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GRE Statistics

Below are the essentials to statistics on the GRE math section. These concepts are essential, so make sure you master them before walking into the test!

 

Mean

The mean is another way of saying average. To find the average add up the number of elements in the set and divide by the number of elements. For instance, let’s say I am counting the average number of push-ups my friends can do:

John: 10

Ray: 15

Cyrus: 22

Sue: 33

I find the total: 10+15+22+33=80. I then divide by the number of elements. In this case, I have four friends. 80/4=20, which is the average number.

Another concept is range. The range of my friends’ push-ups above would be the difference between the greatest and the smallest: 33–10=23.

 

Median

The median is the middle number in a list of numbers arranged in ascending order.

For instance, in the list 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, the number 5 is in the middle. Hence it is the median.

A little confusion arises when you have an even set of numbers. 3, 4, 4, 7, 9, 10. In this case 4 and 7, the innermost numbers, cannot both be medians. So we end up taking their average: [pmath](4+7)/2 = 5.5.

 

Mode

Set A: {2, 2, 2, 4, 5.5, 7, 7}

The number that shows up most in a list of numbers is the mode. Because the number two  shows up the most frequently it is known as the mode. A list can have more than one mode, so if we were to add another 7 to the list above, 2 and 7 would both be the mode. However, if each number shows up only once, then we say that a set either has no mode or that every number in the set is a mode (for the GRE don’t really worry about this last part—I just want to make sure I dot my mathematical “i”s).

 

Standard Deviation

This one frightens many people, and understandably so. The good news is the GRE will rarely test you on finding the exact standard deviation on a list of numbers. (That fun task is reserved for stats 101 courses). Instead, the GRE wants you to have a sense of standard deviation.

Set A: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Set B: 2, 3, 5, 7, 8

Both sets have the same average. Notice how the spread in Set B is greater than that in Set A. Or, put another way, the numbers in Set A are clumped more closely together. The closer the spread (or the “clumpier”) the numbers, the lower the standard deviation.

The standard deviation for Set A is approximately 1.4 and that for Set B is approximately 2.3.

 

Distribution curve

This post is about normal distribution.

The above are intended as primer for statistics you’ll be seeing in GRE questions. In all likelihood they will probably get you to about the 50% level. However, if you are looking to score higher, esp. in the top 10%, then you will definitely want to practice with difficult questions. But don’t fret so much, as there aren’t so many statistics questions on the GRE. 🙂

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

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