When studying for the GRE exam, students pay too much attention to the verbal section, because it is widely considered as harder than GRE math. 😿
In comparison, the quant section on the GRE may seem a lot easier to manage. Yet, for all the attention that the verbal section gets from the vast majority of test takers, it is very rare to see someone get a perfect score in that section. 💯✔️
But, with a little bit of work and diligence, you can get a perfect quant score, which is 170 on the GRE. Or at the very least, you can improve your quant score to a significant extent, and aim for a 160+ score within a few weeks.
So if you’re just starting out with your GRE prep, it is important that you know how you can ace the math section on the GRE.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some GRE quantitative tips and strategies that will help you get closer to your target score.
These tips are more like a checklist of things that you need to make sure you do, to break the barrier and get the 170 score in math. 👌
Listed below are our top 25 strategies to improve your GRE math score. Or as we like to call them – “score boosters”. Just one of them can boost your score instantly. Master them all, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master in GRE Quant. And before you know it, you’ll see yourself getting that 170 score in math, and get into your dream university. 🚀 🎓
Tips and strategies to improve your GRE quant score:
1. Visualize GRE questions before solving them 🎬
When you encounter difficult questions on the GRE, it helps if you can visualize the question and your approach to solving it.
Visualization is a pretty useful learning technique and can help you read and understand questions better. This technique works very well for the tougher and more complicated concepts like geometry, coordinate geometry, etc.
When you’re reading questions from these topics, imagine that what you are reading is unfolding as if you were watching a movie. Picture what you read and if possible, draw a rough sketch of your visual on the scratch paper. It is important that you use the scratch paper in a smart way, and draw diagrams wherever possible because creating a visual representation of data helps you understand the question easily.
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This visualization process will help your brain better connect the information so you won’t lose out on the details. And consequently, there’s no chance of you making silly mistakes on the test.
2. Don’t waste too much time on one question ⏳ 🙅
You should remember that every question within the same section is weighed the same. Which means, all 20 questions within a section have the same weightage.
Most students don’t know this simple fact, and as a consequence, waste precious time on the test solving tough questions while leaving out the easier ones.
This information is important because it tells you that you need to attempt all questions equally, and don’t really have to prefer some questions to the rest. Knowing this simple fact changes your entire test taking strategy.
Every question within a section on the GRE is weighed equally.
Since every question within a particular section is of the same value, you could first go after the questions you can easily solve. So if you’re left with a geometry question that you’re struggling with and an algebra question that you’re confident of solving, then definitely go for the algebra question, because it doesn’t matter which question you get right, as long as you get it right.
All questions within a section carry the same weight, so it makes sense to spend time on those questions which you can solve before the timer runs out, hence having a shot at maximizing your score within the given time period.
3. Employ the process of elimination 👍
Whenever you’re stuck with a question that you think you cannot solve in the traditional way, you can employ the process of elimination as a backup strategy.
Process of elimination is one of the best strategies that you can use to get the answer quickly. Whenever you come across a question to which you have no idea how to answer, this process can come in very handy.
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If you are new to this and don’t know what the process of elimination is, it is a simple process where you eliminate options based on how irrelevant or wrong they sound in the context of the given question, and then end up with that one option that sounds the least incorrect to you. Then you choose that option and proceed.
For example, if from the given question you understand that the final answer would be a positive rational number, then eliminate any negative or irrational numbers from the answer choices, and narrow your list down to two or three choices, which you can easily substitute in the equations.
4. Keep your composure during the GRE test 😊
It is quite common for students to get really anxious before, or during a test. Maybe it is because they take it too seriously, or maybe it is because they aren’t really confident about themselves. But students have been experiencing anxiety for as long as we have had exams.
Train yourself to remain calm and composed during the test.
However, it’s important that you remain calm and composed throughout the time you take the test. It may not come naturally to everyone, which is why you need to train yourself to remain composed and really unfazed by the test environment, or the difficulty of the questions.
There are some simple steps that you can take well in advance in order to conquer test anxiety and train yourself in that direction.
5. Keep an eye on the clock ⏲️
While studying for the GRE, you must consciously balance the time you are spending on each chapter or concept that you learn. Sometimes, it is easy to go adrift and spend more time than necessary on a particular topic, or even a question.
