1-Testing | GRE

How To Improve GRE Score: 1290 to 1430

Hello HSB – I am from Pune. I have been following HSB since last 2 years. It has been of immense help. So, I thought of sharing my GRE Exam experience.

GRE Exam – 1290

I had taken GRE in my third year i.e. in 2007. I was not very well prepared for the exam. I had completed about 30 wordlists from Barron’s, but had to take GRE asap since there were rumors of change in pattern at that time. I scored 1290. Verbal =550 and Quant = 740.I did not have sufficient time to finish those remaining 20 wordlists. So, I just started taking practice tests.

I had no time to prepare specially for quant. So, I listed out all formula and concentrated only on problems I got wrong on practice tests. During these tests, I realized that knowing each and every word from Barron’s is indeed very important. But you can’t improve vocabulary in last few days and since I was from Marathi medium school, my GRE vocab was not so good.

I read all tips from books and HSB and actually used them in the test. This is very important. Many times we just read them and forget to use them in test as we are focused on that particular question at the time of test. But if you make conscious effort to use them, it becomes habit.

Analogies was my weak point because of poor vocab. But, I followed each and every tip on RC and used it and it really helped me. I used to get most of the RC questions correct.

I scored just 430 in verbal on powerprep test a day before. So, I was really happy to see my highest score on actual GRE. 😀 That was 550. I had not practiced quant section rigorously and had to suffer. Ended up with 740 and last 2 questions unanswered.?But this GRE experience proved to be a learning experience for me and I realized that I can definitely do better than 1290.

Then I decided to take GRE again and learn at least every word in Barron’s.

GRE Test – 1490

GRE Verbal tips

Learn each and every word in Barron’s. It gives you lot of confidence to face GRE. You may encounter completely unknown word on GRE. But importance of Barron’s can’t be denied.

Read a wordlist with a blank mind. Read sentence associated with it carefully. Make random associations if that sentence reminds you of anything familiar or a story. Or think of equivalent word in your native language to get exact sense of that word. So you can remember it like… ‘ohh means something like !!

Make a notebook. After reading wordlist completely, try to figure out difficult words and write them in your notebook. If the word is very difficult, then write sentence as well or anything that helps you to remember that word. So, you can shrink wordlist of around 85 words to about 60 words. In such a way, you can reduce total number of words by 20 x 50 i.e. 1000 words!!! Think of it every time you finish a wordlist and it helps to reduce mental stress of building vocabulary.

Vocabulary building gets frustrating when you forget word you read a day before. Accept it, read that word again and write it. Once you have read good number of wordlists you will encounter similar words. At the end of the notebook, write all of them in one group. I had made such lists e.g. there are many words meaning stubborn. Also, write all words related to one common thing. E.g. food, animals, different professions, ~logies, geographical structures.

Adjectives and Verbs are more important. These are potential words for antonym questions. Nouns are generally found in analogies.

Think of connotation of the word i.e. whether it is positive or negative. Sometimes you don’t remember actual meaning, but you definitely know its connotation. It helps to eliminate wrong answer choices.

Read all words written in your notebook again and again. You can’t avoid that. Just do this for couple of months and you are done with your GRE! If you waste 4-5 months in just vacab preparation, it gets boring. By this method I had finished Barron’s completely and knew each and every Barron’s word at the time of my second attempt.

I know, there are many non- Barron’s words. But this is what is in your hands. Otherwise read, read and read! But that’s long time preparation. If you are in first/second year, you can still do that. If you read GRE word somewhere or hear it while watching movie, you get that awesome feeling ‘I know, I know this word! Yay!’ 😀

Reading Comprehension: Don’t read passage. Read question and answer choices first. So, while reading you naturally think in that direction. Don’t just read without understanding anything! I used to do this 😀 . Keep your mind cool and read it. It may take time more than they specify in tips. Understand the passage.

Think about structure of the passage i.e. first paragraph proposes this, second proves it, third compares it with something else, so author seems to think in this way. This helps a lot. It gives you correct answers. Also, most of the times answer choices with sentences similar to that in passage are wrong. They are misleading. Read them carefully.

Practice. Practice. Practice. This is very important for time management. I didn’t practice so much and had to suffer. Time management is very very very important. Otherwise you can’t do anything even if you know each and every answer. I had to simply answer second RC of 85 lines without reading it. But that was ok since it was at around 20th question. I read third RC at around 25th question completely as it was small.

FIRST 15 QUESTIONS ARE VERY VERY IMPORTANT. I tried my best for first 15 questions and it really helped me to get a good score in spite of answering last 7-8 questions without reading in each section. I think I could have done better if I had done enough practice.

Kaplan Verbal workbook has nice division of words of similar meaning. I got to know this very late. But I had already prepared such list on my own.

Use mobile vocabulary software if you travel daily. I work as a SW engineer. So I have to travel everyday. I used to read few words everyday. It also helped me to revise all words when I was traveling to Mumbai for GRE. So I saved time to revise vocab.

