# How to Study for GRE Math: 11-Step Prep Guide

Good at math? Bad at math? Just OK at it? Whatever your comfort level with algebra and geometry, if youâ€™re taking the GRE, youâ€™ll need to know how to study for GRE math so that you can get the score you want. But where should you start?

Follow along asÂ we give you a brief summary of the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section and go over theÂ 11 steps you need to followÂ when studying for GRE math.Â We’ll then wrap up with four tips forÂ using your GRE math study time wisely.

## GRE Quantitative Reasoning Overview

On the GRE, youâ€™ll have two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning, or â€śQuant,â€ť sections with 20 questions each. (You might also have a third experimental or research Quant section that does not count toward your final Quant score.)

Quant and Verbal sections are randomly ordered after Analytical Writing (AW), which always comes first. As a result, you could have two Quant sections in a row or a Quant section followed by a Verbal section (and so on).

During the GRE, youâ€™ll have access to both scratch paper and an on-screen calculator, which contains basic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square roots. You are not required to use the calculator for GRE math but may if youÂ need to.

Once you finishÂ the test, you’ll get to see your (unofficial) scores.Â Quant is scored the same way as Verbal: both sections use aÂ scale of 130-170 in 1-point increments. Currently, the average Quant score is 153.

So what exactly is on Quant? The GRE math section tests your knowledge of four major topics:

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• Arithmetic
• Algebra
• Geometry
• Data analysis

Thankfully, you wonâ€™t need to know any upper-level math concepts, such as trigonometry and calculus, since all that’s tested on the GREÂ is math you studied in middle school and high school. (Phew!)

These concepts can take the form ofÂ five different question types:

• Quantitative Comparison:Â This question type is alwaysÂ at the beginning of QuantÂ and asks you to compare two quantities. Specifically, you’ll decide whether one quantity is greater than the other, or whether theyâ€™re the same. (You might also decide itâ€™s impossible to know!)
• Multiple choice (one answer choice): This is your basic question typeÂ with four answer choices to choose from and one correct answer.
• Multiple choice (one or more answer choices):Â These questions are similar to the standard multiple-choice questions aboveÂ except thatÂ you canÂ choose more than one answer choice.
• Numeric Entry:Â This type doesnâ€™t give you any answer choices to choose from, making it one of the most difficult question types on the GRE.
• Data Interpretation: This isnâ€™t really a separate question type; rather, it refers to any math questions that revolve around one set of data.

Next, weâ€™ll teach you how to study for GRE math and get the score you want on test day.

## How to Study for GRE Math: 11-Step Guide

Studying for GRE math can be difficultÂ if youâ€™re not sure where to start. In this section, we give you step-by-step instructions to help you make the most of your GRE math study plan.

### Step 1: Learn the Quant Format

First off,Â you’ll need to get used to the structureÂ of Quant. You won’t do well on test dayÂ if youâ€™re unfamiliar with how Quant works, so take time to go over important features of the section, including what type of math it tests, how many questions it has,Â what types of questions it has, and how much time youâ€™ll get.

We gave you a brief overview of the Quant section above. For an even more comprehensive summary, however, check outÂ our GRE math review. I also suggest browsingÂ official sample Quant questionsÂ to see whatÂ theÂ different question typesÂ look like.

### Step 2: Set a Goal Score

Next, youâ€™ll need to figure out how high youâ€™re aiming.Â Thereâ€™s a big difference between trying to score 150 and 165 on Quant, so youâ€™ll need to set a Quant goal score thatâ€™s right for you.

A goal score is the score most likely to get you into all of the schools youâ€™re applying to.Â In other words, youâ€™ll need to get a Quant score high enough for admission to all of your schools. Our guide to a good Quant score explains how to set a goal score in more detail.

Briefly, though, hereâ€™s what to do:

1. Make a chart listing all of your schools. Hereâ€™s a blank one you can download (with a column for Verbal scores as well).

2. Look up GRE score information for each of your schools. The best way to do this is to search for â€ś[School Name] [Program Name] GRE scoresâ€ť on Google. Look for links to your schoolâ€™s official website to get the most accurate information for your program. Types of GRE scores you might find include average scores, required scores, and recommended scores.

3. Choose the highest score in your chart and add 2 points to it. Once youâ€™ve compiled GRE score info for all of the schools in your chart, look for the highest Quant score and add 2 points to it to get your goal score. Get this score, and you’ll have aÂ great shot at getting into all of your schools!

### Step 3: Find Your Baseline Score

Now, itâ€™s time to find your Quant baseline score. This score is essentially the opposite of your Quant goal score; itâ€™s the score you start with before studying for the GRE.

