much as possible out of the course and the homework. Consider starting with something like Khan Academy, which has great videos and problem sets on all of the topics covered on the GRE. Good math topics to start with:

  • Working with fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios
  • Writing, simplifying, and solving basic equations
  • Working with equations that have exponents or quadratics
  • Knowing some basic statistics definitions: average, median, range, quartile, and standard deviation
  • Basic geometry formulas, dealing with circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles

You could even begin with the Foundations of GMAT Math Strategy Guide: it’s written for GMAT students, but the content heavily overlaps with what’s on GRE Quant, and the book is a fantastic guide to math basics for adults.

Also, start developing your “math instincts” as soon as you can. You get a calculator on the GRE, but the more confident you are with numbers, the better. Take every opportunity to do simple math or estimation: guess the number of people in a large auditorium, or calculate your tip at dinner in your head, or estimate how much it’ll cost to fill your car up with gas at a certain price. Try out some arithmetic games, like this one. Download the Manhattan Prep GRE app, and start getting in the habit of thinking about math every day.

Next time, we’ll take a deeper look at how to study GRE Quant. You may have been studying inefficiently for your whole life! That could have a lot to do with why you aren’t a math expert—and with a few simple changes, you can start becoming one. 📝


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Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 2) appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com

This Simple Visualization Exercise Will Help You Beat the GRE

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - This Simple Visualization Exercise Will Help You Beat the GRE by Chelsey Cooley

When I’m not teaching the GRE or writing this blog, I like riding my bicycle absurdly long distances. For the last five months, I’ve been training for one of the hardest bike races of my life: the 206-mile, 14-plus-hour Dirty Kanza. And now I want to share the best piece of advice I was given while training, because it applies to GRE test day just as much as it applies to bike racing.

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to get to chat with a woman who’s won Dirty Kanza a couple of times—including a win on her very first attempt. The conversation turned to the strategies she uses to succeed on race day. When she brought up visualization, I immediately assumed that I was supposed to visualize myself winning. If you want to overcome an obstacle, whether it’s a 200-mile bike race or the GRE, you should picture yourself overcoming it, right?

Maybe not. Instead of picturing myself succeeding, she invited me to picture myself failing. I was supposed to imagine rolling across the finish line hours late, having had a terrible race. “Now,” she said, “try to think of all of the excuses you might be making if you don’t do well.”

I imagined trying to explain that my back was bothering me, that my bike had gotten a flat tire, or that I had forgotten to bring enough water. Any number of things could send my race completely off the rails.

Each of those imaginary excuses, she explained, was actually something that I could fix right now, before race day. If I thought I might run out of water, I should start measuring how much water I needed during my training rides. If I was worried about back pain, I should start stretching and work on my posture on the bike. Almost anything that could put an end to my race could be prevented, if I started working on it before race day.

So, let me extend the same invitation to you. Imagine finishing the GRE, and getting a score that you’re really unhappy with. What excuses can you imagine making? Make a list on paper. For each excuse, there’s probably something you could do to help right now, before test day.  

For instance, here’s one I often hear: “I didn’t have enough time to finish a section.” That doesn’t mean the GRE should have given you more time on test day. Running out of time isn’t something that happens to you—it’s a consequence of actions you take on and before test day. It means you didn’t guess enough, or you should have practiced your pencil-and-paper arithmetic, or you didn’t identify the problem types that take you the longest. There’s so much you can do prior to test day to avoid having to make this excuse!

Or, you might picture yourself saying, “I got really anxious during the test, and it threw me off.” A little anxiety might be unavoidable, but you can take steps now to ensure that it doesn’t derail your GRE. Read this article about anxious reappraisal and give it a try. Check out these tricks for staying calm during the GRE, and plan to use one or more of them on test day.

Something could happen during your GRE that you can’t predict. For all you know, a meteor might fall through the roof of the testing center! But it’s more likely that if you start thinking of the excuses you might make if you fail, you’ll come up with the situations that are most likely to cause you problems on test day. If those situations are unexpected, they could hurt your score. But if you anticipate them ahead of time, you can make sure they won’t cause you any problems.

What are you most worried about on test day? Feel free to share or offer your own advice in the comments. 📝


See that “SUBSCRIBE” button in the top right corner? Click on it to receive all our GRE blog updates straight to your inbox!


