How to prepare for the Math GRE

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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How to prepare for the Math GRE

Post by CheeseCurd » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:50 am

I'm new around here. In fact, I'm new to the idea of going to grad school in math. Currently, I'm a physics grad student (and I'm doing well in my program), but the research I'm interested in is more in line with applied math rather than physics. Our university has a great applied math program--it has a very good physics program as well, but its applied math program is stellar--and I'm thinking about applying.

I would apply to the program this fall (2012). I'll have my Master's in physics by then.

Any recommendations for studying for the Math GRE? Any good online resources or books?

One tidbit: my undergrad was in physics, not math, though I obviously took many math courses. I'm sure I'm deficient in some areas, but I don't know [yet] what those would be.

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Re: How to prepare for the Math GRE

Post by ANDS » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:20 pm

You can download old exams to see where your deficiencies lie. Are you going for a masters in applied math or PhD? You may not even need to take the Math GRE.

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Re: How to prepare for the Math GRE

Post by gromov » Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:42 pm

Is your proposed line of research not even related to physics?

If it is at all related, I'd think it's a lot less trouble to just stay in the physics department and see if you can get an appropriate adviser. These things tend to be quite negotiable, especially since you say you're doing well (I imagine you should not have trouble finding an adviser to take you).

Regarding testing, I suggest looking at a book like Princeton Review's for a good idea of the topics. First be sure you can do all of that stuff very easily, and you can add to your knowledge if need be. There are also official past exams.

Do not grow fixated on memorizing formulas, although you should have the basics in a book such as the above at your fingertips. What you need most is to practice solving those problems quickly and efficiently.

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Re: How to prepare for the Math GRE

Post by echo » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:45 am

Definitely buy Cracking the GRE Math Subject Exam from Princeton Review. Go through it thoroughly, it has a good review of most of the things you need to know written in ways that are practical for you to learn before the exam on your own if necessary.

I would strongly suggest you dust off your old Calculus textbook. Skip any sections with word problems/applications/etc, but otherwise do all of the computational problems (i.e. limits, integrals, derivatives, some multivariable problems, especially Green's theorem type) as quickly as possible. The subject exam is extremely difficult because you have so little time to do problems like these. By doing a very large number of problems quickly, you'll find yourself developing the killer instinct for solving these problems without wasting valuable time. If you have a good diff eq book, I would suggest you do a little practice out of it too. Lots of work will also improve your accuracy. It's important to remember you can get a relatively high score while answering only ~50-55 questions provided you get them all right.

I would spend less time on the exams that are available online except the one available from ETS online currently (you'll also receive a copy by mail). You'll find that since rescaling happened, the exam in the back of the Princeton Review book and the current practice test are significantly more difficult than the older exams which are available online, but they can be a good resource for some types of problems you'll see.

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Re: How to prepare for the Math GRE

Post by lemonjuice » Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:48 pm

The Princeton Review book is designed to be a review for people who already know those subjects. If you are new to them, then you that book will definitely not be enough. Look up the topics covered on the exam (they are on the ets website along with what percent of the exam is on that topic) and study from textbooks written on them. Of course to learn a new math course independently is very time consuming, but that is what you must do. If you can't devote this much time, then going over the Princeton Review book is your only shot. But then don't expect to know those topics as well.

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