Strategies for Verbal People Taking GMAT Quant:
If looking at the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section makes your heart skip a beat (and not in a good way), you’re not alone. While a lot of students who are strong in math have to deal with written arguments on a daily basis, it’s probably been a lot longer since you looked at complex math problems. Maybe it’s been a decade, or maybe even longer—but no matter how long it’s been, there are strategies you can use to master GMAT Quant section (yes, even if you’re a “verbal person”!).
Know the question types. Before anything else, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. If you’ve taken an American standardized test before (think: the SAT or ACT), you’ll be familiar with GMAT problem solving questions. These are your good, old-fashioned, five-choice multiple choice questions. But if you’ve cracked open a GMAT test lately, you might have sat there blinking at the second problem type for a minute: data sufficiency. These questions aren’t asking you to find an answer. You’re only going to figure out what information you would need if you wanted to solve the problem. In short, they require you to think differently about how you view math!
Zero in on what the question is asking. This is especially important with data sufficiency, where it’s very easy to start falling into old patterns of problem solving. Keep reminding yourself: I don’t need an answer. I need to analyze the information. But even with GMAT problem solving questions, it’s easy to get tangled up and forget what you were solving for. And trap answers are traps for a reason: if the question is asking for A + B, there will be distractors that give you the value of A and the value of B…separately. Write what you’re solving for at the top of your scratch work. Now circle it.
Practice mental math. GMAT Quant goes by fast. And if you’re in the habit of relying on your smartphone calculator, you’ll lose a lot of time on test day. Instead, as you start your GMAT study program, make sure you’re exercising your mental math muscles on a daily basis. Add up your purchases before you get to the checkout line. Subtract the cost from your bank balance. Do it all without using a calculator or even paper. The more you play with numbers, the less frustrating they’ll be.
Know your formulas…and how to use them. Finally, make sure you know the most important formulas for test day. In short, these are:
- The Pythagorean Theorem
- The area of a triangle
- Distance and work rate
- Permutations and combinations
But it’s not enough to know that A = 1/2 bh (that’s the area of a triangle, by the way). Keep these formulas with you at the beginning of your Quant prep and see where you can apply them to problems that stump you—they show up more often than you think! The important thing is not just memorizing them. It’s knowing how to use them in context.
GMAT Quant is a beast even for those who work with numbers in their daily lives. Being intimidated by the section is common—but in order to get a great score on the GMAT, you’ll need to push through that! Using these five strategies (and perfecting them) will help you gain or regain a comfort with the material that will make the rest of your studying more efficient, more productive—and far less stressful. Good luck!
Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about test prep and admissions for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admissions practices for over a decade.