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Knowing what to expect on the GRE is key to success. The more prepared you feel on test day, the more likely you are to apply your skills and maximize your score. One absolutely crucial consideration is knowing what kind of questions are on the test.

The Educational Testing Service releases some information about the format of the test on their website, but this guide combines that information with the experience of real people who have actually taken the GRE.

Here’s the lowdown on the quantitative portion of the Graduate Record Exam:

Types of Questions

The quantitative reasoning portion of the GRE has three primary types of questions:

  • Quantitative Comparison, in which test-takers are presented with two different numbers, equations, or formulae and must decide whether their answers are the same, different, or if a distinction cannot be made.
  • Multiple Choice, which requires test-takers to solve a problem and choose the correct answer. Complicating matters, the GRE involves both multiple choice math questions with one answer and questions with more than one acceptable answer.
  • Numeric Entry, which sees test-takers write out their answers by hand rather than selecting pre-determined multiple-choice options.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Skills

In order to succeed on the quantitative reasoning (math) portion of the GRE, test-takers need a wide variety of general arithmetic and problem-solving skills. Here are some qualifications specifically identified by ETS, who create and curate the test:

For quantitative comparison, test-takers are expected to…

  • Be able to carry out all basic arithmetic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)
  • Display basic knowledge of algebra
  • Compare numeric quantities
  • Simplify problems

For multiple choice, test-takers need to…

  • Carry out mathematical computations
  • Apply formulae and problem-solving strategies
  • Confirm their answer by working backwards
  • Stay open-minded to the possibility of multiple answers

For numeric entry, test-takers should be able to…

  • Solve a variety of multi-step problems by hand
  • Develop strategies to double-check answers without the benefit of the multiple choice format
  • Round answers to identified decimal places or whole numbers

Having identified the requisite skills, the next step is to find additional materials to help you prepare for the GRE. Third-party companies make a variety of strong quantitative comparison, multiple choice, and numeric entry resources that access these skills and prepare you much better for the test than the free information released by EST alone.

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