The GRE Quantitative section can be daunting, especially if you haven’t taken a math class in years. But don’t panic! The best antidote to unfamiliarity is practice.
In this guide, we’ll go over:
- official GRE materials for math practice
- your options for purchasing GRE Math practice tests
- where you can find extra free GRE Quantitative practice
- the best way to use different kinds of GRE Math practice questions in your studying.
GRE Math Practice Questions: What’s Out There?
One major divide between the different types of GRE Math practice material is whether that material is official (released by ETS) or unofficial. Official GRE Math questions are far superior to unofficial ones because ETS (the company that creates and administers the GRE) understands exactly how questions are asked and skills are tested and is thus able to create practice material that exactly mimics what you’ll be faced with on test day.
The other big delineation when it comes to GRE Math practice is whether materials are free or paid. Free, official materials are great because those GRE Quantitative Reasoning questions are pretty much what you’ll see on the real GRE, but free of charge; paid official materials are the next best thing to free official materials for this reason. On the other hand, paid unofficial material tends to be of better quality than free unofficial material. Many companies are more conscientious about the quality and realism of their practice questions when they’re charging a price.
What’s the Best GRE Math Practice?
The best GRE Math questions are realistic questions that match the real GRE in both the way they ask you the questions and what they’re asking the questions about. These two components are essential for any high quality GRE Math practice material.
It’s also important to use GRE Math questions at your skill level that you can use to pinpoint and address your weaknesses. Ideally, the questions will be organized both by what skills are being covered (algebra, coordinate geometry, probability) and level (easy, medium, hard) so you can do targeted practice.
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The Best GRE Quantitative Practice Questions Should…
- Match the real test questions in style and formatting
- Test content the same way as the real GRE; the more the questions match real GRE math questions in style and content, the more realistic and higher quality they are
- Be organized by difficulty level
- Be organized by skill tested (for example, for verbal, questions might be sorted by if they’re text completion, reading comprehension, or sentence equivalence)
- Be divided between questions taken as part of timed, full-length tests in realistic testing conditions and questions practiced separately to improve specific skills
What Do You Need GRE Quantitative Practice Questions For?
There are two different facets of GRE Math practice. One side of GRE Math practice involves taking as many full-length practice tests that mirror the format of the real test as possible; the best practice material for this, naturally, is full-length GRE practice tests. On the flip side, GRE Math practice questions are also good for repetitive practice once you’ve targeted your weak spots. The best practice material for this latter type of GRE practice are GRE Math questions sorted by question type and difficulty level.
Both of these types of GRE practice methods (with the GRE Quantitative practice materials that go with each) work best when used together to increase your GRE Math score.
Official GRE Math Practice Materials
No matter if you want to take a full-length practice test or drill yourself on specific skills, official GRE Math materials are the best to use for practice. In this next section, we’ll go over the different official materials out there for you.
Free and Official GRE Math Practice Tests
ETS has released a variety of free material that you can use for GRE Math practice. Some of this material, like the PowerPrep tests, should be held back and only used when you want to take full-length realistic practice tests, while other materials, like GRE Math practice questions, are better suited to drilling yourself on different skills.
The two main sources for free, official GRE Math practice material are POWERPREP Online (a free web-based program) and the practice GRE PDF tests ETS has released for free on its website.
Free Section-Adaptive GREs (PowerPrep)
ETS’s free GRE practice program (POWERPREP Online) consists of two full-length GRE practice tests. These are the only free official computer-based GRE practice tests out there, so you need to use them wisely. If you just want to get used to the computer-based GRE interface without having to use up one of the practice tests, the PowerPrep Test Preview Tool is a good alternative option.
The best way to use the PowerPrep practice tests is to get a baseline reading of what your current level is with the first PowerPrep test and use the second one to measure your progress. Learn more about how to get the most out of the PowerPrep tests in our article about GRE sample questions.
Two full-length GRE tests can be found in the 2010-2012 and current (2012-present) official GRE practice PDFs. The first test has a lot of overlap with PowerPrep Test 1, while the second test overlaps with PowerPrep Test 2. Therefore, so that you can go into the PowerPrep tests fresh, you should only use these practice tests as a source of GRE Math questions after you’ve taken the matching PowerPrep Test.
