GMAT Quantitative Reasoning: How To Master The GMAT Math Questions

Business schools want you to score well on the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section. Find out how the GMAT Quant is scored, how hard it really is, and how to ace those tricky GMAT math questions

Haven’t studied math since high school? Before applying for an MBA or business master’s program, the prospect of sitting the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT Exam may fill you with dread.

However, by understanding the best ways to study for the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section, and with plenty of practice, there’s no reason why you can’t ace those tricky GMAT math questions.

Doing so is important because business schools look at the different components of your total GMAT score—not just your score out of 800—and a good GMAT Quant score is strongly favored by most schools.

Here’s everything you need to know about the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section in our GMAT Quant Guide:


How is the GMAT Quant scored?

The GMAT Quant section, along with the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section, makes up your score out of 800. Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60, although scores below 6 and above 51 are rare.

Your GMAT Quantitative score is based on three factors: the number of questions you answer; whether your answers are correct; and the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly, which increases with each correct answer.


How long is the GMAT Quant section?

You must balance speed and accuracy as you have only 62 minutes to complete 31 multiple-choice questions in the GMAT Quant section.


Are calculators allowed on the GMAT Quant?

Calculators are not allowed in the quant section of the GMAT so you’ll need to sharpen your mental math ability.

The GMAT is designed to test your mental math, logic, and problem-solving abilities. That’s why you can’t use a calculator. You shouldn’t need a calculator to solve problems, and the fact you can’t use a calculator is built into the design of the test.


Is GMAT math hard?

The underlying GMAT math questions in the Quant section are about high school level difficulty. As an item-adaptive test, the difficulty of questions increases the more questions you answer correctly.

In thinking about the approach needed for this section, remember that your workings out are not regarded. It is all about finding the correct answer in the shortest time possible. This means that the GMAT math syllabus is different and the way you solve problems will be different from the way you’d solve a similar problem in high school. 


Read: What Is A Good GMAT Score?

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What types of questions come up in GMAT Quant?

The GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section has two question types: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency.

GMAT Problem Solving

The format of Problem Solving questions is straightforward: a mathematical question, along with 5 multiple choice answers. The alternatives given are part of the information you need to solve the problem. 

In many cases you don’t need to solve the question per se, just to find the right answer by any means possible. The alternatives are not only great clues, but they also define the scope of the question and can allow you to use approximation, rounding up or identifying patterns to solve questions.  

In the GMAT, the alternatives are always in increasing or decreasing order. One example of a useful technique would be to ‘back solve’. For example, let’s say you are looking for the value of x. Why not insert the answer choice for C to see if it makes sense, or if the number should be bigger or smaller? 



GMAT Data Sufficiency

The GMAT created this question type, so you are unlikely to have seen it before. GMAT Data Sufficiency questions present a question and then two statements. Your job is to work out which pieces of information (if any) would be sufficient to answer that question. 

For this question type, your goal is not to calculate an answer for the question. You just need to evaluate whether or not the information is sufficient to do so. 

One way to look at GMAT Data Sufficiency questions it that you are looking through two peep holes in a sealed box. You need to determine if you have enough information based on what you can see to solve the question. But both are looking onto the same reality. 

You should get familiar with this type of GMAT math question and memorize the answer choice options:

(A) Statement 1 alone is sufficient, but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question.

(B) Statement 2 alone is sufficient, but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question.

(C) Both statements taken together are sufficient to answer the question, but neither statement alone is sufficient.

(D) Each statement alone is sufficient.

(E) Statements 1 and 2 together are not sufficient, and additional data is needed to answer the question.



What kind of math is tested on the GMAT?

The GMAT math syllabus for the Quant section is extensive. Math problems that come up on the GMAT Quant include:

Word problems – general algebra, buy and sell/profit, percentages, and interest,

Arithmetic/number properties – integers and non-integers, divisibility rules, even and odd numbers, prime numbers, lowest common denominator and greatest common divisor, perfect squares, Equations with integers, remainders, terminating and non-terminating decimals, rounding off and comparison between numbers.

Ratio and proportion- problems with mixtures, speed problems and work rates..

Algebra – Powers and roots, linear equations, quadratic equations, simultaneous equations, functions, inequalities, absolute value

Statistics- averages, median, range, mode and standard deviation 

Geometry – triangles, Coordinate geometry, parallelograms; trapeziums, rectangles, rhombuses and squares; circles, boxes and cylinders and spheres; and shapes inscribed in other shapes.

Sequences – general rules and arithmetic series. 

Overlapping sets (Venn diagrams) 

Probability rules and combinatorics 


How to master your GMAT math

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Follow five key steps to master the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section and the GMAT math questions:

1. Make sure you have a good foundation in math. You may need to revise some concepts.

2. Learn strategies like back-solving, plugging in numbers and estimating. Through practice you’ll get to know how to pick the most efficient strategy from your toolbox.

3. Don’t neglect the time pressure. Often, a timing problem is a symptom of using the wrong, long method to solve a problem

4. Keep an error log into your GMAT math practice, to reflect on which approach works for which problems, and to identify any weaknesses.

5. Read the question carefully. Very often in the GMAT you can get the right answer to the wrong question. Pay close attention to the wording.

For your GMAT math practice and to review multiple GMAT sample math questions focused on problem solving and data sufficiency, check out our GMAT Sample Questions & Answers.

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Read our other GMAT section guides:

Analytical Writing Assessment

Integrated Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning

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