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GregMat Team•August 6, 2024 at 11:00 PM

Jumping into hundreds of quant problems without mastering the basics is like putting the cart before the horse. A solid base could be all you need to achieve a high score, or at the very least put you well on your way. It’s like building a house: with a strong foundation, everything else falls into place.

Putting the cart before the horse. Jumping the gun. Getting ahead of oneself. Biting off more than you can chew. Celebrating prematurely. Running before you can walk.

These idioms and metaphors all express the same fundamental mistake: attempting to do things before you’re ready.

How does this apply to the GRE? Well, it is not uncommon (in fact it is quite common) for aspiring test takers to jump straight into solving hundreds, if not thousands, of GRE quant problems, with the expectation that mere practice and exposure will result in substantial improvement and scores in the high 160s. I’ll argue that this is a flawed approach, but, before I do, I want to acknowledge that this method does make a certain amount of sense. I mean, isn’t this how we all learned to walk? Talk? Eat? Interact?

Remember when you were a baby and you couldn’t put food in your mouth without getting it all over the place? You couldn’t walk without falling. You couldn’t verbalize any words – just gibberish. But, with years of practice, you became an expert at eating, walking, and talking. Nice!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for many other skills in which we hope to excel. These skills require deliberate instruction and training and the formation of a foundation that lays the groundwork for success. If you want your GRE prep to go smoothly, it is imperative that you essentially memorize the quant foundation via the resources on the GregMat website (or any other test prep website for that matter). It’s imperative that it not be skipped. Keep reading to find a list of those resources.

But what do we mean by foundation? GRE quant covers five major categories: arithmetic, algebra, coordinate geometry, geometry, and data analysis. If you’re looking to obtain a high quant score, your goal is to get good at all five. By “good,” we mean memorize enough concepts within each category so that you consistently score at least 85% on quizzes that assess your foundation (and nothing else).

Can’t I determine whether my foundation is good just by solving GRE problems? Unfortunately no, for several reasons:

- GRE quant problems comprise a variety of concepts. If you get a problem wrong, we’re not exactly sure which concepts you know and don’t know.
- Test takers can use various strategies to get a question correct, even if their foundation is shaky. When this happens, we don’t really acquire any useful information about our foundation.
- If you time yourself while solving GRE math problems, and get some wrong, we’re not sure if it’s a foundation issue or a timing issue.
- In many cases, the GRE problems test one’s reasoning ability, not necessarily their foundational knowledge.

That begs the question: if it’s a “reasoning” and “logic” test, why do I need a strong foundation? Because it’s only a reasoning and logic test AFTER one’s foundation is strong. That brings us back to our idiom – let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s have that horse right in front of us. Yes, we’ll have to smell its farts, but at the end of that smelly tunnel is a high GRE score, so we must persist.

Of course, you might be thinking that this advice does not apply to you. Common refrains we hear at GregMat are…

- “This is high school math.” (implying it’s easy)
- “This is junior high school math.” (implying it’s REALLY easy)
- “I studied engineering, so my foundation is already solid.”
- “I learn best just by doing hundreds of problems.”
- “Memorizing the foundation is boring, tedious, and dull. Solving problems is fun.”

Perhaps you ARE good at the quant foundation already. But here’s the key. You have to prove it. You have to take quizzes that assess your foundation (and nothing else). If you score at least 85% or 90% on all of them, then it is fair to say that you have a strong foundation. The good news is GregMat is absolutely loaded with these foundation quizzes. They can be used either as a diagnostic test of your foundation or as “prove it” instruments. Either way, it’s a great idea to take them before you dive headlong into your study. If you would like to save these foundation assessments until you’ve spent some time memorizing the concepts, that’s okay. But remember we have a lot of foundational quizzes on the site, so you’re not really “burning” them if you take these before your study:

- Arithmetic Foundation Quiz #1
- Algebra Foundation Quiz #1
- Coordinate Geometry Foundation Quiz #1
- Geometry Foundation Quiz #1
- Data Analysis Foundation Quiz #1

**Okay, I took the quizzes. My scores were not great. What do I do now?**

To boost your foundation, I first recommend watching the Low Scores? You’re Probably Still in the Memorization Stage video. This will get you into the mindset that the foundation game is really a memorization game. Next, I recommend working your way through the I’m Overwhelmed Study Plan, a plan that was designed specifically to help you acquire the math foundation.

**I took the quizzes and I rocked them, over 85% on each! What should I do?**

We recommend you watching the video titled, Okay My Quant Foundation is Good. Now What? This will give you an idea of how to approach your study moving forward.

**I took the quizzes and did well on some of them, not so well others. What should I do?**

Let’s say you scored above 90% on algebra and coordinate geometry but below 70% on arithmetic, geometry, and data analysis. In such a case, you can go through the I’m Overwhelmed Plan, but selectively. You can watch the portions that pertain to the categories you scored lower in:

- Arithmetic: Modules 1-3
- Algebra: All of Module 4 and Parts 1 and 2 of Module 5
- Coordinate Geometry: Parts 3 and 4 of Module 5 and all of Module 6
- Geometry: Modules 7-9
- Data Analysis: Modules 10-12

Let’s say that we have convinced you, and you have spent the last one or two months really improving your quant foundation in all five categories, what quizzes or assessments can you take to “prove” that your foundation is really solid? Here’s a handy list:

**Arithmetic**- Arithmetic Foundation Quiz #2
- Arithmetic Foundation Quiz (Google forms)
- Tickbox Quizzes 1-3
- Can be found on PrepSwift or the I'm Overwhelmed Study Plan

- Flashcard Quizzes 1-4

**Algebra**- Algebra Foundation Quiz #2
- Algebra Foundation Quiz (Google forms)
- Tickbox Quizzes 4-6
- Can be found on PrepSwift or the I'm Overwhelmed Study Plan

- Flashcard Quizzes 5-6

**Coordinate Geometry**- Coordinate Geometry Foundation Quiz #2
- Coordinate Geometry Foundation Quiz (Google forms)
- Tickbox Quizzes 7-9
- Can be found on PrepSwift or the I'm Overwhelmed Study Plan

- Flashcard Quizzes 7-8

**Geometry**- Geometry Foundation Quiz #2
- Geometry Foundation Quiz (Google forms)
- Tickbox Quizzes 10-12
- Can be found on PrepSwift or the I'm Overwhelmed Study Plan

- Flashcard Quizzes 9-12

**Data Analysis**- Data Analysis Foundation Quiz #2
- Data Analysis Google forms quizzes:
- Tickbox Quizzes 13-15
- Can be found on PrepSwift or the I'm Overwhelmed Study Plan

- Flashcard Quizzes 13-17

We’ll conclude with this thought. If your foundation gets really strong, we are confident you can score above a 160 in quant on the GRE, even if you do NO GRE problems at all. That’s how important foundation is.

Happy memorizing.

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