Sometimes you may get stuck with a tough question or a complex topic, and spend several hours on it, not realizing that there are many other topics waiting to be covered. Do not make that mistake. Always learn to balance your time, by allotting sufficient time slots for each and every topic in your study plan.
6. Be careful when marking answer choices on the GRE 🕵️
Always watch out for wrong selection of answer choices. Be vigilant when you’re the picking answer choices, because often times the answer choices look very similar and you may get confused in the heat of the moment. So, always double check when picking the answer choices.
Some questions may also have multiple answer choices, and it would be wrong to choose just one correct answer, even if that is one of the answers. There’s no partial credit on the GRE, so you will have to make sure all the correct answers are chosen.
But there’s another twist in the tale. Sometimes, even if it is a multiple answer question type, only one of the answer choices will be correct, and it’s possible to get confused and waste precious time. Hence, pay attention to the question, understand what you need to solve, and then match your answers with the given answer choices.
7. Never leave a GRE question unanswered ❌
We’ve already discussed that all questions in any section on the GRE are of the same value, so it makes sense to look at all of them equally.
Another important detail about the GRE is that there is no negative marking on the test. Which means that there is no penalty even if you get a question wrong. That is why you need to try and attempt all the questions in every section of the GRE exam.
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Even if you’re running out of time and you have a couple of questions left, try and make intelligent guesses and mark the choices you think would be correct. If you’re lucky, you get a few extra points along the way. If you’re not, you’re not going to lose anything because there is no negative marking at all.
8. Understand the GRE test format 📝
Before you tackle math questions head on, it is important that you understand the format of the GRE test thoroughly in order to avoid any last minute surprises. Learn all the different types of questions you’re likely to see on the GRE, and understand how each of them can be solved.
Learn the various question types you’ll come across on the GRE.
There many different types of questions in GRE math – numerical entry, multiple answer choice questions, quantitative comparison, etc., some of which you may not be familiar with.
Understanding the entire quantitative syllabus can help you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the GRE math section, and as a result, you will be able to plan ahead, figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and also devise a working strategy for your GRE prep.
9. Mentally factor out multiples of ten when using the calculator 👉
When you come across numbers with a lot of zeroes at the end, just remove them mentally and simplify the numbers as much as you can. You can always add the zeros at the end of the resultant number.
For example, if the number is 460000/23, ignore all the zeroes at the end, and you’ll be left with just 46/23, which is much easier to solve. Once you solve this simple expression, you can add the zeros that you removed previously, and you’ll end up with the correct answer.
Simplify expressions by factoring out zeros at the end.
If you find it hard to remove the zeroes in your head, then write the numbers down on your scratch paper and remove the zeros manually. In fact, most of the time, you don’t even need to remember to add the four zeroes since you can easily make out the correct answer from the given choices.
10. Consider all relevant possibilities 👌
When solving equations or inequalities, you need to consider all the possible scenarios before finalizing the answer. For instance, if you have ‘ab = 0’ as the equation, then you need to consider three possibilities where a = 0 and b could be any number, or b = 0, and a could be any number, or both a and b are 0.
Consider all possible scenarios before finalizing the answer.
In another case, if you have ab < 0, then it could mean that only one of a and b are negative, because if both are negative then the product would be positive and hence greater than 0. In this case, neither of them can be equal to 0 because then the total product would be 0.
So, depending on the equation that is given to you, make sure you’re considering all relevant possibilities before narrowing down your answer.
11. Double check when irrational numbers are involved ✔️ ✔️
When you’re operating with irrational numbers, always double check the calculation to see if you’ve done it right. Especially, when you have square roots in the equation you will need to be careful when squaring them or multiplying them with other equations because there’s always the possibility of making a mistake somewhere.
Double check calculations with square roots are involved.
For instance, when you multiply two square roots, and their product is the square of a perfect square, then the square and the square root cancel out. But if the product is not a perfect square, then you still have the number inside the square root.
Also, if you have numbers like ‘pi’ inside an expression that is to be squared, then make sure you are squaring the pi as well. Such simple steps
12. Plug in specific numbers 🔌
Sometimes, it is much easier to plug the answer choices in equations given in the question stem, than actually solving the problem. This is very helpful when you realize your solution is going to take too long and you can’t afford to spend so much time on one question.
Save time by plugging in common numbers in the equations.
