GRE 329 Saim Shujaat
I am currently in my 7th semester of BE Electrical Engineering at SEECS, NUST. My journey began in the first week of September. I had registered for the exam back in August but I was finding it difficult to begin studying with the ongoing routine. Once I was done with my summer internship and had a few days until the next semester commenced, my actual preparation kicked off. I would advise everyone to register for the test well in advance, since many people like myself work better under a strict deadline.
I gave a diagnostic test by Manhattan in which I scored 315 (157 Verbal, 158 Quant). I would recommend starting with this mock, since it provides a comprehensive performance analysis at the end, which helped me pinpoint my weak areas even before I began the actual preparation. After that, I moved on to the Barron’s GRE book. Since I had already purchased it in hard copy, I found it convenient to carry around and study whenever I got intervals between classes at university. I read strategies for the quantitative section in depth, which was followed by practicing similar questions from exercises at the end. This gave me a lot of tips and strategies on tackling seemingly difficult quant questions with simple tricks. I just skimmed through the verbal and AWA sections in this book.
It took me a while to take vocabulary seriously, as the thought of cramming hundreds of words seemed like a daunting task. I started learning words from the Magoosh basic and common decks but soon realized that they were not being retained in my memory. I consulted a friend on this and he suggested I use mnemonics, upon following his advice my complete approach towards vocabulary changed for the better. It still took me a while to get through the first couple of decks but soon I started coming up with wittier and more interesting mnemonics, which greatly improved my pace and retention rate. Try using these words in everyday conversations; this would not only help you remember the word but also the context in which it is used, which is of crucial importance.
Once Barron’s was complete, I was better aware of my weaknesses and areas where I could improve. To focus on these, I moved on to the Manhattan book series. I did not study each one of them but only the ones containing topics where I was lagging, to reinforce my concepts in those areas. I had around 2 weeks until the test and my performance in mocks was not showing significant improvement. This left me anxious and confused, because I was not certain which resources to consult next in order to cross the 160 score barrier. It was then that I came across the Magoosh website and signed up for their subscription. I did not have time to go through their videos so I skipped those and moved straight to the practice questions. I attempted these under strict time constraints. Sometimes even giving myself five minutes fewer than the actual time allowed for a section, this helped me build the stamina to tackle problems quickly. I continued this strategy, gave mock tests and kept practicing questions in a similar manner for the remaining days.
I believe scoring well in Verbal depends on two main factors. Firstly, the ability to understand complex sentence structures and the context in which the vocabulary is used. Secondly, tactfully dealing with the RC without spending too much time on it. There are numerous strategies online on how to handle RC, what works for one individual may not suit another. My approach was to read the first and last paragraph of the passage if it was a lengthy one, this allowed me to extract the main idea of the text from its introduction and conclusion. After that, I used to glance over the questions and then searched for relevant lines to answer them, which were now easier to locate having a gist of the paragraphs. What I always found challenging was to grasp all the information presented in the passage in one reading and retaining it. This I overcame by ordering ideas sequentially in my mind as I read the text. With enough practice, you will reach a point where the words will smoothly flow into your subconscious and the entire passage will vividly assemble in the form of a story/narration.
Regarding Quant, I would strongly advise to take this section seriously and not shrug it off as basic middle school mathematics. This section tests analytical thinking and reasoning, which is something that can be developed in any individual through practice regardless of their academic background. Do not forget to note down strategies, formulas and shortcuts you come across while preparing.
You might not consider the AWA section to be deserving of much attention or time; however, I would recommend that you at least set aside a day or two for it. Read up on strategies, ways to organize your arguments coherently and structuring your essay. Also, keep in mind that if you skip this section while attempting a mock exam your score will not be an accurate indicator of your performance, since you will finish the test 60 minutes earlier. You will not have an option to skip these essays on test day and this way you are depriving your body of the training it needs to run the strenuous marathon that the GRE is. If your mind forms a habit of relaxing and losing focus after a certain amount of time, you will find it really challenging to bring yourself on track during the last 60 minutes of the actual test. This can hamper your performance on the last two sections, which are generally most difficult and crucial. Make sure you convey your point clearly and coherently in the essays. I came across an article online, which stated based on research that essays ranging between the 500-600 word-count scored highest. So do focus on the length of the essay but certainly not at the cost of quality.
Two days prior to the test I quit practicing questions and only revised vocabulary. On the day before, I decided not to even think about the test and to give my mind some rest, so I spent it with friends and family like any other holiday. I went to bed on time to make sure I woke up fresh. On 16th of October, I went to the test center beaming with positivity and enthusiasm. I took some energy drinks and protein bars along for instant energy during the break. Both sections of the AWA were not as straight forward as I had anticipated. It took me a while to understand the given argument and instructions that followed it. The first quant section was quite simple and I was done with it well before time, I rechecked all my answers and ended it feeling optimistic. The second quant section was quite difficult, with lengthy word problems and complex probability/counting questions. I answered some questions quickly due to the shortcuts I had learnt but even then, I barely managed to finish the section in time. The three verbal sections (including the experimental section) I encountered were seemingly of the same difficulty level. What astounded me was the vocabulary, as it was quite different compared to what I had practiced from the Magoosh decks. However, the sentences used were fairly easy to grasp and comprehend which made these sections somewhat manageable. My official score report arrived on 25th October and I managed to secure 329 (161 Verbal, 168 Quant, 5 AWA). Lastly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the ScholarDen platform and their amazing team of mentors who selflessly guided me at every point, especially Scholar Den Founder. I wish everyone reading this the very best of luck.
Just be confident and believe in yourself, you can do wonders.