Some people find the GRE Math section to be an unmanageable mess because they have trouble keeping its many components straight. Algebra, triangles, data interpretation, Pythagorean theorem, factoring, geometry . . . the list of things to know seems to go on and on. Breaking down the components of the Math section into categories will help you wrap your mind around your task. So the first thing we’ll do is sort out all this math terminology to give you a better understanding of what you need to do to raise your score.
The Math section can be broken down into three major elements: question types, math concepts, and subject areas. We’ll introduce each one and tell you where we’ll be discussing them.
  • Question Types. Each GRE math question comes in one of three basic varieties: Problem Solving (PS), Quantitative Comparisons (QC), or Data Interpretation (DI). These represent how the test makers test your math knowledge; that is, the formats that the questions take. We briefly introduced you to these question types in the introduction. We discuss them further in the next section of this chapter, and then revisit each one individually and in great detail in chapters 3, 4, and 5.
  • Math Concepts. Math concepts are the actual math facts and formulas tested throughout the Math section. The formula for calculating the probability of an event? The number of degrees in the angles of an isosceles triangle? The factors of a quadratic equation? These and many other essential concepts are the things you simply need to know to approach the math questions on the GRE. We cover them all in the next chapter, Math 101.
  • Subject Areas. Many test takers get overwhelmed by the sheer number of concepts they’re expected to know. And there are a lot of them, no doubt. These concepts, however, don’t just fall from outer space—they’re grouped into four main subject areas that you learned in junior high and high school: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. We group the essential concepts into these four categories in the Math 101 chapter to help you to organize your math knowledge. The order of the chapter is purposeful too, since algebra requires arithmetic, and geometry and data analysis build on arithmetic and algebra. The structure of the Math 101 chapter allows you to breeze by the stuff you know and focus your efforts on the concepts that are most difficult for you.
Hopefully the information above clarifies your conception of the Math section as a whole and in doing so begins to allay your anxiety about it. Let’s continue with an introduction of the question types.
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