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Mastering GRE Math Part 2: Some strategies to master the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section

 

If you’re reading this, you probably already have an idea on the structure and the types of questions that appear on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning (QR) section. If not, head over to Part 1 before reading ahead. At first glance, the QR section can be intimidating. There are questions from a wide range of topics, many of which require the knowledge of several formulae. Fear not, with a little practice and patience, you can achieve your target score!

The “Math Review” section of the ETS Official Guide to the GRE contains definitions, properties and examples of the concepts tested on the Quantitative Reasoning section. Similarly, Khan Academy contains videos that provide additional explanations to many of these concepts. This is a great place to start with familiarizing yourself with the quality and type of content typically found on the test.

Many test prep companies such Kaplan, Barron’s, Magoosh and so on also offer their own resources. While these resources are certainly useful, in my opinion, nothing beats the official ETS Guide mentioned above.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the questions appearing on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section aren’t usually calculation-intensive! More often than not, there are simpler approaches to solving a problem. Make sure you aren’t bogged down by a problem – avoid spending too much time on a single sum. Move on and see if you can try a different approach later.

Some tips to solve the different types of problems are:

Algebra

  • Use the provided scratch paper to work out the problem. While this approach may take a little longer than mentally solving the problem, it ensures clarity of thought.
  • Try memorizing some simple algebraic formulae – squares, cubes etc. Often, it is a lot faster to plug in values into the formula rather than having to manually derive them.

Data Interpretation

  • These questions require complete concentration and usually take more time to solve. Personally, I’d recommend leaving these questions till the end, and attempting them once the other questions have been attempted.
  • Always keep an eye out for the axes of graphs, labels on the pie charts and so on. Some questions may require a conversion from one unit of representation to another.

Arithmetic

  • Make sure you fully understand what is being asked – jumping head first into solving the problem and then deciding the scope of the question can lead to an unnecessary waste of time.
  • Use the calculator judiciously. Oftentimes, it is faster to manually calculate than to type it into the calculator.

Geometry

  • The geometric figures appearing on the test aren’t always drawn to scale- unless explicitly specified! Make no assumptions regarding the same.
  • The “this option looks right” approach isn’t very effective and shouldn’t be followed.

Apart from the above tips, there are a couple of other points to keep in mind.

  • As mentioned earlier, avoid spending too much time on a single question. Some questions take longer than others to solve, but it isn’t prudent to spend more than say, 3-4 minutes on a single question. You can mark the question for review and return to it later, if you have the time.
  • Make sure you practice all the different concepts tested on the GRE Quants section. Avoid tunnel vision – focussing too much/ too little on certain topics.
  • Similarly, make sure you practice questions of different difficulty – working on only very difficult questions or acing the easy questions alone aren’t enough!
  • Remember, the most important weapon in your arsenal is being calm. A clear, sangfroid head is the most important thing needed to conquer this section.

 

The famous Russian writer Anton Chekov once said “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” The GRE QR section is all about practice – practicing how to manage time, practicing how to read and understand the question and most importantly, practicing how to solve the question.

So remember: practice, practice, practice. Take several timed, full length practice tests under similar test conditions and track your progress at regular intervals.

About the Author

Aditya Natarajan is the Ivy Aspire  GRE expert and will share a series of articles to help you crack the GRE!