According to the ETS Web site, the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE General Test measures “problem-solving ability, focusing on basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.”
What doesn’t it test?
This is not a test geared towards math majors; the actual math on the test is what you (hopefully) learned in high school. In fact, it doesn’t go past high school algebra and geometry; there is no trigonometry or calculus. Most test-takers report that it is no more difficult—or even easier—than the Math section of the SAT.
If the math is relatively simple, what makes the test difficult?
For most test takers, the challenge of the GRE is the way the questions are written, not the math concepts. In fact, some people say that the Quantitative test is more of a reading test than a math test because the questions are often worded in a tricky, confusing way. Test-takers are often drawn in by “distractors,” incorrect answer choices that seem right at first glance.
Learning to identify “trick” questions and apply test-taking strategies to solve them can move you from a mediocre score to a good score, or a good score to an excellent one. A good tutor can teach you these strategies and help you choose the right strategy for each question, leading to more efficient use of your time and a higher score.
What types of questions does it include?
The revised GRE includes 2-3 Quantitative sections with 20 questions each, with 35 minutes per section. There are four types of questions:
Standard Multiple Choice- You’re given five answer choices with one correct answer.
Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer- You will have between three to eight answer choices, more than one of which might be correct, and you must select every correct choice.
Quantitative Comparisons- You will be presented with two columns, Quantity A and Quantity B, and must choose whether A is greater, B is greater, they are both equal, or there is not enough information to determine the relationship.
Numeric Entry- You are given a problem to solve, then you must enter the answer (no answer choices).
Can I use a calculator? What about a list of formulas?
There is an on-screen calculator that you can use throughout the computerized test. Good test takers know, however, that some questions are more quickly solved without it. There is no formula list, so certain formulas should be memorized. Since it doesn’t test advanced math, this is manageable.
How much math do I need to learn to prepare for the test?
Though test-taking strategies are helpful and important, you need to approach the test with a solid understanding of basic math concepts in order to score well. The good news is that you only need to remember the math concepts you learned in high school, most likely the first half of high school. Test-takers most likely fall into one of four categories:
1) You improved your math skills in college and took advanced math classes- Excellent! You know more than you need to know for the GRE! Focus on test-taking strategies, and remember that the math concepts being tested are much simpler than what you’ve been doing.
2) You didn’t do much math in college, but you remember what you learned in high school- Great! You don’t need to learn any new math skills. After a quick review of the concepts, you should focus on test-taking strategies and practice with GRE-style questions.
3) You learned all the math concepts in high school, but you’ve forgotten a lot of them- No worries! Find a good math review book, and make sure to factor in enough study time to review the arithmetic, algebra, basic geometry, and statistics concepts you have forgotten. Once you spend some quality time with your math book, you will probably feel the math wheels in your head turning again. A good tutor can be very helpful, since math is one of the hardest skills to learn from a book. After you’ve reviewed the concepts, practice GRE strategies and apply them to GRE-style questions.
4) You never really learned all those high school concepts- If you cheated your way through high school math (don’t worry, we won’t tell on you), or just never felt like you “got” it, you might need more extensive math review. The good news is that there are a lot of materials out there to help you catch up. The right tutor can find a variety of ways to present the content to ensure that you understand it this time around. Make sure to leave enough time in your study schedule to learn test-taking strategies and apply the concepts to GRE questions so that your new math knowledge can translate into a higher score.
How should I pace myself during the test?
Like the verbal section, all questions within each section are worth the same number of points. Because of this, it is wise to skip confusing and time-consuming questions on the first run-through, returning to them if you have time. Since there is no guessing penalty, go through and mark an answer choice for every question in the last minute, if you didn’t have time to solve them all. Stop working on a question when you have enough information to choose the correct answer, even if you haven’t “solved” it. For example, on quantitative comparisons, you don’t need to simplify both columns, you only need to determine which one is larger. On many questions, you can estimate to save time. Be wise about using the calculator— on some problems, it is more time consuming than helpful.
LA Tutors are trained to help you learn the content, test-taking strategies, and pacing to help you get the highest score possible on the GRE, getting you closer to your dream graduate school.