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A great flashcard is more than just a memory tool. It can also help you overcome that “not sure what to do next” feeling on test day. Here’s how to get the most out of every flashcard you create.
You don’t need to memorize that many facts to conquer GRE Quant. You should know the basic geometry facts and formulas, the definitions of math terms such as integer and quartile, and the first few primes and perfect squares. GRE Quant flashcards are a great way to drill yourself on those facts! But you can also use them for much more than just facts.
Solving a Quant problem involves performing a series of steps: adding a value to both sides of an equation, converting a decimal into a fraction, plugging in a negative value for x. If you succeed on a Quant problem, it means you knew, or figured out, which steps to take. How did you know? Either consciously or subconsciously, you recognized clues in the problem and knew how to respond to them.
For instance, suppose you see this equation in a problem:
The first step is to divide 12 into 2s and 3s:
Then, distribute the exponent on the right:
Then, draw a conclusion about the values of x and y:
If you knew how to do this already, it probably felt automatic. (If you didn’t get it right away, keep reading!) Reflect for a moment on what you actually did and why you did it. You applied a series of steps, based on what you saw in the problem.
When you see an equation with exponents on both sides, a good first step is to make the bases of the exponents match. So, you converted 12 into 22 x 3.
When you see a product raised to an exponent, you can distribute the exponent. Also, when you raise an exponent to a power, you multiply the two exponents. That’s why (22 x 3)4 became 28 x 34.
Those are the kinds of facts that belong on your GRE Quant flashcards. On the front of the flashcard is a clue you might see in a problem. On the back is what you should do in response to that clue.
Start with clues that you already recognize. The next time you do a set of Quant problems, as you review them, split each problem up into the clues you used and make one flashcard for each. Don’t only think about math facts! Consider strategies, too:
– Some clues tell you to set up your scratch paper in a particular way:
– Some clues (on Quantitative Comparison problems) tell you which cases to test.
– Some clues might tell you to immediately guess on the problem and move on!
Try the same exercise on some problems that you got wrong. This time, you won’t be identifying clues that you recognized. Instead, you’ll have to think about two different types of mistakes. You may have made a mistake by not recognizing a clue — if you’d seen it, you would have known what to do next, but the problem was complicated and you didn’t spot it. You also may have made a mistake by not knowing how to react to a clue. You knew that the problem was trying to tell you something, but you didn’t know what it meant. Either way, create a flashcard after you’ve reviewed the problem!
On the front of the flashcard, include:
– A description of the clue, in general terms.
– The specific text or equation from the problem you saw it in, as a reminder.
On the back of the flashcard, include:
– What to do, in general terms.
– The specific ‘next step’ from the problem you saw it in.
Study your GRE Quant flashcards for a few minutes each day. Look at the front of the flashcard, and try to explain to yourself what to do when you see that sort of clue in a problem. When you get one wrong, look at it more frequently. If you get one right, put it aside for a few days or a week. With time, you’ll experience that “what do I do next?” feeling less and less often. 📝
Want more guidance from our GRE gurus? 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.
Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.