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GRE Math

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning measure is NOT a test of advanced math. In fact, remembering all the geometry proofs, calculus, and trigonometry that you learned back in high school won’t help you at all on the GRE Math section. The difficulty of GRE Quantitative Reasoning comes from the need to logically reason your way through each problem. Once you figure out what the question is asking (often easier said than done), the math involved in solving the problem is actually fairly basic. Let’s take a look at how to study for GRE math and the tools you’ll need to do for an efficient GRE math review.

gre-quantitative-reasoning, math gre

GRE Math Review

Technically, GRE QR assesses your ability to deal with number properties and standard geometric figures. But what the GRE Quantitative Reasoning measure really tests is the logic you use to approach problem solving. Just as GRE Verbal tests your ability to analyze or “reason with” written English, GRE Math tests your ability to reason using numbers. The key to finding the answer to GRE Math problems lies in finding a way to unwrap the problem using logic.

And remember: The GRE doesn’t reward you for process. Unlike your math teacher who gave you partial credit for showing your work, the GRE only cares that you select the correct answer choice.

Four GRE Quant Concept Categories

Most of GRE Quant appears in word problem format. The rest appears in purely mathematical form. In both cases, the mathematical concepts and abilities tested fall into four main categories:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data Analysis

For a full list of the topics that fall under these categories, be sure to check out the Introduction to the Quantitative Reasoning section article on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website. Luckily, these concepts don’t get much harder than the Algebra II level math classes that most of us took in high school.

ETS also offers a Math Review PDF that promises to help you understand the concepts needed to solve problems as well as how to reason quantitatively. Both of these ETS links are great places to start your GRE math review online.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Question Types

There are four types of questions on the GRE Math test:

1) Quantitative Comparison Questions

You’ll be given two values: Column A and Column B. Your goal is to determine the relationship between the two.

Example:
Choose the correct statement.  
When Car S covered a distance of D on a track, it covered 25% more distance than Car T had covered on the same track.

Column AColumn B
The distance covered by Car T0.80D

The quantity in Column A is greater
The quantity in Column B is greater
The two quantities are equal
The relationship cannot be determined from the information given
Check the answer here!

2) Multiple-Choice Questions—Select One Answer Choice

Your basic multiple-choice format with five answer choices.

Example:

The price of a pair of sneakers was $80 for the last six months of last year. On January first, the price increased 20%. After the price increase, an employee bought these sneakers with a 10% employee discount. What price did the employee pay?

$70.40
$82.00
$83.33
$86.40
$88.00

Check the answer here!

3) Multiple-Choice Questions—Select One or More Answer Choices

Exactly how it sounds…multiple-choice on steroids.

Example:

Both P and Q are positive numbers, and S is a negative number. Which of the following fractions could be undefined?

P/(Q + S)
Q/(P + S)
S/(P + Q)
Q/(S − P)
S/(P − Q)

Check the answer here!

4) Numeric Entry Questions

Instead of five answer choices to guide you, you’ll type your answer into a box.

Example:
If GRE Math Practice Questions - Numeric Entry Question 8 what is the value of n?


Check the answer here!

You can practice all of the GRE Math question types here!

GRE Math Practice

Want even more practice? For a high-quality GRE math review of all different question types, check out the following Magoosh quant resources:

GRE Math Prep Resources

Struggling with a particular question type? As you prepare to take GRE quant, here are some other GRE math prep resources you can use to keep your studying on the right track!

Other Important Info

GRE Assumptions

Math on the GRE follows the basic number conventions that you learned in high school:

  • The positive direction of a number line is to the right and the negative direction is to the left.
  • Distances are nonnegative.
  • Prime numbers are greater than 1.

The same ETS article from earlier also states additional assumptions in its instructions. Hint: It’s best to memorize these instructions before taking the GRE exam so you don’t have to spend your time reading and processing basic instructions.

Data Interpretation Sets

Some of the GRE Quant questions appear on their own, independent of other information. Others appear as a set of questions called a Data Interpretation set. Data Interpretation questions are all based on the same set of data presented in tables, graphs, or some other sort of display.

Here’s an example of how data interpretation can show up on GRE math.

