Quant Demystified

Yogish Lavanis is the co-founder of Valued Epistemics Pvt Ltd, the company offering GREedge programs. He heads the Student Facilitation team at GREedge.com and is considered “Star Teacher” capable of capturing students’ spirit of learning. Yogish is able to transform the learning experience into a dynamic and student-centered experience where a student can attain success. Through his extensive research on effective teaching methodologies, Yogish offers a realistic glimpse and practical application of how good teaching can transform students’ learning – a fact that will be seconded by almost all students who have achieved through GREedge.com. In his column, Yogish writes about all the questions that haunt students… starting from “What is the GRE?” to “How do I select the right university for me?” and everything else in between.

As promised, this time I will try to explain the Quantitative section of the GRE to you.

This section evaluates basic mathematical skills. It examines your ability to interpret numerical data, apply mathematical concepts to solve worded problems and also your knowledge of basic math concepts.

The test comprises 28 questions, which should be answered in 45 minutes. The maximum score that you can achieve is 800. Like as in the Verbal section, the test in the Quantitative section is also adaptive. You will be given one question at a time. The difficulty level of the question changes based on whether the answer to the previous question was correct. It increases as your accuracy increases and drops as your accuracy drops. Thus, your final score depends not only on the number of correct answers but also on the level of difficulty of the questions that you answered correctly.

In an adaptive test, since you get one question at a time, you do not have the flexibility that you have in a paper test. In a paper test, you have the option of solving questions in any order. This helps you build confidence by first solving questions you are comfortable with. You, therefore, need to adopt a different strategy to take an adaptive test like GRE.

The question that pops up next could be of any type; you have no control over the order of the questions. So, it is important to develop mastery in solving all types of questions and in all topics of maths prescribed for the Quantitative section.

The questions in the Quantitative section of the GRE fall into the following broad areas: Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Data Interpretation, basic Statistics, Probability-Permutation-Combination and Applied Mathematics. Applied Mathematics comprises situations where maths is applied in simple day-to-day situations, such as Profit and Loss, Venn Diagrams, Distance-Speed, Work/Effort estimation, etc. The level of mathematics is typically of the high-school level.

Topics such as Trigonometry and Calculus, though taught at high school level, are not in the scope of the Quantitative section of GRE.

In GRE, there are three forms of questions:

  • Worded numeric questions, where a problem is described in words and a certain solution is desired. You are expected to solve the problem by application of mathematical concepts

  • Data Interpretation questions, where you are provided with graphs. Questions based on these graphs expect you to interpret the graphs and draw correct conclusions from them.

  • Data comparison question: You are provided with two statements. You are expected to determine the numerical value of each statement an compare them.

Here are examples of each type.

Worded numeric problem: here is an example from Work/Effort estimation.


Farmer Joe started harvesting operation on a patch of cultivated land. He could have completed it in 100 min. But after 50 mins he decided to take a break. His assistant Bill took over. Though Bill could have completed what was left to be harvested in 40 mins, he stopped after 20 minutes and handed over the operation to his trainee Chuck. Chuck worked for 30 minutes and the entire field was harvested.

(Try to solve this question. The answer is 12 : 15: 10)

Example of a Data Interpretation question: Answer the question based on the data provided in the graph and tables below:

Question: Which country has the maximum number of people listening to music through ipods ?



(answer USA)

Data comparison questions: You are provided two statements. Each statement can result into numerical values. You are required to compare the two values.

P@Q is defined as pq


Column A

Column B



Determine if Column A > Column B, Column A < Column B, Column A = Column B, or the relationship can not be determined.

As I mentioned, make sure you that you develop the requisite amount of knowledge and the problem solving skills in all that the areas that are relevant to the quantitative section. A word of caution for those from Science and Engineering backgrounds. Though you might have been exposed to more advanced topics of maths as part of your undergraduate studies, do not under estimate the preparation needed for this section. To get that perfect 800, you need to be sure that you achieve high accuracy on those 28 questions and that too in 45 mins. That gives you about 1.5 min per question. If you are not well prepared, an odd difficult question could slow you down. So it becomes important that you have trained yourself well on topics and have the real sharp problem solving skills on the day of the test. Very much like an ace shooter on the day of the finals of a tournament.

