GMAT: Problem Solving
If you understand this cartoon, you might be good at math.
The joke, however, may be on you because you don't need to know what a rational or a real number is to ace the GMAT. In fact, you don't need to know anything beyond basic high school math.
Let's Establish the Parameters
There is no calculus on the GMAT. There is no trigonometry either. In fact, there isn't even any advanced algebra. The toughest algebra you'll ever have to solve is a quadratic equation.
The GMAT curriculum includes four-function math, basic geometry, percent changes, rate problems, proportionality, combinations, permutations and probability. There is almost nothing in the GMAT problem solving section that isn't also on the SAT. That's why SAT math problems are good study material.
I know that people freak out over combinations, permutations and probability, but the truth is that even in this arena the curriculum is very limited and can be learned completely. (There is one formula for combinations and another for permutations. Memorize them.)
The actual math functions required on the GMAT are incredibly simple—so simple that, unlike the SAT, test takers aren't allowed to use a calculator.
Then why is it so difficult?
The GMAT math is designed to trick test takers. That's why very smart people who are un-coached on the exam often do poorly. They didn't suddenly get dumb, they're just doing a kind of math that was never taught in high school. GMAT math is not about orthodox mathematical manipulations; it's about reasoning your way through a logical mine field using basic mathematical tools as your guide.
Should I Take a Math Class to Improve My Performance?
Bad idea. It's too broad. Some math classes would help, but most of what you would learn would not be tested on the exam. Because the GMAT curriculum is so narrow, it's better to stick to GMAT-prep material only.
What Can I Practice With Other than GMAT Material?
Do math problems from the SAT exam. Buy the SAT Official Guide and do the math sections. There are 10 full SAT exams in that book along with a math review section. For less than $13 you can get the book at Amazon. It's probably the best starting point for GMAT test takers looking to improve in math fundamentals, better even that the GMAT Official Guide.Next: GMAT Data Sufficiency >
75 minutes of math; 75 minutes of verbal; 2 essays
That's all that stands between you and 21 months in Palo Alto.
- GMAT Homepage
- 20 Questions About the GMAT
- GMAT Strategy
- GMAT Structure
- Sentence Correction
- Critical Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Problem Solving
- Data Sufficiency
- GMAT Non-Standard Test Accommodations
Links to the official GMAT Web site.
First download the GMAT Information Bulletin, then schedule your exam.
Some Advice: OK, I'm clearly biased because I teach the GMAT exam, but take a GMAT prep class. If nothing else, sitting in a classroom with other test takers will motivate you to study harder.