Breakdown of the Most Commonly Tested GRE Quant Concepts

The 2nd edition Official Guide has just been released. At the back of the book is a new test (GRE Practice Test 2). In general, the concept break down is not surprising, if you look at the concepts that pop up in Practice Test 1 (which is the same as the practice test in the first edition of the Official Guide).

Word problems abound. There is a fair amount of algebra. Even a few combinatorics problems rear their fearsome heads. And if you’re wondering how many statistics questions are on the GRE, a topic often given scant attention in many prep books – it can pop up in spades. Most interestingly, coordinate geometry only shows up once, and there is not a single rate problem.

The information below pertains to the 50 quantitative questions in Practice Test 2. I have lumped QC and Problem Solving questions together. I have not assigned only one category per question, but have ascribed multiple categories to the same question. For instance, a word problem can contain any number of concepts. To only call it a word problem is a vague. After all ten Word Problems on combinations is very different from ten word problems dealing with percents.

The breakdown of concepts detailed below will likely be very similar to what you see test day. That said you would probably see more than one coordinate geometry question and would probably see a rate question. And just because a concept did not show up on the test, does not mean you will not see that concept test day. Interest problems, both simple and compound, can very well show up.

What is the take away from all this? If you are weak in a certain area, say word problems that deal exclusively with adding a series of numbers, do not fret about this. You may only see one problem, if any, dealing with such a concept. On the other hand, if you are only somewhat comfortable with Statistics it is a good idea to strengthen this area, as you are far more likely to see it test day.

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Word Problems (15)

Algebra (9)

Percents/Fractions/Ratios (9)

Data Interpretation (9)

Geometry (7)

Statistics (6)

Exponents (5)

Probability/Combinatorics (3)

Coordinate Geometry (1)

Arithmetic Series (1)

Rates (0)


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49 Responses to Breakdown of the Most Commonly Tested GRE Quant Concepts

  1. Krishna Godavari September 16, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    Hi, Can you please tell me if the Breakdown of the most commonly tested GRE quant topics is still valid till now? or Do you have an updated version of it?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 25, 2018 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Krishna,

      That’s a good question! It’s important to recognize that these estimates are taken from official materials, which don’t change much between editions. ETS has released one more edition of the Official Guide to the GRE since this was published, but it’s not substantially different from the 2nd edition. The general breakdown and distribution of questions is the same. This is meant to guide you as you plan your preparations and allow you to strategize effectively for the test, but it’s also important to supplement this article with your own experience solving questions from Official Sources like the Official Guide to the GRE and the Powerprep II tests 🙂

  2. kaus June 6, 2018 at 10:34 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Does these problems above for each section help a beginner to start things off?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 6, 2018 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Kraus,

      This really depends on your starting point, comfort with math concepts and general confidence in standardized tests! These questions will definitely help you to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that are covered on the GRE and how the GRE structures their math questions, but we generally encourage students to start out by reviewing fundamental math concepts and mental math strategies that can help them to tackle more difficult concepts and questions. You can see a collection of these concepts, questions and strategies in our Math Basics posts!

      • kaus June 7, 2018 at 1:13 am #

        Thanks a lot

  3. Sheethal September 20, 2017 at 4:13 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m weak in Ratios,especially it’s combination in Geometry. I’ve booked my slot for GRE and have 2 weeks to go for it. How do you advice me to prepare on both the topics as well as for the test?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Sheethal,

      First, I encourage you to keep exploring our blog–we have plenty of material and practice questions on geometry and ratios! Khan Academy is also a great resource for strengthening specific skills on the GRE. I don’t know what materials you are using to study, but I recommend that you practice as much as possible, and take the time to learn from your mistakes. After completing each question, take plenty of time to analyze your response and understand why the correct answer is correct and why each incorrect answer is incorrect. And if you are looking for some more high-quality study options, I recommend that you check out our Magoosh Premium program 🙂

  4. Dent July 29, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    Just took an official practice exam. There were only a few word problems and several geometry problems–a bit surprising. Any additional suggestions, beyond the chart above estimating the typical # of each question type, for what specific areas to prioritize to get above 50% on the quant section of the exam? (I share the % goal to emphasize that I just need to focus on the areas that will give me the biggest bang for my buck).

    Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 2, 2016 at 10:46 am #

      My biggest advice would be to focus on shortcuts, mental math, estimation, and other broad math concepts such as prime factorization and rounding. These kinds of fundamental math concepts will leave you prepared for any question type.

      Also be aware that the breakdown of common question types here does represent the most likely distribution of question types on an exam… but individual exams vary. There can be a different distribution pattern in some GRE Quant question sets. To get a really good feel for the most common GRE question types, you need to look at multiple official ETS practice tests.

