Success Stories > GRE Success Stories > GRE 315 - Zain Mahmood

GRE 315 - Zain Mahmood


Success 2

I wanted to share my experience with everyone so other people could perform at least as well or better than me on the GRE. My score is not as high as other high-scorers so I will not say that you absolutely follow my methods and would recommend that you take a look at other debriefs as well before making study plans however I will recommend that you use my method to learn vocabulary if that is a problem for you. I started my preparation a little too late I had only a month left when I truly got serious. It is imperative that you start your serious GRE prep at least 2 months before the exam and make a proper timetable of how much to study and what to study each day. The only study method I actually followed regularly was that I studied 2 hours each day that last month, regardless of any work or quizzes etc that I had (I was in my last year of undergraduate studies). I have always had a strong grip on English and when I did my first mock it reaffirmed my belief that I lost marks in SE and TC questions and that was due to vocabulary while the comprehension was pretty good. I was sure I needed to work on my vocab and I started out gradually by the Barron’s word list but it was impossible for me to memorize words just by looking at a list. A friend suggested me to try the Magoosh GRE Flashcards app. That proved truly a blessing in disguise as it helped me memorize most of the common words. By the time I finished them, there were 11-12 days left in my exam and I was worried about how learn to the rest while retaining the old ones which was critical. It is absolutely essential to revise the old vocabulary daily. I adopted the strategy of whenever I learned 50 new words (another set of the Magoosh app) I would also revise the all the ones I had learned before so if I had learned 35o words when I learned the next set I would revise those 50 then the previous 350 and the new 50 again at the end of the day. This sounds tedious but it barely takes an hour to learn 50 new words using that app. On the second last day alone I learned 200 words in one day (4 sets). And I remembered all my old ones as well so on the last day I knew almost 1000 words. Secondly the Magoosh app was okay for the Common and most of the Basic words but when I got to the Advanced words, I just could not memorize them as hard as I tried. At this point I asked Faisal Bhai of Scholar’s Den for help on this issue and he referred me to ‘mnemonicdictionary.com’ which is a website where users contribute their mnemonics (helpful tools to memorize words by utilizing chains of thought). This was in my opinion the best and only tool to remember words which are not in common literature like irascible, schadenfreude, phantasmagorical etc. I was proud of the fact that on the last day I knew every single word of the Magoosh GRE Vocabulary app.


Coming to Quant, I simply finished Barron’s first but after some research I found that it was not the best book out there. It also seemed too easy to me. Again referring to Scholar Den for guidance, which they graciously provided as always, I had about 3 weeks left and I started Manhattan 5 lb. At this point I would like to stress that you should do the 8 Manhattan strategy guides first to completely clear your concepts and then do Manhattan 5 lb to practice and this will be easier for you to do after that. I consulted these guides whenever I needed help in some problem topic but did not have enough time to do them properly. Again I would stress that I did not study as hard or methodologically for the GRE as possible and there are many other resources which can be utilized such as online videos etc (see pinned post for details). Lastly I did about 7 mocks and the score improved significantly from 309 to 321 in the last mock. I did not score as high as I aimed due to some bad luck but these mocks are the reason I got what I did and you can probably achieve a higher score then me by doing as many mocks as possible. I cannot stress the importance of doing these mocks enough with proper time which will improve both time management and stamina of solving the whole paper together.


Lastly I would advise you all not to panic even if one section did not go as well as it should have and focus on the rest of the paper since plenty of scoring options remain and that section could be the experimental one for all you know. Also if you want minor silly suggestions then take a Red Bull before the exam and time it such that your mind is at maximum capacity during the verbal and more importantly the quant sections (not really needed for the essay). And get a good night’s sleep before the exam!