GRE Quantitative Reasoning - Question Types

For students studying for the GRE, it can be useful to pay attention to the different types of question to ensure that you know how to answer them most efficiently on test day. The GRE has four types of Quantitative Reasoning question: Quantitative Comparison questions, Multiple Choice (one answer) questions, Multiple Choice (one or more answer) questions, and Numeric Entry questions.

The test questions are designed to assess basic mathematical skills, understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, and the ability to reason quantitatively and to model and solve problems with quantitative methods. Test content will include Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis. The content is generally tested at a level that is no higher than a second course in algebra, and does not include trigonometry, calculus, or other higher-level mathematics. The questions may appear independently as discrete questions or as part of a set of questions called a "Data Interpretation Set".

Although the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are generally considered to be less challenging than the comparable sections from the GMAT, it does include some content from a business context, particularly calculating percentage changes over time (such as calculating the percentage of sales growth from one quarter to the next).

Quantitative Comparison

Quantitative Comparisons may either be pure mathematical comparisons, or they may be posed in real-life settings, or written up as "word problems" that the student must be able to model or interpret mathematically. They assess a combination of basic math skill, understanding of elementary math concepts, and the abilities to reason quantitatively, solve problems with quantitative methods, and model information mathematically.

Quantitative Comparison questions have four possible answers: quantity A is greater, quantity B is greater, the two quantities are equal, or their relationship cannot be determined. It is critical to become very familiar with the format for answering these questions, so that you do not waste time or mark your answers incorrectly on test day.

Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice (one answer) questions have one correct answer from a list of five answer choices. Multiple Choice (one or more answer) questions have one or more correct answers in the list of presented choices, and questions may or may not specify how many answers to select.

Numeric Entry

Numeric Entry questions request answers as integers or decimals in a single answer box, or fractions in two separate boxes (one for the numerator and one for the denominator). In the computer-based test, students use the mouse and keyboard to enter their answers.

Test Structure

Each Quantitative Reasoning section contains 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. Each section is composed of approximately 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem solving questions, and 3 data interpretation questions. The test adapts between test sections, adjusting the difficulty of the second Quantitative Reasoning section based on the student's performance in their first section. Students who perform well in their first section will "level up" their test, and face more difficult questions in their second section. This is substantially different from the GMAT, which adapts the test difficulty after every question. The main import of this difference to students is that while taking the GRE you are able to review your answers, and you can even mark difficult questions to make it easier to review them after you complete the rest of the section.