For instance, when doing questions involving comparison of various quantities, it would be helpful and rather easier to solve if you just try plugging in random values. The most commonly plugged in values are -1, 0, and 1, as these numbers often change the signs of the expressions while being easy to operate with.
Also, depending on the question and the kind of numbers used, you can also plug in 5 or 10 or any of their multiples. Be sure to understand the conditions given in the question before you plug in a number. If the question says that x is positive number greater than 1, then you
13. Sometimes, it is easier to list all possibilities 📜
Questions involving a few concepts like permutations and combinations can sometimes be solved by simply listing out all the possible answers, especially when the number of possible answers is very less – usually less than 10.
For some questions, it’s easier to count all probabilities manually.
For instance, if you look at a combinatorics problem like “how many ways can you arrange x in y” and if you understand that the number of possibilities is a small finite number then instead of solving the question in the traditional way, it may be easier to list out all the ways by hand and counting the total number of ways.
14. Prep with an open book 📖
When your GRE prep is still in its early days, you can study with an open book – if you forget a formula or a method, or if you really think you need help, do not hesitate to look it up. Even if you’re taking a GRE quiz, it’s okay to look up quantitative formulae and solve the question. Do away with traditional learning methods, and have an open book policy for as long as you think you need it.
Don’t hesitate to look up formulae and concepts during practice.
But there must come a time when you should be able to confidently get rid of this process because by then you will be well versed with all the concepts and quant formulae.
So, once you gain confidence and you can solve questions easily, shift to a normal study plan, and practice without any books or helping aids.
15. Maintain an error log
Error logs can be very effective when preparing for the GRE. During the first few weeks of practice, if you try and use the error log effectively, it will help you see a distinctive pattern of the mistakes you make and the areas you make them in.
You can only get a higher score when you know if you are improving constantly or not, and error logs certainly help you in this regard. It is quite easy to create an error log; you can create a simple error log any way you like, but an excel file would be the most preferred option since it is easier to not only use an excel sheet but also make changes in the future.
Make an excel sheet with the entire list of topics you are going to study in the next few months: Algebra, Geometry, Text Completion, etc. And write down your confidence levels in the next column, on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being ‘very confident’ and 1 being ‘clueless’.
Once you do this, keep the log aside and start practicing questions and reviewing them. Once you spot an error that you made on a test, record it inside the error log, next to the respective topic. Repeat this step every time you take a test or a small quiz, and see where you’re making the most mistakes, so you can focus only on those topics.
16. Build mental stamina 💪
The GRE is a test of mental endurance, and you always need to be mentally fit in order to win this challenge. And the best way to get mentally fit for the GRE is to get better at taking tests.
Build your mental endurance and get used to the fast paced test environment.
Build yourself mentally, by studying at regular intervals, testing yourself when you are done studying a concept, and taking frequent full-length GRE practice tests. This will help your mind get used to the fast paced test environment, and you will be able to sit through the actual deal comfortably.
If proper mental stamina is not developed while prepping, then you’re going to fatigue very quickly and it affects your test performance quite badly.
17. Start your GRE prep early 🏃
Start your GRE prep as early as you can. It doesn’t matter if you are still a sophomore student or a working professional three years out of college. If you have plans to study further, then you need to take the GRE at some point in the future.
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Start studying for the GRE as soon as you decide to study further. This will really help you because you will have lots of time to plan and study, and you can go at a more relaxed pace, rather than hurry at the last moment. If you have not decided when to take the GRE, maybe it is time you gave it a thought.
18. Study regularly 🗓️
Even if you are a busy individual, you should really try to study every day, even if it is for 15-20 minutes.
Make sure you study and monitor progress regularly.
Studying consistently and on a regular basis is a lot better than studying with gaps in the middle. Make sure you devise a GRE study plan keeping in mind your semester exams, thesis submissions, and other family obligations because a good prep requires constant study and regular monitoring.
Just make sure you don’t have a lot of gaps in the middle, as these can turn out to be hiccups in your prep, and you will forget some of the concepts you have learned previously.
19. Get the Right GRE Prep Material 📚
Studying from the right GRE prep material is crucial to getting a good score on the GRE. Many students start with one book, leave it in the middle, and skip to some other material or online sources very frequently.
Stick to just one set of study material throughout.
This is not the ideal approach as it seriously affects your schedule and learning process, because each study material is different and as such has its own way of explaining the concepts, and some books might use different notations and terms, for example.
