When you first begin preparing for this portion of the exam, the seemingly endless variety in math problems may overwhelm you. Such a wide array of mathematical concepts are covered, making it seem impossible to digest them all. That is why committing a substantial amount of time to them is key. In fact, the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE may be the most time-consuming in terms of studying. But don’t freak out just yet – not all of these problems are going to be foreign to you. In fact, you’re likely to remember a lot of them, or at least recall the processes relatively quickly. This is because the math on this exam represents a very lengthy time span in the your academic history. Problems you will face will range from recognizing prime numbers to identifying permutations to solving for “x” in complex equations.
Although you won’t be able to predetermine which of the many possible problems you’ll need to solve on the exam, you can adequately prepare yourself for what ways these problems will be presented to you. This won’t be like past math tests you’ve taken; there are very specific forms that these questions will take that if you make yourself familiar with, the exam will go far more smoothly for you.
One question type you will see will ask you to compare two quantities. These two quantities won’t be given bluntly, however. One or both of them will be some sort of equation that you’ll need to solve, i.e. 3x/4y. There will often be a side note of given information necessary for you to know in order to solve the problems, i.e. x > y, or something along those lines. Every problem has different circumstances, but you will always have the same set of answers to choose from for this question type. You will either choose that one of the quantities is greater than the other one, that they are equal, or that it can't be determined with the given information. So when it all comes down to it, the definitiveness in the answers of this question type is quite simple. Study up on the tricks to determine just enough to figure them out.
Once you’ve made yourself familiar with the comparison of unknown quantities, all you have left to worry about is prepping yourself for direct problem solving and data interpretation. The remaining questions will range from word problems to breaking down equations to comprehending various graphs and charts. The tricky part is re-learning all of these things. If you majored in something that kept you studying these concepts every semester, then you probably won’t have as much intense reviewing to do. However, if math hasn’t been kept as an integral part of your curriculum, you’ll really need to sit down and vigorously go through a lot of material – so giving yourself plenty of time to study before test day is absolutely crucial.
A lot of these things will probably come back to you easily, such as concepts like y-intercepts and the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2). But there will inevitably be a ton of equations and methods you haven’t thought about in a long time that will definitely require some work to comprehend once again. You will face complex geometry, large ratios, percentage-fraction conversions, and much more. The best thing to do is practice the problems extensively. More importantly, determine right away what sorts of things the on-screen calculator will allow you to do – this calculator won’t be able to do everything. Look into the details about this specific calculator so you will know which concepts it can help you with and which ones it can’t so you will not be dependent on it for the wrong things. Additionally, you’ll know which concepts you don’t have to waste time figuring out how to solve by hand.
Get yourself well acquainted with these ideas and this section should be yours to work through like a champion!
October 21, 2012