To find your baseline score, take an official GRE practice test.Â I recommend usingÂ PowerPrep, a free softwareÂ containing two full-length practice tests. These tests are extremelyÂ similar to the real GRE, from the interface to the content, making them the best practice tests out there for GRE prep.

Choose aÂ PowerPrep test to take as your baseline test (and save the other one for later toÂ check your progress). As you take it, try to recreate a real testing environment: find a quiet place, gather scratch paper, and avoid pausing the test or taking any unscheduled breaks.

WhenÂ finished, write down your Quant and Verbal scores. The Quant score you get will be your baseline scoreâ€”that is, your starting point for your GRE math study plan!

### Step 4: Calculate Your Study Hours

In this step, you’llÂ use your baseline and goal scores to figure out the number of hours you’ll need to study for GRE math.

First, subtract your Quant baseline score from your goal score. Then, find your difference below to see how many approximate study hours youâ€™ll need to reach your goal score for Quant:

• 5 points = 40 hours
• 10 points = 80 hours
• 20 points = 160 hours
• 30 points = 240 hours

For example, let’s say myÂ Quant baseline score is 150, and my goal score is 158. I follow the instructions above and subtract my baseline score from my goal scoreÂ to get 8. According to our estimates, an 8-point improvement means I’d have toÂ study Quant for about 80 hours.

You canÂ use these same estimates for your Verbal baseline and goal scores as well. For example, if I wanted to get 160 on Verbal but was currently scoring 155, I could make a 5-point improvement by studying Verbal for about 40 hours. This number, combinedÂ with myÂ 80 hours of Quant prep, means I’ll be studying 120 total hours for the GRE.

### Step 5: Make a Study Plan

No matter how many hours you need to study for Quant, youâ€™ll want to develop a GRE study plan that lets you fit in enough time for Quant (and Verbal) prep, avoid overwhelming yourself, and hit your goal score.

Ultimately, though, how intensive your study plan isÂ depends on how many hours you need to study and how long you have until test day. As you create your study plan, remember that the more hours you have, the more time you should give yourselfÂ before your test date.

It’s generally best toÂ prepÂ for at leastÂ three to six months.Â You can then use this time to roughly calculate how manyÂ hours per week you should study. InÂ my example above, I had 120 hours of GRE prep to do. IfÂ I had three months beforeÂ my test date, Iâ€™d have to study about 10 hours a week (which is a fairly intensive plan). But if I had more timeâ€”say, six monthsâ€”I’d study only about five hours a week.

### Step 6: Review Content

Now, we get to the heart of your study plan: actually studying! To do well on Quant, you need to familiarize yourself with all of the major math topics tested. Once again, these topics are as follows:

• Arithmetic
• Algebra
• Geometry
• Data analysis

By far the best resources to use when studying GRE math are official ones (i.e., those created by ETS). These materialsÂ are guaranteed to offer relevant content and authentic GRE-style questions.

Certain unofficialÂ resources, too, can be helpful for content review if they are high quality and well reviewed.Â For more tips on what resources to use, check outÂ our guide to the best GRE math study materials.

Here are the top official and unofficial resources we recommend using for GRE math content review:

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• GRE Math Conventions PDF: This free official PDF covers the format of the Quant section and all major math conventions it uses. I suggest starting here if itâ€™s been a while since you studied math or if you learned math outside the US and arenâ€™t as familiar with US math conventions.
• GRE Math Review PDF: Another free resource created by ETS,Â this robust GRE math review goes over every math topic that could possibly appear on the GRE. Youâ€™ll also getÂ practice questions to help you master the concepts (though they don’t take the form of GRE-style questions).
• The Official Guide to the GRE General Test: At about \$25, this prep book is the one and only official GRE guide. It contains descriptions of the Quant and Verbal sections, four full-length practice tests (two of which are the same as the PowerPrep tests), hundreds of practice questions, and useful problem-solving tips for Quant.
• Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides: An unofficial, albeit excellent, resource for GRE math prep, Manhattan Prepâ€™s strategy guides cover the fundamentals of algebra, fractions and decimals, geometry, number properties, Quantitative Comparisons, Data Interpretation sets, and word problems. Each guide costs about \$12-15.

In addition, here are some of our best GRE Quant guides (which are, like this article, completely free!):

### Step 7: Drill Practice Questions

While studying for GRE math, take time to test out what youâ€™ve learned using high-quality practice questions.

