More blogs about acing GRE.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Acing the GRE test: How I scored 99% in GRE :)

Tips to ace the GRE test:

The GRE test definitely has a part in deciding the kind of college a person finally gets into and also the financial aid that he or she may recieve. So it is very important to score well in GRE. I spent a lot of time and effort preparing for this exam which I finally gave on the 4th of July, American Independence Day :) I believe I have gained enough experience and wish to share the same with the general public with the hope that the reader might follow the advice given and benefit from it.

As of now i.e 2006 I am pursuing undergraduation in electrical engineering and am currently in the third year of study. I started preparing for the GRE as early as from the first year though some what dilutedly. I mean I started memorising the word lists from the barrons from the day one. It is not advisable to start that early;I did so because I was over anxious to do well in the test. In my view three to four months of good intense preparation is enough to get a decent score. But if you want to enjoy fully the preparation for GRE without any tension or worries I suggest you to start preparing as early as seven to eight months from the intended date of exam.

The test consists of Verbal Section, Quantative Section and also a writing section. I want to deal with each section by section. I will not comment on the writing section because I din't prepare well for it and got only 4.5 / 6.

First let me discuss about the quantative part. This is the easiest yet trickiest part of the GRE test. I have known people with excellent mathematical skills mess this one up because they underestimated the level of the math in the test. They see some sample questions and feel it beneath their dignity to work on their high school math. Like I have already mentioned, the GRE math is really tricky. Take this example.Given:Two sides of a right angled triangle are 3 and 4. What is the third side???????
Generally a person attempting this question would be tempted to select 5 as the right answer after all 5^2=3^2+4^2.......satisfies the pythagoras' theorem perfectly right??????? WRONG because the question does not mention whether the two sides given are the legs of the right angled triangle! There are many such tricky questions and so it is imperative on the part of the aspirant to practise as many questions as possible by attempting as many quantative tests on computer as possible. One great and effective method of preparing for the quantative part is to just keep on writing tests. Some start with Chapter 1 or module 1 or what ever and finish all the exercises and then move on to the next. For example they might start with Geometry do sums on triangles and circles and rectangles. Then they go and finish sums on Time and Distance after that Simple Interest and Compound Interest after that Statistics ......all that stuff about mean, mode, standard deviation etc..............after that Time and Work....A does a job for 2 days and B for 3 days etc those kind of sums............and then it is not over yet because there is still Algebra and so on .......there are many topics that I haven't mentioned there it is .......such a fine idea to think about but to implement it requires dogged determination and Lleyton Hewitt like persistence. In most cases the student starts off in the right earnest but soon loses interest and so succumbs into giving the preparation up and just wastes time doing a couple of topics most of the time and then before the exam he or she would take a quick glance at all the formulae and then they hope for the best.

I am indebted to my friend Sravanth who helped me score a perfect 800 in quant with as little as 2 weeks of preparation for Math. The method is simple.
1.Discard the conventional way of preparing for the test! Don't go about doing all the sums chapter by chapter and then hope to top it all with computer tests.
2.Just, for only a few hours devote yourself completely in going through ALL the formulae. Even if you are not sure you would remember them
3.After this start immediately with the Computer Tests. I found Kaplan Quantative tests to be the best. They are pretty accurate and the scores you get there are likely to be the ones you will finally score with plus or minus 20 points.
The Kaplan Cd has nearly 6 practice tests and then 4 main tests. I suggest you do all of them.
4.Most important: In the begining write only one or two tests per day but make sure that you spend sufficient time learning from the mistakes. Go through the solutions and ponder on your "silly" mistakes.
5.So in ten days or even less after you have gone through these tests you will find that you have improved considerably so now you have to use the trump card ............yes the POWER PREP CD..............this is just too good. The score you get here will be more or less the EXACT same score that you will get in the actual GRE test. This happened to me and to many of my friends too. In power prep cd you will have 2 practice tests............both of them are different. Since there are only two tests it is advisable to use it towards the end of preparation to get an actual assessment of oneself. Each of these two tests can be refreshed effectively atleast 4 times. After each refreshment you will find atleast 30% different and new questions. So it is almost like 8 tests on the whole ........................finish them and keep on writing them till you get 800 most of the time.

Final word about quant. If you prepare in the above method it is not only efficient but also very effective. Maximum it takes about 10-12 days to reach perfection in quant.

Now comes the most difficult part of the test Verbal!

