GMAT Quantitative Section Preparation: Math Overview

GMAT Quantitative questions are normally considered to be easier than their GMAT verbal cousins. Most applicants from an engineering background score high on the GMAT quant section. But just because they are the low-hanging fruits, doesn’t mean you can take them lightly as a higher GMAT score would require you to crack difficult GMAT quantitative questions. In this post for MBA Crystal Ball, the experts from GoGMAT provide an overview of the Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency type of questions in the GMAT maths section.

GMAT Quantitative Section: Overview

The Quantitative section, or Math section (as it is usually called), measures your skills at problem-solving, basic math, and understanding of elementary mathematical concepts. This section comes second on the test, between Analytical Writing and the Verbal section. There are two optional breaks one before and one after Math section.

Your score for the Math section depends on both your performance and the difficulty of the questions. The score is presented on a scale of 0–60, but the highest score you can get is 51. This score along with the Verbal score is transformed into the GMAT Total score that ranges from 200 to 800. It is crucial to perform well on the Math section in order to receive a high Total score.

The Quantitative section takes 75 minutes and consists of 37 multiple-choice questions; that means you should spend on average two minutes for each problem.

There are two types of questions: Problem Solving and Data sufficiency. They are mixed together within the section, and each of them offers five different answer choices.

Problem Solving questions are typical test problems. Here is an example:

GMAT quantitative questions

All you need to do is choose the right answer. For this problem, the right answer is A. You must multiply both numerator and denominator by (√11 + √10) and expand the product (√11 + √10)(√11 – √10) that equals 1 :

GMAT quantitative answers

Keep in mind that there is a single right answer for every problem. Answer Choice C and Choice E both represent 1; therefore, they can be eliminated right away.

Sometimes Problem Solving questions include statements identified by Roman numerals, and you are asked to choose which of them is/are correct. Let’s take a closer look at the next problem:

If x increases from 121 to 144, which of the following must increase?

I. 11x- 12

II. 1 – 11/x

III. 1/( – 169x)

(A) II only

(B) III only

(C) I and II

(D) I and III

(E) II and III

Begin with the first statement. The expression (11x – 12) increases as x increases. Thus, statement I must be included in the right answer, and we can immediately eliminate Choices A, B, and E. Now you must choose between Choice C and Choice D. You can test either second or third statement, but it is better to start with the simpler one, so test statement II. When x begins to increase, 11/x is decreasing. However, 1-11/x is increasing because the decreasing amount 11/x is subtracted. Finally, therefore, the right answer is Choice C. You do not need to investigate statement III at all in order to answer the question, since you have demonstrated that Choice C is correct.

Data Sufficiency (DS) is a question type peculiar to the GMAT. Each question is followed by two numbered statements that purport to provide information useful for answering the question.

As usual, five fixed answer choices follow each question.

Here is an illustration of a Data Sufficiency problem:

If y+40x+2=0, what is the value of xy?

(1) 16x=–4y+28

(2) 13y =91–52x

(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient to answer the question but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.

(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient to answer the question but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.

(C) The two statements TAKEN TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.

(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question.

(E) The two statements TAKEN TOGETHER are still NOT sufficient to answer the question.

We have one linear equation with two variables provided in the question. We cannot solve it unless we have another independent linear equation. Each of the statements alone is sufficient, because each provides a second, independent linear equation and thus allows to calculate a single pair of x and y and the value of xy. Hence, the right answer is Choice D.

Note that you do not have to calculate the value of xy. As soon as you know that you have sufficient information to calculate it, or that the information is insufficient, you can pick the right answer choice.

The Math section will consist of no more than 2/3 Problem solving questions and at least 1/3 Data Sufficiency questions distributed in a random order within the section. Some problems will include graphs, charts, and figures. All numbers used in the test are real numbers.

You are not allowed to use a calculator for the Quantitative/Math section, but you will have a whiteboard and erasable marker to make calculations.

The material covered in the Quantitative section includes arithmetic, elementary algebra, and geometry. You do not need to know advanced math; a solid high school background is sufficient. You will be expected to demonstrate your proficiency at manipulating numerical operations, solving algebraic equalities and inequalities, building mathematical models of verbal problems, and visualizing geometric objects and logical relationships. To achieve the highest scores, you must quickly apply non-standard solution methods.

Continue learning on our GMAT discussion forum. If you have any GMAT related questions about this post or any other GMAT topic, head over to the GMAT preparation helpdesk and shoot your queries.

GMAT Preparation Tips by GoGMAT
GoGMAT, founded in 2009, is an adaptive GMAT preparation platform developed by the best instructors in the industry (with 740+ GMAT scores and strong teaching experience). Find out more here: GMAT preparation courses

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin


  1. SAPNA says:

    I HAVE 77% AGGREGATE IN BE , 80% IN 12 AND 82 % IN 10th.

