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158 in GRE quant should I just give up on life

  1. Sep 13, 2013 #1
    I spent a whole year taking practice tests and I took an entire princeton review course. I have studied intermittently for the last 4 months. I memorized the entire formula sheet from the kaplan math book and more and maybe used 2 of the formulas on the test. I took 4 practice tests and scored a 165 in quant on the highest one...but now I took the real GRE and got a 158 which was the score I got on the first time I ever took a practice test! All that time studying was for nothing. I feel so depressed. I am a math major. There's no reason why I shouldn't score a 170 on quant. I dont understand why I can do all of this advanced math and plasma physics with a 3.8 gpa but I can't get a good score on a middle school math test. My resume is otherwise impeccable but no matter what I do I always screw up on the GRE because there isn't enough time to solve everything.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2013 #2
    Physics GRE is more important. You may have had test jitters.
     
  4. Sep 14, 2013 #3

    verty

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    I was going to say it is down to mistakes. If you know how to solve the problems, it'll be down to mistakes made in solving them, or wrong guesses sometimes, or misreading the question, or arithmetic errors, or not putting the answer in the correct form. The answer might need to be converted somehow; if you forget that, the answer is wrong.

    But you also mention that there wasn't enough time. Which means you might have been answering too many questions. Sometimes it is quicker to eliminate the wrong answers than to calculate the right answer. In a sense, you only have to do enough calculation to eliminate all the other answers. But this is also dangerous because you are less likely to notice a mistake if you aren't doing the whole calculation. You won't get numbers that don't look right.

    So in that sense, it is a combination of conceptual understanding and finding the weakness in each question. Is the weakness the fact that most of the given answers are easily shown to be incorrect? Is the weakness that a formula I know will lead directly to the answer? Or is that a trick?

    Another thing to consider is that practice tests are never as difficult as the real test.
     
  5. Sep 14, 2013 #4
    The key problem is that you said you memorized formulas. The key to physics is understanding. You won't be able to solve problems requiring understanding will not be solved by mere memorizing.
     
  6. Sep 14, 2013 #5
    Thanks...at least the engineering schools I am applying to have said that the GRE is the last thing they care about in an application. I've got good recs and research experience. Not sure if I want to take it again.
     
  7. Sep 16, 2013 #6
    Thats naive.

    Try that for the physics gre. These are timed exams which means you will need to memorize and understand.
     
  8. Sep 16, 2013 #7
    I also find it more efficient to learn the concept otherwise blindly plugging numbers into an equation that you don't understand is a recipe for failure
     
  9. Sep 16, 2013 #8
    He said memorize and understand. On these tests you do not have time to re-derive equations from scratch. You have to not only know all the equations, but understand how to use them to succeed.
     
  10. Sep 17, 2013 #9
    I have taken the GRE with a similar approach and have done very well. The point of exams is to test and reinforce your understanding skills - not memorizing skills.
     
  11. Sep 17, 2013 #10

    verty

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    I think taking it again would almost certainly give a better result. As I said, I think it is down to mistakes. Hercuflea, if it will give you more confidence, perhaps retake it for that reason only.
     
  12. Sep 17, 2013 #11
    Neither are mutually exclusive.
     
  13. Sep 18, 2013 #12
    Exactly. Deriving from first principles would be a waste of time and if we were referring to the physics GRE it would be impossible ( you are going to make qft calculations and prove conservation of lepton numbers)
     
  14. Sep 22, 2013 #13

    joshmccraney

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    hey. i tutor math at my university, and while i have graduated, i taught gre/gmat classes (both).

    first, when are you applying to grad school? if you have time you should try tutoring. for me, i believe tutoring for over three years steeled my gre score (i can finish with about 10 minutes to spare, getting every question). doing math every day and teaching it solidifies understanding and makes you impeccable with mental math (as previously mentioned, youre probably making dumb errors)

    second, as previously stated, take the specific gre, as most universities require you take both! you may do better??

