The Ultimate Guide to Solving GRE Quantitative Comparison Questions

Barron’s Guide for Quantitative Comparison Questions http://www.BarronsTestPrep.com/gre

Quantitative Comparison questions ask you to
compare two quantities – Quantity A and Quantity B – and choose one of the four possible answers that relate the two quantities.

Example:
Q. 1 < 𝑎 < 𝑏 < 𝑐 < 𝑑
Quantity A 𝑎3 𝑏 5 The quantity in Column A is greater The quantity in Column B is greater The two quantities are equal The relationship cannot be determined from the information given Quantity B 𝑐 7 𝑑9

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Introduction

Despite their convoluted appearance, Quantitative Comparisons are some of the easiest questions on the Math section of the GRE. This is due to three things: A. Limited answer choices (only 4); B. Students’ ability to use Elimination to solve;

However the most important reason is…

You Don’t Have to Find Actual Values to Solve Them.

As a student you are probably accustomed to finding the exact solution of a problem that you are given. This is NOT the case with Quantitative Comparisons, and in fact should be avoided whenever possible! If you can figure out which column is larger WITHOUT performing any calculations, then you have solved the question and saved yourself valuable time. In this eBook, we will share with you some important tips and strategies to ace the GRE Quantitative Comparison questions.

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Some Problems Can ONLY Be Solved By Comparing, Not Calculating!

The problem at the beginning of this list illustrates this principle perfectly. Unless you are an algebra connoisseur, you may not know the obscure rule that proves the correct answer here. But try comparing: You know c and d are greater than a and b, so c7 and d9 must both be greater than a3 and b5:

Example:
1 < 𝑎 < 𝑏 < 𝑐 < 𝑑 Quantity A 𝑎3 𝑏 5 Quantity B 𝑐 7 𝑑9

Two positive numbers multiplied

Two LARGER positive numbers multiplied

This fact irrefutably makes B the correct answer.

If you can’t immediately calculate, don’t freak out! Try comparing. After all, these are Quantitative Comparisons.

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“ “


They Can Be Solved Analytically

It may seem hard to believe (or too good to be true, depending on your disposition) that there is a straightforward way to solve this cumbersome question format. But it’s true! Many Quantitative Comparison questions can be solved using the following workflow strategy, called “Could They Be Equal, Must They Be Equal. .

The Analytical Approach:

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Example:
Q. Quantity A Quantity B

The quantity in Column A is greater

The quantity in Column B is greater
The two quantities are equal The relationship cannot be determined from the information given

Solution:

Start off by asking “Could they be equal?” The easiest way to answer this question is to assume certain values for the variables e.g. when 𝒙 = 𝒚 = 𝟎, the two columns are equal Quantity A 0 0 =0 Quantity B 0 0 =0

The answer to the first question is No and we can immediately eliminate Answer Choice A and B. Next ask yourself “Must they be equal?” Once again the easiest way to answer this question is to assume certain values for the variables e.g. when 𝒙 = 0, 𝒚 = 1, we see that column B is larger: Quantity A 0 1 = 1 Quantity B 0 1 =1

The answer to the second question is also No and we can also eliminate Answer Choice C.
D is the Correct Answer.

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Don’t Ever Choose D If There Are Fixed Values in Columns A and B.

If the values in columns A and B are fixed values, then there is no way that the comparison is indeterminate. Even if you can’t figure out which is larger, don’t guess D 

Example:
Q.

Quantity A 95 94

Quantity B 94

The answer to the above question cannot be D. The question can be solved easily using Math: 95 94 = 94 9 94 = 94 9 1 = 94 8 Since 94 8 > 94 , Quantity A is greater than Quantity B

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“D” is NOT for Difficult

The relationship cannot be determined is often a tempting solution when you can’t figure out how to solve a tough problem. However, on difficult questions, more often than not, the solution will simply be hiding from you. If you can verify the reason why a question can NOT be solved, then and only then should you choose D. If you have to guess on a very difficult problem that you can’t solve, don’t guess D.

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They’re Similar to Equalities/Inequalities

Despite their seemingly abstract structure, there are actually a number of concrete tools that you can use to navigate through this problem type. First and foremost, many of the techniques that you use to solve equalities and inequalities may be used to modify the Quantities in Quantitative Comparison problems:  You can add the same number to quantities A and B or subtract the same number from quantities A and B. You can multiply or divide Quantity A and Quantity B by the same positive non-zero number. You can square both Quantity A and Quantity B.

Knowing exactly what tools you have available is a vital part of solving these problems! Don’t underestimate these simple techniques.

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Example:
Q. =

Quantity A

Quantity B

The quantity in Column A is greater
The quantity in Column B is greater The two quantities are equal The relationship cannot be determined from the information given Solution: Add: 𝑦 on both sides:

The easiest way to answer this question is to assume certain values for the variables e.g. when 𝒙 = 𝒚 = 𝟎, the two columns are equal Quantity A 𝑥 𝑦 Quantity B 𝑧 𝑦

 𝑧

Simplify: We know: 𝑥 from both sides: Quantity A 𝑧 𝑦 𝑦 𝑧 7 𝑦 𝑦

= 𝑧 𝑦

, next subtract 𝑧 𝑦

Quantity B 𝑧 𝑧 𝑦 𝑦 𝑧 3 𝑦

Since 7 > 3, Quantity in Column A is larger.
A is the Correct Answer.

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Example:
Q.

Common Sense

is Key

Avoid doing more than you have to on these problems; your intuition can give you keen insights that may allow you to skip entire problems! Take a look at this example:

Kyle scored 75 on each of her first three math tests and scored 80 on her 4th and 5th tests. Quantity A Kyle’s average after 4 tests Quantity B Kyle’s average after 5 tests

The quantity in Column A is greater The quantity in Column B is greater

The two quantities are equal
The relationship cannot be determined from the information given Solution:

Can you solve this problem using intuition alone? In this case, column B is greater, because the scores on tests 4 and 5 are higher than those of 1, 2, and 3. On the test, being able to solve a problem like this quickly and definitively will give you more time and energy to expend on tougher questions. Want to learn more about how to actually solve these problems? Check out our lecture titled “Solving Quantitative Comparison Problems” to get the inside scoop on these http://www.BarronsTestPrep.com/gre esoteric questions.

Barron’s GRE Course for Online GRE Prep:
Personalized Prep based on Adaptive Learning 60+ Hours of Video Instruction 75+ Lessons 4 Full Length Tests with Projected Scores

1 Diagnostic Test with Projected Scores
1000+ practice Questions

The Revised General Test

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