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Level of Difficulty

GRE math is very similar to SAT math, though surprisingly slightly easier. The mathematical skills tested are very basic: only first year high school algebra and geometry (no proofs). However, this does not mean that the math section is easy. The medium of basic mathematics is chosen so that everyone taking the test will be on a fairly even playing field. This way students who majored in math, engineering, or science don’t have an undue advantage over students who majored in humanities. Although the questions require only basic mathematics and all have simple solutions, it can require considerable ingenuity to find the simple solution. If you have taken a course in calculus or another advanced math topic, don’t assume that you will find the math section easy. Other than increasing your mathematical maturity, little you learned in calculus will help on the GRE.


Quantitative comparisons are the most common math questions. This is good news since they are mostly intuitive and require little math. Further, they are the easiest math problems on which to improve since certain techniques—such as substitution—are very effective.


As mentioned above, every GRE math problem has a simple solution, but finding that simple solution may not be easy. The intent of the math section is to test how skilled you are at finding the simple solutions. The premise is that if you spend a lot of time working out long solutions you will not finish as much of the test as students who spot the short, simple solutions. So, if you find yourself performing long calculations or applying advanced mathematics—stop. You’re heading in the wrong direction.


To insure that you perform at your expected level on the actual GRE, you need to develop a level of mathematical skill that is greater than what is tested on the GRE. Hence, about 10% of the math problems in this course are harder than actual GRE math problems.

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