    lastly, NO, youre not out of the game. gre is a graduate school requirement, and perhaps the department only requires you meet the minimum? but if youve done well in upperdivision RELEVANT courses youre probably fine, depending on where you want to go.

    hope this helps
     
  15. Sep 22, 2013 #14
    Thanks. I ran out of time in the first section which determines more of your score, with 1 minute left and 5 questions to go I had to christmas tree and I wasn't even able to click on the last one. I exceeded the "minimum" (I think its a soft minimum) for my program in verbal and writing but not math. Ironically I'm a math major. I am applying to top 10 engineering schools, and I looked at this site http://magoosh.com/gre/2013/gre-scores-for-engineering-programs/ which shows average GRE scores. I am about 4 points below average...not sure if I should retake since my GPA is stellar and I have undergrad research experience with my intended doctoral advisor and resume boosters.
     
  16. Sep 22, 2013 #15
    My first time around the general exam I got 150 on the quant. Second time -a year later- I actually did worse, 149, but actually improved substantially on the verbal (studying vocabulary paid off). Got the exact same score on the analytical writing on both exams, despite having radically changed my approach, I think grading in this section is pretty arbitrary.

    If it is of any consolation, I shared the (subject gre) testing room with an Oxford math major who said he did even worse than I did on the quant section. You can probably do definite integration of most transcendental functions in your head, I know I can do it faster than an "ugly" numerical long division to anything beyond 2 significant digits without going for "spherical cow" approximations.

    I don't know what this means, probably not a whole lot if you've got all the coursework done. If you've made it through the bulk of classical and modern physics coursework, it certainly doesn't mean we're unable to do geometry, basic stats, combinatorics and word problems, but I happen to be terribly slow on the GRE and having to read problems off of a screen instead of paper is an added annoyance for me, as I usually like to make a few scribbles immediately below a word problem as I read it or immediately start drawing on geometric figures. I am very prone to copying down a number wrong from the screen, maybe you are too.

    The only thing I can say is: speed up and sharpen up your mental arithmetic and read problems carefully. Also try hard to keep your hands off the pencil. The GRE only tests your ability to take the GRE (with the time constraint being the main hinderance).
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2013
  17. Sep 22, 2013 #16
    Thanks lavabug...question, did you go to graduate school with that score or did you retake the exam to get a better score?
     
  18. Sep 22, 2013 #17
    I got waitlisted at a top 20 ish if ranking means anything to you... but I didn't get in. I am applying to around a 5-fold (compared to last time) number institutions this time around. Haven't been able to do much else other than study for the PGRE to do something to improve my chances (no luck with jobs...). Strongly considering spending a good 350€ on taking the general GRE again a third time just to get a better quant score (the extra cost is lodging + transport, I live in a very isolated region).
     
  19. Sep 27, 2013 #18

    joshmccraney

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    no prob. a quick point, you say you had to "Christmas tree" and by that i assume you refer to guessing abcdedcba in a zigzag way? from a mathematical perspective, this is ill-advised. when guessing in the fashion you have, you limit yourself to 20% per question, and likely you will miss every question. however, if you guess, say, B on each remaining question, you will notice the odds of at least one question being B increase, and perhaps you walk away with a correct answer.

    hope this helps
     
  20. Sep 27, 2013 #19

    joshmccraney

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    lastly, and if this has been said im sorry for not reading, but email the school. all one email does is shown your concern about being accepted. we can all speculate, but the only ones who really know are the admittance council
     
  21. Sep 28, 2013 #20
    Thanks for the advice. When I say "Christmas Tree" I mean that I just randomly picked answers in no particular pattern because I had one minute left and about 6 questions to go. I actually have already done undergraduate research with the advisor I am wanting for my Ph.D. at my top school choice. However, I am worried that they will change their mind about me once they realize I am a mathematics major who scored a 158 on the GRE math :(... I may take it again, but I'm bad at time-restricted tests and worried I'll screw up again.
     
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