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How to Master GMAT Math Questions

02 Mar

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) has long been a hurdle for applicants to the most reputable business schools throughout the U.S., and the math questions contained in several sections of this entrance exam are of particular importance to MBA and business master’s degree candidates. Many top business schools are especially interested in your performance on the GMAT math questions, as it is a key indicator of your ability to succeed in some of the more complex quantitative coursework that is part of a graduate business curriculum.

If you’re apprehensive about facing this particular challenge, you’re in luck: We’ve put together the following guide to help you succeed on every type of GMAT math question. Read on for an overview of the mathematical reasoning you’ll need to deploy across the quantitative sections of the exam and for study tips that can help you perform at your best on test day.

GMAT Math Questions: Exploring the Quantitative Reasoning Section

The primary—but not the only!—place where you will encounter math questions on the GMAT is in the Quantitative Reasoning section. This section is comprised of two types of question: Problem Solving questions, which are multiple-choice questions that ask you to select the correct choice from five potential answers to a math problem, and Data Sufficiency questions, which require you to determine whether a given prompt contains enough information for you to answer the accompanying question.1

Of these two categories, the Problem Solving questions will be most immediately recognizable to you as “math questions.” These questions ask you to use logic and analytical reasoning to set up and solve equations, evaluate sets of statistical information, utilize geometric theorems, and complete other mathematical operations. They may be straightforward numerical questions, or they may be more narratively constructed word problems.

The Data Sufficiency questions cover a similar array of mathematical knowledge, but they are all structured in a specific, unique way. Each Data Sufficiency question will present you with a question and two statements, then ask you to determine whether either the first or second statement alone is sufficient to answer the question, both together are sufficient and necessary to answer the question, both statements alone are sufficient to answer the question, or neither statement alone or together is sufficient. These questions assess your ability to synthesize information and determine the scope of a problem more than they test your knowledge of specific mathematical concepts; you do not have to answer the question that you are provided (which may require some complex calculations), but rather simply indicate whether you could.

Is There Math in the Integrated Reasoning Section?

The Integrated Reasoning section is the most unique element of the GMAT, the set of questions that distinguishes it the most from similar graduate entrance exams like the GRE. In this section, you will be given a series of multi-part questions that assess your ability to synthesize and interpret typical sources of information that you will encounter in a business setting.

While these questions may not all be directly quantitative in nature, they will still test your abilities to reason mathematically. There are four categories of Integrated Reasoning questions: Multi-Source Reasoning, Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, and Two-Part Analysis. The Multi-Source Reasoning and Two-Part Analysis questions may be quantitative or verbal in nature, or they may be a combination of the two. Data sources that they may ask you to examine can include sample budgets, mock emails between teammates, product descriptions, and more, and the associated questions ask you to logically draw conclusions from the information you are given.

The Table Analysis and Graphics Interpretation questions are more straightforwardly math-heavy. They ask you to review tables of quantitative data and read plots, graphs, charts, and statistical curve distribution to amass the information required to answer them. Because of the complex quantitative analyses and calculations required to answer these questions, an interactive online calculator is provided for the Integrated Reasoning section of the exam.

GMAT Math Study Resources

A great place to start preparing for the wide array of GMAT math questions is with the free resources offered at the exam’s website, mba.com. Here, you’ll find detailed descriptions of each category of question, interactive sample questions, study guides, scoring information, and more content to help prepare you for test day.

If you want to dig a bit deeper (and if you’re willing to open up your wallet), there are some extremely comprehensive prep materials available online and in print from The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and other similar companies. And if you’re feeling particularly nervous about facing a standardized test again after many years away from the classroom, a GMAT coach or tutor can help you prioritize your studying, stay on schedule and prepare for everything you will experience on the big day.

Study Strategies for GMAT Math Questions

Because there are so many different types of math questions included in the GMAT, it’s important to develop an efficient, effective study strategy to prepare for all of them. At the same time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you bite off more than you can chew and attempt to prepare for the entire test at once. Because of this, the most important thing to keep in mind as you develop your study plan is to allow yourself enough time before your test date to space out your preparation and avoid cramming.

Start preparing at least a month before the exam, and set aside an hour or so several nights a week to review different types of GMAT math questions. Maybe you want to focus on Problem Solving questions on Monday, Data Sufficiency Questions on Wednesday, and the Integrated Reasoning section over the weekend. Be sure to integrate your math preparation with any studying you need to do for the Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections, and try to take at least one full practice exam before your test day to help track your progress.

Our Best GMAT Math Tip: Request a Waiver

If you’re already confident in your quantitative expertise and you think you have the resume to back it up, explore the GMAT waiver options available to you in the Online MBA and MS in Marketing programs from Santa Clara University. If you’re able to waive the entrance exam requirement for either of these programs, you can focus your application energy on refining your resume and knocking your essays out of the park.