A brief greeting and less brief GRE prep book review

Happy 4th to y’all Americans! (Hmm, I think half my viewers are from the Commonwealth. So, um, happy day to you too. 🙂 )

Since I did almost as well as I wanted to on the Quantitative section of the GRE, I decided to write a nice review of the math prep book I used. Yeah, yeah, the test is changing in four weeks, but the basic concepts will remain the same, so I figure some folks may still find this book useful. Anyway, here’s the review.

I can’t comment on the quality of other books for math prep, as I used this one almost exclusively. As another reviewer recommended, I worked through the entire book, skipping or skimming nothing. I took my time; I learn math best when I work through it carefully and practice until it’s almost second nature. I found the huge number of geometry practice problems especially helpful, as I took geometry in my first year of high school and am now a couple years out of college already. I only took two math classes in college, of which only one (Discrete Maths) was useful at all in my prep, for combinations/permutations and probability questions.

There were a few errors in the latter half of the book (in one, for example, the question quoted in the answers section was nearly opposite to the question that had been asked, so the answer given was incorrect). However, considering the number of problems in the book, the accuracy is excellent; and if you can catch the book out on its errors, that’s probably a good sign of how well prepared you are for the real test. 😉

When I first took a diagnostic test, from the Barron’s general prep book, I scored 560Q and 760V; I ran out of time on the quantitative section, in addition to getting several wrong. On ETS’s PowerPrep software the day before the test, I scored 800Q and 760V–the best prediction for me. A second Barron’s diagnostic predicted 700Q, 760V. And on the real thing, I earned a 780Q and 760V. (Yes, I’m rather consistent on the Verbal section, it seems. I chock it up to four years’ prep as a philosophy major.)

I’ve always been pretty good at math, but I freeze up if I’m out of practice on a particular subject. This book covered everything I needed it to, with enough practice of enough variety to bring me to a 780 on the Quantitative section, in spite of my shaky nerves. I know the GRE will switch to the new format within a month, but I would highly recommend this book, even so–it’s a tried-and-true guide that will continue to be useful while publishers are working out the kinks in their material for the new test. Even beyond that, it will remain a good source of extra practice problems.

Oh…I should have noted that the sections were written by different people, some done better than others. Toward the end, where I found errors, was often also where I found poorly written sections (by which I mean unclear or having really minimal review–or overly voluminous review). Maybe I should check which those were and update the review soon.

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