Prior to 2010, ETS also publicly released an old, out-of-800 GRE practice test PDF for free. The Quantitative Reasoning sections (3 and 5) in this practice test are mostly usable for current GRE Math practice. The exceptions are section 3, question 25 and section 5, question 25, which are in formats not seen anymore on the GRE. While this old-format test only includes single-answer multiple choice questions (no fill in the blank or multiple-answer multiple-choice), it’s still a great source of official GRE Math practice questions.
Other Official GRE Math Practice Resources
ETS has a few other GRE Math resources that are useful for students a little rusty on their quantitative reasoning skills, particularly in a standardized testing setting.
ETS Website Practice Questions
The ETS website has some sample questions and explanations. Most, but not all, are duplicated with the PowerPrep test preview tool, so if you’re trying to do as many official practice questions as possible, be sure to take a look at these.
GRE Math Review
The GRE Math Review PDF has content review and exercises for test-takers who need to review math fundamentals like algebra, geometry, and so on. Keep in mind that while these questions are useful for reviewing concepts, and the resource is created by ETS, they are not examples of GRE Quantitative Reasoning questions that you’d see on the real GRE.
GRE Math Conventions
The GRE Math Conventions PDF contains specifics about the way math concepts are presented on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section. This PDF will mainly come in handy if…
- it’s been a while since you’ve been tested on math, OR
- you studied math outside the United States and need to make sure you won’t be tripped up by things like how on the GRE, 1,000,000,000 = one billion.
Paid and Official GRE Math Practice
The Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, Volume 1 costs around $14 and contains 150 unique GRE Math practice questions (not appearing on any official practice test). This resource is particularly valuable because questions are grouped both by skill level (easy, medium, hard) and by question type (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis).
The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test costs $27 and contains two full-length unique GRE practice tests and practice questions. As with the PowerPrep tests, the practice tests in this book should be used to measure your progress and taken as full-length tests, rather than divided up and used for individual question practice. On the other hand, you can use the GRE Quantitative practice question sets in Chapter 4 of this book in the same way in which you’d use the questions in the Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, Volume 1.
Finally, the two POWERPREP PLUS Online adaptive practice tests cost $39.95 per test per use. These two practice tests contain almost no overlap with any other official practice tests and provide answer explanations for every question. However, you can only take each test once per purchase, and your tests expire after 90 days. Use these tests for additional full-length test practice.
Best Unofficial GRE Math Practice Materials
For many people who study for the GRE, there are not enough official materials to sustain their studying. In this next section, we’ll cover the best (and worst) of unofficial GRE Math practice questions. We’ll start with paid materials, which tend to be better quality than free unofficial GRE materials.
Paid GRE Math Questions
Some of the best unofficial GRE study material is published by Manhattan Prep. Similar to the official GRE books, Manhattan Prep’s 5lb book of GRE Questions ($16) has questions organized by content area. The quantitative reasoning questions are of fairly high quality, which makes this book a good source of supplemental GRE Math practice questions (albeit not for full-length realistic practice test GRE Math practice).
Manhattan Prep also has strategy guides (each about $12) focused on more focused areas of the quantitative reasoning section (algebra; fractions, decimals, & percents; geometry; number properties; word problems; and quantitative comparisons & data interpretation). Purchasing any one of these strategy guides gives you access to online tests for more computer-based practice to use to fill out your studying in between PowerPrep tests. I would recommend purchasing one strategy guide for this online access more than for any other reason – most of the questions in the strategy guides are not similar to what you’d find on the GRE, but are instead meant to be used for review purposes.
If you’re looking for full-length practice tests as part of your GRE math practice, Barron’s GRE ($19) and Barron’s 6 GRE Practice Tests ($9) are a better option than Manhattan Prep. Barron’s quantitative reasoning questions on the tests are fairly realistic and are good to use in studying if you’ve run through all the official GRE quantitative practice already.
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Good Free GRE Math Practice Tests
There are a number of free GRE practice tests out there, but the quality varies dramatically from test to test. By far, the one closest to the real GRE in quality and length is Manhattan Prep’s free practice test, which is full-length and computer adaptive, with fairly realistic questions in style and content. This is the only free computer-based practice test which I feel confident in stating is a good supplement to PowerPrep for computer-based GRE practice tests.
The CATPREP free test (same as the Manhattan Review test) is shorter than real GRE (7-8 instead of 20 questions per section), but does include all quantitative question formats (multiple answer multiple choice, single answer multiple choice, quantitative comparisons, and numeric entry questions). The caveat for the CATPREP test is that the verbal section is pretty awful, so only use CATPREP’s free test for additional GRE quantitative practice.
