My GRE experience was better than I thought it would be. I scored 1580. which was unexpectedly and pleasantly high.
- GRE Verbal – 780
- GRE Quantitative – 800
- GRE Analytical Writing 5.0
GRE Coaching Class
I know many GRE-takers can’t decide whether to take a GRE Coaching class or prepare on their own. Though taking a class certainly won’t be enough to guarantee you a good score, I’d suggest joining one. I had taken coaching for about 6 weeks, and though I didn’t remember the words and formula as such during the course of the classes, at the end of the day I had good, reliable material to start off with.
With so many distractions around us, the momentum that a regular class gives can be important. So unless you’re very confident about your motivation and ability, joining a class can be a good investment. Looking to save a few bucks can prove expensive later on if you happen to lose sight of your goal along the way, and end up with a score beneath your potential.
Then again, joining the right GRE Coaching center is important; I’ve heard of classes which hand out word lists and make them recite the word and meaning out loud. That’s the worst possible kind of preparation, and ironically turns students looking to pursue graduate study into kindergarteners.
The class I attended was taught by a sir with amazing knowledge about an array of topics, and he just used to talk about any random topic and GRE words were brought into the interaction naturally, wherein he explained them to us along with the pertinent word’s synonyms. This is an important part of preparation-‘learning in context’.
We can, and will forget a word that we learn by rote, but knowing and understanding the way in which in which it’s used will seal the word in memory.
General GRE Preparation Tips
Regarding preparation, I’d suggest the following-
- Before you start your preparation, set a target score. Don’t underestimate yourself. It’s ok to aim high, as long as your work is commensurate to that. 🙂
- If you will take/have taken coaching, perfect the GRE Study materials at hand before moving on to online material or other books. Looking to work in too many directions at the same time can shift your focus.
- In case you plan to study on your own, make sure you ask for advice regarding the right kind of material to buy/download from seniors or reliable blogs like HSB. GRE preparation is not the time to demonstrate our independence, there’ll be ample time for that later on.
- Don’t try to second guess the computer. It doesn’t matter which of the sections will be evaluated, do your best on all of them.
- Start your preparation early, preferably atleast 5 months before your expected test month; earlier if you’re not very comfortable with english.
- Take some practice tests in the course of your preparation, but know when to stop. Too many practice tests without proper preparation and the resultant low score can affect confidence.
- The quantitative section is the most important criteria for admissions, make sure you’re good with the basics you learnt in school and intermediate. I do wish someone had told me while we were first learning those concepts of probability and permutations that they’d come back to us in the form of GRE, I’d have paid a lot more attention.
- Luckily, most Indians find the quantitative section a cakewalk. In a regular situation, it’s pretty easy to score over 700 in this section. So if you’re consistently scoring over 700 in preliminary practice tests, I think it’s better to spend time to improve your verbal score rather than trying to bring up your quants to 800.
- A perfect quants score is great, but in the time that you spend increasing your score by about a 100 in quants, you could actually increase your verbal score by about 200-300 points with the right kind of preparation.
GRE Analytical Writing
- The AWA section is said to be the least important part of the GRE, and rightly so. However,this section can play a deciding factor during the admissions process, when the committee has to chose between two candidates with similar profiles. So being ready with an opening and closing template is probably a good idea.
- The argument is a pretty easy section, you just have to find fault with everything(logically, of course).
- AWA issue is a different matter, and requires a basic knowledge of history, literature, politics, etc. If you have sufficient time, it’s a good idea to look at the pool of topics and maybe try to find sample answers somewhere(only to get an idea of what is expected and accepted. Never, ever lift off entire ideas or sentences)
- If you’ve started preparing, the dreaded concept of dummy sections wouldn’t be new to you. It’s possible that you can get two quant/verbal/awa sections, only one of which will be considered into your score.
- For those of you who have more than a year to go before you have to take GRE, start general reading. This will help you ease into the habit of reading and looking up new words, and will also better equip you for issue-writing. ‘The Hindu’ editorial is a great place to start!
- If you’re a habitual reader(fiction/non-fiction, even reading the newspaper everyday gives you good practice) you will find some GRE words familiar. The reading habit will also be a great help with the reading comprehensions, which are nothing like the ones we had in school. In limited time, reading the high-level passages requires a speed of effective reading, which comes naturally when reading is a habit. Even better when it’s a hobby. 🙂
Understand GRE Scoring
- Most importantly, know how the GRE test is scored. The GRE is computer adaptive, and the initial questions carry far more weightage than the last few. Spend half your section time on the first 10 questions of the section. If you get all of them right on a row, your job is half done. Also, you’ll be penalized for leaving question unanswered, so never leave any questions.
- Answering the last three questions wrong is better than leaving the last one unanswered, score-wise. When you get to the end of the section, on the last question, choose an answer before you begin to solve it. If the time’s up, you’ll be asked for confirmation of your chosen answer. If luckily you get the right answer before time’s up, you can always change it. Bottom line, never leave it unanswered.
GRE Exam: One Month to Go
One month before the test date, step it up. Take lot of practice tests, and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Always see the key and go through the right method to approach each question; this is especially important in the quantitative section. If you can, set aside a book for practice tests so that you can track your progress. Taking maximum possible number of practice tests will accustom you to the time limitation and you can learn to manage time better.
GRE Study Materials
Try different standardized GRE tests like-
- Powerprep (the best measure of your performance, you get two tests. Save one for two days before the test. That score will give you an idea of the score you can expect)
- Barron’s (two tests in the cd you get along with the book)
- Kaplan , Princeton Review, etc
- Top 9 GRE Test Prep Books
You can try 800 tests practice tests; the difficulty level is higher than that of the actual GRE, but if you’re consistently scoring around a score range, you can expect that your score won’t be lower than that on the actual test.
The last few practice tets I took gave me scores over 1500, but of course back then I thought that the tests weren’t being difficult enough. But in the end, those tests, especially the GRE powerprep test, turned out to be accurate indicators of my test score.
On the Day of the GRE Exam
On the day of the exam, the most important thing is to keep your head. The GRE is important, but it’s only the means to an end and not the end itself. Don’t panic, and never try to cram any words the day before the test, or worse, at the test center (make sure you find out the exact location of the test center beforehand).
Revise all the GRE quants formula and verbal tips on the day before the exam. Take extra care of your health the week before your exam, especially in the winter. You don’t want to end up with a runny nose, you need our hands for more important things.
Give your best shot. Hope this helps, all the best! 🙂
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