Quantitative Skills tested on the GMAT

Quantitative Section of the GMAT Skills

The Quantitative Section of the GMAT tests your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills using mathematical expressions. The good news is that you will not be tested on calculus or trigonometry, rather, you are expected to have a firm grasp on basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry concepts. You are not allowed to use a calculator on the exam, so it is imperative that you make sure to review these concepts and feel comfortable performing all of them on paper.

These are the math topics you will want to review before exam day:

  • Arithmetic

    Arithmetic encompases the simplest math skills you will need to know, but do not neglect brushing up on these skills! While addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are simple concepts, it is likely you have gotten out of practice of doing these things without your calculator. You'll want to do at least a few long division problems to jog your memory as well as reviewing basic multiplication tables. Remember, timing is important, so you want to be able to accurately perform the simple tasks quickly.

    You will also want to review working with and/or calculating:

    • Decimals, fractions, ratios, and how these can be interchanged

    • Percentages (including percent change)

    • Basic statistics, including mean, median, mode, and standard deviations

    • Exponents and roots

    • Probability

    Finally, review mathematical vocabulary, including: prime number, integer, units digit, tens digit, hundreds digit, absolute value, exponents, inequalities, and functions.

  • Algebra

    The algebra you'll be expected to use on the GMAT is fairly basic, and something you likely covered in high school. That said, it is possible that it has been a few years since you have encountered some of these problems. When we are talking about algebraic expressions, we are simply talking about a mathematical expression that contains numbers, operations, and at least one variable.

    Examples: x + 7 = 16, 4x=12, 40/x=10

    So, as you review, you need to be sure you are able to isolate variables to solve for them, feel comfortable with both linear and quadratic equations, working with inequalities, and solving functions.

  • Geometry

    In the Quantitative section of the GMAT, you will not be expected to use trigonometry nor to graph nonlinear functions. You should, however, feel very comfortable with the properties of simple geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles, and circles. Additionally, review the properties of lines, angles, and of uniform solids (ex. cylinders, spheres, etc). You may also encounter coordinate geometry problems where you will need to be comfortable using simple expressions, such as the linear slope-intercept equation (y=mx+b) in Cartesean coordinates.

  • Word Problems

    Once you have reviewed the above concepts, you'll need to be able to translate word problems into mathematical expressions. On the Quantitative section of the GMAT, you will not be simply presented with a series of equations to solve. Instead, a large percentage of your questions will be word problems. You will have to read the narrative question and understand first what is being asked and how to translate the narration into a mathematical expression. At that point, your refreshed math skills will come in handy as you finish the calculation.

    You should be prepared to encounter many real-life problems dealing with topics like simple and compound interest, rate and measurement, work and combined work, and discounts and/or profits.