Hey !! My name is Mihir Parulekar. I gave GRE a week back and scored 330/340. It took me preparation of 20 days. This article will give a concise idea of how you should prepare and what you should avoid doing. I am not a teacher and here I am not teaching anything but I am trying to show a possible approach to crack the exam in short time available. I have formatted links in bold, italics and underline format. Highlight if you find some line meaningful, it will help others.
GRE stand for Graduate Record Examinations conducted by ETS. It is a computer based test and you can take it any time, any number of times. It is important as many United States based universities asks for your GRE scores before admitting you for graduate program and it acts as a screening score.
20 days are enough for GRE .
Pattern and Syllabus:
( Before giving any test not just GRE, you should always learn pattern and syllabus. )
GRE has Five section of three types. We will discuss about Analytical Writingsection afterwards. Remaining two are Quantitative ability and Verbal reasoning both are for 170 marks each.
For verbal you get 20 questions 30 minutes and for quant you get 20 questions and 35 minutes. In exam you will be facing 6 sections: 1 of Analytical Writing, 2 of verbal, 2 of quant and 1 additional section of either verbal or quant. (Depends on luck. So unfair !) Furthermore its adaptive, that is if you solve first section correctly you are going to get a more difficult questions in next sections. (It is section wise adaptive which means complexity will not increase or decrease in same section but in next section of that type.)
Based on the responses that you will give in those excruciating four and half hours, GRE will give you your scaled score. No one actually knows how they count scaled score, its like ‘ duckworth lewis ’ in cricket, anything can happen. But generally they give reasonable scores. Lets do breakdown of scores.
Scoring Strategy :
Firstly you have to decide what is your strength. Is it English or is it Maths? I will recommend you all to give diagnostics test before you start, it will give you clear idea of your where you stand. Otherwise what generally happens is you will either overestimate or underestimate your level. So I will recommend you to give diagnostic test especially powerprep test by ETS. It is same as GRE. Give it seriously without skipping AWA section. What I will recommend is go to some place where no one will disturb you. Shut off your phone.
So to get 330+ scores you need 160+ score in one and 165+ score in another (at least). Generally quant is easy to score and many get perfect 170. If you get 170 in quant you can get away with 160 in verbal. Whatever less marks you get form the absolute score in quant you have to compensate it by adding same number of marks in your 160 score of verbal.
So being strong in one and weak in another will never get you there.
one more thing: whatever score you have you can improve it ! (Unless you have 340.)
If you are fair with high school level maths you are going to get at least 160. So if you are looking for 310+ score (which you should never. You should always aim for 330+. Sadly many get satisfied by 310–320.) you don’t have to prepare quant that much. Just slight brush up of basic probability, statistics and geometry concepts would be enough. Click hereto get official guide of ETS for mathematics. You literally don’t have to use your brain to get 155+ marks.
If you are looking for 320+ score you should aim 165–170 score in quant. For this advancement you have to put some efforts. Not lot of but some. In exam you don’t get any random questions. Your section will be consisting of Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra and Data Analysis and unless and until you are some alien who has just landed on earth you are going to be master of some of these subsections. So be clever and ignore those you know and study the topic you are weak at. For example you are wizard of geometry don’t even look at it. Use that time for Algebra or Arithmetic. Make one thing clear in your mind that doing same thing again and again wont help you,GRE quant is literally children’s gameso just learn the basics of all concepts.
Now if you want 165+ (or 168 like me) you have to aim and prepare for 170. Believe me it is not as simple as getting 165. It requires effort.(lots off). As it is Adaptive your questions are going to get more and more tough. Trust me they will become really tough at the end and you are going to stuck at some questions.
Quant my suggestions :
You are going to get 6 questions on Data Analysis. That is nothing but graphs and pie charts and stuff like that. Prepare this topic first.In your exam you should not waste more than one minute each on these 6 questions. For that you will require some practice. Most of these questions are tricky as the language in which questions are asked is very abstruse and sometimes graphs are also very obscure. So practice beforehand will come very handy. So get done with this topic first and be sure to jot down the mistakes you do while solving and believe me you are going to make many silly mistakes. It would be sillier not to remember what silly thing you did. So make mistakes log. This whole topic will probably take 3–4 hours.
Next thing you have to get done with is the quantitative comparison. You are going to get somewhere around 10 of these problems. Many people while preparing, only goes after different math topics but smart people like me and you should not forget the different question types. Quantitative Comparison is characteristic type of question giving you hundred of chances to make silly mistakes. So solve at least 100 problems of of this type. It can cover many topics such as percents, work etc. Get familiar with format. Again jot down the mistakes you make.It would take your 3–4 hours. Solve these problems for practice. (Also checkout other problem sets available there.)