GRE Calculator

Let’s keep this short and sweet: Can you use a calculator on the GRE? Yes, but it looks something like this:

You also get scratch paper. 🙂

How to Study for GRE Math

So you’ve bought a few of the major GRE prep books, and you’re ready to rip into the quantitative part. You’ll read through each book, page by page, and by the end, GRE math mastery will be yours. If only!

Studying for GRE quant is actually much more complicated than the above. Indeed many become quickly stymied by such an approach, feeling that after hundreds of pages and tens of hours they’ve learned very little, and asking themselves … “But, how can I ever learn GRE math?!”

To avoid such a thing befalling you, keep in mind the following important points on how to study for the GRE quantitative section.

But first, watch this video for the top 3 GRE math study tips:
 

Using Formulas on GRE Math

How can formulas be bad, you may ask? Aren’t they the lifeblood of the GRE math? Actually, formulas are only so helpful. And they definitely aren’t the lifeblood of the quant section. That would be problem-solving skills.

Many students feel that all they have to do is use the formulas and they can solve a question. The reality is you must first decipher what the question is asking. Only at the very end, once you know how the different parts come together, can you “set up” the question.

All too often, many students let the formulas do the thinking. By that I mean they see a word problem, say a distance/rate question, and instead of deconstructing the problem, they instantly come up with d(distance) = r(rate) x t(time) and start plugging in parts of the question. In other words, they expect the question to fall neatly into the formula.

If you find yourself stuck in a problem with only a formula or two in hand, remember that the essence of problem solving is just that: solving the problem using logic, so you can use the formula when appropriate.

Start Slowly With GRE Math—Then Build

Many students learn some basic concepts/formulae and feel that they have the hang of it. As soon as they are thrown into a random fray of questions, they become discombobulated, uncertain of exactly what problem type they are dealing with.

Basic problems, such as those you find in the Manhattan GRE math books, are an excellent way to begin studying. You get to build off the basic concepts in a chapter and solve problems of easy to medium difficulty. This phase, however, represents the “training wheels.”

Actually riding a bike, much like successfully answering a potpourri of questions, hinges on doing GRE math practice sessions that take you out of your comfort zone. In other words, you should try a few GRE math practice questions chosen at random in your GRE math review. Opening up the Official Guide to the GRE and doing the first math questions you see is a good start. Even if you haven’t seen the concept, just so you can get a feel for working through a question will limited information.

Oftentimes students balk at this advice, saying, “but I haven’t learned how to X, Y, or Z yet.” The reality is that students can actually solve many problems based on what they already know. However, because the GRE “cloaks” its questions, many familiar concepts are disguised in a welter of verbiage or other such obfuscation.

Study All Concept Areas

Some students become obsessed with a certain question type, at the expense of ignoring equally important concepts. For instance, some students begin to focus only on algebra, forgetting geometry, rates, counting and many of the other important concepts.

This “tunnel vision” is dangerous; much as the “training wheels” phase lulls you into a false sense of complacency, only doing a certain problem type atrophies the part of your math brain responsible for being able to identify the type of question and the steps necessary to solve it.

Focus on the Most Commonly Tested Areas

This is a subset of “tunnel vision.” Really speaking, it is a more acute case. To illustrate, some students will spend an inordinate amount of time learning permutations and combinations problems. The time they could have spent on more important areas, such as number properties and geometry, is squandered on a question type that, at most, shows up twice on the GRE. Make sure your GRE math review focuses on this!

Check Your Answers!

Quantitative Comparison

Answer: C. The two quantities are equal
Watch the video explanation here!

Multiple Choice: One Answer Choice

Answer: $86.40
Watch the video explanation here!

Multiple Choice: Multiple Answer Choices

Answer:
A. P/(Q + S)
B. Q/(P + S)
E. S/(P − Q)
Watch the video explanation here!

Numeric Entry

Answer: 1
Watch the video explanation here!

GRE Math: An Overview

In a nutshell, that’s everything you need to know about how to study for GRE math! Keep in mind that you’ll want the strongest GRE math preparation material possible. As you prep for the exam, remember to take practice tests, focus on the most commonly tested areas (but study ALL areas), pace yourself, start slow and build from there, and use formulas sparingly. This will help get you where you want to be on test day to get the GRE scores you want and get into the graduate schools of your dreams. Good luck!

