GRE Math: What concepts are tested on the exam?

The GRE General Test assesses one’s verbal reasoning skills, quantitative reasoning skills, analytical writing skills, and critical thinking skills. One of the three test sections on this exam is the quantitative reasoning section, which consists of math questions. Arithmetic questions in the GRE came from four major branches of mathematics. Some questions may contain basic math concepts or common topics, while others may be harder questions. Nonetheless, all math questions were discussed at the middle and high school levels.

Overview of the GRE Math Section

The math topics are covered in the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section, one of the three sections of the GRE. There are 2 quantitative reasoning sections, and each section has 20 math questions. It can be taken for a total of 70 minutes. While many, if not all, calculations can be completed mentally or on paper, there will be an on-screen calculator that includes basic arithmetic functions (including square roots).

Each math section for the paper-based GRE exam contains 25 quantitative questions rather than 20, bringing the total to 50. Additionally, each section will receive an additional five minutes, and there will be no experimental sections. There will also be a calculator available in the testing center.

Finally, there is the scoring system to consider. GRE quant reasoning section, like verbal reasoning section, is graded on a 130–170 scale. On this scale, 170 represents an ideal score, while 130 represents the lowest possible score. The average Quant score is 152.57 as of this writing.

What topics in mathematics are tested on the GRE Quant?

The quantitative reasoning section tests four major branches of mathematics: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. The major branches and math concepts are further discussed below.

Arithmetic

Arithmetic, which is the foundation of almost all mathematics, is defined as manipulating numbers. On the GRE Quant, arithmetic is primarily concerned with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as the following:

  • Absolute values
  • Even and odd numbers
  • Exponents and square roots
  • Integers, fractions, and decimals
  • PEMDAS (order of operations)
  • Percents and percent changes
  • Prime numbers
  • Ratios, proportions, and cross multiplication
  • Sequences

Algebra

Algebra is primarily concerned with numbers and letters (i.e., unknown numbers). Some math concepts are quadratic equations and algebraic expressions. GRE concepts include the following:

  • Coordinate geometry
  • Coordinate systems
  • Expression and equations
  • Factorization
  • Functions
  • Inequalities
  • Lines and slopes
  • Variables and constants

Geometry

Geometry is primarily concerned with the study of shapes and angles. Types of angles like acute angle, angle measurements, and angle volume are some examples. More precisely, GRE geometry encompasses the following:

  • 3-D objects, including rectangular solids and right circular cylinders
  • Arcs and sectors
  • Circles
  • Inscribed shapes
  • Lines, parallel lines, and perpendicular lines
  • Perimeter, area, circumference, volume, and surface area
  • Polygons, including triangles, rectangles, squares, trapezoids, and parallelograms
  • Relationships among angles
  • Similar shapes
  • Special right triangles and the Pythagorean theorem
  • Types of angles

Data Analysis

The GRE's data analysis section assesses one’s ability to interpret data by assessing the following:

  • Bell curve and normal distribution
  • Distribution of data and frequency
  • Factorials, permutations, and combinations
  • Graphical representations of data
    • bar graphs
    • pie charts
    • scatterplots
    • time plots
    • histograms
  • Probability
  • Quartiles and percentiles
  • Standard deviation
  • Statistics including descriptive statistics and measure of central tendency (mean, median, mode, and range)

These are the mathematical concepts tested on the GRE Quant section. All GRE math topics covered are studied in middle school and high school. It does not include any questions about calculus or trigonometry, which are higher-level concepts.

What are the types of questions in the GRE Math section?

Quantitative Comparison, Multiple Choice - Select One Answer Choice, Multiple Choice - Select One or More Answer Choice, and Numeric Entry are the question types in the math section of the GRE.

1. Quantitative Comparison Question Type

The Quantitative Comparison type of question asks a test taker to compare two quantities and determine which of the statements below describes the comparison.

  • Quantity A is greater.
  • Quantity B is greater.
  • The two quantities are equal.
  • The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Quantitative Comparison Question Type Sample Questions with Answers

Directions: Compare Quantity A and Quantity B, using additional information centered above the two quantities if such information is given, and select one of the following four answer choices:

  1. Quantity A is greater.
  2. Quantity B is greater.
  3. The two quantities are equal.
  4. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

A symbol that appears more than once in a question has the same meaning throughout the question.

