### Recommended Reading for the GRE

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**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 tools, and 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

### Taking Distance from the GRE

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**Studying for the GRE can be challenging—both at an intellectual and a personal level. As you study, it’s easy to feel like your whole value as a person is on the line.**

But taking the test too personally can be a bad thing—both for emotional and practical reasons.

On an emotional level, taking the results of the test personally can lead you to high levels of stress and anxiety. And it’s just not worth it to beat yourself up about it.

The GRE is only *one factor* in the whole picture of you as a grad school applicant. Admissions committees know this and keep this in mind as they evaluate candidates. They also look at your background, your interests, your grades, your recommendations, and your personal essay. A strong personal essay—one that reflects your unique personality and tells a convincing story about why you’re interested in graduate school—is often enough to put you at the top of the pile. A good essay counts for more than any GRE score.

But there are practical reasons to keep a good emotional distance from the GRE, too. Read more

### More Fun with GRE Variables

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**In my last blog post, we practiced using GRE variables to solve Quant word problems—and we solved some problems ***without* using variables, too. The big takeaway: you don’t have to start every word problem with a tidy little list of variables and equations! It’s okay to focus on the *numbers* in the problem first. However, variables are sometimes the key ingredient to getting a GRE problem right. In this article, we’ll try using variables to solve some tougher GRE Quant word problems.

Here’s one of my favorite problems from the 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems. Give it a try before you keep reading: Read more

### GRE Math for People Who Hate Math: Absolute Value

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**Think of an absolute value as a simple machine that looks like this: ||. You put a value into it, and the machine answers a single question for you: how far away from zero was the value that you put in?**

The basic operation of the machine is simple. Take any number, put it into the machine, and find out how far from zero that number is. The absolute value of 12, |12|, is equal to 12. The absolute value of -10, |-10|, is equal to 10. That’s because -10 is 10 units away from zero.

It starts to get complicated when the GRE asks you to put things into the machine that are more complex than simple numbers. Imagine that somebody else is operating the machine. She puts values in, but she doesn’t tell you what those values are. All you can see is the *answer* that the machine gives when it receives those values. Read more

### GRE Math for People Who Hate Math: What Is a Variable, Really?

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**Imagine a world where every conversation went like this:**

**Student**: When is our final project due?

**Professor**: Three days after the first Wednesday after your rough draft is due.

**Student**: What?

**Professor**: The rough draft is due 15 days after the date 6 days before May 14.

Solving a GRE math word problem is a little bit like having this kind of conversation. That’s why word problems can be so infuriating. The problem isn’t *lying *to you. It’s just telling you the truth in a really annoying, backwards way. (Reading Comprehension problems do that too—it’s not just a Quant thing.)

In the conversation above, how would you work out the due date of the final project? Personally, I’d start by getting out my calendar. I’d start at May 14, then count 6 days backwards. Then, I’d count 15 days forwards, put a star on the calendar, and mark it ‘rough draft.’ Then I’d find the first Wednesday after that date, and finally, I’d count three days forward from there. That would give me my answer. Read more

### Solving GRE Problems in Multiple Ways to Build Flexibility

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**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

### Look Before You Leap When Studying for the GRE

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**People study for the GRE in different ways. Some people spread their studying out over time, taking 10-15 minutes every few days and studying for several months or more. Others condense their studying into a more limited amount of time. **

When I was first studying for the GRE, I was lucky enough to get to doing it during six weeks I had off over a summer. During this time, I mainly spent my time doing two things: learning vocabulary (using flashcards) and taking practice tests.

I spent so much time studying for the GRE during this time that I began to have *dreams* about exponents, ratios, and number properties! Sometimes they were nightmares, in which I imagined myself confronted with an unsolvable problem, filled with a growing sense of dread as the clock counted down to 0.

Other times, however, I had dreams that filled me with a sense of confidence. In these dreams, I was confronted with a problem, and, even before I knew what the answer to the problem was, I knew something even more important: I understood *what the problem was asking me to show*. Read more

### GRE Sentence Equivalence: Theme Traps

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**There are four reasons to miss a GRE Sentence Equivalence problem. Here are three of them: **

- You misread the sentence.
- You didn’t know all of the vocabulary words (or remembered a word incorrectly).
- You were short on time and the problem looked tough, so you guessed and got unlucky.

These are all things that you can address with practice. (Check out our Text Completion & Sentence Equivalence Strategy Guide for ideas!) However, we won’t be talking about them here. Instead, let’s look at a fourth reason to miss a GRE Sentence Equivalence problem:

- You fell for a trap.

### GRE Percent Change Questions

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**One of the most common mistakes many students make on the Quant section of the GRE is to misread percent questions, especially ones that ask you to calculate percent change (i.e. increase, decrease, more, less, greater, discount, or profit). You can fix this issue with a bit of practice, but it requires some careful reading on your part. Read more**

### How to Really Remember a GRE Vocabulary Word

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**Think about your least favorite GRE vocabulary word. You know the one—every time you see it in your flashcards, you get that sinking feeling of dread. You ***always* get this one wrong. You know it’s important, but for some reason, it just won’t stick in your head.

Okay, do you have a word in mind? Let’s conquer it—right here and now. Read more