Today, we’re hearing from Theodore. Thanks for the great post! 🙂
About me: I am from Oakland, California. I majored in Political Economy– which is sort of like an economics major without math. We read economic philosophy texts, like Veblen, Marx, Hayek, etc. Unfortunately, I realized later on, after working for several years as an analyst, that I would rather have studied something of a quantitative nature. I hadn’t taken math in many years, and my foundation was very poor, so my struggle to prepare myself for graduate school and the GRE lied mainly in building up my math skills. I am applying to economics masters programs. My hobbies are Roman history and languages.
Biggest challenge on the GRE: There were many concepts that I struggled with in the math section– but with time and persistence, I improved. I think what’s important to keep in mind, is that while knowledge of many tricks/properties is tested– e.g., how many trailing 0s are in 20!?, what is the remainder when 3^8 is divided by 8?, etc.– knowing these tricks is not enough to get a high score. Problem solving ability is what will really make the difference. So solve hard problems, and build your ability to think mathematically. Manhattan, Magoosh, and Nova’s GRE Math Bible are some of the best resources.
The other serious problem that I had with GRE math was timing and anxiety. I am a slow person by nature– I like to take my time, and I am easily flustered by pressure. I devoted tremendous energy to getting a high GRE score, and I put too much pressure on myself to succeed. In the end this had the reverse result– while I reached my target on my practice tests (I took more than 20 practice tests), I could not achieve the same result on the real exam because I would get flustered and panic (I took the exam twice and got almost the same score). Overall I did well, but my score was not proportional to the effort I expended. My advice to all those like me: Take the GRE seriously, and spread your preparation over a long period– but don’t stake everything on it. It’s only one part of your application, and you’ll end up somewhere so long as you don’t do abysmally.
Also, make sure you know what resources to use. Princeton Review and Kaplan are horrible. Magoosh has reviewed most of the popular books out there, so make sure you check that out.
Tips for other students: Besides not taking it as seriously as I did (I probably shaved time off my life)– here are some practical tips: For math, I found these resources to be the most helpful , in order: GMATClub Forums (for an exhaustive library of tips, tricks, properties, and seriously difficult problems of all types), Magoosh (for lots of problems of accurate difficulty, helpful blog posts, very thorough explanations), Nova GRE Math Bible (hard problems of every type), Manhattan (for challenge problems, and practice exams), Kaplan (just for practice exams, everything else they have sucks).
For verbal, I found these resources to be most helpful: Vocabulary.com (almost every word has a paragraph explanation; do the challenge, you’ll learn a ton), Magoosh (flashcards, passages, everything), GMATClub (critical reasoning questions helpful), Manhattan Big Book of GRE problems (critical reasoning questions).