What to Expect on GRE Quantitative Reasoning

The GRE General Test is made up of Writing test, a Verbal Reasoning measure, and a Quantitative Reasoning measure. The test will begin with one hour for Writing and then will alternate between Verbal and Quantitative sections. Two sections each of Verbal and Quant will count towards your score, but you should expect to see a 5th section, the experimental section, which could be either Verbal or Quant. So, your test may have 3 Verbal sections and 2 Quantitative sections or 3 Quantitative and 2 Verbal. You won’t know which section was the experimental one, unfortunately; just treat every section like it counts!

Let’s take a closer look at the math side of the test.

Each Quant section has 25 questions, and you are allotted 40 minutes to complete the section. This comes to an average of around 1.5 minutes per question.

The content of the Quantitative questions includes Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis. Per the GRE, this section “assesses your: basic math skills, understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, and ability to reason quantitatively and to model problems with quantitative methods.” You might be surprised to learn that the mathematical concepts behind much of the test are quite basic. You’ll need to review things like how to add fractions or how to find a certain angle measure—topics you probably learned in fourth grade. How, then, could this be a test that assesses your readiness for graduate school? It turns out, tt’s not in the math content of the test, but instead in the way the questions are asked. This ultimately determines the difficulty of the questions and requires that you begin to think like the GRE test makers as your approach the questions.

This brings us to the types of questions you will be confronted with on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning measure:

1. Quantitative Comparison – These questions are the least like a math problem you ever encountered in school. Instead of solving a problem and stating the correct answer, you will be given two quantities and will need to determine the relationship between them. The fours answer choices will always look the same:

A. Quantity A is greater.

B. Quantity B is greater.

C. The two quantities are equal.

D. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given.

It’s a good idea to memorize these answers, since every Quantitative Comparison question gives you the same option. I talk about strategies for Quantitative Comparison questions in more detail here.

2. Multiple Choice Questions – Select One Answer Choice – These questions will remind you of math questions from the SAT or ACT in terms of format. You will be given a math problem, and then you will solve and choose the one correct answer from the five options provided. The tricky part here is making sure you’re answering the right question, so be sure to read carefully.

3. Multiple Choice Questions – Select One or More Answer Choice – Similar to the last question type, these questions will ask you for the answer to a problem, but there will usually be more than one correct answer. You must choose all of the correct answers in order to receive points for these questions.

The GRE makes it very clear which question type you’re dealing with by including directions before each question type. You can also look to the question stem. Multiple choice questions with more than one answer will say something like: “Indicate both of the numbers.” Or “Indicate all such amounts.”

4. Numeric Entry Questions –  These questions do not give you any options to choose from. Instead, you must type a number into the box (or boxes when the test wants a fraction) as the answer. Luckily, equivalent forms of the correct answer are all considered correct, so you don’t have to worry about writing 1.8 versus 1.80.