Sample Question 1:

Quantity A Quantity B
The least prime number greater than 24 The greatest prime number less than 28
  1. Quantity A is greater.
  2. Quantity B is greater.
  3. The two quantities are equal.
  4. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice A, Quantity A is greater.

Explanation: For the integers greater than 24, note that 25, 26, 27, and 28 are not prime numbers, but 29 is a prime number, as are 31 and many other greater integers. Thus, 29 is the least prime number greater than 24, and Quantity A is 29. For the integers less than 28, note that 27, 26, 25, and 24 are not prime numbers, but 23 is a prime number, as are 19 and several other lesser integers. Thus, 23 is the greatest prime number less than 28, and Quantity B is 23.

Sample Question 2:

Lionel is younger than Maria.
Quantity A Quantity B
Twice Lionel's age Maria's age
  1. Quantity A is greater.
  2. Quantity B is greater.
  3. The two quantities are equal.
  4. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice D, the relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Explanation: If Lionel's age is 6 years and Maria's age is 10 years, then Quantity A is greater, but if Lionel's age is 4 years and Maria's age is 10 years, then Quantity B is greater. Thus, the relationship cannot be determined.

Sample Question 3:

Quantity A Quantity B
54% of 360 150
  1. Quantity A is greater.
  2. Quantity B is greater.
  3. The two quantities are equal.
  4. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice A, Quantity A is greater.

Explanation: Without doing the exact computation, you can see that 54 percent of 360 is greater than of 360, which is 180, and 180 is greater than Quantity B, 150.

2. Multiple Choice - Select One Answer Question Type

The Multiple Choice - Select One Answer type of question is similar to the traditional multiple-choice question of selecting one answer from a list of five choices.

Multiple Choice - Select One Answer Question Type Sample Questions with Answers [2]

Directions: Select a single answer choice.

Sample Question 1: If 5x + 32 = 4 - 2x, what is the value of x ?

  1. -4
  2. -3
  3. 4
  4. 7
  5. 12

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice A, Negative 4.

Explanation: Solving the equation for x, you get 7x = -28, and so x = -4.

Sample Question 2: A certain jar contains 60 jelly beans — 22 white, 18 green, 11 yellow, 5 red, and 4 purple. If a jelly bean is to be chosen at random, what is the probability that the jelly bean will be neither red nor purple?

  1. 0.09
  2. 0.15
  3. 0.54
  4. 0.85
  5. 0.91

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice D, 0.85.

Explanation: Since there are 5 red and 4 purple jelly beans in the jar, there are 51 that are neither red nor purple and the probability of selecting one of these is . Since all of the answer choices are decimals, you must convert the fraction to its decimal equivalent, 0.85.

Sample Question 3: A car got 33 miles per gallon using gasoline that cost $2.95 per gallon. Approximately what was the cost, in dollars, of the gasoline used in driving the car 350 miles?

  1. $10
  2. $20
  3. $30
  4. $40
  5. $50

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice C, $30.

Explanation: The car used gallons of gasoline, so the cost was dollars. You can estimate the product by estimating a little low, 10, and estimating 2.95 a little high, 3, to get approximately (10)(3) = 30 dollars. You can also use the calculator to compute a more exact answer and then round the answer to the nearest 10 dollars, as suggested by the answer choices. The calculator yields the decimal 31.287... which rounds to 30 dollars.

3. Multiple Choice - Select One or More Answer Question Type

The Multiple Choice - Select One or More Answer type of question asks a test taker to select one or more from a list of choices. Also, some questions do not indicate how many choices to select.

Multiple Choice - Select One or More Answer Question Type Sample Questions with Answers [3]

Directions: Select one or more answer choices according to the specific question directions. If the question does not specify how many answer choices to select, select all that apply.

  • The correct answer may be just one of the choices or as many as all of the choices, depending on the question.
  • No credit is given unless you select all of the correct choices and no others.

If the question specifies how many answer choices to select, select exactly that number of choices.

Sample Question 1: Which of the following integers are multiples of both 2 and 3?

Indicate all such integers.

