Many GRE students come to me for their preparation with the concern that they have been away from math for many years now and the last time they studied math was probably 6 or more years ago.

This is definitely a genuine concern for the Pakistani GRE test takers since now they want to pursue an advanced degree but graduate schools require the GRE and it has lots of Math involved. So the question is that how can one resume studying and sharpening math or quantitative skills years later.

Math/Quant Phobia

I frequently hear GRE students say that “I have never been good at math” or “I was good at math 10 years ago but now I am anxious if I can be as good at it as I used to be” etc.

Years of experience coaching the GRE students has proven to me that students who don’t like math don’t study it, they do not practice it and they do not make an effort towards improving it. Moreover the rusty students feel that with just a little effort they’ll be able to shine once again which does not happen since regardless of which type of student you are, if you have been away from math for a long time, you will have to put in a lot of hard work to improve your GRE math.

I always tell my GRE students in Pakistan that if you are committed towards getting a good GRE score then you must practice math problems every day and make a habit of attempting 5-10 questions on a daily basis. Keep learning from your mistakes and move on.

Start with the basics

A fatal mistake that GRE students with years of hiatus from math make is that they get hold of the GRE books in the market such as Kaplan, Barron’s or Princeton review and start studying for the GRE math directly from them. It is true that in order to self-study for the GRE you must study from these books but please note that for a person like you, you must get hold of some basic mathematics books that would help you brush up or teach you mathematics at the very basic level. The McGraw Hill is a very good book that would help you refresh basic math.

Once you spend a couple of weeks doing that only then would it make some sense for you to jump to the actual GRE questions and study material where you can then learn time saving tips to attempt the math questions quickly.

Keep practicing

Once you make that jump to the actual GRE material after doing a basic refresher, it is very important for you to keep applying what you have learned. Many of my GRE students would come and take my class, and then leave without ever working on the assignments or the quizzes on their own. By practicing a lot you will make sure that you are able to learn math tables, do quick mental math such as addition, subtraction etc.

Mental math is very helpful on the GRE even though you now have a calculator available. This is because it saves time and effort of using a calculator. I always stress that calculator is the biggest trap on the GRE and is a very useless thing. There is no question on the GRE that cannot be done without a calculator. Every question is solvable without it so try to get rid of the habit of using a calculator for every bit of calculation. Use estimations, approximations, divisibility rules and shortcuts. Spend a lot of time on learning basic number properties such as the difference between a positive and a non-negative integer etc. Number properties form the basis of GRE math and you must be well attuned to them.


If you have decided to do GRE, then it means you are an intelligent person. Therefore use your intelligence and smartness to out smart the test and put a little bit of effort to get up to the speed of the test. Believe in your ability and know that there is nothing, which cannot be accomplished with hard work. Focus on what I have mentioned in this post and you will do fine.