GRE Quantitative  Tips

Practice. Even though quant is very easy, it needs practice to finish it in time.?2. Practice co-ordinate geometry, probability, mean, mode, median, standard deviation, frequency distribution, permutation combinations. I got 4-5 questions on equation of line in actual GRE.

I had forgotten all those equations as I was not in touch with them for last few years. I read them in the morning of test day. It saved me.?3. Learn different system of units. E.g. hectars, ounces, inches, gallons, yards.?4. Powerprep comes with one PDF (MATHREV.pdf )document in quantitative section. It is good to refresh all concepts at last minute.

Read sample issues and argument essays in powerprep.

So, I took GRE again in Nov 2010. In my second attempt I scored 1430. Verbal = 660 and Quantitative = 770. I could have done better in quantitative if I had done enough practice.

On the test day: BE CONFIDENT AND KEEP YOURSELF  COOL IRRESPECTIVE OF LEVEL OF PREPARATION. GIVE YOUR BEST. I SCORED HIGHEST ON ACTUAL GRE IN BOTH MY ATTEMPTS. Take rest a night before. If you are tired just before your test, take those stupid tutorials about ‘how to use mouse’ to relax and get used to test environment. I took entire tutorial just to relax. Take ten minute break after analytical section. All the best!

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  1. Hi,
    It was good to read ur article. I feel motivated for giving the exam again. actually i gave my GRE in march and got a shock. i scored only 770, verbal=210, maths=560.

    The verbal was a real setback for me. I did lots of word from barrons, but unfortunately non of the words came in the test. Did i miss out anything important?

    Thanks for the advice and guidance..


  2. hi,

    Since you are from Pune , did u go to dilip oak's?..which book did you refer for your quant preparation?…I am planning to take GRE in aug i:e the revised GRE with the new pattern….any suggestions on which books to refer and how to go about it?

  3. I have seen a lot of people talking about mugging up word lists and claiming to score well in verbal.

    I for one, wasn't blessed with such rote learning power, and chose not to memorize these word lists (because I couldn't)!

    If there is anyone out there who's like me (unable to memorize, but able to learn), this comment may be helpful.

    I used "Word Power Made Easy" by Norman Lewis book (5 years back it had a red cover, now i think its white), read and learnt 90% of the book (couldn't finish it in time). I wonder why such books are never suggested for Verbal preparation! It doesn't just teach you about each words meaning, but also the concept of etymology. Its an awesome book no one should miss

    The other part of my Verbal preparation was reading novels. Read at least 20 different novels in a period of 5 months. (not a lot compared to many "voracious" readers I have known). I guess this helped me a lot in RC more than vocabulary. I'd make use of the dictionary when I came across an unknown word. Best part of this kind of a preparation: Reading good novels can never be boring!

    Unlike me, if you are a serious/disciplined preparer for the GRE, I suggest you go through WPME and reading novels first, then if you are blessed, go through memorizing the word lists.

    I am not claiming to have achieved a very high score in verbal, it was just 470/800. but for the amount of effort I put in for less than 1 month (compared to my peers' efforts, most of them going to consultants and memorizing word lists over 3 to 4 months), my score was comparatively higher. My point is that not everyone is blessed with the power of memorizing, so if you are not among the blessed, try some other way to score in verbal. Try my methods. Try your own ingenius ways to score a good score in Verbal.

    Hope it helps!

    1. btw, I was not at all talking about mugging up wordlists and I had scored 550 in one month preparation w/o using WPME 😉 .

      Even I could not learn all wordlists in my first attempt. And I have already mentioned it in the post that, if you have enough time, read, read and read. But there are many people who don't have that much time. So, learning words by understanding them , knowing connotations, using tips, and thinking about that word in your context can really help. Moreover, finishing wordlists boosts your confidence (at least in my case) which is very important on test day.

      And yes WPME is a great book. But it takes time and dedication. If you have time , you should do that definitely.

  4. hi…dear very useful tips been provided by you for preparation…….hoping for more useful tips for other sections as well…..

  5. Does SW mean Stone and Webster??

    If it does can you tell me which course at what university are you planning to opt for.

    I am a final year chemical engineering student hoping to get a similar score.


  6. Another great method is downloading audio files of GRE word list…put it in ur ipod or cellphone and listen to it all the time when you travel…listening helps a lot more!

  7. dear,

    its very important tips listed by you.

    now i m also preparing GRE, still i m working so can't give enough for preparation, as per as QUANTS concern i m good (even if i hv PHARMACY background), but main problem is regarding WORDS. i dont hv enough vocab power, so please suggest me to how much time i will give for words preparation and how can i improve myself.

  8. man! i just dont get it that ppl think gre is so tough…..i got 1430 on my first attempt….i never took any coaching….just barrons for a month or so…..it is even more easier now, coz they took out 'out of context-words' stuff, from the xam…..by-hearting words is not too necessary anymore……and the thing is i am an average student….. its just hype man….its a sitter compared to fms or ias…..just my opinion

    1. ok tell me what books to prepare for gre dont tell the book name barrons i prepared barrons thats y i got very less marks waste book tell the book name better than barrons

        1. books are same…a person who gets 1560 also studies from the same book as the one who gets 1100…

          It how you take the things

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