    • Amanda October 18, 2016 at 8:54 am #

      Hello, I don’t know if you will read my comment. Were there any coordinate geometry questions among those geometry questions you got on your exam? Thanks! 🙂

      • Mohammad December 6, 2016 at 2:28 am #

        Yes Last time when I took exam there were 4 questions Read Math Review for Co-ordinate Geometry very helpful

  5. obito July 15, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    Being an average student I suffer throuh verbal section and a little bit in maths section.
    I used to get exhausted while going through long verbal section.
    I am not able to get that high level of verbal as english is not my primary language .
    (specially rich vocabulary one). I have almost 2 months for my GRE. Its kinda nervous feeling.I am going through barron’s 333 word list,, 5 lbs, 1014 one.May I know about writting section and more about scoring high in vocab section and last one how can I boost myself for 320 (it’s kinda madatory as my acadamics are just below 3 out of 4) in this limited time period.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 21, 2016 at 3:48 am #

      Hi Obito 🙂

      Studying for the GRE as a non-native English student can be especially challenging. It sounds like you’ve been putting a lot of effort into your studies, which is great! Keep up the hard work 🙂

      Now, scoring 320 is an ambitious goal depending on your starting point and how much time you have to prepare. Most of our students see improvements of 8 points (or more) after several months of committed studying. Reaching your target score isn’t impossible but it will be challenging. First, I’d like to point you to some tips for non-native English speakers from our tutors:

      * What to Do When You Don’t Know a Word on the GRE
      * Idioms on the Revised GRE
      * GRE for Non-Native English Speakers- General Tips

      Now, let’s talk about the Writing Section. To get to know the Writing Section, check out this chapter from our Ultimate GRE Guide. We also have an entire section dedicated to the GRE essays. We analyze student essays, talk about ways to brainstorm ideas, look at the common topics in the prompts, how to attach the claim and reason prompt, and more. Spend time reading the articles in the Writing section of the blog as well as actually writing essays on your own 🙂

      What prompts should you respond to as you write practice essays? I’d suggest using prompts found in the ETS topic pools:

      * List of AWA Issue Prompts
      * List of AWA Argument Prompts

      This is a list of ALL of the topics from the exam, so you WILL see one of these topics on your test. Familiarize yourself with these topics, and then write several practice essays of your own (using these topics of course!). Once you’ve written your own essays, you can read the scored sample essays on the ETS website 🙂

      Now, in order to improve your verbal score, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as MUCH as possible. This will improve your knowledge of vocabulary in context as well as your comprehension. As you read, make flashcards of the vocabulary words that you don’t know. Pause every so often, and recap the main message in your own words. In addition to, here are some suggested reading materials 😀

      * Vocabulary in Context: The New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker
      * GRE Vocabulary Books: Recommended Fiction and Non-Fiction

      You should also take a look at our vocabulary flashcards and our vocabulary eBook! Our flashcards contain 1000 high-frequency words, many of which you will not have reviewed using Barron’s 333 Word List. Together with that high-level reading practice, they’re a fantastic tool for bringing up your verbal score. 🙂

      And keep on practicing! Manhattan 5lb is a good source for practice problems. Additionally, I’d recommend checking out our 2-3 month study plan to help you organize the next two months before your exam and learn more about the study materials we suggest there 😀

      I hope this helps! Happy studying 🙂

  6. Jenny July 1, 2016 at 3:16 am #


    My quantitative part is a catastrophe and I don’t know what to do! I am preparing from like 4 months, my essays and verbal results are satisfactory. But my math results are a complete disaster – I make technical errors, minor faults when calculating, estimating area instead of perimeter, etc. I think that I panic because time is pressing me. Turning off my timer could be a major mistake, but I cannot see another way of improving my results. What would you recommend?

    Best regards,

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 7, 2016 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Jenny 🙂

      It sounds to me like you need to work on time management and test stress. There’s no easy fix to this, but we have plenty of articles that will help you overcome it with time 🙂 First, here’s an article on pacing on the quant section. If you work on pacing yourself well under time pressure, you’ll see a definite improvement in your scores: Pacing on the GRE Math Sections.

      Next, here are a couple of articles about test stress. They’re about different tests, but they’re still helpful–all timed tests bring up this same issue 🙂

      * Overcome GMAT Exam Anxiety
      * Beating GMAT Stress
      * Zen Boot Camp for the GMAT
      * SAT Prep Lifehack: Minimize SAT Stress

      And finally, here’s an article about avoiding simple mistakes: How Do I Avoid Making Silly Errors/Mistakes.

      I’d also recommend using a notebook to keep an error log as you continue studying. For each question you get wrong, write down the question number, the source, question type, and concept tested. Then write down answers to the following questions:

      1. Why you missed the question?
      2. Why your answer is wrong?
      3. Why the correct answer is correct?
      4. What will you do to avoid this next time around?