As you already know, official GREÂ resources offer the best and most realistic Quant practiceÂ since their questions are created by the same people who make the questions for the test.Â You can also use unofficial resources, as long as the Quant questions in them are similar to those on the GRE.

Here areÂ theÂ best resources to use for drilling GRE math questions:

• GRE practice test PDFs (2010-2012 and 2012-present): These official paper practice tests offer numerous realistic Quant questions. Because the tests overlap a lot with the PowerPrep tests, though, itâ€™s best to dig into these PDFsÂ for additional math practice.
• Old GRE practice test PDF (pre-2010): This official paper practice test uses the old (out of 800) scoring system and format of the GRE, so I suggest using it purely for extra math practice. Most of the Quant questions on it are still relevantâ€”just make sure to skip questions 25 on sections 3 and 5.
• Manhattan Prepâ€™s 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems: This unofficial prep book costs about \$20 and offers an insane amount of GRE math practice questions that are extremely high quality. With this book, you not only get more than 800 Quant questions but also detailed answer explanations and math quizzes.

### Step 8: Learn Strategies

Now, it’s time to brush up on your math strategies. Strategies allowÂ you to study more effectively, move through questions more quickly, and have a better chance ofÂ getting questions right.

Here are the most important strategies to know for Quant:

• Re-solve incorrect questions:Â You wonâ€™t get much out of your practice questions if youâ€™re not learning from your mistakes. As you practice, try to re-solve any questions you get wrong beforeÂ reading the answer explanations. If you get stuck, look at the correct answer and use it to guide your approach. Ultimately, your goal is to understand why you got a question wrong so that you can avoid making the same error on test day.
• When in doubt, plug in numbers and answers:Â With these strategies, youâ€™ll either plug inÂ answer choices (usually starting with the middle value) and see if the math works, or youâ€™ll plug in a random number to see if the equation or inequality holds true. Typically, youâ€™ll plug in numbers on Quantitative Comparisons and Numeric Entry questions, and plug in answers on multiple-choice questions.
• Use your scratch paper:Â Youâ€™ll get scratch paper to use throughout the GRE, but you absolutely must use it on Quant if youâ€™re hoping to get a high score. Our guide goes over the most important ways you can use it on GRE math.
• Know how to use the on-screen calculator:Â Most people are used to using physical calculators, but the GRE gives you an on-screen calculator instead. Get used to the functions of the GRE calculator and learnÂ when and how to use it.
• Pace yourself: On average, youâ€™ll have one minute and 45 seconds per Quant question. While some will certainly take less or more time than this, try to stick to a general pace so that you don’t fall too far behind.
• Skip difficult questions and return to them later:Â This lets you spend less time focusing on questions you might not be able to solve and more on those you can solve. Once you finish a Quant section, go back to rework the questions you skipped (or to try plugging in numbers/answers).
• Use the process of elimination:Â If you canâ€™t figure out an answer to a multiple-choice question, try figuring out whatâ€™s definitely not the correct answer. You might be able to narrow down your choices if you have an idea of the range of numbers an answer should fall within.
• Answer all math questions:Â No matter how difficult math might be for you, try to answer all of the Quant questions anyway, even if you have to guess. You donâ€™t lose any points on the GRE for incorrect answers, so youâ€™ll have a better shot at hitting your goal score if you put something down.

### Step 9: Check Your Progress

So far youâ€™ve reviewed math content, memorized formulas, drilled practice questions, and learned major Quant strategies. It’s now time to check that youâ€™re getting closer to hitting your Quant goal score.

Take another full-length practice test (as you did to get your baseline score). Take the second PowerPrep testÂ sinceÂ this is the most accurate GRE practice test out there. As you take it, try to copyÂ the atmosphere of the real GRE: take it in a quiet room withoutÂ distractions and time yourself accordingly.

When finished, record your Verbal and Quant scores and compare your Quant score to your baseline score. Did you improve? If so, by how many points? How close are you to hitting your goal score now? Use this test to see what kinds of skills and topics you need toÂ study more to get a higher score.

### Step 10: Strengthen Your Weaknesses

From this point onward, start narrowing your Quant prep. Youâ€™re no longer getting to know Quantâ€”now, youâ€™re getting down the math concepts that are most difficult for you.

To find your weaknesses, look through your PowerPrep test and take note of which questions and question types you got wrong. Are there any patterns in your errors? Did you consistently get the geometry questions wrong? Did you run out of time and not get toÂ every question?

Carefully analyze your results, and then attack those weaknesses head-on in your prep. For example, if youâ€™re struggling with content, review the topic and drill more practice questions. Or if the time limit is too hard for you, take more math quizzes and practice tests to practice pacing yourself.

