How “engineer’s disease” will waste your time on GRE quant problems

Tyler York
GRE Snacks podcast logo

On the GRE quant, a common trap to fall into is to try to solve the problem. Wait, what? In fact, solving a quant problem directly isn’t always the fastest way to a solution, and can waste precious minutes when you’re taking the exam. In this podcast with Charles Bibilos, CEO and GMAT / GRE tutor at GMAT Ninja, Charles shares how “engineer’s disease” can get in the way of even the best mathematicians – and how to avoid it.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive course to maximize your score on the GRE exam, try Achievable’s GRE course for free to see if our style is right for you.

Full How “engineer’s disease” will waste your time on GRE quant problems video transcript:

Welcome to GRE snacks and a couple episodes but the GRE exam in graduate school admission, I'm Tyler. Founder of achievable. Our affordable 199 Dollar, GRE course includes everything you need to ace the GRE: full textbook, tons of GRE question backed by our memory science algorithm and full-length practice exams. You can try it out for free at and if you like the course, the code podcast will get $20 off at checkout. Now, today, joining us is Charles Charles GMAT ninja. Do you mind giving us a little info about what you do?

Sure Avenue, Shelton and tearing Jerry since 2000 to 2001 Avenue, a company called gmatninja of. All we do is one-on-one tutoring for GMAT, GRE LSAT and the executive assessment great. And today's topic is Engineers disease. Essentially, you know, how you could be Your Own Worst, Enemy on the GRE Quant and so what, what do you how do you define Engineers disease? And then now, you know what, it kind of the the way that it shows up for people that are generally pretty good at math.

So we will need certain kind of phenomenon that we see on GRE and GMAT Quant test Engineers disease and we kept seeing these incredibly. Well trained people with engineering or economics or math or physics backgrounds. Who would come in and say? Yeah, my score on the GMAT. A reason that great why is happening and the short short version of it is that if you are supremely well trained in Quad and you have done the zillions of lines out from your life in a really, really great idea. Then you take a quest on something like the GRE, and if there is a nice Orthodox out a solution, you do that. Nice Orthodox, outbreak solution, and you do it very systematically. And next thing, you know, you spent fault lines of algebra.

Add two and a half minutes, doing a question that had some other solution path, it that you could have done in 60 seconds or 75 seconds and sing. And first guy that really taught me about it. And if he had his dad was this, hot shot, his assistant that the top University of Indiana. And this guy said a banker smart, dude. Super great guy, started me without a doubt. Has way more mass. Not a question and his scores were, we're stuck around this. 70th percentile and he couldn't get above it. And the reason was like, I'd give him a question and I tried to give him kind of a cheeky question that I knew full well, had a couple of ways to go about it and there was kind of a slick way, you really had to kind of sit back a little bit and think

And then there was the obvious way that would be tonight in algebra every single time and I started this whole thing out for a while where I was something, my chair is treating him in person and I just kind of stuff over my chair with a cup of coffee and and give him my laziest. Most American look, I could and watch him. Just come by the house for a minute later. He's like, is it? You got it right? I did my head, 25 seconds. How about you that?

How to get the sky smarter than me for the record. This isn't cuz I'm brilliant. It's it's because that the question that was giving him had some reasonably obvious way to answer it without doing all of that stuff, right? So that people with too much training in her to Orthodox and get themselves in a real Trouble On A time test like the GRE. Right? Well yeah I mean the name of the game really is time, right? Because if you think about it, every problem, solve. And 25 seconds is buys you. You know, at least one problem where he can get an extra minute to do it the hard way, she can't think of a clever way but how do you show? How do you diagnose the problem? Then should determine if there are multiple Avenues to approach it.

In our particular, GRE question, identified, that has multiple Solutions has, how can a student get better at that skill. It's really obvious for us as one of my tutors, when we see you soon doing this, I will see somebody come in and let's say that their goal is a 160 on the cherry and they're scoring in the low 150s. For example, and it's really easy for us to see when somebody might have that issue. Is our first thought is, hey, you're below where you need to be on coamo stinks. I was about five minutes later. We can tell that it doesn't, or we can see from their background that it shouldn't have been sloppy. If it's not that we know what the lack of flexibility and then from there, how to get better at it.

Couple ways to do it. I think thing. Number one that we could her students said is that

Always everybody doesn't matter if you're pregnant and during background your greater quad to think you're terribly, quiet doesn't matter. Everybody read the question twice. Before you do anything step to plot your passport, think about what you're going to do before you do it and those two things are incredibly hard to pull off and they're so critical to your success, special an Adaptive test like the GRE. Because if you make a sloppy Lehrer station on that first section, that's when you get yourself into trouble. That's what you might dig yourself a hole, you can't climb out of. So read the question twice, don't just read anything. If you're answering the wrong question or it says something like X has been. A Drax is negative. X is not negative, and you missed that modifier you're in big trouble.

Is it a gives them time to to digest a little bit and give themselves a moment to see the opening? And step two is what I was wanting to say. I'm going to decide what I'm going to do before I do it. If I just start writing stuff out,

I'm not necessarily going to pick the most efficient path and again if you're over trained if you're that engineer your civil engineer and if you don't do think systematically the bridge falls down, you've been trained to do it that way. And so you're going to be the first thing that comes to mind is going to be inefficient. It's going to be too much out of your brain. A lot of cases, sometimes that's the best path. It isn't always. So is it a hundred percent my sit back and look? Lazy password building, a bridge doesn't work while I'm in here.