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post This Simple Visualization Exercise Will Help You Beat the GRE appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com

Math and the Growth Mindset

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Math and the Growth Mindset by Tom Anderson

Do you consider yourself a “math person?”

Actually—hold on a second. Whether you answer yes or no, you’re expressing a potentially harmful thought. Such thoughts reflect a fixed mindset about oneself—a belief that you’re born good at some things and bad at others. Carry that line of thinking a little further:

“Math people” grew up solving quadratic equations in their heads as toddlers. They always just “got it.” Everyone else had to work hard to get there. “Non-math people” could more easily run 10 miles backwards than calculate a tip at a restaurant. If you’re a “math person,” congrats on the easy grades and high GRE scores for the rest of your life. If you’re not, then too bad. It’s hopeless.

I believe that such thoughts are not just untrue, but downright harmful. There’s a growing body of research on this issue. Many readers of this blog entry will no doubt have heard of Carol Dweck, her book Mindset, and her TED talk, which currently has over 7 million views. Dweck argues that the way you view yourself has a huge impact on your success. It’s not just those who think they’re “naturally bad at something” who are at risk, by the way. One of the most negatively-impacted groups seems to be very high-performing students who think it’s all about being “naturally good at something.” I would encourage you to leave behind those fixed ideas of being a “math person” and instead adopt a mindset of growth.

In this entry, I’ll share with you a few ideas from research in educational psychology about growth mindsets and what you can do to develop one. In particular, I’ve been reading a book called Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. I’ll share with you some ideas from this book.

You Can Rewire Your Brain (to Become a “Math Person”)

First of all, know that your brain can be changed. In one intriguing study, researchers looked at the brains of cab drivers in London who had to memorize over 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks in order to qualify for their jobs. During the intensive training process, cab drivers showed dramatic growth in the hippocampus—the area of the brain that is used to acquire spatial information. Their brains were so affected by their practice that they showed measurable growth in the very brain matter inside their heads.

This concept that the brain can change and adapt in dramatic ways is called neuroplasticity. There are abundant examples of it. Stroke victims can sometimes regain their speech by rewiring a new region of their brain. People paralyzed in accidents can sometimes regain their movement; in one extreme case, an individual even lost the entire left hemisphere of her brain and was then able to regrow its functions in the remaining right hemisphere.

Aside from these extreme examples, we all experience neuroplasticity when we learn. Your brain is more like a muscle that can grow with exercise than like a computer that’s stuck with the processor it was built with.

Mistakes Matter

Take a few minutes and watch this video of a Swiss watchmaker who has been making watches by hand for 50 years. He tells us, “It’s not easy because you learn all your life. Even at my age, I learn every day and very often by making mistakes.” An expert in nearly any field will tell you the same thing: they’ve made their most significant learning through mistakes rather than successes.

The research backs them up. Not only do experts learn from making an incredible number of mistakes, they seem to learn more when making mistakes than when doing something correctly. Jo Boaler summarizes some research on the issue:

“Students’ brains reacted with greater […] electrical activity when they made mistakes than when their answers were correct. Second […] brain activity was greater following mistakes for individuals with a growth mindset than for individuals with a fixed mindset. The study also found that individuals with a growth mindset had a greater awareness of errors than individuals with a fixed mindset, so they were more likely to go back and correct errors.” Mathematical Mindsets (p.12)

It may not always feel this way, but mistakes are not something that should make you cringe. They’re probably the most worthwhile tidbits from any study session. And they’re even better for you if you open yourself up to growth, log them, and go back to correct them.

Think of it this way: your brain grows a synapse every time you make a mistake. A good practice session shouldn’t be easy. Get out there and start making some mistakes!

Process > Product

A good teacher will make it clear: the route to a right answer is much more important than the right answer itself. Of course, on an exam like the GRE, you want to get as many points as possible. But you get those points by carefully thinking about the problem in front of you and the solution paths it beckons you to use.

In the same way that you don’t improve your free throws by focusing on the “whoosh” a basketball makes when it goes through the net, you shouldn’t try to improve your problem-solving process by going straight to an answer key. Instead, focus on the steps to get there.

