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Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?

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Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Oct 2018, 23:27
I was hoping to give my GMAT in about 6 months; however my mathematics skills are really pathetic. Haven't studied it in years, and I heavily rely on calculators and the internet over the past few years to solve most problems. Even looking at a practice tests gives me math anxiety and everything seems near gibberish. Even lurking through these forums makes me feel like I'm a step behind. So, what's the best course of action for someone with atrocious math skills?
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Re: Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Oct 2018, 11:35
Hi Mashal981,

It sounds like you're just starting out with your GMAT studies. Is that true? Have you done any studying so far?

For free math practice and help, I recommend that you set up an account at Khan Academy ( The site is completely free and makes the learning a bit more fun and 'game-like' (as opposed to the dry academic approach taken by most books). While the site is vast, you should limit your studies to basic Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. After spending a little time re-building those skills, you can start your GMAT studies.

If you have not already done so, then it would be a good idea to take a FULL-LENGTH practice CAT Test; you can access 2 for free from (and they come with some additional practice materials). If you want to do a bit of practice first, so that you can familiarize yourself with the general content and question types first, then that's fine - but you shouldn't wait too long to take that initial CAT. A FULL CAT takes about 3.5 hours to complete, so make sure that you've set aside enough time to take it in one sitting. Once you have those scores, you should report back here and we can come up with a study plan.

I'd like to know a bit more about your timeline and goals:
1) What is your goal score?
2) When are you planning to apply to Business School?
3) What Schools are you planning to apply to?

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Re: Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Oct 2018, 18:33
Seconding Khan Academy as a good way to brush up on your math skills. Don't worry about necessarily starting with algebra. Remember, no one needs to know what you're working on in KA! If you need some time to really work on arithmetic and things like multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, take that time. Take it before you even worry about studying GMAT style problems. If you are trying to do GMAT problems and you don't remember how to solve a single variable algebra equation, then it's going to be really frustrating. KA is also great because the videos will often talk about the why behind the arithmetic, which is really useful for the GMAT.

That said, I'd still suggest starting with a practice CAT to see where you're at. Don't worry about the score. It's not going to be where you want it to be. Focus on what kind of math you're getting wrong and focus on finding a couple strengths that you can exploit.

And it might sound silly, but there's some good research that links how students frame subjects to how they do on those subjects. Framing yourself as "not got at math.... yet" can help remind you that you can get better. (Again, it sounds silly, but there's been research done to suggest that not only are students who do this more willing to challenge themselves, but they perform better as they're doing it!)

One last thing. The thing to remember is that we all have to start somewhere. :) Although it's true that this forum can seem a little intense, it can also be incredibly supportive. Don't be shy! Take advantage of GMAT club to its fullest and ask questions even if you feel silly asking them - chances are someone else has the same question as you and is too shy to ask it themselves, so you're helping someone else too.
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Re: Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?  [#permalink]

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New post 14 Oct 2018, 18:27
Hi Mashal981,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First off, stay strong! Yes, GMAT math can be intimidating; however, if you get on a smart and thorough plan, you really can get a great quant score on the GMAT, OK?

Since you are first starting out, as much as this may pain you, you need to get a baseline GMAT score. So, before doing anything else, take an official GMAT practice exam, so you can determine your baseline score.

Now, regarding your question on the best course of action, since you are self-admittedly starting at the bottom of the GMAT quant mountain, you need to follow a gradual and linear study plan that begins with the foundations of GMAT quant and progresses to more advanced topics. For example, if you are learning about Number Properties, you should develop as much conceptual knowledge about Number Properties as possible. In other words, your goal will be to completely understand properties of factorials, perfect squares, quadratic patterns, LCM, GCF, units digit patterns, divisibility, and remainders, to name a few concepts. After carefully reviewing the conceptual underpinnings of how to answer Number Properties questions, practice by answering 50 or more questions just from Number Properties. When you do dozens of questions of the same type one after the other, you learn just what it takes to get questions of that type correct consistently. If you aren't getting close to 90 percent of questions of a certain type correct, go back and seek to better understand how that type of question works, and then do more questions of that type until you get to around at least 90 percent accuracy in your training. If you get 100 percent of some sets correct, even better. Number Properties is just one example; follow this process for all quant topics.

When you are working on learning to answer questions of a particular type, start off taking your time, and then seek to speed up as you get more comfortable answering questions of that type. As you do such practice, do a thorough analysis of each question that you don't get right. If you got a remainder question wrong, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not properly apply the remainder formula? Was there a concept you did not understand in the question? By carefully analyzing your mistakes, you will be able to efficiently fix your weaknesses and in turn improve your GMAT quant skills.

So, work on accuracy and generally finding correct answers, work on specific weaker areas one by one to make them strong areas, and when you take a practice GMAT or the real thing, take all the time per question available to do your absolute best to get right answers consistently. The GMAT is essentially a game of seeing how many right answers you can get in the time allotted. Approach the test with that conception in mind, and focus intently on the question in front of you with one goal in mind: getting a CORRECT answer.