If you been out of maths for a fairly long time, it is better to start early. Before you start on with the preparation on the GRE type of tests, revisit relevant topics of maths that you were taught at high school level. Refresh your understanding of the concepts and solve basic problems based on them. This exercise will not take much time but can help in laying a good foundation over which your preparation of GRE can rest.

I would recommend a three phase study plan. In the first phase, expose yourself to all the relevant topics of maths and all the corresponding question types. In the process, you should have mastered all the necessary formulas, concepts, approaches and developed your arsenal of problem solving skills. In this phase do not worry about your speed or the time that you take to solve questions. It is alright to take a few minutes more as long as it helped you master something new.

In the second phase, focus on speed. Solve more and more problems spanning over all topics to develop speed and your confidence. In a learning session, you may solve a set of questions of a particular topic. This will help you deepen your understanding of the concepts and sharpen your intuition, logic and problem solving skills.

In the third phase, develop your time management. Solve as many online adaptive mock tests as you can. Practice to complete the test in the stipulated 45 mins with a high level of accuracy.

Besides knowledge of maths, ensure that you consciously develop a set of related skill sets.

  • Learn tricks that enable you to perform quick numeric computation (note you can not use electronic calculators in GRE).

  • In worded numeric questions, it is important to develop the skills of converting worded statements into the right mathematical equations. As you practice, make sure you become extremely familiar with the typical language used in the statements.

  • Questions with Geometric diagrams involve development of strong visualization skills. You should be able to quickly detect standard geometric shapes (like equilateral triangles, 30-60-90 triangles, squares etc) so that you can make use of the standard properties or formulae of these shapes and solve the question. Here is an example.

In the figure, two concentric circles with centre O and radii 8cm and 4cm have parallel chords PQ and RS. Find the area of the figure PQRS.


1. The question wants you to determine the area of PQRS, which is a trapezium.  Your are not sure at this stage if this a regular trapezium.  You probably do not remember formula for area of a trapezium.

2. Your visualization should indicate that  Area of the trapezium =  Area of triangle OPQ  – Area of triangle ORS.  We know that formulae for area of triangle are well understood. So you just need t o determine the area of these two triangles.

3. Now focus your attention on triangle, ORS.  Is it a specific type of triangle (equilateral, right, isoceles). A bit of visualization with make you realize that OPQ is an equilateral triangle.  (think) Similarly, ORS is also an equilateral triangle.

4.  With this information, it is easy to determine the area of the two triangles if you just know the formula for area of an equilateral triangle ( area of an equilateral triangle = √3 S^2/4 ;  where S is the side of the triangle)

In summary, the quant section is just based on mathematics taught at the high school level. Through systematic preparation, ensure that you develop all skills that I mentioned here. Your preparation should be such that you should not encounter a question in the actual test that tells you – “hey I have not seen a question of this kind earlier !!! ”

Thats when you know you are ready for the Quant section of the GRE.

Best wishes….

Verbal demystified

Verbal Reasoning section, for most test takers is the most challenging part of the GRE. There are 30 questions to be answered in 30 minutes for a maximum attainable score of 800. There are four types of Questions in this section – Analogy, Antonyms, Sentence Completion and Reading Comprehension type. If you have already registered at our website, you could take a mock adaptive test to experience the nature of the questions. In this article I am going to discuss about the nature of questions that appear in this section, the kind of preparation that one should do to perform well in this section and more importantly, the kind of attitude that you should adopt when you prepare for this section !!!

Lets admit, this is the most challenging section for most of us – regardless of whether you are from a science and engineering background or a humanities background; whether you possess a street level proficiency in English or of a kind that could put an Oxbridgian to shame; whether you are of the type who started reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in ninth grade or of the type whose reading does not go beyond the sports pages of your local news paper. Why is this so ? The reason is that the Verbal Section of the GRE does not really test your proficiency in the English language. Other tests like TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) do. So an above average proficiency in English is not adequate to ensure good performance in the Verbal Section of the GRE. If not for proficiency in English language, then what does the Verbal section of the GRE really test you for?

It tests for your Verbal Reasoning, Association and Reading Comprehension skills. Let me illustrate this through examples. Here is a typical analogy question that appears in this section. From the choices, pick a pair that bears the same relationship as between the words INAUGURATION: OFFICIAL

(A) instruction: lecturer
(B) election: politician
(C) pilgrimage: devotee
(D) dispute: arbitrator
(E) matriculation: student

I am sure none of these words are unknown to an average undergraduate student. Pick the option you feel is the correct answer. Some of you might answer it right and some wrong. Even if you got it right, I sure you must have had to spend good 20 to 30 seconds in recollecting the meaning of the words from your memory, visualizing each word, figuring the relationships between the pairs, reasoning, analyzing and finally making your choice. The solution is matriculation: student.. To inaugurate an official is to introduce the official to the public after which he assumes his new responsibilities. Similarly, the formal meaning of matriculate is to officially become a student at a university. After matriculation, the student assumes a new role as a university student. Hence the analogy.

Lets see another example of a sentence completion question.
Judging from his ___ attitude to Mr.Wickfield and his daughter, no one could size up Uriah Heep to be the ___ that he actually was.
Options :
concerned … physician
respectful … appreciator
resentful …rival
humble … weakling
solicitous … villain

You need not have read the novel on which this sentence is based. You need not have known the characters that appear in this sentence. There is Mr Wickfield and his daughter on one side and a certain Uriah on the other. The sentence seems to deal with some characteristic of the later. The first part of the sentence indicates that Uriah seems to show a certain attitude to the father and daughter. From the second part we understand that attitude shown was quite contrary to “what he actually was.” The first four choices do not fit the context. A physician is normally concerned, an appreciator is respectful to those whom he appreciates, a rival is resentful, a weakling might appear humble. A villain is not likely to be genuinely solicitous. Hence the answer. I am sure those of you got is right, surely visualized the context created by the incomplete sentence, mentally predicted the words that would most likely fit the blanks and complete the context and then reasoned between the close choices before selecting the answer.

It is quite evident from these examples that besides a good knowledge of words, one needs to develop strong Visualization, Reasoning and Analytical skills in order to successfully answer such questions. Do not ever get under the popular impression that this section merely requires you to memorize 3000+ words, many of which appear arcane. A sound vocabulary is the basis and the above skills need to be rapidly developed around it.

How does one develop these skills ?
To be able to solve such questions, it is important that words are learnt in context as against learning by rote. When you come across a new word, learn the word from a perspective of applying the word in actual usage. Question yourself on how should the word be used in a sentence and the circumstances in which it will be used. For instance, air in motion is Wind. A Hurricane is a violent storm with very strong winds. A whirlwind is a very strong wind that moves very fast in a spinning movement and causes a lot of damage. The pleasant gentle breeze you experience on a hill top, is a Zephyr. Thus merely learning hurricane, zephyr, whirlwind as different kind of Winds, will not suffice.

Visualization will help. Does the word have connotations? Zephyr has a soothing and calm connotation. Wind had a neutral connotation. Hurricane and Cyclone have an aggressive and destructive connotation.

A study of this kind will make the entire exercise of vocabulary building very interesting. The benefits of a good vocabulary will certainly go beyond GRE, in your graduate studies and your subsequent professional life. Record all your learnings and revise periodically to keep the words fresh in your memory. Refer the SFA Speak – Abirupa for more on vocabulary building.

Lets move on to the next step.

How do I develop Visualization and Reasoning ?
Words if learnt the right way will certainly help in visualizing the context and relationship between words. Reasoning can be developed only through systematic practice of large number of questions.

While solving a question, first ensure that you are aware of the meaning of all the words that appear in the question and the choices. Refer multiple dictionaries to get a good picture of the word. Reason and select your option from the choices provided. If you get the question wrong, compare your reasoning with that which was used to arrive at the right answer. This will help you identify the gaps in your reasoning. With conscious observation like this, you will be able to plug in the gaps with time and improve your reasoning in a gradual manner.

Many of these principles have been incorporated in the online learning sessions provided in GreEdge.com. The Intelligent Feedback System helps in systematic development of the skills mentioned above. You could try a few learning sessions to experience the same.

