My Uphill Battle with the GRE

I find myself doing math in class a lot for some reason, and when the students see I am visually struggling, I like to remind them that I teach English, not math. This, in retrospect, seems ridiculous. It’s as if language teaching is mutually exclusive to mathematics. Which it is not, especially when considering how linguistics and math (and programming) require similar analytic skills. What I really mean by the statement above is that I’m bad at math. I’ve scapegoated my profession when really it is my problem. I’ve never particularly liked math, though I do enjoy statistics, programming, and figuring out grades. Still, my skills in math are quite weak. This, of course, is bad news for me since I have decided to take the GRE in August.

I’m planning to apply for entrance to a PhD program, and GRE is required across the board. I was able to forego the GRE for my masters since my undergraduate GPA was so high, but there is no escaping the test now. The GRE is divided into two basic sections: verbal and quantitative. Since I have begun studying, I have enjoyed the verbal section. I am learning and relearning vocabulary using Anki and a 4,000 word set I have found, as well as several other flashcard sets, plus lots of reading. I’ve done a number of practice problems, and my success has been motivating. It’s the math that is kicking my ass.

I’ve been studying for a good month now, basically relearning all math since middle school. I’ve been using the Manahattan GRE guides, websites like Math is Fun, and now I just signed up for Magoosh GRE. They offer video lessons on all concepts and many strategies, flashcards, and about 1,000 test questions – all with video explanations. After starting Magoosh, I have found that it is an excellent resources, once which I will definitely be reliant upon.

Still, despite my study, the amount of questions I keep getting wrong is quite astounding. Many of the video explanations are clear, but some just leave me with a blank look on my face – they seem to assume I know some concept I really don’t. Thankfully, they offer related skill lessons. I only wish these lessons offered practice drills. The Manhattan books do, but it would be better if they were computer based.

So, my plan is to study at least four times a week until August. I’m starting at the bottom of what to me is the mathematical version of Mt. Everest. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I think with the aid of some sherpas (my test prep materials) I can reach the top – or at least not die on the mountain.

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