Basic math content knowledge, such as the formula for the area of a triangle or the equation for calculating an average, is often the wolf in sheep’s clothing on the GMAT – test takers who lack proficiency in the basics find it very challenging to strategically approach questions in the Quantitative section.
In working with GMAT students, I have seen that learning the basic quantitative content areas and practicing how and when to apply them to test questions frees test takers to tackle Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving questions with greater confidence and speed. The best way to practice foundational math content is through drills and practice, first working basic problems that get you back in the habit of mathematical operations such as using the distributive property, dealing with fractions properly, and applying the rules of exponents and radicals. Even if you feel that you have a good understanding of one of these math content areas, it still pays to practice with it until the use of operations and rules becomes second nature.
As I always tell my students, you should practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more! Once you have refreshed your basic skills, you will be better primed to approach the complicated verbiage and the multi-step calculations that can create obstacles on the GMAT Quantitative section. Moving forward to test questions, you can flip through your mental files more quickly and pull up the math knowledge that you have practiced extensively and etched into your brain. It’s amazing how much faster a Data Sufficiency question goes when you recognize properties of systems of linear equations and can determine, aha!, if you have two distinct linear equations, you have enough to solve for the value of the two variables presented in the question stem! If the very phrase ‘linear equation’ makes your eyes cross, you are definitely a candidate for a refresher on the math content areas that the GMAT focuses on – Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry.