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 and used a Scholar Den 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 Scholar Den account, and completed all of the associated lesson videos and practice problems. In the last 3 weeks, I did ETS practice problems, reviewed vocab flashcards, and took six practice tests.
Using Scholar Den, I watched every video for verbal and took notes about key points and strategies that I didn't immediately remember. I also did every practice problem in the "Custom Practice" mode. 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 1000 words. Also, 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. 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 Scholar Den 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 Scholar Den 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 Quant and covered all the chapters I was still weak in and solved all Scholar Den Questions. 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, and ETS. 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 help 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!