GRE Quantitative Reasoning Section

Student's notes from the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE

The GRE General Test has a Quantitative Reasoning portion that assesses your mathematical skills. For this two-part section of the exam, students have to solve equations and answer 40 total math questions.

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning time limit is 35 minutes per section, so you have 70 minutes to complete this part of the test.


Questions on basic arithmetic (or number sense), algebra, geometry, and data analysis involving statistics and probability are all part of the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section.

Each section includes four types of GRE Quantitative Reasoning questions, including:

  • Quantitative comparison questions
  • Multiple-choice questions with one answer
  • Multiple-choice questions with more than one answer
  • Numeric entry questions

About the Numbers & Figures

While you can use a basic calculator on this part of the exam, it's a good idea to prepare yourself for the questions you'll encounter. As you study for this Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE, try to keep the following things in mind:

  • All numbers on the exam are real numbers, so you won't have to worry about complex solutions.
  • Aside from solids, assume all two-dimensional figures lie flat on the page.
  • Coordinate systems (like number lines and xy-planes) and graphical data illustrations (like line graphs and bar graphs) are to scale. You can read and compare quantities by sight or by measurement.
  • Geometric figures may not be to scale. Use measurements as labeled and base your answers on geometric reasoning.

4 Question Types

Below, you’ll find detailed descriptions to help you understand each of the four question types you'll see on this section of the GRE. Take a look at each topic to learn how to recognize and approach the arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis problems on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning test.

Number Sense Questions

Arithmetic questions can cover anything from calculating how much to tip your server to assessing real or whole number values. Expect to come across questions involving divisibility rules, fractions, and order of operations.

Practice the following skills during your GRE prep for the Quantitative Reasoning arithmetic questions:

  • Understand how to define even, odd, positive, and negative integers and know how to add them, subtract them, multiply them, divide them, and order them from least to greatest.
  • When adding fractions with different denominators, rewrite the fractions as equivalent ones with the same denominator. You can only cancel factors common to the numerator and denominator, not terms.
  • Be able to perform arithmetic with decimals, including scientific notation.
  • Simplify expressions involving absolute value and understand its relation to the number line as a means of gauging distance.
  • When working with exponents, use exponent rules and review common errors like squaring negatives.
  • Be able to use the rules ( a ) 2 = a, a ⋅ b = a ⋅ b, and 1 = 1 × a = a to simplify radical expressions.
  • Use the order of operations to simplify arithmetic expressions and use the order properties of real numbers.
  • Know how to use ratios and proportions in different contexts, including modeling, word problems, unit price, changing units of measure, and similar triangle applications.
  • Determine a term in a sequence of real numbers by identifying a pattern.

Algebra Questions

When answering algebraic questions, you will likely deal with equations that require you to use variables, graphing functions, and solve linear equations and inequalities. Some of these questions are word problems, while others may be multiple choice.

To prepare for algebraic GRE Quantitative Reasoning questions, review the following topics:

  • Simplifying algebraic expressions and evaluating such expressions for specific values of the variables.
  • Solving linear equations and inequalities, including equations with coefficients, and setting them up to solve word problems involving one variable.
  • Solving quadratic equations by factoring, using the quadratic formula, and completing the square.
  • Understanding when an expression, graph, or table is a function, evaluating functions at inputs, and determining the domain of functions.
  • Determining the equation of a line given two points or a point and information about its slopes; graph lines and linear inequalities.
  • Identifying the graphs of common functions and knowing how their graph translations and reflections work.
  • Solving systems of linear equations and inequalities and setting them up to solve word problems.

Geometry Questions

For the geometry questions, familiarize yourself with definitions and theorems concerning lines, angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles. You should also refresh your skills in calculating the perimeter, area, surface area, and volume of various shapes.

Here are some of the geometry skills you should review:

  • Knowing how to convert from one unit of measure (e.g., length, rate, time) to another within the same system.
  • Distinguishing different angles and using angle relationships to determine missing values in a diagram.
  • Understanding different types of triangles, using the triangle sum rule to find missing angles, using the triangle inequality theorem to identify side lengths, and applying the Pythagorean theorem to find missing lengths and solve word problems.
  • Being familiar with the properties of quadrilaterals and their similarities and differences.
  • Knowing the terminology related to circles.
  • Computing perimeter and area of triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles, and composite figures comprising these shapes.
  • Computing surface area and volume of solids (e.g., right circular cylinders and cones, spheres, prisms).

Data Analysis Questions

The GRE for Quantitative Reasoning tests your ability to interpret the data tables, charts, and different types of graphs. It also measures your understanding of statistics and probability.

The main topics on the data analysis portion of the Quantitative Reasoning GRE involve:

  • Determining the number of arrangements for a set of objects, the number of different ways to select objects from a collection, and the number of possible combinations without attention to order.
  • Computing probabilities of both simple and compound events (e.g., union, intersection, complement).
  • Knowing when events are independent and how to use this fact when computing the probabilities.
  • Computing conditional probabilities when data is described by a 2 x 2 frequency table.
  • Computing probabilities of events described by a random variable and its probability distribution.
  • Computing and comparing mean, median, and mode for a single data set and understanding how outliers affect each of them. Also, comparing these central tendency measures for two or more data sets.
  • Understanding what information the standard deviation and range of a data set provide and comparing these measures of spread for two or more data sets.
  • Computing and interpreting the quartiles and interquartile range (IQR) then visualizing this information using a box plot and comparing data sets described using box plots.
  • Visualizing data sets using different tables and graphs, drawing conclusions from the graphs, and comparing two or more data sets described using such graphs.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice

Your GRE Quantitative Reasoning score will fall on a scale of 130 to 170 in single-point increments. To increase your chances of receiving a high score that can help you get into your chosen graduate school, study the topics in this guide and sharpen your skills with a GRE course online.

Practice Tests & Study Resources

Online GRE Test Prep

Overview of GRE Sections