GRE 320 - Maryam Ahmad
Quant: 163 & Verbal: 157
I took my GRE test on 28th September and scored 320 overall. Before writing anything else about my preparation, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Scholar Den founder Faisal Khan for helping throughout and guiding all along. It's not easy to take time out of one's busy routine. I really appreciate the tremendous amount of efforts he has put to bring Scholarden to where it is now. Moreover, Scholarden community as a whole has been very helpful and I could rely on them for immediate responses to queries, so thanks to them too. Though it's irrelevant to the platform I am using to share my story, it would be unfair if I don't mention and acknowledge the support I have received from one of my college seniors. She, along with my new and old friends from professional and personal network, and my family, had kept me motivated throughout, directly or indirectly, especially when I needed it most.
It's a very lengthy passage and I apologize in advance if it may sound verbose. Though my GRE score is not too high especially the quant score, but that's how I went about it. Even if it helps a single person, the purpose will be served ?
Road To GRE
My journey to GRE started in June. 2016-2017 have been quite tough years for me mainly for the reasons that I immigrated to US. It was in June when I thought of taking GRE exam and for this, I did istikhara for 7 consecutive days to seek guidance and help from Allah. I had brought Barron's GRE book with me from Pakistan so I started preparing from it. During this time, I heard about Scholarden from one of the alumni members so I thought to join Facebook groups. I discussed with Scholar Den my profile (I had 3.81 CGPA in BE Electrical Engineering) and he shared his thoughts on my chances of getting scholarship for MS. It was only through his guidance and feedback that I prepared myself for the big challenge ahead. I read pinned post that mentioned all the steps required for taking GRE and best resources for each section ( Barron's GRE book was certainly not high ranked). I took my diagnostic test on 27th June, after midnight, because that was the only spare time I could get and I just wanted to get done with it. I was doing 3 jobs at that time, 2 of which were online. From then on, I didn't stop. My desire to pursue higher education only became stronger with each passing day, hence I was ready to take all the pains. I got 310 (Q: 159, V: 151) on Manhattan's free diagnostic test. I read Umair Khan's success story on Scholarden's group and used it as a reference. I kept 3 months for GRE preparation, and during this time, I often came back to read the story again whenever I needed motivation.
- Magoosh: Premium Account, Complete guide to GRE book
- 4 ETS Books: GRE Big Book (For RC & TC), ETS Official Guide to revised GRE, Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions
- 7 Manhattan Books: 1-6 Strategy Guides, 5lb of GRE practice problems (2nd edition)
- Barrons: For Quant Strategies
- 2 Veritas Books: Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension
- LSAT Exams
- Websites: Vocabulary, mnemonicdictionary, nytimes, aldaily
- Apps: Magoosh GRE vocabulary flashcards, Magoosh Vocabulary builder, Prep4GRE, Galvanize, Quizlet, Manhattan, PocketGRE, Varsity Tutors
My first month of preparation had been quite tough mainly for the amount of work I was doing each day. It was even more than what I had ever done in my life, I could easily work for 14-16 hours when I was in Pakistan but here, having too many responsibilities and changed circumstances, increased overall workload and stress level. Despite this and despite the fact that I used to get fever every night, I studied for a minimum of 4 hours, juggling between tasks. I was able to complete all strategy guides by Manhatten for quant in first month. I had kept error log for quant which I used to analyze my accuracy level topic wise, and doing more practice in areas I struggled. I kept my focus on vocabulary because I had performed better in RC in mock test so I started learning vocabulary in context using wordnik.com, learnt mnemonics through mnemonicdictionary.com and wrote all relevant examples and mnemonics for flashcards I made myself in Quizlet. This continued until I came across vocabulary.com which is far more user friendly and useful website so I started using this instead. This website gives exactly all the scenarios and context in which a word can be used and it really helped me. I had learnt around 200 words by the end of month.