### Step 11: Repeat Steps 9 & 10 as Needed

Almost done! As you study for Quant, continue working on honing your biggest math weaknesses, and take practice tests sporadically to check your progress. Unfortunately, there are only two PowerPrep tests, but you can use other official practice tests (such as those in The Official Guide) or any of the high-qualityÂ unofficial tests we recommend in our guide to GRE math prep.

## 4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your GRE Math Prep

You know how to study for GRE math, but how can you make sure youâ€™re prepping effectively? Here are four tips for getting the most out of your GRE math study sessions.

### #1: Keep Analyzing Your Mistakes

Don’t forget this tip. If youâ€™re serious about hitting your goal score, or just getting any high Quant score, you absolutely must spend time analyzing your mistakes on practice questions. This is the best way to determine what kinds of errors youâ€™re making in your approaches and how you can fix them to get more questions right.

Analyzing doesnâ€™t just mean reading answer explanations and moving onâ€”it means reworking problems, trying different strategies, and learning to identify the types of questions that trip you up. Do all of this often in your prep and youâ€™re certain to get a higher Quant score!

### #2: Read Carefully to Avoid Careless Errors

Even math experts can makeÂ careless errors on the GRE!

As you study math, get in the habit of closely reading all questions. Even though youÂ might feel pressed for time, itâ€™s important to understand exactly what youâ€™re being asked to do or you might end up solving for the wrongÂ number!

Read each answer choice closely, too.Â Donâ€™t just choose the first answer that sort of sounds right or pops out to you before the others. Remember, the GRE likes to trick you, so always read each answer choice first before you makeÂ a decision.

### #3: Stay Optimistic

Studying for the GRE, and Quant in particular, can feelÂ draining if you havenâ€™t studied math in a while. (Flashback to meÂ in 2015, the year I took the GRE. At that time, I hadnâ€™t studied math in six years!)

Therefore, as you prep, try to stay optimisticâ€”and definitely try not to be tooÂ hard on yourself, either. QuantÂ can be difficult, even for those who are normally strong at math. So just remember that you’re not a failure if you don’t get a questionÂ right or are having trouble with a conceptÂ you normally understand.

If your practice tests revealÂ you’reÂ not doing as well as you hoped you would on GRE math, take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself that youâ€™re doing your best. With enough studying and confidence, you can get the Quant score you wantâ€”you just have to keep working hard and believe itâ€™s possible!

### #4: Get Help If You Need It

Not everyone does well working alone. If youâ€™re having trouble hitting your Quant goal score or getting down certain math topics, itâ€™s OK to reach out for help.

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One option isÂ our online GRE prep course. Our program is completely customizable to suit your study needs and even comes with a 7+ point guarantee so that you can be sureÂ you’reÂ on your way to getting your goal score!

Another option is to hire a GRE tutor, preferably someone who specializes in GRE math.Â This way you can getÂ focused guidance and haveÂ someone to turn to if you have specific questions or need help honing certain skills.

## Review: How to Study for GRE Math

The Quantitative Reasoning section is a big part of the GRE, and your Quant score will likely be pretty important to schools, especially if youâ€™re entering a math-related field. Therefore, it’sÂ important to do everything you can to hit your Quant goal score on test day.

Start by learning the Quant format and getting your baseline and goal scores. Once youâ€™ve got a solid study plan, begin reviewing key math topics, memorizing formulas, drilling practice questions, and learning strategies.

Around the middle of your prep, check your progress with a full-length practice test to see how many points youâ€™ve improved by (and how far you still have to go). Then, as you near the end of your study plan, target your weaknesses by drilling more practice questions, reviewing difficult math topics, and honing strategies.

Finally, remember our four key tips when prepping for Quant:

• Keep analyzing your mistakes to help you understand what you’re getting wrong and how you can avoid making these same errorsÂ on test day.
• Stay optimistic, even if youâ€™re not scoring where you want to just yet.
• Get help if you need itâ€”thereâ€™s no shame in taking a prep course or getting a tutor!

## Whatâ€™s Next?

You know how to study for GRE math, but how can you ensure you’ll get a high score on it?Â Read our guide on how to ace GRE Quant to learn the 22 expert tips and tricks for getting a perfect 170.

Need resources for GRE math?Â Check out our picks for the top 18 resources for Quant prep, and get tips on how to use your math resources in our guide to the best GRE math practice.

Want study help with Verbal, too?Â We’ve got a separate guide on how to study for GRE Verbal (coming soon)!