Category Archives: math

I Need to Slow Down

A few days ago I wrote about how pleasantly surprised I was at my high math scores on the practice GRE despite the fact that I haven’t actually done math in many years. The few mistakes I was making were silly calculation mistakes that could be easily remedied.
Six practice tests later I am still making the same mistakes. This is a problem. Yes I am glad I remember the concepts, and am using the right formulas. It is far easier to correct inattentiveness than to learn entire theories. Unfortunately on a multiple choice test a wrong answer is a wrong answer.
The GRE people don’t care if I accidentally inverted a positive and negative sign on the third step using the quadratic formula. I don’t get points for having remembered which formula to use in the first place.
I know I am only missing a couple of questions per section, but on a section of only 20 questions missing two or three is actually quite egregious.
My problem is time. I am not using enough of it. I am given 35 minutes per section. I am finishing in 15 or less. I try not to look at the clock so I don’t worry about it, but then by not looking at the clock I panic thinking I am running lower on time than I actually am, and I rush. And that is when the careless mistakes happen.
A couple dozen more practice tests should fix the problem. 

Pleasantly Perplexed

I have been studying for the GRE subject exam quite a bit lately, and thought it might be a good idea to study for the general as well. I figured the easiest way to see where I am and what I need to brush up on would be to take a practice exam and go from there.

I did very well on the verbal reasoning and reading comprehension sections. Honestly this wasn’t very surprising. In fact, I would be terribly worried about my life choices thus far if I didn’t do well on these sections. Yes, I would like to get a doctorate in English literature, but I can’t decipher a two paragraph section of text. Um… See? That would be a problem. Luckily I don’t have to worry about that.

However, I was slightly worried about the math section. Even though I did very well in math in high school and undergrad, I haven’t much dealt with math (except basic functions) in over a decade. Considering I assess students on their math skills on a daily basis I know just how fast unused math skills degenerate. In case you were wondering, very fast.

So when I got a 37 out of 40 on the practice exam, I wasn’t just surprised, I was quite shocked. I remembered all my formulas and concepts. And the three problems I got wrong had more to do with my own carelessness than anything else. How did this happen?

Granted I have been surrounded by math books a large part of my life, considering what my parents did for a living, and their educational background, but I don’t think I was learning by osmosis. Last time I checked, simply being in the same room as a book did not lend itself to learning.

I guess I am pleasantly perplexed?