In order to follow the path described above, you may consider using a quant self-study course, so take a look at the GMAT Club reviews for the best quant courses.

You also may find it helpful to read my article about how to improve your GMAT quant score.

Feel free to reach out with further questions. ... 78864.html

Hi eswarchethu135,

What stands out from your post is that you’ve taken nine practice tests, but your verbal score has yet to improve. Thus, it’s clear that you are taking practice tests before you are ready to do so. GMAT practice tests best serve two main purposes. The first purpose is to provide diagnostic information. In other words, you get a sense of what types of GMAT questions you’re comfortable answering and arrive at a reasonable estimation of how you would score on the GMAT at that point in time. The second purpose is, naturally, to provide a way to practice taking the GMAT and handling its various challenges, such as time pressure and the varying difficulty of the questions presented.

People often misuse practice tests as primary learning tools. You may have seen posts that go something like this: A person with a score goal of 740 has been preparing for six weeks, has already taken all six of the official practice tests, and is wondering why her scores have been 600, 590, 570, 610, 600, and 560. In such a case, the person likely has been using practice tests as primary learning tools, meaning that taking practice tests has been much of, or possibly most of, what she has been doing to drive up her score.

Can practice tests be valuable tools for learning and continued score improvement? Yes, of course, if they are used properly and at optimal times in your preparation. However, practice tests should not be used as primary learning vehicles, because practice tests don’t really provide the kind of practice that you need to increase your score. To improve your score, you need to learn the basics of answering various types of GMAT questions, and then practice applying what you have learned by carefully answering practice questions in order to learn to answer them correctly. When you first learn how to answer a particular type of question, answering that type of question correctly can easily take way longer than the two minutes or so per question that you are allotted when taking the GMAT (or a practice test). Two minutes per question can fly by, and if you want to finish the sections of the test on time, in many cases, regardless of whether you have figured out how to answer a question, you may have to just answer and move on. So, while taking a practice test can be a great way to work on your overall approach to taking the GMAT, taking a practice test is not a great way to practice getting right answers to various types of questions. To effectively prepare for the GMAT, you have to practice answering questions of each type without the time constraints of the test and work up to a point at which you can answer questions of each type in around two minutes. When you take multiple practice tests early in your prep, the tests simply underscore exactly what you already know: you need to learn more content and develop more skills to hit your score goal. Why spend three hours taking a practice test just to learn what you already know, wasting a valuable learning tool in the process?

Of course, you can benefit from taking one diagnostic practice test early in your preparation. Furthermore, once you’ve done substantial preparation and mastered much of the content tested on the GMAT, when you sit for practice tests, they will actually show, to some degree, lingering weak areas that require further study. I say “to some degree” because although practice tests provide a pretty good approximation of how a person would score on the GMAT at a particular point in time, because the sample size of questions on any practice test is rather small (31 quant questions and 36 verbal questions), practice tests don’t do a very good job of pinpointing specific areas of weakness.

For example, let’s assume that of the 31 quant questions on a given practice test, you encounter one Rate-Time-Distance question and get it wrong. Should you conclude that you need extensive work on Rate-Time-Distance questions? Of course not. Similarly, what if you correctly answered the Rate-Time-Distance question? Are you good to go on those questions? Maybe. But maybe not. In fact, let’s assume that you took six practice tests, saw a total of six Rate-Time-Distance questions, and correctly answered them all. Can you conclude that you’re solid on Rate-Time-Distance questions? Probably not. One thing that makes the GMAT challenging is the vast potential for variation in the questions. There are hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of variations of Rate-Time-Distance questions that can appear on the test. So, correctly answering five or six (or ten) Rate-Time-Distance questions doesn’t really tell you much. You must take care not to over-infer based on practice tests alone.

To truly improve your GMAT verbal skills, and before taking any further tests, you need to follow a linear study plan that allows you to slowly build GMAT mastery of one topic prior to moving on to the next. For example, to improve your Critical Reasoning score, your first goal is to master the individual Critical Reasoning topics: Strengthen the Argument, Weaken the Argument, Resolve the Paradox, etc. As you learn each Critical Reasoning problem type, do focused practice so you can assess how well you understand the topic. If, for example, you incorrectly answer a Weaken the Argument question, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize the specific question type? Were you doing too much analysis in your head? Did you skip over a keyword in an answer choice? You must thoroughly analyze your mistakes and seek to turn weaknesses into strengths by focusing on the question types you dread seeing and the questions you take a long time to answer correctly.

If you’d also like some specific advice on how to improve your Sentence Correction and Reading Comprehension skills, feel free to reach back out, and I’d be happy to provide detailed advice.

Lastly, you may find it helpful to read this article about [url=] how to score a 700+ on the GMAT /url].

Good luck!

Scott Woodbury-Stewart

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Re: Best way to tackle the Quant section when you're terrible at Maths?   [#permalink] 14 Oct 2018, 18:27
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