### GRE Math for People Who Hate Math: Ratios

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**I recently had a great conversation about ratios with one of our MPrep GRE classes. It’s a tiny class, and only two students were there that day (hey guys!). When I shared a tricky ratio problem with them, both students had totally different, but equally reasonable, reactions to it. Here’s the problem: Read more**

### GRE Quant Best Practices: Improving Problem Recognition

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**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**

### GRE Quantitative Comparisons: The Equal-Different Method

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**There are many different approaches to tackling GRE Quantitative Comparisons problems. One of my favorites is something that, in my opinion, generally doesn’t get talked about enough. This method is for people who feel very comfortable with the basics of quantitative comparisons, and have a decent handle on mental math. When executed properly, it can save you a great amount of time on the test, thus giving you the opportunity to solve other problems. It also can help avoid making silly errors by reducing the number of paper-and-pencil calculations you have to do. This method is called the Equal-Different, or E-D, method. Read more**

### De-Tangling Difficult Word Problems on the GRE

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**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.**

### GRE Interest Problems

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**Interesting Interest**

Deposit money into a savings account and you will earn interest. Rack up a bunch of charges on your credit card, and you’re going to be charged interest. In the real world, the bank takes care of calculating interest for you, but if the word “interest” shows up on the GRE, you’re going to need to know how to calculate it yourself. Read more

### Two GRE Math Terms to Banish from Your Lexicon

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**There are a few math terms that are banned from my GRE classroom. “I’m not a math person” is a big one. So is “You either know it, or you don’t.” Both of those sentences are untrue—they don’t describe how the human brain really works—and they’re also dangerous.**

The words that we choose are important. If we want to succeed on the GRE, we should talk about our learning in a way that reflects that. And if we want to do GRE Quant problems clearly and methodically, we should also talk about them clearly and methodically. That’s why, in addition to the “dangerous” math terms up there, there are a couple of other “dirty words” that I’ve banned from my classroom. If you cut these words and phrases out of your GRE Quant vocabulary, I promise that you’ll make fewer careless errors, understand problems more clearly, and feel more confident about your solutions. Read more

### More Fun with GRE Variables

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**In my last blog post, we practiced using 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