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GRE Math

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Measure

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.

gre-quantitative-reasoning, math gre

GRE Math Prep: The Basics

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., the maker of the GRE, describes GRE Quantitative Reasoning thusly:

gre math, math gre, gre math prep, gre math practice

Four Math GRE 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.

The four topic categories listed below include nearly all the concepts that you could expect to see on the GRE. Luckily, these concepts don’t get much harder than the Algebra II level math classes that most of us took in high school.

1) Arithmetic Topics

  • properties and types of integers
    • divisibility
    • factorization
    • prime numbers
    • remainders
    • odd and even integers
  • arithmetic operations
  • exponents and roots
  • estimation
  • percent
  • ratio
  • rate
  • absolute value
  • the number line
  • decimal representation
  • sequences of numbers

2) Algebra Topics

  • operations with exponents
  • factoring and simplifying algebraic expressions
  • relations
  • functions
  • equations
  • inequalities
  • solving linear and quadratic equations and inequalities
  • solving simultaneous equations and inequalities
  • setting up equations to solve word problems
  • coordinate geometry
    • graphs of functions
    • equations and inequalities
    • intercepts and slopes of lines

3) Geometry Topics

  • parallel and perpendicular lines
  • circles
  • triangles
    • isosceles triangles
    • equilateral triangles
    • 30°-60°-90° triangles
  • quadrilaterals
  • other polygons
  • congruent and similar figures
  • three-dimensional figures
  • area
  • perimeter
  • volume
  • the Pythagorean theorem
  • angle measurement in degrees

Note: The ability to construct proofs is not tested.

4) Data Analysis Topics

  • basic descriptive statistics
    • mean
    • median
    • mode
    • range
    • standard deviation
    • interquartile range
    • quartiles and percentiles
  • interpretation of data in tables and graphs
    • line graphs
    • bar graphs
    • circle graphs
    • boxplots
    • scatterplots and frequency distributions
  • elementary probability
    • probabilities of compound events and independent events
  • conditional probability
  • random variables and probability distributions
    • normal distributions
  • counting methods
    • combinations
    • permutations
    • Venn diagrams.

Note: Inferential statistics is not tested.

If you need a refresher course on any of these topics, check out the comprehensive list of Magoosh’s GRE Math posts, listed below. ETS also offers a Math Review PDF that promises to, “familiarize you with the mathematical skills and concepts that are important to understand in order to solve problems and to reason quantitatively on the Quantitative Reasoning measure of the GRE revised General Test.”

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 GRE Quantitative Reasoning measure also states additional assumptions in its instructions:

  • All numbers used are real numbers.
  • All figures are assumed to lie in a plane unless otherwise indicated.
  • Geometric figures, such as lines, circles, triangles and quadrilaterals, are not necessarily drawn to scale.
    • You should not assume that quantities such as lengths and angle measures are as they appear in a figure.
    • You should assume that lines shown as straight are actually straight, points on a line are in the order shown and, more generally, all geometric objects are in the relative positions shown.
    • For questions with geometric figures, you should base your answers on geometric reasoning, not on estimating or comparing quantities by sight or by measurement.
  • Coordinate systems, such as xy-planes and number lines, are drawn to scale.
    • You can read, estimate, or compare quantities in such figures by sight or by measurement.
  • Graphical data presentations, such as bar graphs, circle graphs, and line graphs, are drawn to scale.
    • You can read, estimate or compare data values by sight or by measurement.

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.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Question Types

There are four types of questions on the GRE QR 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.

math gre, quantitative comparison

2) Multiple-choice Questions — Select One Answer Choice

Your basic multiple-choice format with five answer choices.


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

Exactly how it sounds…multiple-choice on steroids.

multiple-answer, math gre

4) Numeric Entry Questions

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


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

Other Important Info

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.

GRE Calculator

Let’s keep this short and sweet: Can you use a calculator on the GRE?

math gre

You also get scratch paper. 🙂

GRE Math Practice & Other Resources

For more details about the GRE Quantitative Reasoning test, check out the following links from the Magoosh GRE Blog. They’re organized by category to make searching simple.

gre-math-practice, math gre

Algebra Combinations and Permutations Data Interpretation Geometry Integer Properties

Math Basics

Rate Problems
Work Rate
Math Question Types

Math Strategies


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May, 2011 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


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30 Responses to GRE Math

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


    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.


    • 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 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 #


    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


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


      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 #


        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 #


    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:

      Hope that helps :).

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


    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!



    • 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.


    • 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.


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


    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 …?


    • 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: I hope that helps, feel free to let us know if you have any additional questions!


  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.


  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!


  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 #

    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


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


      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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