GRE 320 - Salik Khan
Above all the details of conquering quant section and blistering through verbal section, know one thing. Two actually. There are only two things which will get you to your score; practice and consistency. Without these two you can drink all the magic potions and execute all the tips, tricks and strategies only to find yourself where you started at. Why do I get to say this? I switched to GRE after failing to get my score in GMAT, thrice. I read my GRE test on August 31, 2017, and scored 320 (Q 159, V 161, AWA 4.5). It rained so much that I almost did not make it to the test center but I am glad I did. Given my GMAT failures, I was clear on one thing, quant is the culprit. So I focused more on quant but kept my gears running in verbal with consistent practice. Let me break down my schedule, strategy and tips section wise.
KISS – Keep it simple schedule
I am a full-time employed professional who wants his promotion every year. I also did not want to take offs (I believed if I could not do it with my work, I could not do it by taking off either. People are yet to prove me wrong with their results). Hence, there was no way I could sustain 4-5 hours daily study plan and kept it small and simple.
- 30 mins of word memorization
- 60 mins of quant
- 30 mins of verbal
I prepared for June, July, and August. I took complete mock tests almost every week and tried my best not to skip practice. Know upfront that to observe an improvement in your score the rule of thumb is to practice for 50 hours at least.
Quant – my childhood friend
I have never been good at maths. It could be lack of mathematical neurons in my brain, or limited cognitive capability, or maybe I just did not pay attention when I was supposed to get the basics right. The truth is I was not good at it ever. Unfortunately, GRE had maths. So the only way was to get the bull by the horns. Hence, I decided to practice maths as much as possible.
The key, however, was not the material. The key was I did an hour of quant practice every night. Although accurate material will get you the right skills, it is consistency which will let you keep those skills. Maintain an error log and once you are done with one book/set, solve every question again (even the ones you got right), paying special attention to the ones you got wrong.
Also, mix your questions. Once you are out of the ‘learning mode’ and into the practice mode, mix the topics. It will simulate the test day better and keep you on your toes with the concepts. When in learning mode, forget time. However, when in practice mode, time yourself ruthlessly. No point in getting the right answer in 10 minutes.
Verbal – my oasis
I knew I was good at verbal so I did not sweat on it as much as a quant.
Unlike quant, the bitter truth is, you cannot improve your verbal drastically in 30 days. So start early. In order to ace verbal, you need to have strong a grip on the language which you can only develop by using it in daily life (speaking, reading and writing).
For all varieties of verbal questions, READ. For the sake of your intent to get a good GRE score, READ. For a better life, READ. Read as much as you can, whatever you can. Reading will not only help you with RC but also with SE and TC. Reading develops a better understanding of the language, sentence structure, word usage, and reading stamina. So if there is one thing that can help you with all sections, it's reading. For vocabulary, learn only as many words as you can keep correctly. No point in learning 1000 words when you mix the meaning of two of the words. Neither will 1000 words vocabulary get you a guaranteed score, nor will 100 words vocabulary drown you. To learn, revise and repeat and stop when you cannot recall the first ten words accurately.
Practice both Issue based essay and Analytical essay at least thrice before your test day. Use actual prompts and follow the structures for each type of essay prompt. Type on a computer so that you have an idea of your typing speed and if you can, get your essays evaluated by someone unkind.
General tips – while I preach
- Practice every day, rain or shine. I had to cut off my friends and minimize my social life to squeeze those two hours of daily practice. Do it.
- Scholar Den has lots of useful resources, use them.
- Take practice tests. Especially those with five sections. Most of the practice tests have two verbal and two quant sections. However, on test day there will be a random fifth section to suck every bit of energy in your living self. So, practice full-length practice tests and review them every time. ETS practice tests will give you a 90% accurate score, so take one in the beginning and save the other for the very last.
- Manage time, if you are not able to solve a question in time, better skip it for the last.
- Take it easy on the final night before the test. At this point, you have done all the hard work you could do. Eight more hours of practice will not make a difference now, but an eight-hour sleep will.
- Eat before the exam, take the breaks just to brush off the tension and refresh.
- Do not settle for a below-par score.