When you practice on your own, try thinking of your answer keys and explanations less like the finish line and more like consultants to whom you can turn for feedback along the way. Rather than just checking the right answer, peek at the explanation to see if the work you’ve done is on the right track. If so, continue onward. If not, go back and revise. Try to lead yourself to the correct answer rather than just reading what it is.

Believing You Can Grow is Part of the Recipe for Growth

On the first day of my GRE class, I often ask my students a similar question to the one I asked at the beginning of this blog entry—I ask them to raise their hand if they’ve come into my classroom with an idea floating around in their subconscious that they are “bad at math.” Every time I ask this question, a few reluctant hands pop into the air, followed by an avalanche of others, until a huge majority of hands silently confess this belief.

It’s easy for me to believe that there is no such thing as being “bad at math”—for years, I’ve seen my students bring up their GRE Math scores, sometimes to levels they never thought possible. That said, I’m well aware many folks have been traumatized by math in their prior education. Even many well-meaning teachers may have conveyed the notion that math is a gift, and either you have it or you don’t. Take heart and do what you can to throw out these “fixed” notions that may be rummaging around in your brain. Just like your math ability can be changed, so can your mindset.

Believing that you can get smarter is part of the process in doing so. 📝


Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.


tom-andersonTom Anderson is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY. He has a B.A. in English and a master’s degree in education. Tom has long possessed an understanding of the power of standardized tests in propelling one’s education and career, and he hopes he can help his students see through the intimidating veneer of the GRE. Check out Tom’s upcoming GRE courses here.

The post Math and the Growth Mindset appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com

Study Like an Athlete: What Rock Climbing Taught Me about the GRE

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Study Like an Athlete: What Rock Climbing Taught Me about the GRE by Tom Anderson

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Crazy, right? Check out our upcoming courses here.


I’ve written before about how it’s healthy to think of GRE study more like an athletic event you’re preparing for and less like run-of-the-mill studying. If you study for the GRE by memorizing formulas and glancing at written explanations, you’ll likely get very little out of your study.

As a student with some pretty terrible study habits, I first attempted the GRE in the same way I’d always studied. I didn’t do that well. When I prepared to take it a second time, I tapped into my experiences an an athlete and used them as a model for my study. To my happy surprise, I did much better.

I would encourage you to think about GRE prep more like an exercise routine than a typical study session. In this entry, I’ll share a few insights about GRE study from the world of rock climbing. I am by no means an expert rock climber, but I’ve gone from embarrassingly bad to relatively competent in the couple of years I’ve been climbing. Surprisingly enough, I’ve found that climbing has taught me a lot about prepping for the GRE.

You’re Going to Fall

When you decide you’re going to learn how to climb, you have to accept something: you’re going to fall. A lot. In a sport that is fun because it’s challenging, failure is a normal part of the game. Some failures are elegant, and others are really awkward. One way or another, embracing wrongness is an important step toward becoming an expert.

I’ve made mistakes on more GRE problems than I can count. And whenever I do make a mistake, I’ll admit, my first impulse is to sweep it someplace dark and dusty where no one will see it again.

Over the course of my GRE study, that impulse has gradually changed. I started getting more comfortable with being wrong. Unlike in one’s personal life or career where mistakes can be embarrassing and harmful, mistakes on standardized tests are totally benign. Nothing bad happens to you when you forget a vocabulary word or fail to carry a negative sign. In your GRE study, embrace your wrongness and listen for whatever it has to teach you. Start by making an error log.

Repeat the Hard Stuff, Over and Over

When a climber completes a hard route for the first time, it’s often pretty sloppy. Fingers slip around awkwardly on a little hold. Toes go flying off the wall. But somehow, miraculously, the climber reaches the top. At that point, they might be tempted to check it off the list and then move on to another climb. Not so fast. Good climbers do repeats. They might do this 3 or 4 or even 10 times before they move on to something else.

I frequently see my GRE students make a similar study mistake. Rather than go back and re-solve problems that gave them trouble, they just try finish each chapter in their books. Even worse, they spend their time reading explanations of how to solve the problems rather than actually going back and doing them again.

Even if you theoretically understand how to do a problem, you really have to go through the motions—and do it a few times—before you master a problem. A good rule of thumb: do every missed problem a second time, 4 days after your first try. Do this problem a minimum of four times before you check it off your list.

