GRE Math Tips That Can Improve Your Score

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a test of your overall performance in terms of your quantitative aptitude, English language proficiency and analytical writing skills. The quantitative section deals with your high school math fundamentals. Questions from your basic math are asked in a brain teasing way. Tackling this section with ease requires lots of practice. The most important constraint is the time. You will have to solve the paper within the allotted time. The following information provides you with a detailed insight into the quantitative section along with some useful math tips that will help improve your score.

First of all, let us understand the format of the math section or the quantitative section in GRE. The Revised General Test’s quantitative section has had changes. The new version of the quantitative section of the exam consists of two sections with 20 questions each. You will be allotted 35 minutes for each section. So, you will have to attempt a total of 40 questions in 70 minutes. This gives less than one and a half minute for you to solve a question. So, you will have to be fast, accurate and consistently precise throughout the paper. The scoring here is done on a scale of 130-170 with 1 point increments.

GRE Quantitative section syllabus

The GRE quantitative test section consists of questions from quantitative comparisons and from your basic high school Math concepts which include Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Data Analysis. Arithmetic includes Number Systems, Ratios and Proportion, Time and Work, Averages, Profit and Loss, Simple and Compound Interests, Percentages and Mensuration. Algebra includes Probabilities, Progressions, Permutations and Combinations, Inequalities, Surds and Logarithms, Sets, Quadratic Equations, Statistics. The topics in Geometry include Co-ordinate Geometry, Trigonometry. The Data Analysis questions usually include reasoning kind of questions asked from pie and bar charts, or from the information given in the form of tables or chart diagrams.

Expectations from Students

One should not anticipate direct and easily solvable questions in the Math section of the GRE paper. You will be asked questions from the above mentioned concepts in a twisted fashion. These questions take much of your time if you are not prepared well. The questions might involve a single concept or else might be based on more than one concept. Usually, the questions asked are the ones involving more than one concept. The crux of the given problem involves simple logic and if you are one among those who strike the right chord, you will surely be successful. For such ability, you will require lot of practice and some tips to improve your aptitude and save time.

There are many sources of preparation for GRE exam. Everywhere, you will find  tips or test tackling strategies which will help you a lot. But you must be very careful in learning them. A problem might be solved using a conceptual procedure and also with a trick or strategy. If you do it in the former fashion, it takes much time which is fairly not acceptable and if you apply the latter one, it could easily be solved just in time and sometimes even save a lot of time. But in GRE, you will not be asked problems that are so simple that they can be solved using the math tips you might have already learnt. You will be asked problems which can be solved by using strategies, tricks and formulae at that particular moment. This requires a thorough conceptual grip on the subject.

TIP: You must not simply cram or memorize all the math tipsthat you have come across but must clearly understand the underlying concepts. Tips must be used once you are thorough with the concepts.

      The above statement might make you ask a question: why GRE math tips? The answer is simple. Ttips are useful in solving a question in less time; but keep in mind that they are not shortcuts for solving a problem. You must be thoroughly aware of the basic concepts. Let us see a small example for better understanding.

We all are aware of how percentages are calculated. They are calculated using the formula:


But few know a clear understanding of the above formula. In English, it can be explained as ‘the percentage of Y in the whole is X’. Now try out a simple question:

  • 3 is what percentage of 10? The answer is simple: 30

It can be easily calculated from the formula. Now, try this out:

  • What is 33% of 99? This calculation gets a bit cumbersome when we use the formula.

But if you have understood the concept well, it would take you less than 10 seconds to tick the right choice out of the given ones.

Explanation: 100% of 99 is 99 (i:e whole), 10% of 99 is 9.9, and 1% of 99 is 0.99

                   To get 33%, we can divide it into 30% + 3%.

                   Now, if 10% is 9.9, then 30% would be 3(10%) i:e 3(9.9)=approx 30

                   And, if 1% is 0.99, then 3% would be 3(1%) i:e 3(0.99)=approx 0.27

Now, adding the above both results we get the answer, approx 32.8. You might not have approached the perfect answer but you can surely attempt it since you are to answer a multiple choice type paper and you can safely pick up the answer choice that is close to this.

This is simpler than using a formula. That is the power of understanding a concept thoroughly. It requires you to be very sound in the concepts and only then can you solve the problems asked in much a lesser time by making things simpler. This is a useful  tip for calculating percentages easily. From the above explained example, you can infer that there are many  tips like the one given above for avoiding cumbersome calculations, training yourself to solve questions in the simplest way possible and eventually saving time.

However, The Revised General Test provides an on-screen calculator for your assistance. This makes it clear that the emphasis lies on your reasoning abilities rather than on cumbersome calculations. Either way, you must be prepared for the best.

TIP: You must not panic seeing some question which you feel is tough for you to answer because this panic will have an effect on the rest of the paper. In such a situation, keep yourself cool, leave that out and return to it later. Since there is no negative marking in GRE, attempt it by guessing.

The most important aspect for your success in this section is your practice. Math might have shortcuts, but hard work doesn’t. Put in a great deal of effort in practicing test papers. Solve numerous questions from different publishers to get used to different question types always keeping the time in mind. You must solve every test section just in time. You can solve 30 questions in a day but it is immaterial unless you solve 30 questions in the allotted time, then only will you be successful.

TIP: Practice as many tests as you come across and retrospect them to avoid repetition of mistakes. Practice every practice test with time as a constraint.

        The beauty of math is that all the concepts remain the same but only their application keeps changing. So, it’s your responsibility to understand all the concepts and apply them in the right direction within the given time. Your speed, accuracy and precision decide your score in this section. To acquire the aptitude to solve this section with flair, you must be patient and persevere. Learn patiently and solve meticulously to reach the place you have always dreamt of studying from.


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