GRE 324 - Ali
This is just going to be a brief introduction of what the GRE actually is and how I prepared for it. Although applying abroad immediately after graduating wasn’t in my initial study plans, I decided to give it a go solely to be eligible for the Fulbright grant. I was working full-time with very unconventional working hours so my preparation got delayed by a month. I started to prepare about two-and-a-half months before I intended to give the exam and registered for the exam a month before the intended date. Yes, some people say that if you register early, it serves as a positive motivator but I was fairly confident I’d manage somehow so I decided against early registration. I scored 324 in my GRE (167Q/157V/3.5AW). I was a tad disappointed with my Quantitative score because I knew I could’ve done better but the Analytical Writing score was quite a hard pill to swallow. However, in retrospect, I’ve accepted it as a fair representation of how much time and work I had invested into that specific section of the test.
Before you start preparing, you need to understand what the test is about and what qualities one must possess to get a higher score. The Quantitative section of the GRE is quite straightforward. You need to be well acquainted with all the mathematical concepts included in the GRE syllabus. It often requires you to interpret word problems as well as be present-minded because there are some subtleties that a casual approach might overlook. I scored well on my diagnostic test so all I did to prepare was complete all the sections in the Manhattan 5lb book and all the mock tests from the ETS guide. My approach may not be effective for someone who isn’t well-versed in mathematical concepts but that’s all I had time for. The verbal section, however, was a totally different task altogether. I scored in the low 150’s in my diagnostic test but the vocabulary was very alien to me. I knew I needed to work on the harder words. One must know before starting that the GRE doesn’t ask for memorization of words. It looks at how one understands the meaning of a word and how effective they are with its use. Your vocabulary plays a vital role in Sentence Completion and Word Equivalence. As far as the comprehension is concerned, it takes a lot of practice and focus to judge what the question demands and how to extract accurate information from the passages provided. If you can’t differentiate between the options given, it’s going to be very tough. I got the Magoosh app for vocabulary and all I used to do was write down the words with meanings in my diary and regularly revise them as I added more words until I had written every word the app had. For the comprehension, I read Kaplan’s guide to GRE and the ETS official guide and practiced all I could within the time I had. It helps if you’re an active reader as well.
I had a pretty laid-back approach due to the nature of my job. I seldom gave more than an hour to preparation daily and sometimes I didn’t prepare for a day or two in succession. It was all pretty sporadic. That being said, if you’ve understood all mathematical concepts and the structure of the verbal questions, the test becomes a bit easier to manage. Time management is key; so is your vocabulary. I didn’t prepare for the Analytical Section at all and my score speaks for it. It requires practice as well. Pace yourself during preparation and always do timed tests.
I was pretty nervous on the day before my exam but I got a good night’s sleep. I had a healthy breakfast and went through my wordlist before driving to the test centre. I had scored quite well on my mock tests so I felt pretty confident. During my test I whizzed through the quantitative tests but I couldn’t manage time effectively during my verbal comprehensions. They were extraordinarily long and I actually left 4-5 comprehension questions due to a lack of time. So time management is very important. The analytical section was okay. I got a pretty vague argument which I think was the reason for my low score, I couldn’t develop my argument as effectively as I would’ve liked to.
So basically, I wouldn’t recommend my sort of approach to anyone who isn’t confident in their abilities but I’d just like to say that the test is beatable. It follows a set pattern and it doesn’t test memory. It tests your abilities to extract, interpret and use information. Increase your vocabulary, read and then use the new words you come across. Practice math and be very level-headed during the test. Manage time effectively and you’re good to go. Best of luck!