Even though the GRE has been making inroads into the MBA admissions game, the GMAT is still considered the goto test. It was created for the purpose of business school admissions and it’s been around for a while. It’s a trusted measure. MBA programs want to ensure candidates have a solid grounding in basic math. Ostensibly, the GMAT is considered to have a more rigorous quantitative section. The core concepts tested are fairly simple. The questions however are tricky and can seem quite complicated if you aren’t familiar with them. Basically, they are just devious. I’ll talk about the verbal section another time, for this article I’m just going to talk about what the quantitative section, the math, is like.
First, I’ll lay out what core math concepts are tested. For the most part we are talking about a US high school Algebra I level. A 10th grader should know most if not all the concepts on the GMAT. We are talking about arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. No thing too complicated. No trigonometry, no calculus. For arithmetic, it’s number properties, fractions, ratios and proportions, percents, powers, basic statistics, etc. The algebra has at most 2 variables, some factoring, exponents, inequalities, basic functions, etc. Geometry is fairly simple. No proofs. Lines, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, simple solids, and coordinate geometry. Like I said, 10th grader.
Ok, so then, why do people say it’s so hard. Well, because it is. Remember I said it’s devious? The concepts really are basic. That’s not the issue. They want to test how strong are your quantitative skills. It’s a rigorous test of your fundamental math ability. While there are questions that are straightforward, there are a lot of questions that take something simple and twist it in a way that make you feel exacerbated. Simple concepts are tested in novel ways. Data Sufficiency is a good example. They are funny. Not funny, haha, but funny, huh what?
So what do you do? This may sound self serving but honestly you need to prep. You need to be very comfortable with the core math concepts. Once you are solid on the math, you need to train yourself on the questions. Find good resources to help you get familiar with the questions and the format. Treat the test with respect and give your self plenty of time get familiar with the test.