Occasionally, we’ll get an algebra problem in which a pre-defined formula is given for some phenomenon, and then we’re told to manipulate that formula in some way. People often find these quite tough because we typically didn’t see questions like this in school.

Let’s try this problem first (© Manhattan Prep) from our GRE Algebra Strategy Guide.

Life expectancy is defined by the formula 2SB/G, where S = shoe size, B = average monthly electric bill in dollars, and G = GRE score. If Melvin’s GRE score is twice his monthly electric bill, and his life expectancy is 50, what is his shoe size?

(There are no multiple choice answers for this one. Also, yes, we’re being a little silly with this problem.

But don’t the big story problems feel like this sometimes? Just having a little fun while we learn : ) )

Many students will tell me, It doesn’t seem like we can solve this one at all. There are four variables and they only give us the value for one of them. How can we possibly figure out his shoe size?

Each week, we post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

y > 9
z > 2

Quantity A
x2yz “ 8x2z + 3yz “ 24z

Quantity B
0

This amazing math wedding cake is from Pink Cake Box.

This past week, I was attempting to plan a wedding, and came across yet another “GRE math in real life” situation. (When you’re a GRE instructor, you tend to spot these quite often!)

I’m going to give you three different GRE math problems using the same real-life wedding scenario. Here goes!

Question 1: To hold a wedding at NYC Private Club costs \$130 per person, including food and open bar. There is also a \$500 ceremony fee and a 20% service charge, as well as 8.875% NYC tax on the entire bill. Which of the following represents the total cost C of a wedding at NYC Private Club as a function of the number of people, p?

A. C(p) = (130p + 500)(0.8)(91.125)
B. C(p) = (130p)(0.2)(1.08875) + 500
C. C(p) = (130p)(1.2)(0.08875) + 500
D. C(p) = 130p + 1.2p + 1.08875p + 500
E. C(p) = (130p + 500)(1.2)(1.08875)

Question 2: To hold a wedding at NYC Private Club costs \$130 per person, including food and open bar. There is also a \$500 ceremony fee and a 20% service charge, as well as 8.875% NYC tax on the entire bill. If a wedding at NYC Private Club cost, to the nearest dollar, \$10,334, how many guests attended the wedding?

Question 3:

To hold a wedding at NYC Private Club costs \$130 per person, including food and open bar. There is also a \$500 ceremony fee and a 20% service charge, as well as 8.875% NYC tax on the entire bill.

 Quantity A The overall cost per person, including all fees, charges, and taxes, of a wedding at NYC Private Club with 100 guests Quantity B The overall cost per person, including all fees, charges, and taxes, of a wedding at NYC Private Club with 150 guests

A. Quantity A is greater.
B. Quantity B is greater.
C. The two quantities are equal.
D. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Enjoy the weekend with some of the top articles about the GRE and graduate school!

Happy Fourth of July!

6 Reasons Why Graduate School Pays Off (U.S. News Education)

Read up on how an advanced degree can make a big difference un your career and earning potential.

This past Tuesday, July 3, 2012, the ScoreSelect option became available to test takers worldwide. The new option allows GRE test takers to decide which test scores to send to institutions. Be sure to check out our blog post for more info on ScoreSelect.

A common question regarding the GRE is how to improve on Reading Comp. Whether our problem is speed, comprehending the passages, or — a common complaint — narrowing the choices down to two and then picking the wrong one, RC difficulties are widespread (that is, ubiquitous).

Here’s my advice to a student’s question in the Forums:

The first thing to say is: You really do just have to read and think very fast to get a top score on the verbal GRE. To truly learn to read and process complex information more quickly could take a person years. Obviously, we don’t usually have that kind of time to prepare for the GRE. But for whatever reason, speed-comprehension is a skill being tested on this exam.

So, if speed is a serious problem, you might have to accept that you won’t really get to REALLY answer all the questions — you might want to answer all the vocab questions first, since they’re faster, and then go back and do all the shorter reading passages, leaving the longer passages for last. If you skip something, use the “mark” button, and pick a random answer just in case you don’t get a chance to come back.

As for taking notes, personally I do not take notes when the passage is on a topic with which I am familiar. But if the passage is complex (usually science passages are, to me), I diagram, and even draw certain processes (for instance, I did a lovely sketch of spiral galaxy formation on one passage, with words and arrows indicating the meaning of that part of the passage). I also always diagram is a contrast is being presented so i can make a T-chart to help me keep track of which historians/scientists/etc. are on which “side.”

I also find that reading many, many GRE passages (you can also practice on books for the old GRE — the Reading Comp is basically the same — or on materials for the LSAT or GMAT) familiarizes you with certain topics and structures. I now know more about astronomy than I ever thought I would, and when I begin reading something about history, I’m always expecting the same evidence to get reinterpreted in a new light (I’d say I’ve become very familiar with the idea that historical and anthropological evidence is often interpreted by historians and anthropologists through the lens of their own time and culture).

An example — I was recently working with a student on a long, hard RC passage about a particular type of fish, and how it had evolved to have both its eyes on the same side of its head (and then there was a long description of the twisting of the optic nerves), and how these fish in some parts of the ocean have their eyes on the left side of their heads, and in other parts, on the right side. The passage investigated what the evolutionary advantage could be to having both of one’s eyes on the left side versus the right side. (A good question! What on earth COULD be the advantage to such an adaptation? Do sharks always attack from the left or something? Ha.)