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What Kind of Math is on the GMAT? Breakdown of Quant Concepts by Frequency

what kind of math is on the gmat -magoosh

The biggest secret to GMAT Quant success is a simple one: identify and study the correct Quant concepts. But what are the GMAT math topics? And which ones are the most important?

To answer all of these questions, I looked at , and the Official Guide for the GMAT Review 2019. Read on to find out what I learned from analyzing the GMAT quantitative topics in these 766 official questions.

What Kind of Math is On the GMAT?

Here is a GMAT Quant section breakdown (with category descriptions as needed):

  • Word problems: interpreting the math in stories and descriptions
  • Data interpretation: interpreting the math in charts and tables
  • Algebra: includes both “pure algebra,” and algebra as applied to other GRE Quant concepts
  • Percents/ratios/fractions
  • Coordinate geometry: shapes, lines, and angles on the coordinate plane
  • Two-dimensional geometry: shapes, lines, and angles not on the coordinate plane
  • Three-dimensional geometry: volume, surface area, etc…
  • Statistics: mean, median, standard deviation, etc…
  • Powers and roots
  • Probability/combinatronics
  • Integer properties and aritmetic
  • Inequalities
  • Functions
  • Sequences

What’s the Frequency of the GMAT Quant Concepts?

Word problem interpretation is the most frequent concept, showing up on well over half of the questions. Integer properties and arithmetic come second, appearing on nearly a third of all of the questions.

GMAT Quant Section Breakdown

The table below lists GMAT Quant concepts in order of most-to-least frequent. (And again, the most frequent concepts are obviously the most important!) Click the topic names to read on a given topic in more detail. In the case of data interpretation, the link goes to an IR resource that is also relevant to Quant.

You can treat the table and its links as a GMAT Quantitative syllabus of sorts. Follow the links to learn everything about arithmetic, geometry, and proportion, everything about probability, stats, and counting, etc… Just about anything you’d need to know can be seen or accessed in the table!

GMAT Quant conceptPercentage frequency
Word Problems58.2%
Integer properties and arithmetic31.1%
Percents, ratios, and fractions13.7%
Two dimensional geometry10.6%
Powers and roots6.3%
Probability and combinatronics5%
Coordinate geometry2.9%
Data interpretation0.9%
Three dimensional geometry0.8%

Note: Some questions tested multiple concepts and were thus counted more than one time in more than one category. As a result, the percentages in the chart above add up to more than 100%.

GMAT Question Type Breakdown for Quant: The Takeaway

As you can see in the table above, not all GMAT Quant concepts are created equal. Certain GMAT Quant topics will definitely appear more often than others.

A Word on Word Problems

Clearly, the GMAT loves to test its Quant concepts through word problems. Word problems can overlap with just about any topic: statistics, algebra, inequalities, you name it. There can even be coordinate word problems and absolute value word problems! So make sure you build math-related reading comprehension skills as you prepare for the exam.

The Very Most Important GMAT Quant Topics

Several other high-frequency Quant concepts stand out when you look at the table above. Word problems, integer properties, arithmetic, algebra, percents, ratios, fractions, and geometry are the most important. These topics all are clearly vital to GMAT Quant success.

The Not-So-Important Math Topics

Lower on the chart, you can see some concepts that seem a good deal less important. Sequences, the coordinate plane, three dimensional objects, functions, and data interpretation don’t occur all that often; these topics have minimal importance in GMAT Quant.

A Second Look at Data Interpretation

Not so fast though. Let’s take a closer look at that last “unimportant” GMAT Quant concept I mentioned.

Although it is clearly not that important in the GMAT Quant section, data interpretation is still a big part of the GMAT as a whole. Remember, the Integrated Reasoning section consists primarily of math data interpretation questions. So be sure to study this concept as part of your overall GMAT prep.

The GMAT Quant Section Breakdown in Greater Context

Speaking of other sections of the GMAT, make sure you understand where these Quant concepts fit into the test as a whole. The GMAT maths syllabus should be seen as part of the syllabus for the entire exam.

So be sure to check out my colleague Rachel’s Complete Hassle-Free Guide to the GMAT test. Or for a quicker snapshot of the most common question, GMAT-wide, see Mike’s “Most Common GMAT Topics and Questions.”

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