During 2nd month of preparation, I bought Magoosh's premium account on discounted price, after reading scholarden members' reviews about it. The best kind of practice that can be done is through Magoosh account because it gives option to take practice quizzes as many times as you want, for example 20 Quant Qs in 35 minutes. I watched videos especially for the difficult topics like probability, and they are quite helpful, especially the strategies. I was able to increase my accuracy in these difficult areas. I kept learning vocabulary, though my pace was slow because I couldn't learn 50 words each day owing to the fact that the process I mentioned above was very time consuming but worth all the effort. I was retaining words in memory very well. I also started doing practice Questions from LSAT because I was finding Magoosh's questions to be very difficult (though they are very similar to actual GRE questions when it comes to comparing difficulty level) hence I knew I had to put more effort to bring myself up to the level. I wrote down all the words in a diary that I encountered while practicing in Magoosh and one-word definition for each and revised those throughout the day, even while I was working. I practiced verbal questions from Manhatten's app because I could use it while I was at work. I also learnt some words through it. On 28th August, I took Kaplan's Mock test 4 in which I scored 317 (Q: 164, V:150). I was not satisfied with my scores especially with verbal ones. Moreover, I was making stupid mistake every time in quant. For example, who does not know how the word 'numbers' and 'integers' makes everything different for quantitative comparison question. But every time I came across such, due to time shortage and skimming through while reading question, I'd forget to check the allowed domain for the variable. So these were some common mistakes that I was doing and even error log didn't help me avoid it. So I came up with a different solution for myself, I took a sheet and wrote down all the things that I am NOT supposed to do while taking test. For example, I wrote: do NOT assume that lines shown as parallel are parallel. I looked at these instructions periodically and just like that, I was able to increase accuracy to 100% in quantitative comparison questions in Mock tests.
So for the third month, after discussing with one of the members on Scholarden's group who scored 161 in verbal (M Zaid), I started with a different strategy. I used Magoosh account and took mock test almost every day. Magoosh's questions are tough and Mock tests are prepared from the available pool of questions so you can take these mock tests until your pool exhausts, and the good thing is questions are according to the format, and it even includes experimental section (which even ETS mock tests don't have), and all questions are in correct proportion for example 3 Data Interpretation questions in Quant. So through this exhausting yet worthwhile practice, I was able to build stamina for the actual test. I gave 13 mock tests using Magoosh and identified my weak areas. I was consistently performing poor on critical reasoning section so I referred to veritas Critical Reading guide which was extremely helpful. I practiced around 45 questions from this in a single day, after going through the strategies, and it really improved my performance. I learnt around 800-900 words overall. My overall performance in Magoosh was 162-166 for Quant and 151-156 for Verbal. 2nd half of this month had been very tough for me, for personal reasons, and despite all this, I was able to keep myself focused through prayers and I continued taking Mock tests. My scores in Manhatten Mock test 2 and 3 that I took in last week of preparation were 314(Q: 160, V: 154 and 316 (Q: 161, V: 155). I took my first ETS mock test (PP test 2) 6 days before actual test in which I scored 316 (Q: 163, V: 153). I started revising all words 3 days prior to exam and grouped all similar words noting them down in my diary, for example all words that have anything to do with deceit, I grouped them all altogether. This was quite helpful and effective. My mock scores for 2nd ETS test (PP1) were 316 again (Q: 164, V: 152). I didn't study much for the AWA section. I just watched Magoosh videos and practiced only through mock tests. In my last day of prep, I went through essay samples that ETS has given in its book and took PP+ mock test by ETS only for the quant section. I revised all important notes and concepts I had noted down for myself and that's it.
Test Day Experience
I couldn't get good night's sleep probably because of anxiety so I kept praying the whole night. My test was at 12:30 pm but I was able to start 30 minutes earlier because I reached there before time. Overall the experience was very good but my test center was in US so it might not help sharing further details. During test, I used instructions page to relax and pray and that's it ?
I wish everyone good luck for the exam!