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I am currently studying for the GRE quantitive section and have typically done well in math courses, but unfortunately during my studies have been struggling with interpreting the questions.I'd like to know if there are any methods into interpreting problems. For example, should I write out each problem algebraically, write out the definitions of what I am looking for etc. (or missed valuable conditions) while studying for the GRE.

Example of problem I did not interpret efficiently

3.7, 4.1, a, 8.5, 9.2, 2a The six numbers shown are listed in increasing order. Which of the following values could be the range of the six numbers? Indicate all such values. A 4.0 B 5.2 C 7.3 D 11.6 E 12.9 F 14.1

My approach for this was to find the two extremes, so basically 4.2 could be 'a' (a > 4.1); that gives me the range of 4.2(2)-3.7 = 4.7, so the answer cannot be 4.0.

Then I considered 8.4 could be 'a' (a < 8.5), 8.4(2)-3.7 = 13.1, so the range could never be 14.1 ... For the answer I ended up choosing B-E. But really the answer is C-E, it cannot be B, because 5.2+3.7 = 8.9 which is smaller than 9.2 so the range cannot be 5.2

I understood this conclusion right away, but while I was being time for the GRE practice test, I could seem to consider ALL conditions of this problem efficiently, this has happened to a couple other problems as well.

For other problems, the wording can throw me off, like percent greater than problems where they ask:

Find how much greater in percent quantity A is to quantity B, I would initially approach this as dividing A by the entire data set, then B by the entire data set then subtracting their percentages.set = {a,b} a=7 B= 5, entire sum of data set is = 12 or (7+5) so 7/12 - 5/12, is 0.16 * 100, 16%. But really you are taking (7-5/5 ) * 100.

If the question was worded with 'a in portion to b' I would have interpreted this correctly.

Is there any method as to approaching these questions where I can make sure to interpret correctly and consider ALL variables even when they are not presented directly to me?

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  • $\begingroup$ If my question is unclear, please comment/edit, and/or allow me to edit, first time on here. $\endgroup$ – Bwoods Nov 19 '18 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ The second example question seems to be missing. $\endgroup$ – littleO Nov 19 '18 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ So when you were thinking of the possible values for $a$, you forgot that $2a$ must be greater than $9.2$. It's hard for me to think of a tip that would help with this other than "be very careful" and "do a lot of practice problems". $\endgroup$ – littleO Nov 19 '18 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ @littleO Thank you I made the second question a little more clear. On the first example, is it possible that you are mentally solving this in your head algebraically? What is your thought process when solving this first problem, if you could try to break it down? $\endgroup$ – Bwoods Nov 19 '18 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ For the first problem, my thought process was something like this: $a$ must be less than $8.5$, so $2a$ must be less than 17, so the range must be less than 17 - 3.7 = 13.3. Also, $2a$ must be greater than 9.2, so the range must be greater than 9.2 - 3.7 = 5.5. Moreover, I see that $2a$ can be made arbitrarily close to 9.2 without violating the requirement that $4.1 < a < 8.5$. So, the range can be any number between 5.5 and 13.3. This means that C, D, and E should be selected. My actual thought process as I solved the problem was probably a little messier than that. $\endgroup$ – littleO Nov 19 '18 at 2:21

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