How to Prepare for GRE Quantitative Section

The following is a proven plan to improve your quantitative skills. We have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you increase your score based on recommendations from global experts.

The guide includes:

1) Student Categorization based on Diagnostic Scores

2) Road to Success: Concept Building, Strategies, Practice and General Preparation Tips

3) Supplementary Material

Please use this step-by-step guide to identify which category of students you fall into and find out which resources to use and how much to focus on concept building, learning strategies and practicing questions in order to get the most out of your preparation.

1) Students Categorization based on Diagnostic Scores

The first essential step is to take a GRE Diagnostic test to analyze your current level without preparation. Students are divided into four categories as per their diagnostic scores. Each category has its own set of guidelines and recommended resources for preparation. Your initial score will determine which category you fall into, which will in turn help you plan your preparation and decide upon a test date accordingly.

Sr.No.Student CategoryDiagnostic ScoreResources
Category IStrong Quant Background160+ETS + Magoosh
Category IIGood Quant Background155 - 160Magoosh + ETS + Target Test Prep (Practice Questions only) + Manhattan (Weak Areas)
Category IIIAverage Quant Background150 to 154Manhattan, Magoosh, ETS
Category IVWeak Quant Background+130 to 149Target Test Prep, Manhattan, Magoosh, Khan Academy, DontMemorise

2) Road to Success: Concept Building, Strategies, Preparation Tips and Practice

A) Concept Building

CATEGORY I: Students with Strong Quantitative Background (160+)

 Material: ETS + Magoosh

If you fall into this category, you already have a strong mathematics foundation and won’t need to build concepts from scratch. You just need to spend a considerable amount of time on practicing and identifying any weak areas you might have. For that purpose, the recommended materials are ETS and Magoosh.

CATEGORY II: Students with Good Quantitative Background (155-160) 

Material: Magoosh/TTP/Manhattan

If you find yourself in this range of scores, you will need to work on your weak areas more. You will be strong in some areas, for which you won’t need to build concepts from scratch. But for the rest, you should master the concepts via Magoosh or Target Test Prep (TTP) or even the Manhattan Strategy Guides. Manhattan is the lowest priority in this list as it’s considered obsolete and will not help the test taker improve beyond a 161 in Quantitative section. So, if you are targeting +165, then use Magoosh resources.

CATEGORY III: Students with Average Quant Background (150-154)

Material: TTP/Khan Academy/Don’t Memorize

Students who haven’t studied basic mathematics for the last 5 years or so will generally fall into this category. These students should first focus on learning and revising all the basic mathematics concepts required for the GRE exam and then work on building strategies before finally diving into practice questions. For basic concept building, one of the best resources is Target Test Prep. It’s highly recommended for concept building but is a paid subscription. However, there are other useful free resources for concept building out there too such as Khan Academy and Don’t Memorise.

CATEGORY IV: Students with Weak Quant Background (+130-149)

Material: TTP/ Khan Academy/Don’t Memorize

If you belong to this group, you will need to put in a lot of effort to aim for a competitive score in the quantitative section. This category is for the students who are not from a mathematics-heavy field (e.g. medicine, humanities, etc.), or never liked numbers much. Such students, like those of category 3, should first focus on learning and revising all the basic mathematics concepts required for the GRE exam, and then work on strategies and finally practice questions.

The first thing you would need to get started is a subscription of Target Test Prep. Target Test Prep is a comprehensive solution for concept building from scratch to the very top. Plus, it’s popularly recommended for people who either dislike mathematics or are not very good at it. Target will help you to build each and every concept step-wise and it will take you to the highest level. Beware: this is a laborious task and will require quite a lot of dedication from you. Remember that Target Test Prep is a paid service. However, if you are looking for free resources, then there are some great ones out there like Khan Academy and Don’t Memorise.

B) Strategies

After learning the core concepts, students should work on learning strategies.

i) Students with Weak & Average Mathematic Skills (Category 3 and 4)

Once you have revised the fundamental concepts, you should go through some recommended material such as Target Test Prep Guides, Magoosh or Manhattan to brush up on any specific weak areas.

ii) Students with Strong Quantitative Skills (Category 1 and 2) 

Start with Appendix A of the ETS quantitative book after you’re done with the diagnostic test. This section covers the entire syllabus of the GRE and is very easy to follow. For example, in Section 4, the book discusses histograms, relative frequency distributions, probability distributions and the normal distribution and relates all these concepts quite well. Therefore, this Appendix A presents the gist of everything you might see in the test. Students who are already good at the material just need to review it once before they can dive into practice questions. Also, this overview is a great chance to identify any weak areas you might have quickly. There are a total of 4 sections in the appendix, and you can be done with them in as little as 4 days. This is great for a quick review of all the concepts covered in the GRE. Additionally, it also features some practice questions too for each concept discussed. You just need to spend a considerable amount of time to practice and identify out your weak areas. For that purpose, the recommended materials are ETS and Magoosh.