Jerry price always give yourself a moment to a jazz steps you decide what you're going to do. Look ahead a little bit and if your path is 668 lines of algebra, let's say there's really a voice in your head that goes women. It I don't have that much time. I can't spend that much time doing that. Is there a better way? Is there a better way? Maybe I should skip this question. Come back to it later and maybe I'll see you there at that point, but be really conscious that path. I'm thinking of any good and if it is in that maybe move on or are you give yourself another 20 seconds to think of something else? And I got the joy of the GRE. This isn't showing a lot of other tests and skipped questions and come back to him and you can use that to your advantage. If you've got really bad Engineers disease for stuff to read twice steps. You think about what you can do before you do it?

Give yourself a moment ago. Is that a great idea to do it that way? And he can't think of anything else. Great skip the question, come back to. And sometimes when you see that question, again, 10 minutes or 20 minutes later, the light bulbs goes on, you see that entry point and that happens to everybody. It's for a really long time. Multiple. Perfect score is blah, blah and I still skip half a dozen questions easily per section cuz I look at it and do, you know, the only way to solve this is kind of a pain in the butt? Can I do better? Let me walk away, and when I come back to the fresh eyes are much more likely to see a better way to do it at the end, you know, if you've got five questions left in 15 minutes later like well I mean okay now I have time to do it the hard way, if I really need to cuz you bought yourself all that time by it by cranky, throw the rest of them, that's exactly it. If you end up having the extra time and you can't see the EZ Pass through great night, spend the time with you, got 15 minutes and five questions left.

Yeah, very cool. That makes a ton of sense. I mean, I think other than that, the like I think we are diagnosing. That was a key piece of it. I think the other thing is just like, how do you identify if you have Engineers disease or if you just are, you know, if it's just hard problem.

I think you identify that for yourself more in the aggregate. So you probably know if you're good at algebra and most people are pretty self-aware with that. And if you know, the background knowledge of brand new CV, scores that are well below what you think they should be, decent chance of Engineers disease, is one of two things, either you're too sloppy that thing. One could be that you're too stubborn and you spend eternity on some questions that that you should be letting go of and then you end up missing questions that's in there. So I don't think you can actually identify it in yourself as it as a as a trait of your mind and you on one question. But you're going to see scores that are persistently lower than, you know, you deserve. And if you can rule out the time, management, problems and Carol sloppiness. And yours is the only thing left. And with our students. We usually have a sense of Engineers disease.

Just by looking at their their scores, before they start tutoring, we've been pretty good hypothesis. That might be the case. And within 10 minutes, you know what, we try to catch him, doing something dumb, like a your sloppy as he's a big is a 10 or 15 minutes because it is such a common thing. And then the last question I have for this topic, I think I mean happy to discuss further if you got other angles on this but I think the last one is like okay so you look at a problem you see a three-minute way to solve it but you don't see the other ways to solve it. And let's say you did take a break for 10 minutes and come back to it like at that point you know you just knuckle down and do it because it might be harder to figure it out the other way or how do you find those other as that, you know, must be there but your do don't know what they are.

However, on your studies might be for the GRE. Think of that flexibility is a muscle that you develop over time and you learn how to see different solution past and maybe part of that is a great that you're fine. If you're working on, let's let's an online platform. You know, something like achievable, you have the opportunity different Passenger. Let me spend some time as I study by, but I do this question review. My results, is there a better way? Can I see it? There? Is it in the explanation. So over time, you can start to see different ways to do it in the end, the bigger tool kit gets as you study for the GRE and the more you focus on, has I looked at that question. When was the moment when I could have been more flexible, you could develop that skill.

So that's not number one. And then again, this thing we do on her students over and over twice religiously hundred percent of the time, lost your passport, before you jumped in, that's nothing. Anybody can do, doesn't matter what your skill level is, it will help you without a doubt. That's said, in the moment of taking the test, your skills are, what they are and you're going to see questions, where you just don't see it right before, it happens to everybody and if that's the case, yeah, you skip it for sure. The first pass through

Then what you come back and look at it, it just depends on how much time you have left. So if I've got the time last time I took the GRE, I think I my second section, maybe three questions and maybe eyes bleed, and I just couldn't see anybody even on the second pass through. But the good thing was I have like 12 minutes left so I could go nuts on him. So really, it's just a function of whether you have the time. If you got the time, ya knuckle down and do that, 12 lines of algebra takes 23 minutes, no worries. But don't spend that up front because you do that two or three times and you're going to feel the pinch. So make sure that you don't do that inefficient slow path until you know for a fact you can spare the time got it. Thanks Charles. This is Ben GRE snacks hosted by Tyler. From achievable. You can try out our GRE course at and use the code podcast to get 10% off if you like it.
Achievable GRE - $199
Achievable's GRE course includes endless quantitative quizzes, 10 verbal reasoning practice exams, 1,500 vocabulary flashcards, and our easy-to-understand online textbook with proven strategies to hit your target score.
View GRE prep course
Desktop and mobile screenshots of Achievable GRE
All rights reserved ©2016 - 2023 Achievable, Inc.