  1. 8
  2. 9
  3. 12
  4. 18
  5. 21
  6. 36

Correct Answers: Choices C (12), D (18), and F (36).

Explanation: You can first identify the multiples of 2, which are 8, 12, 18, and 36, and then among the multiples of 2 identify the multiples of 3, which are 12, 18, and 36. Alternatively, if you realize that every number that is a multiple of 2 and 3 is also a multiple of 6, you can identify the choices that are multiples of 6.

Sample Question 2: Which of the following could be the unit digit of 57 to the power n where n is a positive integer? Indicate all such digits.

  1. 0
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8
  10. 9

Correct Answers: The correct answer consists of Choices B (1), D (3), H (7), and J (9).

Explanation: The units digit of 57n is the same as the units digit of 7n for all positive integers n. To see why this is true for n=2, compute 572 by hand and observe how its unit digit results from the unit digit of 72. Because this is true for every positive integer n, you need to consider only powers of 7. Beginning with n=1 and proceeding consecutively, the units digits of 7, 72, 73, 74 and 75 are 7, 9, 3, 1, and 7, respectively. In this sequence, the first digit, 7, appears again, and the pattern of four digits, 7, 9, 3, 1, repeats without end. Hence, these four digits are the only possible units digits of 7n and therefore of 57n.

Sample Question 3: Which two of the following numbers have a product that is between –1 and 0? Indicate both of the numbers.

  1. –20
  2. –10
  3. 2 –4
  4. 3 –2

Correct Answer: The correct answer consists of Choices B (–10) and C (2–4).

Explanation: For this question, you must select a pair of answer choices. The product of the pair must be negative, so the possible products are (–20)(2-4), (–20)(3-2), (–10)(2-4), and (–10)(3-2). The product must also be greater than –1. The first product is , the second product is , so you can stop there.

4. Numeric Entry Question Type

The Numeric Entry type of questions ask examinees to either input their answer as an integer or a decimal in a single answer box, or to enter it as a fraction in two separate boxes, one each for the numerator and denominator. It is used in the computer-adaptive version of the exam where examinees use a mouse and keyboard to enter their answer.

Numeric Entry Question Type Sample Questions with Answers [4]

Directions: Enter your answer as an integer or a decimal if there is a single answer box OR as a fraction if there are two separate answer boxes — one for the numerator and one for the denominator.

To enter an integer or a decimal, either type the number in the answer box using the keyboard or use the Transfer Display button on the calculator.

  • First, select the answer box — a cursor will appear in the box — and then type the number.
  • For a negative sign, type a hyphen. For a decimal point, type a period.
  • The Transfer Display button on the calculator will transfer the calculator display to the answer box.
  • Equivalent forms of the correct answer, such as 2.5 and 2.50, are all correct.
  • Enter the exact answer unless the question asks you to round your answer.

To enter a fraction, type the numerator and the denominator in their respective answer boxes using the keyboard.

  • Select each answer box — a cursor will appear in the box — then type an integer. A decimal point cannot be used in either box.
  • For a negative sign, type a hyphen; in either box.
  • The Transfer Display button on the calculator cannot be used for a fraction.
  • Fractions do not need to be reduced to lowest terms, though you may need to reduce your fraction to fit in the boxes.

Sample Question 1: One pen costs $0.25 and one marker costs $0.35. At those prices, what is the total cost of 18 pens and 100 markers?

$ word-image

Correct Answer: The correct answer is $39.50 (or equivalent).

Explanation: Multiplying $0.25 by 18 yields $4.50, which is the cost of the 18 pens; and multiplying $0.35 by 100 yields $35.00, which is the cost of the 100 markers. The total cost is therefore $4.50 + $35.00 = $39.50. Equivalent decimals, such as $39.5 or $39.500, are considered correct.

Note that the dollar symbol is in front of the answer box, so the symbol $ does not need to be entered in the box. In fact, only numbers, a decimal point and a negative sign can be entered in the answer box.

Sample Question 2: Rectangle R has length 30 and width 10, and square S has length 5. The perimeter of S is what fraction of the perimeter of R ?

The answer space consists of a fraction bar, and two boxes, one above and one below the fraction bar.

Correct Answer: Thus the correct answer is (or any equivalent fraction).

