Number of Statistics Questions Increasing on the GRE?
At Brightlink prep, my GRE students come back to me to share their test experiences after their GRE exam. In January 2013, several students provided a strange feedback – they were getting a lot of statistics questions. Infact one student said and I quote “It was as if I was doing a stats exam”. This was anomalous since back in 2012 there were hardly one or two questions on statistics. This trend has continued so far this year and my hunch is it will stay the same – ETS is emphasizing a lot more on stats than ever before. This year, in 2014 the trend has been the same as well – 6-9 Statistics and probability questions abound and are a norm.
So what might have caused this to happen?
ETS officially has not stated anything on this but I think the reasons are pretty clear. Since the GRE was revised in August 2011, a lot of business schools have started accepting GRE in lieu of the GMAT. However not all of them have been doing that – infact no more than 60% business schools are currently accepting the GRE scores.
How can this explain for the fact that you would see more statistics questions on the GRE? Well business schools require their prospective students to be well versed in basic statistics – MBA being a data centric program requires analyzing and interpreting numbers. For this purpose the GMAT introduced the integrated reasoning section last year, which emphasizes on stats and data analysis a lot. So my intuition is that in order to counter this move by the GMAT, coupled with the fact that B-schools like to see its students know statistics, the ETS has decided to throw more questions on stats.
In recent months, many students have come out of the test reporting to me how many questions they’d seen on standard deviation, means, medians and normal distribution. This is a vivid discrepancy between what was actually on the test and what the ETS guide portrays.
How many statistics questions on the test?
I have compiled data for over 70 of my GRE students who took the exam in Lahore in the past 5 months. If I were to take all the median/mode, averages/weighted averages, standard deviation and normal distribution questions on the GRE, there were:
Average number of stats questions: 8
Maximum number of stats questions: 13
Minimum number of stats questions: 5
So expect to get roughly 20% of your GRE exam from statistics.
How can I study for statistics?
Many popular GRE books such as Barron’s, Kaplan and Princeton Review do not have detailed chapters and questions on statistics. Infact the thing is that statistics in these books looks deceptively simple – on the actual GRE the questions however are really complex.
My advice is to start off your stats prep by going through these 3 books and doing all of their stats questions. After you are done with that you can then take the Official Guide to the GRE by ETS and practice as many statistics questions as possible. For even tougher questions, BrightLink prep has quite a few.
Do not go through college or university books on statistics or trying to find the variance of a set of hundreds of numbers. On the GRE the statistics is more conceptual than it is about calculating complex numbers.