Consider keeping a folder full of problem screenshots. You can pull them straight from your CAT exams and from the e-book versions of the Strategy Guides. If you keep your target problems in a special place and come back to them routinely, you’ll improve so much faster than you would if you just moved on.

Make It Look Easy

If you ever watch really good rock climbers in action, you’ll notice something curious: they make it look incredibly easy. I’m often inspired enough by this sight that I’ll take a crack at the same route, only to collapse on the floor, unable to get off the ground.

Sometimes it may feel like “expert test takers” do the same thing. They have such an easy time taking a test like the GRE that it appears as if they put no effort into it at all. While it might be tempting to write it off as “being a good test taker,” what we’re really seeing is the product of lots of deliberate practice. Whether whizzing through standardized tests or looking like Spiderman on a rock wall, experts master their respective fields in remarkably similar ways: they repeatedly come back to their particular weaknesses—anything that feels slow or funky—and work on them until they feel easy.

In the world of the GRE, this means you shouldn’t just be repeating the problems you got incorrect. The most important ones to work on are the ones you almost got wrong. If you can get a problem correct in an ugly way, you can probably learn to get it correct in a faster, smoother, and easier way.

If fraction mechanics like the ones in the back of the Fractions, Decimals, and Percents Strategy Guide usually take you 30 seconds to complete, time yourself until you can get them down to 10 seconds apiece. Not only will this make all sorts of related problems feel easier to you, but you’ll save a lot of time as well. 20 seconds saved here and there throughout the test adds up to a few problems you would have never been able to attempt if you were moving slowly.

And the really cool part about this? Research seems to indicate that stuff really does become easy when you practice it enough. Compared to novices, expert chess players and problem solvers show less activity in their brains while they work.

Don’t Look Down

After climbing for a few years, I somehow convinced my 58-year-old mother—a woman with a healthy fear of heights and a strong desire to stay alive—to come out and do a day of rock climbing with me. To my utter astonishment, she not only tried it, but shot up the rock wall with ease. Then, about 60 feet off of the ground, she turned around to wave at those of us back on the ground. In a flash of terror, she realized where she was, panicked, and demanded to be brought down immediately.

Later, after she was down safely on the ground, she remarked at how carefree she felt while climbing and how suddenly the fear took hold of her when she realized where she was. Most of us have had some kind of experience like this: as long as your attention is on the move in front of you, you’re fine. The second you start thinking about the big picture, panic sets in.

The same thing can definitely occur during a GRE exam. It is a challenging exam that is tied in to your grad school future—a fact that has a way of inducing tunnel vision and sweaty palms. Halfway through your test, you’ll be solving a problem about something random, say, circles. As long as you’re thinking about circles, you’ll be fine. But you may find yourself plagued with less helpful thoughts:

“There are only 10 minutes left in this section.”
“What if I’m only in an easy section right now? I can’t be doing well.”
“What will my friends think when I tell them my score?”

First, know that a little bit of stress can actually be healthy—it fuels you to do better than you would if you didn’t care so much about the test. If the stress becomes too great, though, you can center yourself by taking a deep breath and taking a moment to be mindful of the present. Give yourself a brief internal mantra: “I’m getting this one right.” In other words, you don’t care about the problem you just saw or the problem you’re about to see. You’re focused only on the one right in front of you.

Keep on Climbing Toward Those 170s

There are numerous analogies for study—from running a marathon to preparing for a piano recital. One way or another, think of it more like a performance you’re preparing for and less like a study checklist to move through. And whatever your metaphor of choice, remember these few big ideas from the world of rock climbing:

  1. Do old problems over again. Try any missed problem a second time 4 days later.
  2. Repeat old problems until you can do them without all the missteps along the way.
  3. Work on mechanics until they feel easy. You’ll want all the brain power and time you can get for the hard problems.
  4. Keep focused on the problem at hand. If your mind wanders or anxiety overtakes you, center yourself with the mantra “I’m getting this one right.”

Happy studying! 📝


Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.


tom-andersonTom Anderson is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY. He has a B.A. in English and a master’s degree in education. Tom has long possessed an understanding of the power of standardized tests in propelling one’s education and career, and he hopes he can help his students see through the intimidating veneer of the GRE. Check out Tom’s upcoming GRE courses here.

The post Study Like an Athlete: What Rock Climbing Taught Me about the GRE appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com