What Kind of Math is on the GMAT? Breakdown of Quant Concepts by Frequency


The biggest secret to GMAT Quant success is a simple one: identify and study the correct Quant concepts. But what are the GMAT math topics? And which ones are the most important?

To answer all of these questions, I looked at official GMATPrep tests 3 and 4, and the Official Guide for the GMAT Review 2019. Read on to find out what I learned from analyzing the GMAT quantitative topics in these 766 official questions.

What Kind of Math is On the GMAT?

Here is a GMAT Quant section breakdown (with category descriptions as needed):

  • Word problems: interpreting the math in stories and descriptions
  • Data interpretation: interpreting the math in charts and tables
  • Algebra: includes both “pure algebra,” and algebra as applied to other GRE Quant concepts
  • Percents/ratios/fractions
  • Coordinate geometry: shapes, lines, and angles on the coordinate plane
  • Two-dimensional geometry: shapes, lines, and angles not on the coordinate plane
  • Three-dimensional geometry: volume, surface area, etc…
  • Statistics: mean, median, standard deviation, etc…
  • Powers and roots
  • Probability/combinatronics
  • Integer properties and aritmetic
  • Inequalities
  • Functions
  • Sequences

What’s the Frequency of the GMAT Quant Concepts?

Word problem interpretation is the most frequent concept, showing up on well over half of the questions. Integer properties and arithmetic come second, appearing on nearly a third of all of the questions.

GMAT Quant Section Breakdown

The table below lists GMAT Quant concepts in order of most-to-least frequent. (And again, the most frequent concepts are obviously the most important!) Click the topic names to read on a given topic in more detail. In the case of data interpretation, the link goes to an IR resource that is also relevant to Quant.

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You can treat the table and its links as a GMAT Quantitative syllabus of sorts. Follow the links to learn everything about arithmetic, geometry, and proportion, everything about probability, stats, and counting, etc… Just about anything you’d need to know can be seen or accessed in the table!

GMAT Quant conceptPercentage frequency
Word Problems58.2%
Integer properties and arithmetic31.1%
Percents, ratios, and fractions13.7%
Two dimensional geometry10.6%
Powers and roots6.3%
Probability and combinatronics5%
Coordinate geometry2.9%
Data interpretation0.9%
Three dimensional geometry0.8%

Note: Some questions tested multiple concepts and were thus counted more than one time in more than one category. As a result, the percentages in the chart above add up to more than 100%.

GMAT Question Type Breakdown for Quant: The Takeaway

As you can see in the table above, not all GMAT Quant concepts are created equal. Certain GMAT Quant topics will definitely appear more often than others.

A Word on Word Problems

Clearly, the GMAT loves to test its Quant concepts through word problems. Word problems can overlap with just about any topic: statistics, algebra, inequalities, you name it. There can even be coordinate word problems and absolute value word problems! So make sure you build math-related reading comprehension skills as you prepare for the exam.

The Very Most Important GMAT Quant Topics

Several other high-frequency Quant concepts stand out when you look at the table above. Word problems, integer properties, arithmetic, algebra, percents, ratios, fractions, and geometry are the most important. These topics all are clearly vital to GMAT Quant success.

The Not-So-Important Math Topics

Lower on the chart, you can see some concepts that seem a good deal less important. Sequences, the coordinate plane, three dimensional objects, functions, and data interpretation don’t occur all that often; these topics have minimal importance in GMAT Quant.

A Second Look at Data Interpretation

Not so fast though. Let’s take a closer look at that last “unimportant” GMAT Quant concept I mentioned.

Although it is clearly not that important in the GMAT Quant section, data interpretation is still a big part of the GMAT as a whole. Remember, the Integrated Reasoning section consists primarily of math data interpretation questions. So be sure to study this concept as part of your overall GMAT prep.

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The GMAT Quant Section Breakdown in Greater Context

Speaking of other sections of the GMAT, make sure you understand where these Quant concepts fit into the test as a whole. The GMAT maths syllabus should be seen as part of the syllabus for the entire exam.

So be sure to check out my colleague Rachel’s Complete Hassle-Free Guide to the GMAT test. Or for a quicker snapshot of the most common question, GMAT-wide, see Mike’s “Most Common GMAT Topics and Questions.”

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4 Responses to What Kind of Math is on the GMAT? Breakdown of Quant Concepts by Frequency

  1. Garrett Goehring June 9, 2019 at 1:25 pm #

    Could you break these down by the topic areas that are assigned to the Magoosh practice problems? When studying and doing practice problems it would be great to be able to focus on the high frequency, but the categories for selecting practice problems don’t match the above.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 9, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

      Hi Garrett!

      I see that you’re a Premium student, so I’ve forwarded your message to our Test Prep Experts. You’ll receive an answer back about your question in a different message.

      • Amery December 26, 2019 at 9:22 am #

        Hi Prep Expert, could you send me this breakdown too to assist in preparation?

        • David Recine
          David Recine February 10, 2020 at 2:31 pm #

          Hi Amery! Although you can get a private email response from our Test Prep Experts on this, I thought I should give a public response as the author of this post. 🙂

          Unfortunately, it’s not quite possible to select categories in Magoosh GAMT Custom Practice that focus on all of the specific topics in the breakdown above. One problem is that there is a lot of overlap between the different topics. A geometry problem can also test algebra, for instance. And of course, word problems can cover any of the other topics. This is why the percentage frequencies in the tables above add up to well over 100%.

          Because of this, custom practice simply can’t capture every overlapping category as its own discrete category for the purposes of setting up practice sessions, although we do have some categories that matchup correnctly (algebra, percents and ratios, probability, etc…). Now, here’s the good news: the overall mix of Magoosh GMAT questions does match the concept mix seen above. So if you yjust to a general custom practice session, in which you are doing all topics instead of requesting specific ones, you’ll get a set of questions that is in line with the breakdown above. (Provided the set isn’t too short. Obviously, if you do just five or 10 questions per session, you may or may not hit on all the major GMAT math topics.)

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