Explanation: The perimeter of R is 30 + 10 + 30 +10 = 80, and the perimeter of S is (4)(5) = 20. Therefore, the perimeter of S is of the perimeter of R. To enter the answer you should enter the numerator 20 in the top box and the denominator 80 in the bottom box. Because the fraction does not need to be reduced to lowest terms, any fraction that is equivalent to is also considered correct, as long as it fits in the boxes. For example, both of the fractions and are considered correct.

Sample Question 3: A merchant made a profit of $5 on the sale of a sweater that cost the merchant $15. What is the profit expressed as a percent of the merchant's cost? Give your answer to the nearest whole percent.

The answer space consists of a box for the answer followed by the % sign. %

Correct Answer: The correct answer is 33% (or equivalent).

Explanation: The percent profit is percent, which is 33%, to the nearest whole percent.

If you use the calculator and the Transfer Display button, the number that will be transferred to the answer box is 33.333333, which is incorrect since it is not given to the nearest whole percent. You will need to adjust the number in the answer box by deleting all of the digits to the right of the decimal point.

Also, since you are asked to give the answer as a percent, the decimal equivalent of 33 percent, which is 0.33, is incorrect. The percent symbol next to the answer box indicates that the form of the answer must be a percent. Entering 0.33 in the box would give the erroneous answer 0.33%.

What is the Data Interpretation Set?

The Data Interpretation questions ask a test taker to interpret or analyze data grouped together, in a table, graph or other data presentation. These questions may be Multiple Choice or Numeric Entry.

Data Interpretation Set Sample Questions with Answers [5]

Directions: Questions 1 to 3 are based on the following data.

Annual Percent Change in Dollar Amount of Sales at Five Retail Stores from 2006 to 2008
Store Percent Change from 2006 to 2007 Percent Change from 2007 to 2008
P 10 -10
Q -20 9
R 5 12
S -7 -15
T 17 -8

Sample Question 1: If the dollar amount of sales at Store P was $800,000 for 2006, what was the dollar amount of sales at that store for 2008?

  1. $727,200
  2. $792,000
  3. $800,000
  4. $880,000
  5. $968,000

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice B, $792,000.

Explanation: According to the table above, if the dollar amount of sales at Store P was $800,000 for 2006, then it was 10 percent greater for 2007, which is 110 percent of that amount, or $880,000. For 2008 the amount was 90 percent of $880,000, which is $792,000. Note that an increase of 10 percent for one year and a decrease of 10 percent for the following year does not result in the same dollar amount as the original dollar amount because the base that is used in computing the percentage is $800,000 for the first change but $880,000 for the second change.

Sample Question 2: At Store T, the dollar amount of sales for 2007 was what percent of the dollar amount of sales for 2008? Give your answer to the nearest 0.1 percent.

The answer space consists of a box for the answer followed by the % symbol. %

Correct Answer: The correct answer is 108.7% (or equivalent).

Explanation: If A is the dollar amount of sales at Store T for 2007, then 8 percent of A, or 0.08A, is the amount of decrease from 2007 to 2008. Thus A-0.08A =0.92A is the dollar amount for 2008. Therefore, the desired percent can be obtained by dividing A by 0.92A, which equals Expressed as a percent and rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent, this number is 108.7%.

Sample Question 3: Based on the information given, which of the following statements must be true? Indicate all such statements.

  1. For 2008 the dollar amount of sales at Store R was greater than that at each of the other four stores.
  2. The dollar amount of sales at Store S for 2008 was 22 percent less than that for 2006.
  3. The dollar amount of sales at Store R for 2008 was more than 17 percent greater than that for 2006.

Correct Answer: The correct answer consists of only Choice C - The dollar amount of sales at Store R for 2008 was more than 17 percent greater than that for 2006.

Explanation: For Choice A, since the only data given in the table are percent changes from year to year, there is no way to compare the actual dollar amount of sales at the stores for 2008 or for any other year. Even though Store R had the greatest percent increase from 2006 to 2008, its actual dollar amount of sales for 2008 may have been much smaller than that for any of the other four stores, and therefore Choice A is not necessarily true.

