# Frequently Asked Questions

- How much preparation should I plan on?
- What math content will I review?
- What book will we use?
- What is the instructor’s experience / background?
- Why is the Nth Degree GRE class less expensive than Kaplan or Manhattan Prep?!
- What is the Nth Degree approach / vision / philosophy?

## “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?”

I put this question high on the list because Stephanie the Stereotypical Student is TERRIFIED of the math section!! We will conduct a two-pronged attack on math review.

**Khan Academy Grades 4 – 8: **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. You can do this for free at home.

**GRE Hot Topics: **My lectures will focus on the test-specific topics that are most heavily tested and easiest to improve : Ratios, proportions and percents; triangles, compound areas, slopes of lines, algebraic substitution, measures of center and spread, distribution of data. I’ll show you how the GRE tests them.

Yes, math content is important. I have about 100 flash cards worth of facts that I think you really ought to know. I call it “necessary but not sufficient.” But my perspective has taught me two valuable lessons that are surprising to most students:

**1st fact you’ll be surprised to hear: ** **The majority of GRE improvement does not come from “bulking up on math facts” (or cramming vocabulary flash cards). ** Rather, it comes from test familiarity and guided practice, so that you can ** improve at applying the content you already know well**. There are numerous reasons for this. One is that your competition is not very strong at math, so it doesn’t take much to position yourself well on the curve! Another issue is that GRE questions are linguistically and logically challenging even when you “know the math”. The GRE is well-designed as a test of life-long learning, reading comprehension, and abstract thought, not a fact-cramming contest. The sheer volume of potential content is too high to review completely in a few weeks, and most students only retain a small fraction of what they review anyway. We will focus on picking up the GRE points that are easiest to gain in the shortest amount of time. In addition to the specific topics listed above, we will discuss the principles underlying GRE testing, such as abstraction and application, the “Qualities of Quantities”, working with unknown and relative numbers, the math / language interface, understanding the questions, and strategizing solutions.

**2nd fact you’ll be surprised to hear**: **The verbal section is at least as difficult as the math section. ** Remember that both sections are scored according to where you fall on the “curve” of student scores. Since your peers are generally better at English than at math, the verbal section is objectively at a higher grade level. Most students are much more nervous about the math section, but “nerves” do not necessarily predict actual results! We really won’t know which section(s) to prioritize until you take your diagnostic test.

## What book will we use?

You should purchase the ETS Official Guide to the GRE (3rd edition as of 2024). It is the only book that uses real test questions.

I have a set of pre-packaged lectures and homework assignments drawn from this book. You may schedule those lectures with me in real-time at my regular tutoring rate, and / or purchase them on video for 25% of the live-lesson price ($17.50 / hr of content).

## 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.

There are some things you can do on your own time, like a diagnostic test, homework problems, and reviewing basic math. You may even view my video lectures on your own time. The greatest value that I can provide to you is:

- Evaluating your diagnostic results and personalizing your course of study
- Helping you prioritize the content to review
**Feedback**: Working through questions that you are missing, so you can understand why.

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

That’s a great question; thanks for asking!

First, I believe very strongly in an immediate diagnosis. We want to know your overall levels at the outset. This will help us decide how to budget your time. It will also give us a pretty good sense of where your final “plateau” will be (everyone has one!) 🙁 Finally, nothing can introduce you to the flavor of the exam better than a timed diagnostic. If you have official scores within the last six months, they will be valuable to me. Otherwise, I prefer to administer a “mini diagnostic” that I take from the test book. I supervise it to see how you use your time.

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). Exams such as the GRE are designed to reward students who

- Are well read
- Are highly literate in English and can read carefully 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