Please remember to use the Manhattan strategy guides only for your weak areas and not as a complete guide, since that can be very time consuming and the guides are also known to have some gaps conceptually.

C) Practice

Once you have clarified the concepts and learnt the strategies, it’s time to start practicing those concepts on real questions. For example, if a you have covered algebra concepts, then you should move on to algebra practice questions. If you feel that your algebra concepts are not clear, then you should go back to them instead of simply moving on to the next section. Moreover, after each practice session, you should give some time to review your weaknesses and then focus on improving them. Once you get a decent hang of those concepts, you should focus on mastering them by practicing questions, starting from easy difficulty level and then moving upwards, from ETS, Magoosh and Target Test Prep.

Material in order of relevance is as follows:

  • ETS 3 Books all practice Questions
  • Magoosh Quant Questions
  • Target Test Prep Questions
  • Magoosh is listed directly after the official GRE guides because their questions are closely aligned with the real exam keep and they keep updating their question bank based on latest test takers’ experiences. Additionally, they have video explanations and analyses for each question to help you review those questions and ideitify your mistakes. Remember that reviewing is very step important when working on improving your score.

    Please review the materials listed below as per your category identified from Step 1.

    CATEGORY I: Students with Strong Quantitative Background (160+)

    Material: MAGOOSH + ETS

    You must practice questions from Magoosh under a time constraint in order to get your pace up for the high-pressure in the real exam. It is preferable to use Magoosh practice test option rather than custom practice for this purpose (initially you may skip other sections).  After getting done with Magoosh, you must practice all practice questions from the ETS books to familiarize yourself with the type of questions you’ll find in the GRE.

    CATEGORY II: Students with Good Quantitative Background (155-160)

    Material: Magoosh + ETS + Manhattan 5lb (Weak Areas)

    You should follow the same resources and techniques as those for students of Category I but you will need some additional help from the Manhattan 5lb book to work on your weak areas. Please note that Manhattan 5-lb is not recommended generally as it is considered obsolete. However, it is a very comprehensive resource to conceptually work on weak areas. Each chapter contains a set of questions related to a particular area and the questions cover almost all the concepts related to that area.

    CATEGORY III: Students with Average Quant Background (150-154)

    Material: MANHATTAN 5lb +MAGOOSH+ETS

    You must focus on getting yourself in motion by doing all 24 chapters of Manhattan 5lb.  After that, you can get a Magoosh subscription and start following the regime recommended for Category I students.

    CATEGORY IV: Students with Weak Quant Background (+130-149)


    Once you are done with Target Test Prep for building concepts, you can move on to Manhattan 5lb and work through all 24 chapters. After that you are ready to start with Magoosh and in the end you can practice ETS questions.


    D) Preparation Tips

    • If you are finding it difficult to get medium and hard level questions correct then we would recommend practicing medium and hard level questions from Magoosh and Target Test prep. If you already have high accuracy after attempting Magoosh questions, then you don’t need to use Target Test Prep.
    • During the practice session, maintain an error log and identify your weak areas. Magoosh and Target Test Prep Analytics will help you do this.
    • Identify topics that you need to work more on based on your error logs. Refer back to the recommended resources to master your concept and strategies for those topics.
    • After every 2-3 weeks of practice, take a mock test to gauge your progress.
    • It is important that you finish questions from ETS and Magoosh before you appear for the exam.
    • In the last three weeks before the test, try to attempt at least 10 mock exams from recommended resources such as ETS, Manhattan and Barron’s, in that order. Make sure you attempt the complete mock during the last days.
    • If you score +150 in the quantitative in your diagnostic score then you should take your exam within 3 months. Don’t unnecessarily extend the preparation time, it will only impact your concentration and affect your focus. But remember that this is only applicable to your quant preparation; timelines can change if you need more time to improve your verbal section.

      3) Supplementary Material

      If you’re wondering why we don’t recommend Manhattan 5lb to Category I students, you should know that, based on the recent test takers’ experience, it’s now obsolete and does not match the question style of the real exam. However, if you’re done with the recommended study material mentioned above, feel free to refer to it. Also, there are a lot of android apps that can be used to get better in Quant, you can use them to make your calculations quicker, which will be beneficial for you in the real test. These apps are used by many students who have taken the test before. These apps are “PocketGRE”, “Ready4GRE”.

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