For Choice B, even though the sum of the two percent decreases would suggest a 22 percent decrease, the bases of the percentages are different. If B is the dollar amount of sales at Store S for 2006, then the dollar amount for 2007 is 93 percent of B, or 0.93B, and the dollar amount for 2008 is given by (0.85)(0.93)B, which is 0.7905B. Note that this represents a percent decrease of 100-79.05=20.95 percent, which is not equal to 22 percent, and so Choice B is not true.

For Choice C, if C is the dollar amount of sales at Store R for 2006, then the dollar amount for 2007 is given by 1.05C and the dollar amount for 2008 is given by (1.12)(1.05)C which is 1.176C. Note that this represents a 17.6 percent increase, which is greater than 17 percent, so Choice C must be true.

Read more: GRE Prep Course, GRE Test-Taking Strategies

Tips in Studying for the GRE Math

While studying, there are a few strategies you can employ to help you improve your GRE math score. The following are our top tips for succeeding in GRE Quant.

  1. Get to know the basics

It is vital to be familiar with the fundamental math concepts, and practice algebra & geometry to perform well on the Quant. This is why it is critical to understand the fundamentals of all subjects examined — namely, the fundamental rules, formulas, and concepts associated with arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

Being familiar with the terms and symbols are only primer on the fundamentals. It is best to consider expanding knowledge of GRE math by utilizing additional resources, such as our comprehensive guide to high-quality math practice.

  1. Memorize the formulas

Aside from reviewing fundamental math concepts, a test taker should memorize the formulas that appear on the GRE the most frequently. The use of formulas is frequently the one and only way to solve a particular quantitative reasoning problem. Also important is understanding when and under what circumstances will be most likely to use specific formulas.

  1. Create a set of flashcards

Flashcards are an excellent tool for drilling specific concepts, particularly in the case of GRE mathematics topics. Flashcards are an excellent tool for studying math terms and symbols, formulas, laws, and other relevant information for the quantitative reasoning section.

  1. Answer practice tests

Spend sufficient time answering full-length practice tests. This will assist in familiarizing oneself with the types of questions on the quantitative reasoning section and will help enable an examinee to anticipate how certain concepts may be phrased or presented on the actual exam. Use the official practice tests whenever possible, as these are the most similar to the ones on the actual exam. Additionally, high-quality GRE preparation books, such as those published by prep provider like Manhattan Prep or the Princeton Review, include a large number of realistic practice questions. There are also prep materials offered by these companies that are very helpful.

The tips discussed here will assist a prospective examinee in effectively preparing for the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section and selecting the correct answer choices.

What are the best books for GRE math preparation?

Listed below are the best books for GRE preparation:

  • Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, 2nd Edition
  • The Official Guide to the GRE General Test, 3rd Edition
  • Manhattan Pre’s 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems, 2nd Edition
  • Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides, 4th Edition
  • Barron’s 6 GRE Practice Tests, 2nd Edition
  • Kaplan’s GRE Math Workbook, 10th Edition
  • ETS Math Review PDF
  • ETS Mathematical Conventions PDF
  • Khan Academy
  • Texas State GRE Quantitative Handouts

The books included above vary in content and price. Make sure to assess their pros and cons and content strategies to get the most out of them.

What are the GRE math tips for beginners?

The following are some general GRE Math preparation tips for beginners:

  • Continuous practice will help improve the GRE scores. By utilizing various exam preparation websites, one can thoroughly study the significant solutions.
  • Program one’s mind to be receptive to learning. It can help improve skills and knowledge by reviewing and practicing, as well as by following and establishing a routine, which can help alleviate math anxiety.

The strategies listed above serve as warm-up exercises to help beginners reach their target scores.

What are the GRE math tips for advanced students?

The following are some general GRE Math preparation tips for advanced students:

  • After completing problem-solving, go over it again. Connect the chosen response to the question in a way that makes sense in light of the problem. Double-checking prior to the deadline is a good idea to ensure nothing is missed out.
  • Indulge in the examination and concepts associated with the GRE examinations. This is a mind game that aids in the advancement/growth of your one's own mindset.

Advanced students can use the information presented above as a guide to help them achieve a more successful examination.

References:

  • https://www.prepscholar.com/gre/blog/gre-math-review-topics/
  • https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/quantitative_reasoning/
  • https://magoosh.com/gre/best-gre-math-tips/