This will only hamper your chances of learning faster and better, so it is better to stick to just one set of material throughout your study plan.
20. Don’t solve every question you see 🔍❌
You may see questions from various sources – Facebook groups, random practice material, a couple of books you have in your library, multiple sites on the internet, etc.
Solve questions only from reputed practice materials.
Such random questions only confuse you further. So, don’t try to search for additional problems, once you are done with these. There is no point in practicing ten thousand problems if you cannot understand the point behind every question, or if you cannot review them later to identify where you went wrong.
21. Be ready to sit through the GRE test 👩 💻
You may know this already, but the GRE is a test of endurance. For most students, it could very well be the first time in their lives that they are sitting through a 4-hour test. So, if you’re not used to keeping focus for such lengths of time, then you must train yourself in that direction. It’s a grueling experience, which you must get used to before the test day.
Get used to sitting through a 4-hour test.
And to achieve this, you must take as many practice tests as you can, in front of the computer. Remember – no paper tests, not at all. Use the computers, since that’s how you are going to write the actual test. Taking the test while sitting in front of the computer for 4 hours is a different experience altogether and you must train your body and mind to adjust to such a condition.
22. Solve 160+ level GRE questions ✍️
If you’re aiming to score 170 on the GRE, then there’s no reason to practice the easier questions. Assuming that you’re already scoring 160 in the practice tests and if your accuracy is at least 80% on most of the practice sessions, then you need to stop focusing on the easy questions, and start taking up high difficulty questions.
Practice questions that pose a challenge to you.
Solve those questions that always challenge you, instead of questions that you can easily solve within a few seconds. Your accuracy may dip at first, but then if you challenge yourself every single day, you will soon get there.
Remember that your accuracy should always be 95% or more if you’re aiming for the 170 score.
23. Use the scratch paper effectively 📋
The scratch paper is the only weapon you’ll have with you at the test center on D Day, and it is important that you use it to attack the GRE with it. Your effectiveness on the GRE will depend on how well you use the scratch paper on the GRE.
Make the best use of the scratch paper during the GRE exam.
The scratch paper can be vital for you to score higher on the GRE, as it helps you calculate better, avoid or reduce mistakes, save precious time, and at the end of the day, do well on the test. Using the scratch paper in an organized way will keep you calmer and more focused than you would otherwise be.
Don’t hesitate to request for additional papers, if you need. Be sure to use the scratch paper as much as you can.
24. Learn multiplication tables #️⃣
As silly as this may sound, many test takers don’t know the multiplication tables beyond 10. In order to score higher on the GRE, you would need to know multiplication tables up to 20 x 20.
Multiplication tables help you save a ton of time on the GRE.
Start learning right from today, and it won’t even take long. Just a few hours, or maybe a couple of days at worst, can help you learn all the basic multiplication tables, which will come in handy for you while solving tough questions.
You’ll save ton of time if you are good at numbers since you will not have to use the calculator every single time you see a number on the screen.
25. Solve GRE practice questions in a timed setting ✍️⏲️
It is important to practice all your tests in a timed setting. It is easy to solve a question in ten minutes, and almost anyone can do it. But doing it in under 100 seconds is way too hard, and only those who have practiced for a long time can do that repeatedly. And anyone who plans to get the 170 score should be able to solve questions in under 100 seconds.
Aim to solve every GRE question in under 100 seconds.
Doing this requires tons of practice. So it is important that you take practice tests or solve questions in a timed setting. Even if you are solving questions for fun, make sure you have a stopwatch or a timer next to you. This will keep you on your toes and will help you get used to the test conditions.
You will also have to learn when you should stop trying a tough question and move on, and this only happens when you are used to practicing in a timed setting, resembling the test day environment.
Have you got any GRE math tips? 🤔
So those are some GRE math tricks and shortcuts that you could use in order to improve your test-taking skills get the 170 score on the GRE quant section.
If you have already studied for the GRE, and got the 170 score in Math, let us know if you have any tips that worked out really well for you. We’ll add them to this guide and share it with everyone.
But if you’re still studying for the GRE, and you need help with your prep, then we at CrunchPrep are here to answer any questions you may have. We’ve helped hundreds of our students score 170 In the quant section, and we can help you get the top score as well. Reach out to us if you would like us to assist you with your GRE prep. 🙂