Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by infinity » Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:36 am

  • I am a computer science graduate (July, 2009).
  • I have huge passion and attitude towards mathematics and it is the field that I want to study and continue in it.
  • I am considering doing a master (postgraduate study, generally) in applied mathematics, abroad.
  • I have a very weak chance to be accepted in any master program, due to:
    • - I have bad GPA (I had reasons for this, however, it is still a HUGE problem)
      - During my undergraduate study, I did take few mathematics courses. Therefore, I do not have the minimum credit hours required by postgraduate mathematics programs.
  • I want to take the GRE Math Sub on this April 2010. (Although it is not required for master admission, but mainly to prove that I am good)
I really need advice here!
Main Questions:
  • Can the GRE math boost my GPA and make me be accepted? (indeed I am not targeting top ranking universities for my master)
  • Although I want math and very much in love with it, I do not have decent knowledge in it at all! So the question is: can I within five months be prepared enough to get decent score in the exam?
    • - anyone can help/suggest a study plan!
  • Any other advice/thought(s) is really highly appreciated.
Others (minor):
  • What could I do to improve my situation?
  • Is there any program(s) or scholarship(s) you could recommend for me? even certain recommended universities.
I apologize for this long post, but I am just confused and need advice. (you don't have to answer all my questions to reply on me! :D)

Thanks a lot!

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by diogenes » Fri Oct 23, 2009 5:47 pm

Keep a salt shaker at hand, but here are my thoughts:

1. Master degree programs are usually easier to get in, given that generally the student pays for them.
2. If you have only taken,e.g., calculus then the subject test will be pretty hard. It is hard for people with years of mathematics etc. So, how much math did you cover? On the other hand, a poor score would be easy to explain away, too.

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by matter » Sat Oct 24, 2009 3:37 am

I think it just depends on the program you are applying to.
Having a good Math Subject score would make up for a low GPA in most cases. Most of the people taking the test are math majors intending to do a doctoral degree, so it is tough to get a high score. My general recommendations is to spend the first half of the study time on new materials, and the second half on review of what you already know.

Masters programs in applied math, especially, often understand that people come from different backgrounds. Sometimes if you don't quite meet the requirements, they will have you cover some additional classes before they start the normal sequence. It doesn't hurt to apply and see what they say.

If it is an option, I would highly recommend taking a couple additional math classes instead of doing the test. If you get a good GPA, they will see how interested you are and that you have improved since your other courses. You will need to learn the material at some point anyway. You can do independent study (there are some book recommendations for different subjects on this forum) or the MIT OCW is a good resource.

If you need flexibility, I took some courses online through the University of Illinois system that are of comparable quality to face-to-face classes, depending on how you learn best. ... gramID=286 ... gramID=541

Good luck and keep going with your math.

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by infinity » Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:08 pm

Well, about how much math I did cover, it is a few. :[ (Basic calculus, linear algebra, discrete mathematics, algebra… )
Yes, my preparation and study will be self(independent)-study. So exactly, MIT OCW + iTunes U + certain books.
After some search, Here is my books list:
  • [1] D.S. Dummit and R.M. Foote, Abstract Algebra, Wiley, 2003. -->> Part I-II
    [2] J. Munkres, Topology, Prentice Hall, 2000. -->> Chapters 1-3
    [3] H. Royden, Real Analysis, Prentice Hall, 1988. -->> Chapter 1-4
    [4] G. Strang, Introduction to Linear Algebra, Fourth Edition, Wellesley Cambridge Press, 2009.
    [5] J. Stewart, Calculus, Brooks Cole, 2002.
    Finally, will try to get this:
    [6] Cracking the GRE Math Test, 3rd Edition
This site: I think it’s a good one.
I hope that 5 months are enough to prepare from these and exercise as much as I can.

Is this.. what would I say,.. a good plan? an applicable?

Here in my country it is very difficult to take individual course especially in Mathematics, so unfortunately, this is not an option. Yes, good advice to ask for some additional classes before the normal sequence.
Final thought, I have some problems in the financial amount I can afford! Hence, I hope that the GRE math in a way or another helps me to get any financial support later.

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by mrb » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:12 pm


Make sure you find the four old Math Subject exams that have been released and take a look at them so you know what you're in for.

