How to Study for the GRE Quantitative SectionThe GRE quantitative Section tests your critical thinking and problem solving abilities with a section of multiple choice math questions. In 45 minutes, you have to solve 28 math problems that cover high school algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. To get a high score on the GRE math section, it is necessary to review basic math formulas and number properties, as well as practice solving problems efficiently and quickly. Since no calculators are allowed on the GRE, you must also practice doing arithmetic by hand and in your head.
To help you study, this article breaks down the most important aspects of the GRE Quantitative section, and ways you can get a higher score.
The GRE Is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT)
The GRE is only offered on the computer in a format called "computer adaptive testing." This means that the set of questions you will be given is not static, but dynamic. When you answer questions correctly, the computer gives you harder GRE questions that are worth more points. When you answer questions incorrectly, the computer gives you easier GRE questions that are worth fewer points. You earn a high score by answering many difficult questions correctly.
This affects GRE test takers in two ways: (1) GRE test takers must answer questions in the order they are presented without leaving any blank or skipping questions, and (2) test takers cannot go back and change their answers.
Another thing to keep in mind about the GRE, is that there is a heavy penalty for not finishing the exam. If time runs out before you get through all 28 questions, the GRE will deduct many points from your score for each question left unanswered. For this reason, it is better to guess on the remaining questions when you have less than a minute left on the clock. No points are deducted for wrong answers.
On the GRE website (gre.org), you can download two free computer adaptive tests.
Types of Questions on the GRE Math Section
The 28 questions on the GRE math section are divided into two types: problem solving questions with 5 answer choices, and quantitative comparisons with 4 answer choices. Understanding how to approach each type of question will go along way toward improving your GRE quantitative score.
Problem Solving: These are normal math problems that cover algebra, geometry, arithmetic, number properties, and word problems. Most of the time you will need to set up and solve an equation, plug numbers into an equation, or recall a mathematical property.
Quantitative Comparisons: These problems present you with two quantities labeled A and B. They can be expressions involving variables, numbers, or words. You may be give additional information that pertains to both A and B. Your task is to determine which quantity is larger, if they are equal, or if there is not enough information to determine a relation. On the GRE, their answer choices are always the same. Choice A means quantity A is larger, B means B is larger, C means they are equal, and D means not enough info.
Strategies for Solving GRE Math Problems
Many GRE math questions that look complicated can be solved with standard tricks that are made for multiple choice tests. For questions that have variables in the answers, try plugging in actual numbers to see which answer is reasonable. Or for problems that have numbers as the answer choices, you may be able to plug each number into the original problem and find the correct answer by elimination.
The makers of the GRE reuse certain concepts over and over. Factorizations such as (x+y)2 = x2 + 2xy + y2, and (x-y)(x+y) = x2 - y2 occur frequently. On the GRE, the Pythagorean theorem for right triangles is also applied frequently: a2 + b2 = c2. Some special right triangles to consider are those with sides 3-4-5 and 5-12-13, and triangles with angles 30-60-90 and 45-45-90.
On GRE quantitative comparison problems, you can perform the same operations to both columns without altering the relationship between them. For example, you can add and subtract anything from both columns, or multiply and divide them by positive quantities. This will help you simplify the problems so that you can see the relation more clearly.
If you have trouble solving all the problems within the time limit, consider taking a prep course or working with a private tutor. When you take the real GRE, you will have only about 1.5 minutes per question on average. If you spend a long time on any one question, especially near the beginning of the test, you have less time for the other questions. Therefore, if you get stuck on a problem, the best thing to do is eliminate a few wrong choices, guess, and move on to the next question. Remember, it is better for your score if you finish the GRE quantitative section
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