The thing about the GRE quant section is that you can not just rely on back solving and picking numbers. It requires you to know the fundamental math concepts and how to approach them in an innovative way.
Test takers would be very relieved to know that the GRE tests high school math concepts only. However, the questions in the GRE Quant section are very different from the questions on a high school Math test. The GRE tests not just your Math knowledge but also your ability to interpret data and perform under time pressure. The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section covers four main topics – Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Data Interpretation.
The most important tip to solve the quant section is to read the questions carefully to avoid silly mistakes. Make sure that you are calculating the value of X that has been asked in the question and not the value of Y just to realise that you have been doing it wrong all along. These things can really take up your time and in the end, your hardwork will go in vain. Here are some tips for GRE test takers to ace the Quantitative Reasoning section.
It is important to understand the test structure and the concepts tested on the GRE. Knowing the test structure will help you figure out an appropriate strategy for the test. The GRE exam has 2 Quant sections with 20 questions each. You have 35 minutes to complete each section. The 4 different formats of the questions in the Quant section are:
Multiple choice questions with at least one answer can have more than one correct answer. On the GRE, there is no partial credit. Thus, if you choose one right option and there are other right answers to be chosen, you won’t get any credit for the question.
Quantitative comparison questions are the trickiest ones with four answer choices. It may take a lot of time to actually do the calculations to compare the two given quantities. The faster strategy is to work out the given quantities with carefully chosen sample numbers.
Numeric entry questions require you to type in your response.
The GRE is a long exam and you need to be able to concentrate for about 4 hours. Train your brain to be attentive and work consistently for 4 hours. The GRE also tests your stamina to work consistently till the end of the test. Work on your concentration so that you can be patient and attentive till the end of the test.
Test makers are adept at creating trap answers. If you make a simple calculation mistake or misread a word in the question, you may end up selecting an incorrect answer. Read the question carefully and understand what the question is asking you to find out. Double-check your answers always.
Most students miss the units on graphs and charts. Check the units carefully even when the information is presented in the form of a table, graph, or pie chart. For numeric entry questions, check how the answer needs to be given. For example, you may need to give the answer as a decimal value rather than rounding it off to a whole number.
On the GRE, there are no negative marks for wrong answers. This means that you should not leave any questions unanswered. Use the “Review” button on the screen to check if there are any unanswered questions. Make sure that you mark an answer for all unanswered questions in the final 2 minutes.
If you are unable to solve a question or are stuck at a point in the question, you should use elimination to guess an answer. Elimination is a simple strategy where you look for answers that are clearly incorrect and eliminate them. Pick an answer from the remaining answer choices and move on.
In some cases, the process of elimination might give you one answer. However, in other cases, elimination will only better the chances of your guess being correct. For example, when you are trying to guess the one correct answer out of five answer choices, the probability of your answer being right is 20%. However, when you are choosing one out of two answer choices, the probability of your guess being correct increases to 50%. Even if the guess is incorrect you are not going to lose anything. On the other hand, if your guess is correct, you would be scoring for that question also. Thus elimination is a very useful strategy to answer questions in a quick way.
Each GRE Quant section consists of 20 Questions that need to be answered in 35 minutes. Thus on average, you have 1.75 min for each question. Do you think every question takes 1.75min? For easy questions, you may take less than a minute, for medium-level questions you may take 1 to 1.5 minutes, and for the harder questions, you may take 2 minutes. Take the test in 2 phases. This means that you should answer the easy questions in the first phase and then do the harder/more time-consuming questions. Do not take more than 1 to 1.5 minutes for a question while answering a question on the first try. Try to answer at least 13 to 14 questions on the first phase (say in 20 min). Try to complete the remaining 6 to 7 questions in 13 minutes. These are hard-level questions and you have approximately 2 min for each question.
To get used to the timer, even while practising, set a timer and note down how much time it takes to attempt 20 questions. Also, there is a “Mark” button on the GRE test screen. Use this button effectively. When you realize that a question needs more time or when you get stuck in a question, click on the Mark button. The questions that have been “marked” are clearly identifiable on the review screen. You can visit the marked questions later after answering the easier questions.
Acing the GRE test is not something you can achieve overnight. Make a study plan for preparation and start your preparation as soon as you can. Make sure your study plan has time for reviewing basic math concepts and also for taking full-length online tests at regular intervals.
As GRE is an online test/computer-based test, practice your drills online. GRE full-length practise tests help you to work in a timed environment and improve your stamina to be attentive and sit through the entire test.
Taking the tests or doing practice without analyzing your mistakes is like blindly going into war without a plan or strategy to win. Analyze each test to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Maintain a list of errors that you made in the tests and the practice for improvement. You can also go through the list of errors before taking the next test and avoid repeating the errors.
Further practice should be based on the analysis of any test that you take. Be watchful on the time you take for answering a question based on difficulty level and the concept tested. Review the fundamentals when you get easy questions wrong. Practice harder level questions for the concepts in which you excel.
Don’t waste your time answering questions on random websites or going through random study materials. Follow one reliable source for study materials and GRE practice tests.
It is very common to hear students saying that they would have got the answer right, had they avoided a simple calculation mistake. GRE allows you to scribble on the scratch paper provided by the test centre. Students should use scratch paper to organize the information while answering a question. Organizing the information will help you eliminate mistakes. Even during practice, make it a habit to write down relevant information from the question and to do your calculations on paper. You can also use your scratch paper to analyze your test and identify where you went wrong in a question.
Time taken for solving a question depends upon the difficulty level of the question. For easy questions, you may take less than a minute, for medium-level questions you may take 1 to 1.5min, and for the harder questions, you may take 2 minutes. However, all questions in a section carry the same weightage, irrespective of the difficulty level. So, you should answer the questions that are easy for you first rather than spending a lot of time on a single hard question.
Ideally, 8-10 full-length tests are recommended. Rather than thinking about the number of tests to take, it is more important to analyze each test carefully to identify your strengths, your weaknesses, and the opportunities for improving your score. This analysis can help you make effective use of your time to practice in a targeted manner.
The math concepts tested on the GRE include algebra, arithmetic, geometry, and data analysis. Arithmetic concepts include ratios, percentages, rates, averages, etc. The topics from algebra include inequalities and working with variables. Geometry topics tested include lines and angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, 3-D figures, and circles. Data Analysis concepts tested include probability, standard deviation, mean, median, mode, etc.
The first quantitative section has questions of easy, medium, and hard difficulty. The difficulty level of the second section depends on your performance in the first section. However, irrespective of the difficulty level of a question, it will be based on a fundamental math concept only.
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