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

Most Popular Resources

30 Responses to GRE Math

  1. Navdeep July 23, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    Hi

    I have gone through all the 6 books of Manhattan GRE for Quant. there are certain questions in my mind:

    1. can i totally rely on these six books for quant concepts or is there any topic of GRE quant which has not been covered in this book.

    2. secondly is the information provided in these books sufficient to get a good GRE score..for e.g. in statistics they have covered mainly average n median . will this be enough to crack the statistics question in actual GRE.

    3. can you please tell me some book other than Manhattan GRE to practice the quant section.

    basically i have been good in mathematics right from my school days so i dont want to take a chance in quant.

    Thanks
    Navdeep

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Navdeep,

      1. Make sure you take the tests as well. There are some oddball concepts, such as parabolas, that are not covered in the book.

      2. The info. is def. sufficient to get a good score. The math on the GRE isn’t advanced. The questions are just tricky :).

      3. Magoosh (that’s us!) also have very tough quant questions, and unlike many books out there, we cover virtually everything you could expect to see test day.

      Hope that helps!

      • Navdeep July 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

        There is a question on optimizing the inequalities in Manhattan GRE which goes like this:

        if -4<= m<= 7 and -3<n<10, what is the maximum possible integer value of m-n?

        the solution is like this, they have drawn a table in which LT=less than and GT=Greater than , min and max represent the minimum and maximum value of variable and the table goes like this:

        m n m-n
        Min -4 Min GT(-3) -4-GT(-3)= LT(-1)
        Min -4 Max LT10 -4-LT10=GT(-14)
        Max 7 Min GT(-3) 7-GT(-3)=LT10
        Max 7 Max LT10 7-LT10=GT(-3)

        the answer is third row….now i want to know is that how are they converting GT to LT and LT to GT during subtraction (row 1, 2, 3,4) . or is there any better way of solving questions on optimization of inequalities….

        • Navdeep July 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

          the table is not clear so let me re draw it for u

          m n m-n
          Min -4 Min GT(-3) -4-GT(-3)= LT(-1)
          Min -4 Max LT10 -4-LT10=GT(-14)
          Max 7 Min GT(-3) 7-GT(-3)=LT10
          Max 7 Max LT10 7-LT10=GT(-3)

          • Navdeep July 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

            the spacing in the table changes every time i submit it let me tell u if it is clear to u or not…other wise its on page 92 of book 1 on algebra….

  2. John July 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Please need help with this question.
    The quantities S and T are positive and are related by the equation S = k/T, where k is a constant. If the value of S increases by 50 percent, then the value of T decreases by what percent?

    Other choices: 25%, 50%, 66 2/3%, 75%

    Answer is 33 1/3% but I can’t seem to get it. I appreciate any help. Thanks.

    John

    • John July 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Nevermind just figured it out. I substitued values then used the formula difference in change divided by original value for T.

      S=10 then k=20 and T is 2. So 50% more is S=15, k is still 20, then T is 1.333.

      2 – 1.333 = .666/2 = .333 X 100 = 33 1/3%

      • Chris Lele
        Chris July 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

        Great! That is the answer :).

  3. Navdeep July 4, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Hi

    i want to buy Manhattan Prep GRE Set..there is third edition of these books available on amazon from 3rd july 2012. so should i buy the new (third) edition or the second Edition

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

      Navdeep,

      Besides the covers nothing has really changed. I’ll be coming out with a full-length book review soon. That said, go ahead and buy the 2nd Edition :).

      • Navdeep July 5, 2012 at 1:01 am #

        Chris

        Thanks a lot for the help …..:)

        • Chris Lele
          Chris July 7, 2012 at 10:02 am #

          You are welcome!

  4. Alok June 21, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Hey Chris,

    I was going through the Magoosh GRE ebook and came across the example of solving for the third side of a triangle.

    I see that the pdf suggests if x>0 and 2 sides of a certain triangle have lengths 2x+1 and 3x+4 ,then which of the following could be the third side of the triangle?

    The answer marked in the PDF is 4x+5,6x+1 and 2x+17.

    However according to me the answer is only 4x+5.

    6x+1 cannot be valid since if x=5,6x+1=31 while 5x+5(sum of two other sides)=30. The third side should have a length lesser than the sum of the other two.

