For our first student post of June (can you believe it’s June, already!?), we’re hearing from Elliot, who scored a 325 on his exam (great job, Elliot!). Elliot lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Hannah. He has a B.A. in History from the University of Northwestern St. Paul and hopes to attend a Physician Assistant program in 2014. Elliot has some great tips for humanities majors who find math tough to tackle:
1. Mix breadth and depth. Spend enough time to ensure that you understand and can apply particular concepts. It’s one thing to be able to do “Powers and Roots” problems when you have a laser focus on it, but another thing to be able to do it alongside Geometry, Algebra, Statistics, and all the other sections. The goal is to handle the problems when they are all mixed together. That took a lot more practice for me than I thought it would. To maintain both breadth and depth, I had two basic approaches to using Magoosh. First I would watch the lesson videos for a particular section and then I would do the practice problems for that section to make sure I could apply the concepts. Second, after I “mastered” several sections, I would try to do practice problems for all of them together.
2. Don’t get bogged down on any particular concept. If you’re having a hard time with a subset of the Word Problems, for example, don’t spend day after day trying to hammer it out. Move on and continue to master other sections. A month later when you come back to those tough problems, you may discover they are much easier now. All these math concepts are connected. Understanding one concept will help you understand another seemingly unrelated concept.
3. Develop a system to retain important formulas, concepts, and helpful tables or tips. I used a looseleaf paper notebook that I kept at my desk so that I could write them down as I studied. You could also use the electronic note pad provided within the Magoosh program. Either way, the important point is to keep those tidbits of information handy and then to memorize lots of them. This was an essential part of my improvement on the Quantitative reasoning section. When you’re taking the GRE you want to know and be able to distinguish the different probability formulas, for example, so that you can quickly recall exactly which one you need. You don’t want to sit there nervously trying to remember. Memorization is key.
4. Ask questions. Every time I emailed the Magoosh tutors a question, they provided a very quick and clarifying response. The service is available. Use it. (Note: if you’re not a Magoosh user, we’d recommend using GRE forums to ask questions!).
5. Set a time every day when you can consistently study. Then do it. Consistency and diligence matter when you’re trying to learn this stuff. If you put in significant time and work then you can expect to see some pleasing results. But you have to put in the work. The program can’t work its way into your brain through osmosis.
Thanks, Elliot! 🙂