Just wanted to drop in and tell you that anyone who has about a month to prepare for GRE can do so and still get a good score.
I gave my GRE on 3rd June’11 and got a score of 1410 ( 790 Quantiative, 620 in Verbal ). I started my preparation roughly 3 weeks before the exams.
- Equivalent Score in Revised GRE is 164 + 161 (Verbal)
In the first two weeks I studied an average 6 hours a day and in the last week I studied approx 12 hours everyday except on the day before the exam which I used to relax myself and studied only a little.
If you guys are interested, below is a very comprehensive guide to the things I did.
GRE Study Material Required
- Barron GRE Book and CD
- Kaplan Book and CD
- PowerPrep Software (given by ETS themselves a few days before the test by post and also downloadable for free download at ETS Home anytime)
Side note : Kaplan and PowerPrep might not work if your PC has windows 7. You’ll have to simulate windows xp or something from virtual machine software etc. and it will be helpful if you create a power-iso images of these CDs so that you don’t have to shuffle through them every time you want to practice
Barrons GRE (most crucial)
Its word lists are mandatory. Its test practices are all okay, but not the main thing to rely on, only use them as good practice and don’t evaluate your actual performance based on it.
In my very 2nd test I scored 1400 after I’d scored 1240 in its previous test. Didn’t even bother giving it again cuz in my Kaplan tests I was in 1300s during my first 2 tests!
Helps a lot in verbal and in essays. Its most important function – 3 Full Tests in its CDs along with 12 sectional practices in quant and verbal combined. Give the full length tests during the late-middle and ending stages of preparation. The last Kaplan score will be the minimum you will score in the GRE because Kaplan’s test are one tough cookie to crack.
So, howsoever you score in both the sections, be assured that your total score will be atleast 30 points more in the actual GRE. Especially in the quant section. So make sure you do well in the last 2 Kaplan tests.
I gave the starting two very early when I wasn’t prepared and they were a nightmare. In the last one I gave, which was 2 days before the test I scored alright so it was a confident booster.
To be given only after you’re almost on the end of your preparation and have finished with the word lists etc. It will have two full tests in the CD along with a few sectional practice questions. It is reputed for estimating how you’ll fare in the actual GRE. Not true for me. In one I scored ridiculously low in math and high in quant.
I scored the exact in quants in my actual GRE. In another, I scored high in verbal and okay in quant. I scored almost the same as verbal in my actual GRE.
But, whatever score you get in it don’t judge anything based on it. Kaplan is the main thing.
Also, its verbal sectional tests are pretty brutal, so don’t fret over it if you try to practice on them and score low. (happened with me and I was a little down because of them for a while, esp since it was the morning before the actual test!!!)
GRE Verbal Prep Tips
(In order of execution and importance)
- Barron’s Word Lists [ Barrons Essential word for GRE]
- Reading the strategies given in Kaplan on how to solve ANALOGY & SENTENCE CORRECTION questions. Analogy question’s strategy was a great help – 10/10, sentence correction – 8/10.
- Kaplan’s Word List [Kaplans Vocabulary in a Box] given at the end of the book – not more than 100 words extra from Barron at max. (after finished with Barron)
- Practice exercises of Verbal from Barron’s given before the word lists begin. (important)
Quantitative Prep Tips
- DO NOT waste any time on reading theory unless you don’t know the very basics as it will turn out to be a sheer waste of time. What you’d rather want to do is solve as many sectional tests you can given in the books and CDs.
- My weak area was probability and P&C section. But I didn’t need to worry because there were no tough questions that could come, only the most basic such as adding or multiplying probabilities, counting nCr/nPr in a question (not even circular p&c problems, but the most basic). That was it.
- Another main weakness I’d was in solving the graph/data interpretation (DI) questions. But it was mostly miscalculation etc. and not trying to understand the actual question and doing it in a hurry.
