Week 6: Facing Down GRE Math

Hi everyone! My name is Katie Chandler and I am a 4th year Speech-Language Pathology student at Texas Christian University. Taking the GRE is the first step in my journey to my dream career, and I am working with Noodle Pro Sam Perwin to get a great score! Follow me as I blog about what I’ve learned.


In previous sessions, my GRE tutor and I had tackled Logic- Based Reasoning, the GRE essay, and Sentence Completion, which I begun with relative comfort, as English was always one of my strongest subjects. However, this week, we began a portion of the GRE that I had been worried about since I began my tutoring sessions with Sam—math.

I have a long history of struggling with math,
and have been avoiding it since high school. The numerous standardized math exams I had previously taken (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, SAT, etc.), had not elevated my confidence in my math abilities. It’s an understatement to say that I went into our GRE tutoring session feeling nervous.

Sam explained that unlike the math I learned in school, GRE math is more conceptual. Most of the standardized exams I was familiar with are less about what concepts you know and more about getting to an answer (plugging in answers was a big strategy of mine for many standardized exams). However, as I soon learned with the GRE, this type of strategy was not going to work.

As somebody who has avoided math since high school, remembering certain concepts was difficult at first. It is important to know the definitions of certain math concepts, since the GRE is mostly vocabulary.

While it is important to understand how to solve certain problems, the real trick to conquering the math portion of the GRE is recognizing math vocabulary. This vocabulary will be included in the problem, so it will be harder to find a solution when you don’t understand what the question is asking for.

For example, a problem may ask about rational numbers. In order to solve this problem, the first step is recalling that rational numbers are numbers that can be written as fractions (7/8, 8/2, -3/1, etc.). My tutor, Sam, sent me a list of common math terms that I will need to know for the GRE. The best way to go about studying for this section is reviewing common math formulas and making flashcards for the terms that are difficult to remember.

I already struggle with math, so the GRE math section was daunting.

The math section of the GRE is a mix of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra.

One of the sections I felt the most unfamiliar with was the arithmetic section, in which the main goal was to determine which of two values is larger. The answers are listed as follows:

  1.     The value of A is greater than the value of B
  2.     The value of B is greater than the value of A
  3.     The values are equal
  4.    The answer cannot be determined

For a simple example, a question might say the area of a square with 2-inch sides is value A. Another square has 4-inch sides, and that area is value B. Which value is larger?

In this case the answer would be B, as 2 x 2 = 4 (A) and 4 x4 = 16 (B).

This type of math was different from any standardized math test I had taken before. While I was initially intimidated due to my history with math, the fact that the questions are largely vocabulary based gave me some comfort. I ended up finding this section of the GRE to not be necessarily difficult, but different from any standardized math test I had taken before. In order to practice more, Sam asked me to complete the arithmetic section of the GRE packet sent, as well as create a Quizlet for the math terms I have difficulty remembering.

Related Topics:

Week 3: More Than One Correct Answer

Week 4: Tackling The GRE Essay

Week 5: Reviewing Logic-Based Reasoning And The GRE Essay

Week 7: Solving My Way Through GRE Geometry

Noodle Pros GRE Specialists

Katie Chandler is currently an undergraduate Speech-Language Pathology major and Spanish minor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.