  2. sam says:

    first class in 10, 12 and mechanical engineering (65%) state univ. pvt college, with 2 backlogs in both 2nd and 3rd year. good co-curri. 2 years lecturership and working in a PSU as mechanical engineer since 3 years. college is a pvt college ranking some 50th in state ranking out of 500+ colleges.
    1. how to know whether my college is recognized by elite mba globally or is the the university that matters.
    2. is the college and backlogs digestible by elite colleges(shall target GMAT 730+)

  3. Dheeraj says:

    Hello Sameer,

    This is Dheeraj Upadhyaya, I have done my graduation in Science (BSc IT) from Nagpur University, I have a work experience of almost 8 years now.
    I am currently working as Technical lead.
    10 Class 74%
    12 Class 62%
    Graduation 69%

    As I now I want to move into more customer facing role and towards strategic planning thought of doing MBA.
    I have Cleared PMP certification too.

    Not Much in Extra curricular activity to add.

    So my question is if I manage to get good score in GMAT lets say 760+ How much is my chance to get admission in IIM A,B,C, or ISB.

    Waiting foo you reply .

    Thanks a lot

  4. Sunny says:

    Hi sameer,

    I am really looking for an advice.some key points in my application for MBA will be:
    1) GMAT- 600
    2) IELTS- 7.0
    3) work experience- 4 years plus
    4) graduation- btech

    I am really stuck while finalising the country.. As in USA it’s too expensive, UK there is no job scope.. I am currently applying only for Germany considering they are most stable in Euro economy. Not sure the other places to look for or which colleges to apply as many also demands a 100/200 euro application fee.

    Please suggest.

  5. Amit Chauhan says:

    Dear Sameer
    I m B.Tech Mechanical Engineer from NIT Hamirpur with 7.68 CGPI. I also have company sponsored Diploma in O&M of Thermal Power Plant. I have work ex of 5 years (2 years in Project execution and commissioning and rest in Power plant Operations). I m currently working for Larsen & Toubro and looking for shifting my domain as there is no vertical growth in this sector. Preparing to give GMAT by end of this year. The thing is that i have a completely technical work ex and a low CGPI which on conversion in some online site gives a 3out of 4 scale. Can u please suggest some courses and the ways which I can opt to build a strong profile. BTW I m planning my MBA in Finance or economics. Waiting eagerly for ur reply
    Amit Chauhan

  6. Keshav Kant Mundhra says:

    Hello Sir!
    My 10th Score is 58%
    12th score is 57%
    i am doing final year that too in general will get the admission abroad if i score good in 3rd year and GMAT.

  7. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sapna: Yes, GMAT is compulsory for ISB. Better to work for a few years and then think of applying.

    @Sam: Beyond the top colleges in India, Adcoms aren’t aware of the huge number of insitutions. Not having good grades (or having backlogs) will put you at a disadvantage.

    @Dheeraj: I have to admit that we can’t answer speculative questions like these.

    @Sunny: It’s true that getting a work permit is a challenge anywhere outside India. It would be incorrect to assume that there are no jobs in the UK. You’ll face similar issues in Germany as well. Also, try to get the GMAT score higher.

    @Amit: There are many MOOCs that you can check out, if you are looking at improving your knowledge about specific subjects, like finance.

    @Keshav: Very unlikely. All the good MBA colleges will insist on some good professional experience.

  8. Tauqeer Ahmad says:

    Dear Sir,

    In problem solving III is also right, as it is negative number. though increasing x in division decreasing it but negative sign making it increasing as we increase the value of x

  9. Nidhi Upadhyay says:

    Hello sir ,
    I am Nidhi Upadhyay and I m a philosophy honours first year student in Delhi university and have passed my 10th with 91.5 and 12th with 86.5 .plz guide me abt this whole prep for GMAT and what should be my approach towards it .m planning to join a coaching centre from my second year

  10. Harshith Reddy says:

    Hello sir
    I am Harshith Reddy my 10 score is very very less 50%,& I completely my diploma in E&C with 73% , now I am doing BE in bangalore & after my BE I want to do MBA can write GMAT

  11. Sandeep says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have 90% in 10th, 95.6% in 12th and BE Mechanical ,First class with 6.92/10 CGPA from a Top Engineering college in India(Among Top 10 Private engineering college – Non IIT) . I am Planning to take GMAT this year. I Have around 1.5 years work experience in a MNC and have won Best Performance award, Been rated with top performance for year end appraisal, Provided a solution for a critical problem in the project which has boosted the revenue of our product and the company has filed a patent in my name, where i sold the rights to the company to commercialize it.Will these be considered while evaluating my application by the admissions committee? I would like to know my changes for a good B-School in Canada and what should be my target GMAT score to achieve it. I am worried whether my avg UG grades will reject my prospects.

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