- I used to try to solve the entire section within 25 mins while practicing, while it is actually for 45 mins, so doing it within 25 mins did improve my speed but I lost a couple of points in my practice tests etc due to silly mistakes etc… even if I’d spent time to actually put values etc I’d solve them alright but I just was in a hurry as if doing it before time was gonna help me score more points, typically impatient mentality I tend to have. Same happened in the actual GRE, did it way before time when I could have spent time on the one question I now know I marked wrong.
- Again, take your time in solving problems, you’ll have enough time so make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes even while practice. I know I know, 45 mins is too much time during practice and one mistake during practice is alright, but reduce it to 30-35 max!
- Solve all the sectional tests you can get hands on – from Barron’s, Kaplan, Powerprep etc.
Also, the sectional tests in Kaplan, if you are getting the score of range 22+ on 30 consistently, then that’s a good score believe me. It’s minimum 700+ on the actual GRE.
GRE Essays Prep Tips
There are two essays that you’ll have to write and these are the first two sections of the test. One will be an Issue Essay (45 mins given) that will require you to choose a topic between two and give your actual viewpoints in it. The other one will be an analytical essay (30 mins) that will require you to critique the argument that the paragraph has used etc.
Essays in Kaplan are very well written but are of a level that isn’t required of us so don’t be disappointed reading them. It has an excellent strategy on how to write an essay.
But don’t go too into it – except the first step which states things like defining the topic, scope, conclusion, evidence and assumption of an essay, everything else is just normal common sense after that, but topic/scope etc things help to define a framework and will help to organize your points well.
So just read through the strategies provided in it, and read a couple examples in it for getting the info on how to begin and end an essay – the language used to conclude etc.
Example – getting sentences such as “The writer’s assumption is in-conclusive” etc in the argument essay type thing etc … Read it two or three types trying to look for things that you can use to copy-paste in your essays regardless of whatever topic you get etc and it will be all good because we can actually write sensibly, atleast okayish, on any topic if we are given 30/45mins.
If not, practice a day or two on getting your essay skills alright.
There are also a pool of essay topics mentioned on the official ETS website from which the actual GRE essays come from, so you can practice writing 2-3 essays from there. (I didn’t do it though)
GRE Prep – DON’Ts
- Don’t refer any other book/thing other than Kaplan and Barrons for GRE. I wasted my time trying to remember words from flash cards for a while (which weren’t from Kaplan etc but from T.I.M.E – which is a coaching institute for C.A.T exam for MBA in India, so I am not trying to generalize here). Although I did learn quickly from the flash cards, it contained a lot of useless words which weren’t important for GRE so that was just a waste of time. [How to Use GRE Flash Cards]
- Don’t waste a day by not studying in the last ten days. I wasted 2 very crucial days – got a good score on my first practice test, felt it will be a breeze and didn’t do anything for two straight days.
- Don’t study on the last day. Except going through the word list maybe if you want to, otherwise not recommended. I gave a powerprep test in the morning – hopeless! LoL. Also, I hadn’t prepared for the essay except studied an hour or something a week before, so I had to devote my last day trying to figure out how to start and an essay well etc… but it didn’t take me more than 2 hours (at max. including breaks Lol). But just to be thorough, practice a couple essays ATLEAST a week before.
Also, whenever you give any full length test, be sure to write the essay and not be in a hurry to just check your verbal and quant score. I used to skip them but later realized that going through them was actually helpful.
1. The most important thing is, that your improvement on the practice tests is not going to be gradual. It will come in spurts and your score will improve exponentially.
You will get stuck in a score range for some time and then suddenly shoot up and be stuck up there.
I was stuck in the 1300-1350 region for a long time. Then suddenly I started hitting in the late 1300s etc. Given this rate if I was given a day or two more, I would have made it consistent and could have even scored 10-20 points more on the test. But anyway, there’s gonna be an exponentially increase in your score, and so expect a lot of spurts and being stuck on plateaus.
