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The GRE preparation is long, challenging and pretty daunting for some, especially the GRE Quant section. But did you know that you can ace the GRE math without using a calculator? Be ready to flex those mental muscles and let’s get started.

In this blog: 

  1. Brush Up Your Mental Math Basics
  2. GRE Math Strategies
  3. Mental Math Practice Tips
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice!

GRE Math: Brush Up Your Mental Math Basics

Let’s go over some basic mental math concepts before we get into the specific GRE math strategies.

  1. Imagine this—your GRE math calculator is off-limits, and you’re facing the GRE Math only with your wits and basic times tables. You know the drill: 2 times 2 is 4, 3 times 3 is 9, and so on, all the way to 12 times 12. To conquer this challenge, grab a piece of paper and create a 12×12 grid, then roll up your sleeves and fill it with all those multiples.Week by week, you’ll level up. Mix up the numbers or shuffle them randomly, but you’ll become a master of your times tables. Throw 13s and 14s into the mix, and you’ll handle them like a boss! And slowly, you’ll be able to get 17s and 19s on your finger tips.

    Suggested Reads: GRE Probability and Statistics Questions

  2. Remember the perfect squares like 1², 2², 3², up to 30². They are pretty easy because of their neat patterns. Perfect cubes, starting from 1³ to 10³, hold their own charm. Powers of 2, 3, and 5, like 2¹ to 2¹⁰, 3¹ to 3⁶, and 5¹ to 5⁴, amaze us with their exponential growth. And beware the mystery of 36, which is the same as 93 when reversed! 

GRE Math: Build Strong Strategies

Here are some mental math techniques for you to have at your fingertips:

1. Make friends with percentages:

Percentages are like math emojis—they say so much with so little! Mastering percentages will be your secret weapon for everything from discounts to growth rates. They’re continuously changing, and you get to determine the pace! So, remember that increasing a number by 10% is equivalent to multiplying it by 1.1, and decreasing it by 20% is equivalent to multiplying it by 0.8. Your GRE Math score will be grateful! 

2. Divide techniques:

Long division may sound like the stuff of nightmares, but don’t worry! We’ve got a fantastic shortcut up our sleeves. To divide any number by 5, simply multiply it by 2 and then move the decimal one place to the left. Voilà! There are several other quick-tips you can use to solve GRE Math problems. But, remember to check for their accuracy and efficiency with a GRE mentor or your peers.

3. Testing your Prime Numbers:

The GRE is a prime-time villain, always trying to catch you off guard with questions about prime numbers. Remember that 2 is the only even prime number, and the first ten prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and 29. If you can memorise these numbers, you’ll be well on your way to prime time hero status!

4. Master Geometry:

Triangles, circles, and squares, oh my! Geometry might be a difficult subject to master, but the skill to ace it is in the key ‘formulas’. You’ll be slicing through geometry questions like a samurai, whether it’s the Pythagorean theorem or the area of a circle.

Explore: GRE Prep Resources- the best books and courses

5. Keep Track of Your Units:

In GRE Math questions, units can be the unseen troublemakers. One incorrect unit conversion, and your answer goes out the window! Pay close attention to units and their relationships—convert, multiply, and divide with precision.

6. Trick of Backsolving:

Feeling intimidated by a difficult GRE question? It’s time to unleash the charm of backsolving! Read the question and take a wild guess of what could possibly be the answer to this question. Begin with the middle or even the last value on the list, fill in the blanks with response options and let them do the work for you. 

GRE Mental Math Practice Tips

After you get hold of the GRE math strategies, it’s time to delve into some GRE math practice tips.

 Multiplication approach: 

When we were younger, we learnt the classic “long” multiplication approach, which works fine on paper but is difficult to remember mentally.

For example, take 23 x 5. 

We go step by step, 3 x 5 to get 15, carrying over the 1, and then 2 x 5 to get 10, and finally adding them together to get 115. It’s good to know, but there’s a simpler way to do it mentally if we go left to right.

When we have 23 x 5, we can break down 23 into 20 + 3. Now, let’s multiply left to right:
20 x 5 is 100.
3 x 5 is 15. 

Now, we add 100 + 15, and voilà, we get 115! Much easier, and no need to carry anything.

Let’s take it up a notch with a tougher one: 291 x 4.
Think of 291 as 200 + 90 + 1. Now, we multiply left to right:

200 x 4 = 800,
90 x 4 = 360,
1 x 4 = 4.
Add them up, and you get 1164! Isn’t it simple?

Also read: What is a good GRE score?

Magic of Estimation: 

Make sure you are in the right ballpark by rounding the numbers to simple figures (10, 100, 25).

9 x 12? Since 9 is little less than 10. 12 is slightly higher than 10. Because 10 x 10 equals 100, so the number should be close to 100. 108 is a good guess.

253 x 4? Because 253 is so close to 250, we’re searching for something close to 1000. 1012 is a good guess. 

Download: GRE Vocabulary 100 words list

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Who said your GRE math practice can’t be fun? Incorporate some mental maths tasks into your day to keep your brain sharp! Practise your time tables, perfect cubes and estimate grocery bills as you walk or drive. Sharpen your division skills by splitting the dinner bill among friends. When you see numbers such as addresses/area codes, double, triple, or multiply them by 7 to test if they are divisible. Within a week or two of this playful practice, you’ll be amazed at how much faster and stress-free your calculations have become.

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