ETS itself recommends using Khan Academy to brush up on math skills for the GRE. The ETS website has a detailed breakdown of which Khan Academy lessons are useful for reviewing specific skills (e.g. solving linear equations, exponents and roots, descriptive statistics). While some topics are covered in the linked Khan Academy videos that aren’t on the GRE, this is still another useful supplement along the same lines as the ETS Math Review PDF.
5 Ferocious GRE Math Practice Tips
To conclude this article, we’ve gathered all the information in this article and condensed it into five tips to follow for good practice on the GRE Math section.
#1: Plan Out Your Use of Official GRE Practice Tests
Use the two PowerPrep tests to get a baseline reading for your general GRE level and as a way to measure your progress.
As I said earlier in this article, because the PowerPrep tests are the only two free official computer-based GRE practice tests out there, you’ll need to use these tests judiciously. Our recommendation is that you take one at the beginning of your studying (to get a baseline read of your skill level) and one partway through your studying (to judge your progress and see if you need to alter the focus or intensity of your studying). If you have the money to spare, you can supplement with the two PowerPrep Plus paid computer-based practice tests.
Use official paper-based or PDF GRE Math practice material and non-official computer- and paper-based tests to round out your studying.
#2: Target Your GRE Math Weaknesses
The best materials for this are the practice question sets in The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test, and all of Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, and the sample question sets on the ETS website.
Drill yourself on specific question types (quantitative comparison questions, coordinate geometry, and so forth), starting at your current skill level and then moving on to more difficult questions as you improve.
If you’re able to answer medium-level questions without a problem, then you shouldn’t waste your time answering easy question – instead, try advanced-level questions to increase your skill. Alternatively, if you’re struggling with the easy-level questions, then you need to work on being able to get those correct consistently before moving on to medium- or advanced-level GRE Math questions.
This strategy of targeting your specific weaknesses by practicing only with questions that test that particular skill is best used in conjunction with practice tests. If you do too many practice questions in isolation, you won’t be prepared for the real GRE, which varies question types within the Quantitative Reasoning section (something you won’t encounter in practice sets) and changes between Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections in an unpredictable fashion (it’s not always alternating, or always two of one and then two of another).
#3: Review Your Mistakes
When taking practice tests and when doing sets of practice questions, an important part of the process is going over the questions you skipped or answer incorrectly afterwards.
It’s important to understand not just at a high level why you got questions wrong (e.g. rushing or carelessness), but to dig deeper. Were you careless due to misreading the directions for a question? Due to rushing after you got lost in a word problem and reading the same sentence or phrase over and over again? Due to getting the wrong answer from the on-screen calculator because you didn’t understand how entering numbers into it worked?
Each of these careless errors has a distinct solution that you can implement to avoid making the same mistake in the future, but you won’t know which solution is appropriate unless you first determine why you made the error or skipped the question.
#4: Understand the Differences Between Paper- and Computer-Based GREs
If you’re taking the computer-based GRE, the only practice tests available that are both official and realistic are the PowerPrep and PowerPrep Plus practice tests; otherwise, you’ll be relying on paper or PDF official GRE Math Practice materials. As you drill yourself using paper or PDF GRE Math practice questions, you need to remember that the real GRE will be computerized, not on paper, and that the timing and number of questions per section on the Quantitative Reasoning section changes between paper-based and computer-based tests.
When you take a paper-based GRE practice test you should follow the directions exactly, since ETS has judged the timing/question number for these tests to be equivalent to the computer-based testing experience. However, be aware that the computer-based GRE has 20 questions per 30-minute Quantitative Reasoning section, while paper-based GRE has 25 questions per 40-minute Quantitative Reasoning section (giving you actually a little less time per question on paper tests, compared to the computer-based GRE).
#5: Create a GRE Math Study Plan
An important part of studying for the GRE is creating a workable study plan, and this goes for your GRE Math practice as well.
Plan out how much studying you’ll do in what amount of time to reach your target score (learn more about GRE target scores here). We recommend building into your study plan a combination of full-length GREs taken under realistic practice conditions and GRE Math questions focused on specific skills; what proportion of your studying is one type of GRE Math practice vs. the other will depend on your individual situation.
Now you’re all set for GRE Math, but what about the rest of the test? Take a deep dive into GRE Verbal practice questions and tests here.
Fine with the quantitative reasoning, but concerned about the calculator? Learn all about the GRE calculator and what it can and can’t do.