GRE 323 - Daniyal Khawaja
Hey everyone, I got done with my GRE and scored 323 (Q168/V155/AWA 4). I was pleased with my Quant score, but my verbal score was definitely below my expectations, and I'll explain why in a bit.
I'm a final year undergrad student getting my degree in EE at NUST. I'd told myself that I'd be done with the test during the summer and not force myself to study when uni started, because of the hectic schedule the fourth year usually entails. This helped because it gave me a goal to work towards, I had a deadline I absolutely needed to meet. All in all, I took about seven weeks to prepare, doing about 3-4 hours per day.
So, I originally planned to start preparing in June, and bought a Magoosh subscription after reading all their glowing reviews. But, with Ramadan coming around that exact time, I couldn't focus on studying with an empty stomach and weird sleep schedule so I pushed preparing for the test till July. Come July, I finally logged in to my Magoosh account, and loosely followed the Magoosh 1-month study plan and completed all of the associated lesson videos and practice problems, as well as the first 13 vocab flashcards decks (I'd cover 2 decks in 3 days). In the last 3 weeks, I did ETS/Manhattan/Magoosh practice problems, reviewed vocab flash cards, and took six practice tests.
Using Magoosh, I watched every video for both quantitative and verbal (following the 1-month study plan) and took notes about key points and strategies that I didn't immediately remember. For most of the Quant videos that were review, I played them at 1.5x speed to save time. I took copious notes about less-familiar topics and strategies while watching the Quant videos, which I'd revise the next day before moving on to the next topic. I also did every Magoosh practice problem in the "Custom Practice" mode. The problems are generally on the harder side compared to the actual test, but they are excellent practice. The ability to target specific topics, question types, and/or difficulties is a HUGE advantage over practice problems from the ETS Official Guides and other relevant material. For the harder problems, I always watched the detailed explanation video even if I got it right in order to learn shortcuts and save time.
For vocab, I memorized the first 13 Magoosh vocab decks using the Magoosh app. I didn't cover the last 7 because all the reviews I'd read claimed that they were unnecessary (and they were right). Instead, I read a lot of articles on NY Times, The Guardian, ALDaily etc. and would note down any new word I'd come across and make a flashcard. I'd also note down any new words I came across in practice tests. Doing this, I memorized about 200 words in addition to the 650 I'd already done using the Magoosh app. It's very important that you revise a deck daily, because these words are annoyingly easy to forget. My main issue with the verbal section were the RC questions. To overcome this problem, I took out a few days to focus exclusively on RC, and rewatched all the Magoosh videos and did practice questions from the ETS Verbal guide. The SE/TC questions demanded an understanding of context and breaking down a sentence, which the Magoosh videos explained amazingly well.
(Around the one month mark, I was really worn out and found myself not really grasping any new concepts I came across, so I decided to take 4-5 days off, and come back with a clear head. I'd recommend everyone studying for more than a month do this.)
In the last 3 weeks, I mainly focused on the Manhattan 5lb for Quant and covered all the chapters I was still weak in. The Manhattan questions don't exactly represent the questions from the actual test (because of the amount of working they require; the actual test usually needed 2-3 lines of solving), but they're good practice and help clear up any doubts you have. I also started the ETS guides and did all the questions in a timed environment, and with minimal outside interference. For the practice tests, I did the 2 PowerPrep tests ETS has on their website, and also did tests from Manhattan, Kaplan, ETS OG and CrunchPrep. All my scores for these tests were around the 162-168 range for Quant and 156-160 range for Verbal (except ETS PowerPrep test 2, which I felt was harder than the actual test). It's important to note that before giving these practice tests, one should gain familiarity with test center rules and mimic test day faithfully. Making it as close to the real test as possible helps build up the stamina you'll need on test day.
On test day, I was extremely nervous even though I knew I had prepared well. This was mainly because I had spent the last week stressing over the Verbal section and constantly telling myself I wasn't prepared. This is why my Verbal score tanked. It's very important that you don't attempt any new questions the week before your test, it really sucks when you get them wrong. Instead, spend time revising math formulae, vocab words, and going over questions you may have gotten wrong previously.
I breezed through the Quant sections, only because I'd made sure I was familiar with every concept the test would throw at me. For those, looking to score 165+, the harder section will definitely have Integer Properties/Probability/Counting questions in the form of word problems, so it's important that you familiarize yourself with these topics and learn how to pace yourself.
That's about it from my side. Please remember, you are your worst enemy. Manage your expectations and don't doubt yourself. Hard work always pays off. Good luck!