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Guessing on the GRE and Moving On

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Guessing on the GRE and Moving On by Cat Powell

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Ready to take the plunge? Check out our upcoming courses here.


Persistence is, in most endeavors, an admirable quality—just not when taking the GRE. For this test, knowing when to give up on a problem, guess, and move on, is a crucial skill. It’s important to remember that this is more than just a test of math knowledge or reading skills; it’s also a test of how one makes decisions under pressure. Read more

Preparing for the GRE: What the Test is Really About

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Preparing for the GRE: What the Test is Really About by Cat Powell

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Ready to take the plunge? Check out our upcoming courses here.


In the first session of each GRE class that I teach, I ask students which sections they see as strengths and which they see as weaknesses. Almost all students have a strong preference for either Quant or Verbal. Often, these preferences aren’t based in actual test experience—rather, they reflect the student’s sense of him- or herself as a “math person” or a “language person.” Read more

GRE Quant Best Practices: Improving Problem Recognition

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - GRE Quant Best Practices: Improving Problem Recognition by Cat Powell

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Ready to take the plunge? Check out our upcoming courses here.


A number of students have recently told me that they struggle with “problem recognition,” particularly in the Quant section of the GRE. What many mean by this is that when they look at a problem, they don’t immediately see how to get to the solution. They might recognize some of the concepts involved, but the problem as a whole has aspects that make it look unfamiliar and difficult. When this happens on the test, in a high-pressure, time-sensitive environment, the resulting feeling can be paralyzing. Read more

De-Tangling Difficult Word Problems on the GRE

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - De-Tangling Difficult Word Problems on the GRE by Cat Powell

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Ready to take the plunge? Check out our upcoming courses here.


Let’s start with a problem that’s been giving my students trouble recently. Read it through, but don’t try to solve it—yet.

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - De-Tangling Difficult Word Problems on the GRE by Cat Powell Read more

Recommended Reading for the GRE

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Recommended Reading for the GRE by Cat Powell

You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Ready to take the plunge? Check out our upcoming courses here.


When I was a kid, my mom read Don Quixote to me as a kind of cautionary tale: look at the crazy things you end up doing if you read too much fiction. I did read too much fiction—and I still do—and this probably does explain some of my major personality flaws. But it also turns out that one of the crazy things you can do if you read too much is answer most GRE vocabulary questions, because one great gift of reading is that you learn a lot of interesting words.  

The GRE favors words that are used broadly, across many disciplines, and that are appropriate for academic writing. This means that many of the words that show up on the GRE are rarely used in our everyday conversations, and I find that a lot of them I’ve seen used primarily in 19th-century fiction.

My colleagues have written some great posts about how to learn words effectively with flashcards and other toolsand so today I want offer an alternate strategy: read great fiction, preferably older stuff, but maybe some 20th-century books as well. It’s a fun antidote to study fatigue and a great way to find new words in their natural habitat. Here’s some recommended reading for picking up lots of GRE vocab. Read more

Solving GRE Problems in Multiple Ways to Build Flexibility

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Solving GRE Problems in Multiple Ways to Build Flexibility by Cat Powell

Did you know that 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.


Recently, my colleague Tom and I decided that, since we were teaching in adjacent classrooms, it might be fun to combine our classes and co-teach a lesson. Tom and I have very different strengths, both as test-takers and teachers. I love algebra, and I’ll always seek out an algebraic solution to a problem (even when this might not be the most efficient method—my strength is also a weakness). Tom prefers non-algebraic methods, like drawing diagrams or picking numbers. And our strengths inform what we emphasize in class.

So, for our joint lesson, we chose a number of GRE problems that could be solved in more than one way, and then took turns demonstrating each method. First, we each used the method we preferred (algebra for me, picking numbers for Tom), and then we switched and demonstrated the method we were less comfortable with. Here’s one of the GRE problems we used: Read more

GRE Prime Factorization and Divisibility Problems

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - GRE Prime Factors and Divisibility Problems by Cat Powell

Did you know that 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.


Here’s a hard problem that I used to teach in session 1 of our GRE course (my poor students! This was a rough intro to GRE math.)

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - GRE Prime Factorization and Divisibility Problems by Cat Powell

If you’d like to, give yourself a minute or two to try this (but don’t bang your head against it for too long). If you’re thinking wow, I have no idea what’s going on here—well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this. And even if you do feel comfortable with this problem, it might be worth reading further to see how the techniques used to solve this are more broadly applicable in GRE Quant. Read more

Managing GRE Anxiety Before Test Day

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Managing GRE Anxiety Before Test Day by Cat Powell

Did you know that 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.


I am an incredibly anxious person. Like all of us, I worry about the big things (work, money, relationships, illness), but I also descend into fear when confronted with absurdly small things (the weird look the Dunkin’ Donuts cashier gives me when I ask for six sugars, the ominous clicking sound my toaster makes—WILL IT BLOW UP AND KILL ME???). Learning to manage my many anxieties is one of my main challenges on a day-to-day basis.

So I relate, strongly, to the students I work with who struggle with GRE anxiety. This anxiety manifests in a few common ways: Read more

Becoming Your Own Best Teacher

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Becoming Your Own Best Teacher by Cat Powell

Did you know that 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.


I recently did an exercise in one of my classes in which I asked each student to teach one or two problems to their classmates. I think some of my students suspected that I just wanted to make them better appreciate how hard teaching can be (like how my parents want me to have grandchildren so I can know how much they’ve suffered). But in truth, my hope was that this activity would help my students to study more effectively at home, and I was happy to discover that this turned out to be the case.

A lot of us, at times myself included, think of studying as a skill distinct from teaching. As I’ve seen with many students, though, the practices that make for a good teacher also make for the most effective student. The things that I think about as I prepare for a class are the same things that you should be thinking about at home when you sit down to work through a new math topic or GRE problem set. With this in mind, here are a few good teaching moves that you can apply to your studying. Read more