An important type of question in the Verbal Section is the one that tests for Reading Comprehension. I will talk about it in the next article. Click here to start your Free Trial at GREedge.com

GRE Demystified

Yogish Lavanis is the co-founder of Valued Epistemics Pvt Ltd, the company offering GREedge programs. He heads the Student Facilitation team at GREedge.com and is considered “Star Teacher” capable of capturing students’ spirit of learning. Yogish is able to transform the learning experience into a dynamic and student-centered experience where a student can attain success. Through his extensive research on effective teaching methodologies, Yogish offers a realistic glimpse and practical application of how good teaching can transform students’ learning – a fact that will be seconded by almost all students who have achieved through GREedge.com. In his column, Yogish writes about all the questions that haunt students… starting from “What is the GRE?” to “How do I select the right university for me?” and everything else in between.

GRE Tests & more

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE®) is conducted all through the year in almost all major countries of the World. The test is administered by an organization called Education Test Services (ETS) based in Princeton, New Jersey in USA.

Scores of this test are a mandatory requirement for application to graduate programs (leading to MS or PhD) in most universities in the United States. Some universities are considering accepting GRE scores for admission into the MBA programs.

There is misconception amongst some applicants that GRE® directly enables you admission to universities (like a qualifier test). This is incorrect. GRE® is just one of the requirements for applying for graduate studies in the USA. Besides GRE® scores, other requirements include

  • Transcripts of the marks scored in undergraduate studies
  • Letters of recommendation from persons whom the applicant has worked with (like a project adviser, teacher, Head of the Dept or Supervisor at workplace)
  • A Statement of Purpose (SOP) from the applicant
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score
  • Other evidences of academic achievements that the applicant wishes to project (like publications, awards etc)

The GRE general test is designed to measure the scholastic potential of the test taker. In particular it evaluates for Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative reasoning, Critical Thinking and Analytical writing skills. Thats the reason why GRE is an important criteria used by admission panels for grant of admissions and fellowships. It is quite common that students from different countries and backgrounds apply to same university. The GRE being common to all, it enables the admission panel to judge applicants from different backgrounds on a common yardstick. It is therefore important to obtain high scores in the GRE to improve your prospects of securing admission and fellowships to universities that you aspire to study. Some universities declare a minimum score that would be needed for application. It is better to be aware of the minimum acceptable score needed for the universities that you plan to apply for admissions.

The test is computer based. There are three sections in the GRE general test – Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical writing.
The verbal section tests for Verbal Reasoning and Reading comprehension skills.

The Quantitative section tests for concepts in basic Algebra, Geometry and Data Analysis along with quantitative reasoning and problem solving skills.

The Analytical writing section requires the test taker to write two essays and tests for ability to formulate ideas effectively through good composition, flow and examples; ability to analyze a piece of written argument and articulate the same through use of standard written English.

The general test does not depend on subject knowledge acquired during undergraduate study. One should have good writing skills (standard English and not literary English), good hold over maths done at the high school level, good reading comprehension skills, an excellent vocabulary and good knowledge of sentence structures in English.Planning ahead for your GRE

If you intend to pursue higher studies in the US, it is important that you start planning as early as you can. Ensure that you take the GRE at least a month before the last day for application to the university. Start preparing at least 3 or 4 months ahead of the test. Begin early on areas that you are weak. The verbal section of the GRE calls for an excellent vocabulary. If your vocabulary is not strong, start early, preferably in the first or second year of your undergraduate study. It takes time to develop a strong vocabulary. If you are weak in high school mathematics, start early on revising and developing fundamentals in high school mathematics.

Taking the GRE TestThe date and the center of the exam is booked through the internet. You need to have a valid passport as proof of identity on the day of the exam. The test costs US $140. Upon your request, ETS reports your scores directly to universities you request them to. Each request is charged $20. (Score reporting to 4 universities is free. You have to name these universities at the time of taking the test). It greatly helps if you are decided on at least 4 universities that you plan to apply for admissions. You could furnish names of these universities at the time of taking the online test. (Naming 4 universities at the time of the test does not mean that you have applied to these universities. You need to apply individually to these universities)

So, dream high, plan well and work diligently to achieve you aspirations!!! Click here to start your Free Trial at GREedge.com