GRE Quantitative Reasoning - Basics

The GRE has two scored Quantitative Reasoning sections, and the possibility of a third unscored "experimental or research" section (which may be Quantitative Reasoning or Verbal Reasoning). Required skills to succeed at GRE Quantitative Reasoning include Arithmatic, Geometry, and Data Analysis. Test content generally includes high school statistics and mathematics at a level no higher than Algebra 2. The test does not cover trigonometry, calculus, or higher-level math. Calculators will be provided to students for both the computer- and paper-based testing formats.

Test Content

Each Quantitative Reasoning section consists of approximately 8 Quantitative Comparisons, 9 Problem Solving items, and 3 Data Interpretation questions. Quantitative Comparison questions are similar to "Data Sufficiency" questions on the GMAT – they require test takers not only to evaluate the magnitude of the quantities presented, but also to delineate a level of certainty about their relative size. Sometimes both quantities may be determined by computation or simplification, but some problems do not contain sufficient information to reach an answer. The other two problem types are more likely to be familiar to test takers. Problem solving questions require students to select one or more correct solutions to a problem, much like quantitative questions on the SAT. Data Interpretation questions may be a bit more challenging, since they require more advanced analysis of presented information, but they are comparable to the sorts of mathematical analysis tested in a variety of undergraduate disciplines. Once you learn the required skills and become familiar with the test methodology, data interpretation is very similar to other types of problem solving.

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning sections are intended to evaluate basic math skills, elementary math concepts, the ability to quantitatively reason and to model and solve problems with quantitative methods. Some problems are purely mathematical, some are posed as real-life problems, and some are "word problems" that must be interpreted and modeled mathematically. Standard mathematical assumptions of the exam include that all numbers are real numbers, all figures lie in the plane of the computer or test paper, geometric figures are not necessarily drawn to scale (so you cannot assume that lengths and angles measure properly), coordinate systems are drawn to scale (so you can estimate or compare quantities if they are in an x/y grid or number line, for example), and graphical data presentations such as bar graphs or line graphs are drawn to scale. The exam will use standard high school mathematics notation unless otherwise noted.

Question Types

The Quantitative Reasoning sections of the exam have four question types: Quantitative Comparison questions, Multiple Choice questions (select one answer), Multiple Choice questions (select one or more answers), and Numeric Entry questions. One important distinction to be aware of on test day is the difference between the two types of Multiple Choice questions. As you are taking the test, you can distinguish between these questions because single-answer multiple-choice questions will have a "bubble" format that only allows a single answer selection, whereas multiple-answer multiple-choice questions have a "checkbox" format that allows multiple answer selections.

Some test questions are presented independently, and others are part of a set of related problems called a Data Interpretation Set, which use the same data from tables, graphs, or other informational displays. The easiest way to distinguish among different types of questions is to take multiple computer-adaptive practice tests and get comfortable with the format of the test questions. With sufficient practice, the structure of the test will become second nature, allowing you to focus on solving problems and earning a top score.

Test Structure

The GRE is the only general graduate test that allows students to review and revise their answers at the end of each section. This structure strongly contrasts to the GMAT, for which each question is independently timed, and graded immediately after submission. The method of test adaptation is also different for these tests. The GMAT adapts after every question, continuously adjusting the difficulty of the test depending on your performance. The GRE, on the other hand, only adapts between sections. Your answers will be reviewed after you complete your first Quantitative and Verbal sections, and the test composition of your second sections will be adapted based on your performance. The test program has a large pool of questions with which to assemble the second test sections. Students who perform well on their first section will "level up" their test and face a more difficult second section.