First of all improving in verbal is very very tough and it requires a lot of effort. The GRE tests all the reading that a person has done from the time he was in diapers till date. So if you have done a lot of reading then verbal section should be reasonably easy. But even for people of such caliber, to really excell, need to work very hard. Memorising 3500 odd abstruse words, their meaning and their secondary meanings not to mention subtle nuances between similar such words is indeed not a joke. The mantra is REVISE REVISE and REVISE. Just go through all the words with their meanings and spend time on the examples. This is important because of two reasons 1. You will remember the word and the meaning better.
2. Contextual meaning of a word is, in many cases, vastly different from the primary meaning and this can be understood only through examples. This takes care about antonyms. For fill in the blanks or sentence completions and analogies BIG BOOK is the best. The verbal is just simply too good. It is the common experience of many test takers to find a couple of questions lifted off directly from the BIG BOOK without any change! So the BIG BOOK is indespensable to any serious GRE aspirant. It has 27 tests and each test has 2 verbal sections so it is like 54 tests in total. It is advisable to finish all of them but before attempting to do so one must first be perfect or nearly perfect with all the word lists from barrons. As far as reading comprehension is concerned one must consciously try to develop a taste for it by attempting as may RCs as possible from as many sources. The RCs in the BIG BOOK are pretty short;definitely not the kind to expect in the GRE exam. An important thing is that one should not spend too much time on RC if one is not upto it. I do know a couple of people who just simply skipped through the RCs randomly putting B's or C's and still managed to get around 590 out of 800 which is not bad at all. But they were quite good at antonyms, analogies and sentence completions.

I would like to lay stress on a few definite things

1. Don't use the POWER PREP CD recklessly. SAVE IT FOR THE LAST. It is 99% accurate and so use it wisely and that too towards the end to get an assessment of your preparation. Especially for verbal. Let me paint the picture accurately. I know a certain guy. He started using the POWER PREP CD casually and wrote the 2 tests in it every now and then. When it was only a couple of weeks before the test he wrote the tests again. He always got around 760 to 780 in verbal section! He was confident and expected a combined score of nearly 1500+ but was devastated when he scored only around 1320 mark.

2. All the words from Barrons are enough believe me! Don't expect words that are too rare and difficult and thus waste your time memorising them. I got 720 in verbal which is like 98.something percentile and I can assure you that though the test became a bit tricky with complicated RCs coming up towards the end, never did I, for once, see any word that I normally did not encounter in Barrons or in everyday newspaper editorials, during the test.
3. Don't waste too much time reading RCs. Especially if you are sure that you would end up marking most of them wrong anyway. People who are pretty bad at RCs have scored around 1380 which is not a bad score at all.
4. There is this software called vocabulary wizard 6.7 released by prosigner's. It is really good. You can download it for free from here is the link.

After going through the barrons word lists n number of times I wanted to revise all 3500 words. But that would mean more than half a day of absolute concentration. But with this software I was able to revise all the words in as much as one to one and a half hour! I
simply switched on the computer and launched the software and then as if watching a TV I sat infront of the computer. Words and their meanings simply flashed across the screen and I was able to easily recollect most of the words

Lastly I would like to say that the GRE test is pretty accurate and once you get a score it is very unlikely that you will improve much if you take the test immediately or even after a couple of weeks or a month. In some cases it was seen that the score actually dropped by ten points!

I have much more to say but I don't feel like typing anything else more.

I used exactly 3 sources.
1. Barrons, it was my bible for my GRE preparation. It is the absolute standard for words.
2.Kaplan CD I used it for quantative. Found it very useful. The verbal scores were very inaccurate. I hardly got past the 550 mark
3. The BIG BOOK. It is such a big asset to anybody's GRE preparation. Should be used exclusively for verbal. The quant is too easy in it and is a waste of time to attempt it. The Data Interpretation sums should however be looked at.

All the best well!!!!!

P.S: Recently the quantative section standard has risen up and is now quite tough. I was completely flummoxed to see such difficult questions and I was sure that I answered many questions wrong and the worst past was that I had no time to finish the last 5 to 6 questions so I randomly put some A's and B's and one or two questions only I answered correctly. Inspite of this I still managed to get a perfect score of 800. So the moral of this is that even if you think that you messed up the test pretty badly don't panic your best and you can recover!

By the way, I scored pretty good 1520 / 1600.(800 quant 720 Verbal and A.W.A 4.5)

PS(2): I have been asked many times as to where we could find the BIG BOOK for GRE
The answer to this question is that we cannot find it in any bookstores because it is out of print! So, ebay is the only option. Luckily for me the BIG BOOK was carefully handed down to me like the holy grail of GRE prep by my seniors which I passed on to my juniors. So bottom line is:ebay(believe me its worth it!)