Are you preparing to take the GRE? This is the third of a series of five posts by Manhattan GRE’s Jennifer Dziura on study tips for the exam.
Tip #3: Don’t Leave “Holes in the Foundation”
It’s very satisfying when you figure out the greatest possible value of n such that 40 to the 60th power is divisible by 2 to the nth power (it’s 180). However, the GRE is a Computer Adaptive Test. That means that you will never even see a difficult question like the one above unless you have correctly answered easier questions. Students who focus only on the “brainteasers” while neglecting the basics do poorly on the exam.
Before focusing on the most difficult level of material, make sure you are completely solid on long division and remainders, the difference between adding and multiplying fractions, when you can cancel in an equation with many fractions, converting decimals to percents, converting fractions to decimals, finding a circle’s area and circumference, factoring polynomials, and many other high school math topics you may have forgotten.
If you feel like you understand all the material in your GRE prep books or class, yet you are still performing poorly on practice tests – well, when I watch the US Open, I understand everything Serena Williams is doing. But I’m still terrible at tennis. Understanding is not the same as executing. Nodding in assent as you read a test prep book is insufficient! You need to execute every problem, on separate paper (like the real GRE), within a time limit (1-2 minutes, depending on problem type).
If you find yourself missing problems due to silly mistakes, don’t just say, “Oh, I get it – that was just a silly mistake.” The GRE doesn’t give you points for understanding a concept but missing the question anyway. Figure out why you are making silly mistakes. Correct your misconceptions (Did you cancel the top of a fraction on one side of an equation with the bottom of a fraction on the other side? Did you, when multiplying exponential expressions with the same base, accidentally multiply rather than add the exponents?) Keep an error log. Root out every mistake and make sure that these “holes in the foundation” get filled.
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