Probability, Statistics should be next on list as these topics are simple but you have to know definitions beforehand.Median, Mode, Variance,Normal Distribution are the simplest topics in whole universe if you know there definitions. So destroy these topics. It wont take more than 3 hours. In case of probability you have to review different problem types and understand the procedure to solve them. GRE doesn’t asks you difficult problems so learn the typical problem answering strategies. Knowledge of Permutation and Combinations will come handy.
Geometry is important. I personally find it very easy. In geometry firstly go for triangle, quadrilaterals, polygons,circle and co ordinate. Again, don’t go too dip just go through formulas and start solving. Lastly go through Three dimensional geometry. Go through angle measures problem and area problems.
Then go for Percents, Rates, Speed Time Distance problems. You can solve these problems by simple logic. But little preparation would be better.It would take two hours.
Now lastly go for number properties , divisibility test etc. I would strongly recommend you to solve as many problems as you can.Just reading properties wont help solve problems.Questions such as quadratic or some word problems of age or mixtures should be practiced.
Last step would be going through miscellaneous topics. This is very important. There are going to be topics you may not be comfortable with. Target them and be in position of at least gaming such problems.
Now some precise stuff:
If you have 20 days of preparation remaining I would suggest you to give daily 2–3 hours for quant. Within first week of these 20 days you must get done with all the topics I mentioned above. You should do it consistently without fail. I would strongly recommend you to give diagnostic tests before start of preparation. There are many available out there. Later I would be giving links to some of them.
The next important factor is books. I will recommend for understanding the concepts use official guide. For problem solving I used Manhattan 5lb(link for Indian readers ). The best part about it is detailed answers and variety of questions. Bifurcation of topics is also appreciable. I have also checked Barron’s guide which has a great summery of formulas and techniques to tackle different problems. (I have given links to amazon India website to buy these books, and you should always buy, but if you are in final days of preparation or don’t have time or resources to buy, there are plenty of ways available. If you get what I mean to say. Google it.). Don’t use lot of books , complete the one you have chosen.
Time aspect. It is always better to get used to tickling time. In actual exam you get a digital clock on right upper side of your screen starting from 35 towards zero. So if you are not used to that it might give you some psychological problems. Another added advantage is when you time your preparation you get your mind to concentrate. My observation was one exercise in Manhattan prep used to take hour before I started timing, after which I used to get done with all the questions in less than thirty minutes. So in short timing your preparation would stop your minds chitter-chatter and will increase your efficiency.
Now this is something for those who are aiming 170. Complete all questions in 27–28 minutes and keep 7–8 minutes for checking all the questions.
One day before test day take a review of your mistakes book. Go through formulas.
Go through following links and use according to your need:
Collection of different articles(quant topics). If you don’t want to sign up, copy the title of the article in new tab.
This is also useful website. Just beware of little high difficulty level.
I usedthese notesto start.
For most of the non English native students, verbal is the main impediment between good GRE scores. You automatically go in the range of 320+ if you get 155+ in verbal and can certainly get somewhere near 330 if you score 160+ in verbal. Its very important to master this difficult section. For verbal you are going to need way more consistent, persistent efforts.
So at start of your verbal section you will have first 6 questions of Text completion type. Where complex sentences with blanks are given and you have to fill those blanks with the most apt word from the given options. There can be single blank, double blank, triple blank sentences. Unless and until you fill all the blanks correctly you don’t get any marks.
After that you will face two Reading Comprehension passages with 5 questions. The length of passages may vary. For some it would be 400 words while for some it might be mere 100.But eventually you are going to get at least one big passage.
After RC you will have 4 sentence equivalence questions where there is single blank sentence. You have 5 options given and you have to select 2 options that best suits. This is arguably the most easy question type of verbal.
After Sentence Equivalence you again have remaining RC question till question number 20.The length of these paragraphs varies a lot.
All in all you will have 30 minutes to solve all these questions.
This is all about verbal section format now lets consider the strategies.
Now I understand improving vocab is long term process . But you have to do something. GRE has a set of words that appears frequently you have to get done with them first. There are many word lists available out there. Barrons333 is very reputed and must for all aspirants. Manhattans 500 essential and 500 Advanced are also good resource. Make sure you remember all the words you read. The best way I found to fortify these words in memory is Mnemonics. Also check memrise app. There is special already prepared gre list available you can add it and play game. Its superfun .
