Identify Your Weak Points in GRE Math

The GRE math can be tricky but unlike the GMAT, in which questions can be fiendishly convoluted, the GRE still rewards fundamentals. If you have a solid grounding in all of the fundamentals—that’s right, no weak areas but an across the board sturdy grasp of any concepts that can pop up test day—you have a strong chance of scoring above 160. Ultimately, speed and concentration (remember, watch out for those careless errors!) will play a large factor in your score.

The latest PowerPrep (and new online “paper-based test”) can serve as a reliable indicator of your score were you to take the test today. But more importantly, the test can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses. The wrong answers—as well as questions you luckily guessed correctly on—can fall into several categories listed below:


Conceptual errors

Getting confused by a conceptual question should be no reason to give up, throw your arms in the air, and scream. Rather you should have the exact opposite attitude: wow, I just found something that I need to work more on and understand better. Doing so will help me prepare me even more test day. So go back to your resources, read up more on whatever that concept may be, and find practice problems to help you conquer that concept.

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Fell for the trap

The GRE is a tricky test. And ETS has decades of experience writing questions that ensnare unsuspecting test takers. Did you forget to consider that the value of x could be a fraction between 0 and 1? Perhaps you missed the word ‘isosceles’, or maybe only considered rectangles and not irregular quadrilaterals.

Whatever the case may be identify why you fell for the trap and the assumptions you made that led you to the wrong.

Another takeaway: If a question seems a little too easy, this may be a sign that you are about to walk into a trap.


Careless mistakes

Careless errors range from selecting the wrong letter to making a small computational error. Identifying the type of careless errors you make (vs. just saying, ‘I make careless errors’) can help you anticipate these specific errors when you are answering questions.



Sometimes you misread the problem and end up solving a different problem. Because the ways in which you can misinterpret a problem are somewhat predictable, ETS often anticipates this by providing a wrong answer choice that matches the outcome of your misinterpretation. So read Word Problems carefully, and pay attention to small words such as ‘positive’, ‘integer’, ‘not’.


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4 Responses to Identify Your Weak Points in GRE Math

  1. Aman August 7, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    the last 3 could really be dreadful .I think they are responsible to for 4-5 marks decriment in your score but if taken care of can always ensure happy faces after the end of exam.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Yes, they can be dreadful :). So we must be on guard!

  2. Nikhil August 7, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Allow me to share my views. I am taking the test one week from now and I just finished the “Paper-based Test” pdf available for free on the ETS website. I have found my weak points:

    1. Mistake in the % change calculation. The denominator value is of crucial importance! That is if profit% is calculated by cost price in the denominator, if you put sale price, that’s the wrong answer.

    2. Careless mistakes with exponents. Section 6 problem no 21 is tricky if you are hasty with evaluating the value of x before proceeding to calculate y.

    3. Standard deviations and medians are still tricky for me! 🙁

    I’ll use your videos to help me cruise through the ones I goofed up! Thanks for your free content and for all the encouraging advice to all the guys here. Wish me luck!

    My mock test scores are ok I reckon..160 for quants and 163 in Verbal. 😀

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, Nikhil. I think many students get caught by similar mistakes. You can bet there will be percent change, exponent, and tricky SD problem the day of the test. As long as you anticipate them and proceed with caution :).

      Good luck on your imminent test :).

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