    2x+17 cannot be valid because at x=1,2x+17=19 while 5x+5(sum of two other sides)=10.
    The third side should have a length lesser than the sum of the other two.

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  5. Deepankar May 29, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Hi,

    I had given my GRE last year and am planning to give it again next month, my score was 304(151 V+ 153 Q), do you think this product would help be increase my score substantially. If yes please suggest a suitable plan for me.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      Hi Deepankar,

      Magoosh’s GRE product can definitely help you boost your score substantially. Even if you prepped a lot before, I’m confident Magoosh can increase your score a lot. For a suitable study plan, here are a few, one of which should work best for you:

      https://magoosh.com/gre/gre-study-guides-and-plans/

      Hope that helps :).

  6. Ainee May 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Hi,

    I was doing a practice question from Princeton Review and did not understand their explanation to the solution for the following problem.
    An elected official wants to take five members of his staff to an undisclosed secure location. What is the minimum number of staff members the elected official must have in order to have at least 20 different groups from which to choose?
    The answer choices are: 7, 8, 9, and 10.
    The correct answer is 7.

    If you could explain to me how to solve this problem, it would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Ainee

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

      Sure, no problem :).

      This question is a combinations question – we are choosing from a group. We don’t know the total number of people in this group, but we do know the number being chosen to head to the (very suspect sounding) undisclosed location: 5.

      Using the combinations formula: x!/ 5!(x-5)! > (or equal to) 20

      Next, we work with the answer choices. If you’ve played around with combinations before, you’ll see that 10 is going to give you a pretty large number. Anyhow, when working with combinations we should start with the lowest number because it’s easiest to do the math: 7!/5!2! = 21.

      All the other numbers, when plugged in, will give you a larger number. So 7 (which gives you 21) is the least number satisfying the question.

      Hope that helps :).

      • Ainee May 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

        Thanks! That explanation was a lot better than what Princeton had!

        • Chris Lele
          Chris May 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

          You’re welcome!

  7. Karthika April 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    Could you please tell me, how to contact the teachers on Magoosh GRE? I had some doubt on Quantitative section, but i cant find any way to contact them to ask questions.

    Regards
    karthika

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette April 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      Hi, Karthika

      You can send us any questions through the Help tab– the small black rectangle on the left of your screen whenever you’re logged into Magoosh (the dashboard, practice questions, lesson videos, etc.). Let us know if that’s not working for you for any reason and we’ll e-mail you directly.

      Best,
      Margarette

  8. PRIYANKA November 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi!

    what’s the cost of GRE math in Indian currency? Do you provide the study material in New Delhi? How will I get it by post or in soft copy …?

    Regards
    Priyanka

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette November 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

      Hi, Priyanka

      Our GRE Math program is offered as an online study tool, so you can access it from any computer with an internet connection. Currently, we’re having a sale and the price is $54 (US dollars), and you can purchase through this page by entering your credit card information: http://gre.magoosh.com/plans. I hope that helps, feel free to let us know if you have any additional questions!

      Best,
      Margarette

  9. Ajay November 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Does new revised GRE contain a calculus portion?

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette November 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      Hi, Ajay

      Nope, no need to worry– the GRE does not test any calculus material.

      Best,
      Margarette

  10. Ajit October 16, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    May I ask a question about GRE math here? I am from the Himalayan country Nepal.

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette October 17, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Hi, Ajit

      Of course, feel free to ask about anything!

      Best,
      Margarette

  11. Ayesha September 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    No i dont have a tutor and good tutors really change things.
    Looking forward to Magoosh product, given that i do go above 750.

  12. Ayesha September 7, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    Hi
    I have always been extremely bad in maths, I took GRE on July 5 and could only score 540 in maths.
    Even if i get 620 or above in maths it would be a big success for me but wont help me in admission as the institute i want to go to require AT LEAST 750, higher than that would be preferred.
    How do i practice to be excellent from a failure in maths and not just good.
    Also what is the sign after practicing that i am actually ready for test and would be able to take 750 at least?
    Badly need guidance and advice

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Ayesha,

      Do you have a tutor? An excellent math tutor can make a difference. I’ve helped students go from 500 to 700 on Quant. It is possible.

      And don’t forget there is also the Magoosh product. We offer just math questions and videos – hundreds of hours worth – for an excellent price.


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