GRE Overview  |  Analytical Writing  |  Verbal Reasoning  |  Quantitative Reasoning  | »

GRE Math Tips — Data Interpretation (Charts, Graphs and Tables)

A typical GRE Quantitative Reasoning section includes at least a few data interpretation questions, where your task is to analyze and interpret data presented in graphical form (charts, graphs and tables).

A GRE data-interpretation question might be multiple-choice, or it might employ the Numeric Entry format. These questions are often presented in sets of two or three based on the same graphical data.

Here are some tips for analyzing and interpreting graphical data and for answering these types of GRE questions:

  1. Invest some time up front analyzing the display. Before you tackle the question(s), take at least 30 seconds to assimilate and make sense of the graphical display(s). Read all the information around each display. Get a sense for what the variables are and how they relate to one another. And in the case of two displays, ask yourself how they relate to each other.

  2. Be careful where you look for the data you need. It's remarkably easy to inadvertently retrieve your data from the wrong feature (such as a line, bar or column) or from the wrong display (chart, graph or table). To avoid this mistake, literally put your finger on the specific datum you want, and keep pointing until you're sure you're referring to the correct portion of the correct display.

  3. Don't confuse percentages with raw numbers. Always ask yourself which type of number the display is providing, and which type the question is asking for.

  4. Check whether the question asks for an approximation. If it does, then you can safely estimate numbers or round a bit. It's okay to rely on visual estimates in determining levels on bar graphs and line charts. Rest assured: In designing data-interpretation questions, the test makers are careful not to penalize test takers for rounding or estimating where it is appropriate to do so.