The good news is that a significant chunk of the exam is fairly basic Calculus. And even the more advanced topics usually concentrate on only the basic aspects of that topic. For instance, in differential equations, if you can solve separable and linear first order equations, and you know how to sketch an integral curve, then you are almost certainly capable of solving any DE question on the exam. In group theory, if you know what a group is and know Lagrange's Theorem and maybe a couple other basic facts, then again, you know what you need to know.

So the books you have listed are good books and you should certainly learn the material in them... BUT recognize that, for instance, 95% of the stuff in Dummit and Foote will almost certainly not be on the exam. (And also, Royden is a graduate level text I think; it may not cover the basic classical analysis topics you need).

Work tons of problems... don't focus on memorizing crap.

There is no physical reason why you could not learn enough to do well on the exam in 5 months. However, it is a big task, and I think most students would probably fail if they tried.

In any case, good luck.

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by origin415 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:50 am

I think your main problem will be not enough practice tests and problems. There are only 4 ETS tests, and those wont last anywhere near 5 months. The text books you list should have plenty of exercises, so I suppose they could help, but perhaps you should take one of the practice tests early on to get to know the feel of the test and what sort of problems you will need to know.

Make sure you study differential equations, and a bit of combinatorics, complex analysis, and probability theory, which arent on your list, save the sections in the princeton review book (which are decent, though I wish it had more problems of the last three, that chapter doesn't have a test section at the end of it unlike the others).

Good luck.

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by infinity » Sun Nov 01, 2009 10:15 am

Thanks guys! Seriously, I appreciate that!
I have the four exams now, and will do my best to be ready in time.
“There is no physical reason you could not learn enough to do well on the exam in 5 months”, so here we go.
Thanks once more! ^_^

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by speedychaos4 » Mon Apr 05, 2010 2:07 pm

Hi infinity,
I'm kinda facing the same problem with you right now, are you taking the April test now?

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by infinity » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:39 pm


No, I do not =( … I am completely dissatisfied with myself, because I did not even start/try. I just planned with enthusiasm but did not execute my plan(s).

I read your other thread (Undergraduate student looking for advices...)… yea, kind of we are facing the same problem, but… my case is quite complex.
You have GOOD chance, you can do it. =)

Since you brought this up.. I might add some talk here! (implicitly seeking an advice =P)

- I LOVE math, but at this moment, I am NOT good at it! I even have just a limited knowledge in it.
It is kind of a long story… but for now I am pretty sure that the field I want to continue my rest of life studying, learning, doing/researching, contributing in is mathematics... Does it make any sense?

- In my country, the education system is not flexible at all… most of the universities do not even follow the credit hours system! (I do not want to give bad impression and say: the Education sucks here)!
At present, kind of there is no any available chance for me to take any mathematics courses/degree here.
- I do have recommendations but from computer science not known professors!

Anyway, to conclude: low GPA from a not good university, no good recommendation letters, no math background/courses, financially not good.........
In other words and regardless of any details, I can say:
I do not have a single reason to be accepted in ANY mathematics study abroad but just my passion and love towards mathematics and my good potential… (I know, these are just crap!)

Anyway, I hope I can start seriously preparing for the October test… even if there is no chance for me, at least to supply/feed my hunger towards mathematics.
(I do apologize because this reply is out off topic relatively to mathematicsgre forum! ^^)

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Re: Need advice: postgraduate study in mathematics

Post by speedychaos4 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:02 am

I'm from an Asian country and the system of my school is also not that flexible. I'm more into applied math over pure math, and Finance and CS are of my interest. But I cannot sign up for courses which are not offered by our department, so I have to self-study those topics. I find it really hard to obtain in-depth understanding to those topics without certain amount of guidance and intro, and this is really one of the big obsoletes that I'm facing.

It is real AWESOME that you have passion for math, and I believe that is what bring you to your goal ultimately. I was not interested in math when I first entered college due to several reasons, and almost wasted the whole first year in college. Afterwards, I was kinda back in the track of math and started making up for the loss, it is tough, and even though I not one of those top guys, I can really say that I have big progress.

Let's work hard for our goals, real nice to know you!

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