5 Tips to Score Higher on the GRE Quant

January 31, 2017

Math on the GRE can be especially hard if you’re not much of a “math person.” But even math whizzes can find GRE Quant challenging. Here are five things you can do to score higher on GRE Quant.

Tip 1: Ditch That Calculator!

When they first start their GRE prep, many of my students tell me they’re not worried about GRE Quant. “I heard you can use a calculator,” they say. “I’ll be fine.” This is a rookie mistake. Don’t tell yourself you can just use a calculator and be fine. Do this, you’re falling into a classic GRE Quant trap.

You see, the math problems in GRE Quant are all designed to be solvable without a calculator. The problems look complex, but there’s always some hidden shortcut, some trick that will allow you to find the answer without touching that calculator. And in fact, GRE Quant is set up so that using a calculator will often take extra time, and increase your chances of making mistakes.

When you practice GRE Quant, imagine that you get charged $50 every time you touch your calculator. Make it your goal to reach for the calculator sparingly, and always look for calculator-free solutions.

Tip 2: Estimate

OK, so this tip doesn’t actually work on GRE Quant numeric entry problems. But numeric entry questions, ones where you have to key in the exact number, make up only a tiny portion of the math on the GRE. All the other Quantitative questions are multiple choice. This means you don’t need to calculate the exact answer. The exact answer is already among the answer choices, staring right at you. All you need to do is estimate the range the answer falls in, and then select the matching option. This is a very valuable time saver. It’s also a powerful way to minimize calculator use.

Tip 3: Tap Into the Power of Your Own Mind

In the 2014 movie, “Lucy”, Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who gains superpowers by tapping into her brain’s unused potential. Of course, in real life, there’s probably no mental hack to turn you into a full-on superpowered being. But there are mental hacks to turn you into a math superhero.

There are many mental math shortcuts that allow your brain to do advanced GRE calculations. One example would be this shortcut for mentally calculating the squares of numbers ending in 5. Another would be the use of this formula for solving GRE story problems that deal with distance and time. Learn the various mental math hacks for the GRE, and you’ll approach Quant with greater speed, accuracy, and confidence.

Tip 4: Learn to Play With Math

If you’re not that “into” math, the idea of playing with math may seem like a strange one. Hear me out though. One of the best ways to get good at something is to love doing it. Find fun and interesting ways to challenge yourself in math. For example, you could develop number sense (a playful knowledge of math and numbers) with games such as “the 99 game” described in this GRE math blog post.

Tip 5: Know What Score You’re Aiming For

So many GRE preppers aim for absolute perfection on GRE Quant. Getting 100% (or almost 100%) on Quant is great if you can pull it off. But many students get burnt out and discouraged if they try to do this. Needless to say, you don’t want to undershoot either. To see what score you really need, look up the score ranges of the schools you’re applying to, and check out this chart of GRE score percentiles. Prep for the score you truly need, and you’ll be on your best path to success.

Admittedly, this particular tip isn’t directly related to the actual math problems in GRE Quant. But the simpler “math” of knowing what score you need is still important.

About The Author

David Recine, Guest Blogger
David Recine, Guest Blogger

David Recine is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007.

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