GRE Test Prep Books, Software and Study Tips

I gave my GRE on 25th March and scored 1450 (790Q + 660V) and a 4.5 on AWA. It was slightly unexpected as I scored my maximum on the actual GRE than any other practice tests, but it was a pleasant surprise.

GRE tests your nerves, that’s what I have figured out. The success formula is just staying calm through those 3 odd hours and doing what you have been doing for the past month or so, solve questions as efficiently as you can.

Lets split this into 3 parts as the GRE does.

GRE Analytical Writing Assessment

This one is the most tricky section of the GRE. Hugely under-rated but vital in the process. The essays do not affect your admission, especially if you plan to make it in the Engineering. An average score of 3 or more usually proves enough.
But the section is important as it sets the tone for the exam. If you are confident with your essays and go through them properly, it really helps. Usually, you would be nervous the moment you start writing the essay. And believe me, there nothing as good as a neatly written essay to calm those nerves.

A good essay will give you confidence and a much needed morale boost to face the upcoming sections. So, attempt the essays as sincerely as you attempt the rest 2 sections.

GRE Quantitative Section

GRE Quantitative section is pretty easy once you practice it thoroughly. Practice is the only thing that helps. You need to get your basics cleared before you start with the actual practice questions though.

  • Books like Barrons seem enough for the same.
  • GRE Quants tests is your patience.
  • Some questions are really tricky while some are lengthy.

You know you are going to get there but it takes time and that’s what gets to you. As I said, holding your nerve is the only thing that helps. Also, data interpretation is the toughest of the lot I feel. A thorough practice on it will help for sure.
Also, the difficulty level does go on increasing and the questions start to take time but it returns to the original level in the last few question once your pointer peaks. Time management is not quite a problem in quant. I finished mine with 12 minutes to spare.

GRE Verbal Section

That’s the dreaded section, mainly for the Indian students, especially those from vernacular medium. Verbal is all about managing time and off course luck. The difficulty level does vary, not only from question to question but from day to day. I did have a comparably easy verbal than my friends who gave it the day before.
Time management is one of the key factors in verbal. The Reading Comprehensions do take a lot of time but the analogies and the antonyms make up for it. But you need to be thorough with your words for that.

GRE Test – Breaks

You’ll get 2 breaks in the whole process. One after the AWA of 10 minutes and other after the Quant/Verbal of 1 minute. Use the breaks to their full capacity.

Don’t even waste a single minute on you break. Relax. Do whatever you want to but don’t start beforehand.
Also take the tutorial presented at the start of the test. It’s useless and you might be a computer engineer working on the mouse and keyboard day in and day out but it helps you to relax. It gets you accustomed to the environment in which you’ll be spending the next 3.5 hours giving the exam that decides you future.

GRE Preparation – Verbal

The preparations do vary from person to person. So comparison is in vain.

Start with verbal as it does take a lot of time. I remember doing word lists for days on end and still a lot of them were in the unfinished column. The Barron words list are more than enough I feel.

You will find lots of word list on the net. A 300 word one , a 2500 word one and many more. I will not say they are useless but the Barron’ s word list looks quite complete. Also, you will find a host of High Frequency words but seriously, there is no shortcut for doing the words.

Hard work doesn’t have a substitute. The only thing that would help is working smart. Prepare word groups. Maintain a notebook. Write down similar meaning words. Many more techniques can also be implemented.

The word lists need to be revised for a minimum of 3 times to be thorough with them. Getting them trough is the only way to answer the antonyms and analogies correctly and as I said earlier, they are the only time saving option on the GRE.

GRE Quants Preparation

Quant needs practice. Start of with doing minor exercises and move on to actual GRE questions. The questions from Kaplan are a bit tough than Barron’s but once you get Kaplan right, you can do little wrong on the GRE.

Also, there are 800score.com tests which provide the toughest questions. If you score well on those, be rest assured of you Quant score crossing the 780 mark.

Practice / Mock GRE

Giving mock GREs help more than any other practice. There is nothing better than to give GRE as it would appear right on the test day. Moreover, the testing softwares are pretty accurate about the scoring.

Many people say that the Powerprep is the best indicator of you score on the actual GRE but I felt the other way. The princeton and Kaplan give far more accurate scores than the Powerprep. In fact my 2 tests on Powerprep were 1220 and1310, far from my actual score.

Not getting depressed by a low score is important. Think the other way round. Say to yourself that the softwares are cheating as the companies want you to buy there softwares and move on. Practice to get a higher score.

Equally important is not letting a god score on the Mock get to your head. If the software was inaccurate on your failure, it cant guarantee you success too!

There is a huge list of GRE Testing Softwares available through the net. I’ll list the ones I used:

  • Powerprep – v2 and v3(in free CD from ETS) – 2 tests each
  • GRE Barrons – 2 tests
  • Kaplan  GRE- 3 full GRE tests and 6 each of verbal and quant
  • Princeton Cracking GRE – 4 tests (Book + Software)
  • 800score.com – 5 tests
  • Cambridge – 1 test

GRE Books used

Remember, being focused is the only thing that will help you. Try to concentrate on the GRE other than anything else. There will be distractions throughout mainly due to mismatch in timing.

There would be a difference of around 40 mins between the person entering the bloc first and the one entering last. Thus, when you would be in your Verbal/Quant section, he would be attempting the AWA and the keyboard clutter could cause distraction.

Stay calm. Stay cool. All the best with you exams.

Feel free to contact me for any materials. I did get a lot from this blog and the members herein and I would be the happiest if I could pay-back.

Thansk to Nitish for sharing his GRE Experience. It well written and informative.