Tips From My GRE Test Experience
This is the test taking experience of New GRE submitted by a GRE taker. You can read other GRE takers’ experience here.
There are two important things to understand about the GRE:
- It is not so difficult a test that it cannot be cracked with some effort and the right attitude.
- There is no single way to prepare for the test and your test experience may differ from others based on your background.
MY PREPARATION STRATEGY:
I used the Set of 8 Strategy Guides by Manhattan Prep, beginning with the quantitative guides. I felt that these guides were more comprehensive than a single book. I practiced the problems for a few weeks, keeping track of the time taken. When I worked on the verbal guides, I discovered that GRE vocabulary was harder than I had expected.
I wrote a free mock test offered by an institution and scored 328/340 (Q: 169/170, V: 159/170). We didn’t write the AWA section. Because of my high score, I was asked to register for the GRE. My scheduled date was announced two weeks before the test.
Since the quantitative section was my strength, I focused on the verbal section. I studied the GRE Flashcards and Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh.
I took a good night’s sleep before the test. My score was 330/340 (Q: 166/170, V: 164/170, AWA: 4.5/6.0).
ADVICE ON HOW TO PREPARE:
Collect all the information you can on the GRE test.
- Read the Official Guide to the GRE General Test published by ETS.
- Learn the kind of questions asked.
- Learn how the grade is calculated and how your performance in a segment influences the difficulty level of the next segment.
- Understand how scaled scores are converted into percentiles in the quantitative and verbal segments.
- Learn how it gets tougher to improve your score by the same margin as you get better.
Before you start any preparations, take a practice test and note the score. Write the score you’re aiming at in the GRE. How much effort you need to put in will be reflected by the difference in these two scores.
In between your preparation, write another practice test to assess your level of preparedness.
You must practice solving the questions correctly within the given time. Aim to have enough time left to review the answers after you have completed them.
Use Manhattan’s Strategy Guides to start your preparations. Engineering students may not find anything new, but it will help you refresh your basics. Sometimes, you will find some useful shortcuts. With practice, you should be able to solve parts of a question without having to think up a strategy first.
Next, practice thoroughly using the Book of GRE Practice Problems by Manhattan. There are enough problems in it to make solving quantitative questions easy for you.
You cannot improve your verbal score by devising strategies like you can do for quantitative questions. If your reading level has been good, your verbal abilities will be better. The Manhattan Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Guide will give you examples of the verbal questions. GRE does not test your memory of word definitions. Instead, the questions are framed in such a way as to test your understanding of a sentence and your knowledge of words that can fit in a blank without changing the meaning of the sentence.
Ideally, you can improve your reading abilities by reading quality content like the Economist, The New Yorker, and the Atlantic. Create a summary of the passages you read in your head. When you come across words whose meaning you do not know, try to find out their meanings by understanding the context and later, look them up.
However, this is a long-term strategy. If you want to prepare quickly, you can read 1100 Words You Need to Know by Barron. It has five words per page and requires the reader to guess their meanings by reading a passage in which they appear. Next, the reader has to use substitute words in fill-in-the-blank questions and finally, guess the dictionary meanings of the words. This approach is helpful because it is the same as the GRE. Plus, each page also has an idiom, which is useful elsewhere on the test.
GRE Flashcards and Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh are useful for last-minute preparation. The list of words is the same, but one app requires you to match the word to its meaning, whereas the other app requires you to know the meaning of a word. If you use these apps honestly, you will improve.
You may still find words on the GRE that were not listed in any of the verbal resources. So, you must know how to deconstruct a word (prefix + root + suffix) to deduce its meaning. The Manhattan Guide has such lists that you can use.
Analytical Writing section
It is difficult to evaluate your performance on this section because of its subjective nature. Reading good content will help you write better. The Manhattan Reading Comprehension and Essays Guide shows you examples of how essays are written, critiqued, and graded.
You should write some essays and compare them with the ones given in the guide or have someone provide feedback.
ON TEST DAY:
Sleep well on the night before the test so that you are alert during the test. Eat well and avoid stress.
Take the ten-minute break given after the first three sections. Use the one-minute time gap between each section to relax.
Try to complete each section such that you have some time left to review your answers.
To use the calculator, hit the keyboard numpad instead of the mouse.
Most importantly, read the questions carefully before you attempt to solve them.