Frequently Asked Questions

“How much preparation should I plan on?”

Improving GRE scores is harder than most students expect.  You should plan on working hard at home as well as in the classroom. I recommend that you commit a total of 24 – 72 hours of study time, half being in the classroom. An appropriate pace would be a total commitment of 1 – 3 hours day, 2 – 5 days / week, for 1 – 3 months.

I would consider one 12-hour block of lessons a realistic minimum introduction to your GRE program. After our initial diagnostic, you can hire me for one billable hour to craft a personalized study plan (optional, recommended, popular!) It will include 10 – 11 lecture hours and accompanying homework.  Please do yourself a favor and clear your calendar of everything unnecessary during your test-prep months. The quality of your study time is just as important as the quantity.

“What math content will I review?”

We will conduct a two-pronged attack on math review.

Khan Academy Grades 4 – 8: This will be especially important for students scoring in the 130s on math. Khan Academy takes you through a slow-paced program of universal math review. You will focus on straightforward math facts and principles such as negative numbers, fractions and decimals, operations, solving simple equations, basic geometry formulas, angles, and interpreting graphs.

GRE Hot Topics: This material will be especially helpful for students scoring in the 140s or 150s. Lectures will focus on topics that the GRE tests most heavily : Ratios, proportions and percents; triangles, compound areas, slopes of lines, algebraic substitution, measures of center and spread, distribution of data. We will also discuss the principles underlying GRE testing, such as the “Qualities of Quantities”, the math / language interface, understanding the question, and strategizing solutions.

Your instructor’s GRE Experience

I have taken the GRE three times.  I was accepted to Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Brown, Berkeley, UCSD, and Northwestern.  I attended the graduate school of engineering at UCSD with a full-ride-plus-stipend UC Regents Fellowship.  My most recent GRE was in 2013, when I earned a perfect score on the Math section, 166 (96th percentile) on the Verbal section, and 5.5 (98th percentile) on the Essays. (See Score Report Here.)  I have been tutoring the GRE since the early 2000s, and I created “The Course You Want” in 2013.

“What is the Nth Degree approach / vision / philosophy?”

That’s a great question; thanks for asking!  In this course, you will focus on the substance of the exam, not just the procedure.  I would advise you not to be too taken in by courses trying to convince you that you can ace the GRE (or any standardized exam) just with procedural tips / tricks / gaming the exam.  (“Just plug in” , “Read the question stem first” etc. are NOT secret recipes for success).  These exams are designed to reward students who

  • Are well read
  • Are highly literate in English and can read with 100% comprehension
  • Have good recall of math facts, and
  • Understand mathematics at the level of principles, not just processes.

The Nth Degree course takes the exam seriously by

  • Examining the obstacles to reading comprehension, and how to work through them
  • Fostering vocabulary retention and careful reading of information-dense material
  • Teaching complex material as information that can be parsed into small simple parts
  • Making sure you are rock solid with the most heavily tested / learnable math facts
  • Understanding the difference between right and wrong answers
  • Presenting elegant / insightful mathematical solutions as alternatives to brute force calculations

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