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Three Basic Math Skills to Review for the GMAT

Mathematical knowledge is important for your GMAT prep – ensure you closely review these three basic math skills to succeed in the exam.

By  Varsity Tutors

Wed Sep 24 2014

With an exam like the GMAT, the prep process can be daunting. For test-takers who have not opened an algebra or geometry textbook in years, it may be wise to begin your review with the Quantitative section.

Sharpening your math skills will help you with this portion of the GMAT, as well as with certain questions in the Critical Reasoning and Integrated Reasoning sections.

Here are three key areas to consider: 

1. Arithmetic

The simplest math skills will be the most useful to you on the GMAT. Why? You cannot use a calculator during this section. This is a superb impetus for you to review addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. 

Next, brush up on mathematical vocabulary including the terms integer, prime number, units digit, tens digit, hundreds digit, ratio, percent change, mean, median, and standard deviation.

Determine the definition of these words, as well as how they are utilized in GMAT questions.

2. Algebra

Algebraic equations are staples of the GMAT. Questions often incorporate one or more variables.

Remember the following: if you have one variable and one equation (i.e. a + 3 = 5), you can likely solve for that variable. If you have two variables and two equations (i.e. b + c = 8 and B + 2c = 15), you can likely determine an answer for each variable if the equations are not equivalent. 

However, if you have two variables and two equations, but the equations are equivalent, you will be unable to solve these variables without additional information: 

b + c = 8

2b + 2c = 16

Dividing 2b + 2c = 16 by 2 yields b + c = 8, which is identical to the first equation. 

In addition to equations, you should also review rules for absolute value, exponents, inequalities, and functions. Working through GMAT practice tests that involve these concepts is the best way to improve your skills.

3. Geometry

Unless you work with lines, angles, polygons and coordinate planes on a regular basis, you might be challenged by the geometry questions that appear on the GMAT exam.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed first focus on three shapes: rectangles, triangles and circles. 

Rectangles are relatively easy figures to work with. A rectangle has four sides and four right angles. Its perimeter is 2(length + width), and its area is (length) x (width). 

A triangle has three sides. The sum of any two sides of a triangle is greater than the remaining side. The perimeter of a triangle is the sum of its three sides. The area of a triangle is ½ x (base) x (height). An equilateral triangle has three equal sides. An isosceles triangle has two equal sides. A right triangle includes a right angle.

Circles are more complex figures – they involve the number π, which is approximately 3.14159. The radius of a circle is the measurement from the centre of the circle to any point on the edge of the circle. The diameter of a circle is 2(radius). The perimeter of a circle is called the circumference, which is 2(π x radius). The area of a circle is π(radius)2.          

There are additional concepts that appear in the GMAT Quantitative portion, like probability and compounding interest. You can work up to these more advanced concepts after covering the three basic areas above. Happy studying!

Mahlena-Rae Johnson is a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her MBA from University of Southern California in 2010 and scored a 740 on the GMAT.