      I hope these suggestions help! Good luck with your studies 🙂

  7. Pooja August 10, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I am solving the quants section from my premium account, when I customize my practice to 20 sums in 30 mins I get almost 80-90 percent correct when maximum questions are of medium difficulty and 60-70 percent correct when there are hard questions. Can I know approximately what difficulty level questions are asked in the GRE. As in maximum questions are of Medium or hard difficulty level? Should I be more worried and work hard with this score or continue study with the same pace?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

      Hi Pooja,

      On the actual test, even in the hardest section, the questions aren’t all difficult. It is hard to know the exact break down because this changes from test to test. Based on my experience, I’d say about half the questions on the most difficult section are bona fide difficult. The remaining half are medium questions and some medium-difficult ones. The best approach is to practice with a mixture of medium and hard questions so you’ll be able to get a better sense of pacing, knowing when to skip (and come back to) some of the hard ones so you can answer the medium-level questions.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Mireille August 3, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    …this summer I’m going through these math modules second time around… when it comes to math, except perhaps Algebra (which I simply love!), I feel like I have to build things quite slowly, brick by brick, to give plenty of time to everything to settle in. Last summer I went over pretty much all modules and I sort of… lost it when it came to Counting / Probability areas.

    After seeing these statistics, I’m thinking rather than investing valuable time this summer (just one more month left!) in modules that I’m sure won’t stick, maybe I should skip the 2 of them (Counting and Probability) and perhaps… even Coordinate Geometry.

    But then I noticed this was written back in 2012. I’m wondering if someone would take the time, look things over and see if this still holds true even now. It would definitely be highly appreciated!



    • Keegan August 6, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      Hi Mireille!

      I feel the same way too! Minus the fact that I am comfortable with Algebra… But I am hoping you receive a reply from Magoosh staff soon, as I also have my exam date in a little over a month. I saw this post was from 2012, and I would love to know what things to really spend my time on, because for me, ALL of math is my weakness. So when I am told to focus on my weaknesses, that just doesn’t cut it.

      Best of luck to you, and I too would greatly appreciate a response to this post.


      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele August 10, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

        Hi Keegan,

        If all your math is a weakness, you should focus on number properties (which come up in many of the question types) and word problems (the most popular question type). You shouldn’t forget to focus on any mistakes you make too. Carelessness is always a big issue (those pesky negative signs!); the more you can be on top of that, the better you’ll do test day, regardless of how well you happen to a specific concept.

        Hope that helps, and good luck on your test!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Mireille!

      So, I hear you: some of the sections are tougher than the others, and you want to use your time wisely, not squander on it on a concept that might not show up. Yes, this was written a few years back but based on the recent material ETS has released (the new Powerprep test), I don’t think this has changed too much. I’d say there might be more coordinate geometry questions than are represented in the graph above. So focus on this a little more than you had intended on (combinations/probability–don’t skip entirely, but don’t fret too much about this topic).

      Hope that helps!

  9. Justin August 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm #


    I was just wondering how invariable these statistics are? Are these just from one cohort of test takers? Or is this from many different cohorts? If they are accurate, it seems futile to spend significant time studying the rate problems.. Any feedback you can provide is immensely appreciated.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Justin,

      These stats are just based on the second test in the back of the Official Guide. While they are generally indicative, there is some wiggle room. You could have a test with a rate question and a compound interest question, but just one combinatorics question.

      So I’d study rate questions if the rest of your math is up to snuff. But don’t overemphasize these question types–as many students do–and forget to prep far more important stuff like Algebra and Statistics.

      Hope that helps!

  10. Shiela June 24, 2014 at 5:40 am #


    I think I’m having a nervous breakdown. I took the ets powerprep last week and scored a 330. Today I took a Manhattan test and scored a measly 312. I’m extremely worried now and I’ve been rampaging through pages upon pages hoping to imbibe as much as I can. Can you please guide me in the direction of hard or very hard math questions please?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 24, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Hi Shiela,

      Wow, that’s a pretty big point discrepancy! But the good news is that the PowerPrep test is much more accurate. It’s based on the arduous labor of the psychometricians at ETS, and should more or less be very similar to the test you’ll end up taking.

      MGRE test’s also tend to be a little more convoluted in terms of sentence structure, and it’s RC passages more debatable in terms of answer choices. Finally, the vocabulary is far more esoteric on MGRE. Whereas much of the vocab that shows up on the ETS falls within the domain of an articulate adult, much of the vocab in MGRE is known to only logophiles who love learning random words (I admit, somewhat shamefully, that I fall into this latter group). What I’m driving at is you don’t need to start learning really difficult words like ‘anfractuous’ when ETS would never use something more difficult than ‘tortuous’.

      The math is overall a little more challenging. Perhaps a mixture of those things can account for the discrepancy.