If you have more than 30 days I would recommend world famous ‘Word Power Made Easy’. It is in my opinion the best book to add new words to your basket. Once you start reading you would not keep it down and complete it within few days. It will surely add those words permanently in your memory.
Reading different websites will also help. The New York Times, The New Yorker will not only provide you interesting new words but also give you practice of reading the excerpts you are going to face in RC problems. I found Arts and Letters Daily very useful.Their app is also available. Recently I read the fountainhead. It also included most of the GRE words. It is must read book also. Adding words this way would give you context to remember those words. All this is advisable if you have 30–40 or more days in your hand. If you have less than that focus on word lists that wold be more fruitful.
I personally prepared with a list my friend gave me. I unfortunately deleted the soft copy hence cant make it available now but if I find it in future I will surely make it available. It was in very beautifully format which I will recommend to you guys which is [Word:Meaning:Sample sentence: Synonym: Antonym]. This made connecting and remembering the words easy.
Dichotomy for Scores:
Lets make a plan for 160+ verbal score.(Again you have to aim for absolute score to reach at least 160).
Reading Comprehension is the backbone of your Verbal Score. I say this with great thought. Half of your questions are RC. If you answer them correctly you are going to be 155+ or even more without doubt.(This does not mean you underestimate the rest.)The other sections are more like the launching pads for your score. The more you get them correct higher would be your scores. But without good scores in RC you can never have good GRE verbal scores. There is a reciprocating relationship that is if you do better in Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence you normally do better in RC the reason is you get more time for tackling RC problems.
This is the best guide for RC in my opinion. It is concise and I would recommend to follow whatever you could.
- You ideally should not read passage more than once in its entirety.In one reading you should get the structure and main point of the passage.
- You should improve your reading speed. You can always read faster than your present speed.Generally our reading speed is same as our speaking speed.You should read faster than that.This is possible within a week. I personally improved my speed.In final days i just used to read the keywords of the sentence and not used to notice a, and, the, whereas etc. If you have more time then go for vertical reading.
- Mind mapping of different events happening in passage is also very helpful. It reduces your time of re reading whole passage.But it takes time to imbibe this habit so don’t try if you have less than a month.
Follow that guide for RC. (It is really helpful.)
The Ultimate Step:
The ultimate step that would give you sure shot success in verbal is Practice. For verbal it is very very important. Because the Text Completion,Sentence Equivalence problems are not that innocent as they appear. They are full of traps. You have to keep an eye on extremes,over statements, under statements. If you practice you will not only gather lot many new words but also revisit those you know. You can’t master Verbal without practice. I would recommend Manhattan 5lb book because it has elaborated answers which will teach you how to approach these question types.
For RC also Manhattan is very great. Every question is explained very well.
I would recommend a timed practice. Go for 30 minutes session in which you should solve either 30 Text Completion or 30 Sentence Equivalence.And 20 minutes session in which 5 RC problems. Use elimination.
So for 20 days in first week you should focus more on word lists creating foundation for you (Also start problem solving) and in last two weeks keep solving as many questions as you can.
This is the section that failed me. I prepared for AWA but somehow didn’t score as much as I expected. I did analysis of what might have hampered my scores.
Keep in mind reviewer is going to have only 2 minutes to review your essay. So maintain clarity in your writing. It should be easier to understand what you want to convey.
As you might be knowing the topic pool is available.
Both essays must be 400–500 words long so practice writing. Use this website. It gives you word count, Level of your writing, spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Write few essays. Most important is get your responses checked. Writing without assessment wont be fruit full.
In 20 days it is difficult to improve score by lot margin but you can surely improve your score by 0.5 or 1 by rectifying the common mistakes.
Adding quotes to your essay is advisable but don’t do mistake I did which putting Irrelevant quotes. You can find many quotes here.
Crunchprep also has very good compilation of quotes here.
- Give a diagnostic Test before starting your preparation. Here are some: 1:Official ETS powerprep 2:Manhattan Practice Free Test
- While giving test don’t jump AWA section.
- Keep last two days for review and get done with learning and problem solving phase before that.
- Make practice of siting on one place of 5 hours. Otherwise it would be hard at test venue. GRE is exam of Endurance.
- On test day keep yourself hydrated. Take fruits with yourself.
- Select universities you want to apply beforehand.
I wrote this article as many of my friends were asking how I prepared. I know 330 is not a very great score and I am not trying to teach you guys anything. It is just the approach I think will help.These were the strategies I employed and it worked for me you should apply your own thinking.
The main point I am trying to make is GRE is not difficult exam and 20 days are enough for preparation. So understand the exam, plan and execute.