The quantitative section of the GMAT is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the exam. Due to its high contribution to the overall score, it is crucial to master the mathematical concepts frequently tested in the exam. GMAT quant section mainly assesses your proficiency in problem-solving and data sufficiency questions. These questions are based on a variety of fundamental topics of mathematics.
Given below is an overview of the four broad conceptual areas and the related ten important GMAT math topics you must learn:
Major Areas of GMAT Quant
GMAT quantitative reasoning essentially comprises of the following key areas of mathematics:
Arithmetic involves the study of numbers, their types, properties, operations, and relationships. This part serves as a foundation of mathematics and has the widest range of concepts, tricks, and shortcuts.
Algebra delves into the mathematical expressions and equations formed by a combination of symbols, variables, and constants. You must be aware of the basic formulas and rules of manipulating the symbols to solve the equations or find the possible values of unknown variables.
Geometry relates to the properties, shape, dimensions, and other measurements of 2D and 3D figures. You will be required to memorise certain formulas for calculating the standard parameters of the common figures like triangles, circles, cylinders, etc. The quant syllabus also includes coordinate geometry, which relies on the rules of algebra and arithmetic.
- Modern Math
Modern math consists of the basics of statistics. The questions related to modern math are of a slightly higher level. Like most other topics, this part also calls for your efficiency in arithmetic and algebra.
From each of the areas mentioned above, questions from some topics feature more often in GMAT than others. Explained below are the ten important GMAT math topics you must master and strive to achieve accuracy in.
10 Important GMAT Math Topics You Must Know:
Almost 70-80% of the questions in the GMAT quantitative section are asked from the below-listed topics or a combination of two or more of them. Further, the concepts associated with these topics also play a significant role in the other portion of quant. So, if you gain expertise in these topics, you can easily get through the remaining ones.
1. Multiples and Factors
Multiples and factors form a part of the number theory in mathematics. You must know standard number properties and rules to carry out operations related to the multiples and factors of numbers.
Multiple is an integer that results from the multiplication of one number with another number. For example, 6 = 3×2, which means 6 is a multiple of 3 and 2. On the other hand, factors, also known as divisors, are positive integers that, when multiplied together, create a multiple. For example, 3, 2, and 1 are the factors of 6.
In this topic, you need to learn GCF (Greatest common factor), LCM (least common multiple), prime factorisation, and related divisibility rules.
2. Ratio and Proportion
Another critical topic of GMAT quant syllabus, ratio, and proportion, find extensive applications in the business world in terms of money, sales, growth, etc.
Ratio and proportion follow the laws of fractions and are based on different types of fractions. In the mathematical sense, ratios and fractions are identical. While any given ratio expresses one quantity as a fraction of another, a proportion is mainly an equation that indicates the equality of two given ratios. If you know the common multiples, factors, squares, and cubes, it will be much easier for you to solve ratio and proportion questions.
Both ratio and proportion serve as a yardstick for comparison, and their properties are quite helpful in solving questions related to speed and distance, work and time, mixtures, probabilities, etc.
Another popularly used concept, the rules of percentages, span our day-to-day life while calculating interest rates, price alterations, savings, losses, and similar other things. In GMAT, you will often need to use percentage formulas in arithmetic and geometry questions.
The word ‘percent’ refers to ‘per 100’, which makes any given percentage a ratio/number represented as a fraction of 100. In the exam, most percentage-based questions pertain to the percent increase or decrease of a given quantity or value. For this topic, it is recommended to learn the common percentage-to-fraction conversions and vice versa. The majority of the word problems in GMAT involve these conversions and their multipliers.
A number of rate problems feature in the GMAT quant section. The majority of these are linked to three concepts: speed and distance, work and time, and simple/compound interest. To get a hold on these topics, you will need to learn definite formulas and understand the relationship between different variables.
In distance-related questions, the rate generally denotes the speed of the object/person. In the compound and simple interest case, the rate is the interest percent gained over the principal amount after a fixed period.
Further, for the work-related questions, you will be asked to estimate the amount of work a person/machine can do in a given time. Work rate shows the job efficiency of a person/machine.
Exponents are crucial parts of algebraic expressions. An exponent, also called power, is the number of times a number is multiplied by itself. Here, the number is the ‘base’ raised to a given power (exponent). For example, in 24, 4 is the exponent.
In GMAT, you will be required to manipulate exponents, separate them, combine them, and perform similar operations on their bases, to solve an algebraic expression or calculate the value of a variable. Besides, you should be well-versed with the rules that govern various operations of the exponents.
6. System of Equations
The system of equations is another vital unit of algebra. In GMAT, this topic generally appears in the form of data sufficiency questions. A system of equations is a set of equations given in the question, and you are asked to determine whether or not they are sufficient to calculate the value of variables. Alternatively, you may be inquired about the number of solutions that can be deduced from the equations.
In such questions, the candidate must carefully check if the equations are dependent or independent, as the dependent equations mostly turn out futile in finding solutions. Also, sometimes the equations are equivalent but given in different forms.
Inequalities is a slightly tricky topic of algebra that requires dealing with unequal mathematical expressions. In other words, these expressions include the signs of inequalities like greater than (>), lesser than (<), greater than or equal to (≥), and lesser than or equal to (≤). You need to be cautious regarding the positive and negative signs of unequal expressions. In GMAT, inequations may be given either in linear or quadratic form.
To do well in this topic, you must know about the basic rules and properties of inequalities. Besides, the smartest ways to tackle related questions is by using the number line method and elimination technique.
8. Overlapping Sets
Set theory belongs to the field of modern mathematics. A set is essentially a group of objects or numbers, referred to as elements. Any two sets are said to be overlapping if they have at least one common element. The concept of overlapping sets is considered one of the most complex topics of GMAT Quant.
Questions related to overlapping sets mostly appear in the form of word problems in the exam. A clever way to handle these questions is to organize the given data and clarify the relationships between the given groups or sets with the help of diagrams. Subsequently, you can easily build equations and answer the query.
9. Right Triangles
Amongst the various geometry topics, right triangles questions are asked most often in the GMAT exam. Questions from this topic can be efficiently solved using basic formulas and rarely demand any complicated calculations. There are usually two or three kinds of right triangles around which the questions are asked related to their height, sides, angles, etc.
The Pythagorean theorem comes as a handy tool for solving these questions in GMAT. It is advised to practice using this theorem in different ways for calculating the dimensions of right triangles.
10. Coordinate Geometry
Continent geometry is mainly based on the coordinate system of axes. Although there are not too many questions on this topic, they are easy to grasp and solve in less time. It utilises just the fundamentals of algebra and geometry. For these questions, you will have to be familiar with concepts like slope, quadrants, linear equations, intercepts, the distance between two given points, etc.
Coordinate geometry questions generally appear in data sufficiency format in GMAT.
The key to cracking GMAT is to invest a good amount of time in practising the most essential topics of the syllabus. A great idea would be to start practising the related questions from the official GMAT guide. Once you learn and practice the important quantitative reasoning topics, you can be confident of a top score in the section.