      So take another powerprep test. If you score around the same, I wouldn’t worry about the MGRE tests so much, since they aren’t that representative of what you’ll see test day. Of course, if you score much lower on the second PowerPrep test, then just come up with a plan to help you get back to 330.

      Hope that helps!

      • Shiela June 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

        Thank you for the direction Chris =)

        I took the PowerPrep test 2 yesterday and scored a 329. The score did boost my self-confidence but I notice that my quant score could be pumped a bit. I scored a 162 in it and while I’m glad that’s a huge leap from the previous test, I would still like to improve my score. I want to do my masters in a math intensive field and I don’t want to have a blemish on anything math related in my profile.

        I have a firm understanding of my basics but I fumble a bit with Probability, Combinations and arrangements. I have a week to go for my exam and I would appreciate some advise on how to proceed from here.

        Thank you

  11. Kyle March 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I always stumble on problems such as “Finding Sum ***” labeled under the “Arithmetic and Fractions” section. Are there any additional study materials where I can learn to break down these types of logic problems? There aren’t any “related lessons” for this problem type as of this post.

    Thanks for reading and for your consideration.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 13, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Kyle,

      I looked through our GRE lesson videos, but I didn’t find anything relating to sum. I’m also trying to figure out what you mean by “find sum of ****”. I’d love to help–but you could you be a little more specific :).

  12. grestudent February 16, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Is the above breakdown still relevant to the test takers of GRE in 2014? Has the pattern or the percentage of questions in each GRE Math Concept changed?.
    Would be useful if a more updated statistic could be published

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      Good question!

      The above is based on all of the official materials released at the time I wrote this. The thing is I don’t think the test has really changed that much. There will be shifts between tests, so if I take the GRE on Mon. and you take it on Tue., I might walk out saying I got a bunch of statistics questions, whereas you got very few. But I don’t think 2013 witnessed an overall trend that differed from the info. above.

      Hope that helps!

      • grestudent February 19, 2014 at 8:39 am #

        Thank you for clarifying Chris..
        As always your replies are helpful..

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele February 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

          You’re welcome 🙂

  13. Rebecca June 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    What does integer properties fall into? arithmetic?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 14, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Integer properties is scattered throughtout a few question types: arithmetic, exponents, even a little algebra (if you consider difference of squares).

  14. Kevin June 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Where does counting\integer properties fall?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      Counting falls under probability. Number properties is scattered through the different question types.

      Hope that helps!

  15. saurabh April 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    hey chris ,,

    is there any function questions appears in test ..if so ..what kind of ? i really find it hard to plot points on graph and recognize domain and range kind of stuff? can u guide on basic strategy for that? any link or ur blog on that ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Saurabh,

      The coordinate geometry function, in which you have to know domain and plug in points, is a relic from high school. I’ve never seen a GRE question based on this. Not saying it is impossible that something like this would show up, but I highly doubt so.

      Hope that helps :).

  16. saurabh March 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    why is no of question in rates is 0 ?
    dont they fall under word problems ?
    also what is the difficulty level of quant .? as i m confused which type of questions to prepare . as per difficulty level ? suggest some book or material ..thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 5, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Saurabh,

      Oops, that’s an error. It should be (2) not (0).

      As for the difficulty level, a good idea is to look at the questions in the Official Guide to the GRE. Not only do they have an easy, medium, and difficult section, but on the practice tests you can see what percent of students miss any given problem. As for the concepts above, they can be used in a really easy problem all the way up to the most difficult problem.

      Hope that helps :).

  17. Craig September 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Hey Chris. I have so many notes and how to answer the question types and little notes that prepare us for a generalized topic. What is the most important parts of my notes before I take my test next month?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

      Hi Craig,

      Hmm…that is a tough question to answer as I can’t see your notes. General strategies are important, but so too are specific ones, esp. in those areas in which you feel you are lacking. So that’s probably my answer: know your weaknesses and focus on that aspect of your notes.

      Hope that helps!

  18. balu August 27, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    i would like to see a similar breakdown of verbal questions

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Well, I just finished a breakdown on TC/SE that I will turn into a blog post very soon.

      Stay tuned!

  19. Emmanuel Taiwo August 22, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Hello, Mr. Chris…any hints on arithmetic series? ….cos they are devious, and I seldom get them right. Thanks.

  20. spandana August 22, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    what about mixtures and alligations?
    are those important?
    because i can never crack problems on mixtures:-(

    and those numbers in the brackets are the number of probable questions from
    that particular topic???


    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 24, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Hi Spandana,

      Mixtures and alligations fall under word problems. They are relatively common, but won’t necessarily show up test day (I’m just throwing this figure out but I’d say the odds are around 50%).

      And those numbers in brackets are the numbers of each type of problem :). Again, none of the 15 word problems could be a mixture problem – though I doubt you’d ever get two mixture problems on the same test.

      Hope that helps!

      • spandana August 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

        thanks very much:-)

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