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Top 6 Most-Tested GRE Problem Solving Concepts

Noticing that your scores on your GRE practice test isn't quite as high as you'd like? One quick way to get better GRE Quantitative scores is to increase your content-knowledge in the most-tested Problem Solving areas. Here are the top six most-tested GRE Quant concepts to review; get these down and you'll ace the GRE section!

1. Functions and Symbols. A function is a different way of writing an equation. Instead of y = mx + b, we'd have f(x) = mx + b. It's helpful to think of a function as simply replacing the "y" with a symbol called "f(x)." The GRE may also present made-up symbol functions; pay attention to any definitions you are given, and expand accordingly.

Try this coordinate geometry question for practice.

2. Number Properties. The properties of integers, primes, odds and evens, integers, fractions, positives, and negatives will all appear in various questions on your GRE test. The more comfortable you are with them, the more quickly you will arrive at the correct answer. This concept will bleed over into Quantitative Comparisons as well.

3. Plane and Coordinate Geometry. Not only will you need to know the standard equations for a line, parabola, and circle, but also you will need to memorize the distance formula, the midpoint formula, the slope formula, the relationship between slopes and the different quadrants, properties of parallel, perpendicular, vertical, and horizontal lines, as well as the quadratic formula/discriminant. For Plane Geometry, triangles are tested the most often on the GRE. You should know the Pythagorean Theorem, Triangle Inequality Theorem, the special right triangles: 45-45-90 and 30-60-90, as well as the properties of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Other plane geometry concepts to review include angles, circles, and polygons.  Make sure you know how to find the perimeter and area of all shapes, and be comfortable dividing irregular shapes into manageable pieces.

4. Linear & Quadratic Equations. y = mx + b is the standard equation for a straight line, or a linear equation, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. You'll need to know how to graph them and how to find the slope given two points. Quadratic equations look like y = ax2 + bx + c, and make a parabola, or curved line. Quadratics have two factors, and two solutions (also called "roots"). You will need to know how to factor quadratic equations to find the roots, how to find the quadratic if given the roots, and how to graph a quadratic on a grid given the equation.

5. Ratios and Proportions. A ratio is a relationship between two things. Given a ratio and one "real world" number, you can always set up a proportion to solve for the other missing "real world" number. Sometimes you will need to do this for similar triangles in Geometry, and sometimes in algebraic word problems.

6. Data Analysis. Data Analysis questions are like an open-book test. Make sure you read every tiny piece of writing on or near the data, including titles, the labels for the x and y-axes, column names, and even footnotes if there are any. Pay attention to the units of measurement, and notice any trends in the data BEFORE reading the questions.

Top Ten Pacing Tips for the GRE

Pacing is vital to ace the GRE. The best graduate schools want master's students who can balance their time efficiently. The grad school candidates with the best GRE scores know how to manage their GRE test prep, utilize the best free GRE resources, and pace themselves through each section of the GRE. Use these 10 pacing tips to get better scores on the Revised GRE!

1. Know your essay templates before you start writing. The Revised GRE contains two essays: the Issue, and the Argument. This should be the easiest section because you can review prompts ahead of time and plan out your essay structure for each. A high level of organization is essential to better scores on the AWA.

2. "Mark and review" harder questions. The Revised GRE allows you to skip around freely within each section - use this new ability to skip harder questions and come back to them later once you've answered the easier ones first.

3. Write down a Prediction for tough Verbal questions. Don't simply go straight to the answer choices. It will help you eliminate, and the best graduate schools want students who can think critically and trust their own judgments. Try this GRE reading comprehension question for more practice.

4. Know how many questions are in each section. Always be aware of how many questions you have left! The GRE Quant sections have 20 questions in 25 minutes, and Verbal has 20 questions in 30 minutes. Keep track of where you are in a section at all times.

5. Don't rush, but start each individual section with confidence. Don't rush through the beginning 4-5 questions, but move quickly past the easy ones, saving the majority of your time for the harder test questions.

6. Check your work if you finish early. If you finish a GRE section early, go back and check your work! Don't second-guess yourself to the extreme, but re-check your work on the medium-hard level test questions.

7. Have a "panic plan." Know what you will do if you find yourself (1) stressing out over a particularly challenging question, (2) finding yourself falling behind in a section, or (3) losing confidence in your abilities. Write down and imagine your own "worst-case scenario" and describe what you will do if it occurs on GRE Test Day.

8. Use Process of Elimination. For challenging GRE test questions, don't give up if you don't know how to solve. Examine the answer choices, and don't be afraid to make an educated guess on 2-3 GRE test questions if necessary. You likely will have a very strong instinct that 1-2 choices will NOT be correct. Use POE to increase your chances of GRE success.

9. Memorize the directions. If you have adequately prepared for the GMAT, you should already be intimately familiar with the direction for each question type. Don't waste valuable time re-reading them on test day.

10. Take the optional break. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the third section. Take the break! Get up, stretch, and give yourself a mental rest.