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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:

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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.