I often hear people say

I am taking GRE or I took the online test of Kaplan.

What I would like to know is that, is 'take' right here if i use it in the context of practice exercise in a Math book

I took the exercise of probability in X book, it was really challenging.

What would be the idiomatic way of saying it?

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    As a native speaker of English, I would probably say "I did the exercise from the book last night" or "I completed the exercise from the book last night". I would use took in this context only for classes and possibly exams (although "sat" is better for exams); e.g. "I took Mathematics in second grade", "I sat my History final yesterday"
    – Matt
    Aug 9 '13 at 20:27
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    Note, by the way, that we say "taking the GRE" or "taking the Kaplan online test" ... "to know whether 'take' is right here" ... "context of a practice exercise" ... "exercise on probability" ... and usually "book X". I urge you to make these corrections yourself, which will help fix the idioms in your mind. Aug 9 '13 at 22:08
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    @Matt: the "sitting exams" idiom is chiefly British, I believe. Americans would know what you're talking about, but would be unlikely to say it that way. On this side of the pond, we take exams.
    – Martha
    Aug 9 '13 at 22:20

Matt is correct that sentences based on “I did the exercise” or “I completed the exercise” are more natural than non-standard “I took the exercise in the book”, when you are telling someone what practice exercises you did.

The phrase “to take exercise” is used (I think more often in British English than American) to mean performing physical exercise. Also, the form “to sit an exam” is exclusively BE and not at all AE.

  • 1
    "Taking exercise" is archaic if it refers to the physical variety, and outright wrong if it refers to the intellectual variety.
    – Martha
    Aug 9 '13 at 22:37
  • @Martha, I agree with the latter part of your comment, but not the first part. Many recent and relevant Google Books links show the usage isn't archaic. (While some of the links are to old books or reprints, a majority are relevant and modern.) Also note, ngrams for take exercise shows BE use more common than AE. Aug 10 '13 at 14:38

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