2. The most annoying thing while I was preparing was to cram up many words very thoroughly, but come back to them a few days later not having a clue what they meant. The word lists I learnt in the very beginning I still remembered them well, but around the 7-20 mark it was a haze. It was because I was cramming too much in too short a time. My maximum was 7 days before the exam when I finished 15 word lists in a day!
It won’t be that you won’t have enough time to study… you’ll have enough time but your brain will be saturated for the day if you try to cram up too much.
That is why some extra days etc are ideally required to remember the words. GRE Score Range Calculator.
GRE Practice Tests
- Start with giving the Barron’s diagnostic test – ideally from the CD itself – you’ll get a rough idea of what you’ll need to do. During the middle of your preparation in learning words from Barron’s etc, I’d say give the Kaplan’s diagnostic given in the book….. or better, go to Welcome to Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, register there and give a test online for free. It’s the same as the diagnostic almost, but it gave me great feedback. But because I’d already given diagnostic, most of the questions were the same so I scored over 1550 ;D!
- Save the Kaplan & PowerPrep Tests for the last week before the exam. No need to waste them if you’re not prepared thoroughly with your course.
- Give your best shot in the practice tests you give and whatever score you get in them, analyze your weaknesses etc and work on them diligently.
(sidenote: During the last few days, give tests from ETS powerprep software. Anything you score there is going to definitely be more than what you score in Kaplan. The verbal of it is going to be pretty accurate… I’d say the actual verbal score will be closer to the one in which you score more… and the same goes for quant… in quant you’ll score better than you did in Kaplan and this would be a much more accurate evaluation of how you’re actual score is going to turn out. )
Additional GRE resources
Check out this site for vocab – Homepage | Freerice.com. Time pass site for solving vocabulary questions. I used to go on there instead of facebook in the last few days helped me relax and still stay a little close to the coursework.
My Scores in Practice Tests :
- First Test (750Q 490V)
- Second Test (750Q 650V)
- First Test (750Q 550V)
- Second Test (700Q 600V)
- Third Test (760Q 620V)
- First Test (700Q 650V)
- Second Test (700Q 550V) — gave it when I was very sleep so even I didn’t took it seriously.
Actual GRE Test Day
I reached the test center about an hour early so that I would get enough time to relax and get acquainted with the surroundings etc. Once inside the prometric test center it was all taken care of and well managed by the staff.
Just before my test started they gave me earmuffs to subdue the distractions etc – found this to be very helpful.
- On my first section – Issue Essay – I got a pretty general topic but couldn’t write convincingly enough because I couldn’t think of examples to back up my claim.
- On the second section – Argument Essay – I got an easy argument and nailed the whole essay basically.
- Third section was verbal. Started very cautiously so as to not make any mistakes in the first five questions. Got stuck on an antonym on which I spent too much time (not recommended). The RCs were a little challenging – one was easy, other was lengthy with tricky options, third was lengthy, tricky and had confusing options as well.
Overall I’d to rush things in the end because I spent quite a lot of time in the beginning questions.
(note : every word was from barron’s although they wanted some alternate meaning which was not mentioned in the book, so that was one reason why I got stuck in the antonym question when I was trying to figure out by eliminating options etc)
Fourth section was quant, which was pretty easy overall. I breezed through it quickly enough. It had one probability question and one P&C question – both basic in their nature. I actually got stuck in a number system’s question and ended up marking it randomly because I didn’t want to loose time. But in the end finished the quant section with 18mins to spare – not recommended, if you get stuck in a question and have a good speed in quant, then try to solve it somehow even if it takes an extra min or so.
Finally I had volunteered for ETS for the extra section, it was a basic topic on which I wrote quite well in 20 mins.
A few clicks later – 1410!
I guess that’s what I have for now… or later! LoL
Anything you guys want to ask – feel free to do so.
All the best to everyone!
Thanks to Apurv for sharing such an detailed test prep tips covering all aspects of the test prep, books, GRE score improvements.
Now you know the magic formula to score 1410 in GRE. Just like what Apruv did to score 1410 in GRE
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