GREat expectations

This is a collection of advice I had dished out after getting a 1510 in GRE. All of them are in response to questions people posed, but I've omitted the questions. I've collected them all here because several people have asked me for GRE tips. Plan to have another post on CAT advice as well. Standard disclaimers apply.

I got 1510, (710+800) in Chennai (don't really know if the center makes a difference)

I was under the impression that GRE was really tough, but it really depends on where your starting point is. If you have a good reading habit, a large vocabulary, then a couple of weeks to a month is enough to get 1500+. If you feel you've not had the best english background, you can take longer.

I found almost all the words in verbal to be of very common usage. Very very few were difficult unheard of words, that are only found in Barron's. So general advice to test givers would be to go through barrons rapidly and remember words that you've either heard of before, but didn't know the meaning of, or if its an unheard of word that has a simple meaning. Words with difficult meanings, as in, words not likely used in a normal context can be totally avoided. I think there should be about 500-1000 of such words in barron's. Don't mug barron's word for word, make use of some judgement, to save yourself a lot of effort and confusion!

I went through barrons. I used a software called vocaboly. It has the feature of being able to select the words you don't know and it separates them allowing you to revise them later. I also wrote a lot of the practice tests that are provided by different sources, like barrons, kaplan, princeton review, cambridge, 800 etc.. Tests really help, do as many as you can.

going thru the easier 2/3rd of barrons should get you 1400+.. u decide if you want more.. complete barron should get u upto 1500.. finish two books if u want 1600.. ur choice.. on a lower scale, i'm guessing easier half of barron should get u atleast 1200..

Before prepping (two weeks back) i got around 640-660 (in va, was sure of 800 in qa) in the first couple of tests.. since a week back, after going thru barrons, was consistently getting above 700 in around a dozen tests i wrote during this period.. cambridge predicted 710-750.. got 730 in powerprep.. never cracked high 700, so i guess its pretty accurate.. a couple of bad tests or a couple of good ones can be overlooked, but if u give a sufficient no. then their average should pretty much be what u get..

Do a lot of RCs, and analyze your mistakes. while doing them, be sure you have a solid reason for rejecting each of the wrong options.. Coz when the examiner puts the other choices, he has a logic and expects u to reject the wrong answer based on that logic.. try to get that logic for every question u do.. this is for the practice stage only.. in tests, u'll hav to be quicker..

A few other points for those who are really close to their exams..

My reading and quant speed is pretty decent, and while practicing tests with various software, i used to take around 20-25 min (never more) for a verbal test and around 30-35 min for quant.. In the real test however, I wanted to be really careful and looked at all the choices carefully before marking, which I think is wise. This took a lot of time and I had less than 2 min left by the time I completed verbal and less than five by the time I finished quant. So do expect to do the real exam much slower than what u're doing in the practice tests, and keep that in mind while doing the exam. If you're barely finishing it on time at home, you'll need to really speed up to finish the paper. This applies to both verbal and quant.

The tests I gave (all verbal), and my average scores in them were:
Powerprep : 690 and 730 (exact level of real gre)
Cambridge : 710-750 (good tests, as they explain the answers in detail)
800score : 660-730 (these are supposed to be slightly tough)
Kaplan : was getting 3-4 questions wrong, it didn't predict the score

Also, in any test, 3-4 wrong will give you around 700, 5-8 wrong will be around 650, 9-12 wrong will be 600, 12-15 wrong would be 500-600.. these are rough estimates of course.

if u've registered for gre, you should've got powerprep software by ets. if u haven't, u can download the same from the ets site. the level of the real gre is very similar, so thats a great place to know where u are at currently. the software includes to full length realistic tests. it would be best to give one now, to know where u are, and keep the last one for just before the exam, to boost ur confidence and get in the right frame. don't really know from where u can get the other test softwares, i got mine from friends. u shud ask urs..
i guess there's no quick and easy way to improve rcs. the best that i can suggest is to practice as many rcs as you can. it really helps. i've posted several points on rcs already here, go thru them and it'll surely make a difference. i used only barrons for verbal and nothing for quant, but my basics are ok, so don't really know what wud help for quant..
didn't go thru orkut threads. don't know if they're any help, though i feel everything thats required is there in barrons, so there's nothing new that can be got from other sources. do that well and u'll surely do good in the test. and remember, gre is just an overhyped test of english.. nothing else..

give each test and thoroughly analyze all your mistakes. make sure u're doing them at the required rate and not too slow, coz u're bound to be a bit slower in the real test (becoz u'd want to be careful and not make silly mistakes)
don't worry about each practice test, just prepare with the real gre in mind.. and if u're not scoring as much as u'd like to, take a break from tests and hit the books. then when u get confidence, attack them once more..

absolutely no idea if the center makes any difference. for what its worth, i think even if it did make a difference, it should not make a difference to ur prep.. i don't think all this obsession with centers, and databases are productive..
going thru wordlists helps of course, and if ur vocab is good, then just reviewing what u know would be good.. it really depends on every individual case.. coz unlike in any technical field, where all start at the same level, and require more or less the same amount of effort to reach scratch, things like verbal ability and comprehension are very subjective. if u've had a good background, u'll sail thru gre without any effort, but if not, then serious study can make all the difference.
again, quant prep depends on background.. if u're a decent engineer, u shudn't need any prep apart from a few practice tests.. if u're not from the engineering or math backgrounds, u shud practice a bit.. as stated in another post, i don't really know how one goes about improving quant..

Simple RC techniques:
1. Read ques first. this makes it a lot more easier to skim thru the unimportant stuff, and focus on the part that'll help u answer the question.. Ultimately, its about getting the answers right, and not about understanding the passage..
2. While practicing, rule out every wrong option explicitly. Give reasons why each of the wrong answers must be wrong according to the passage. See, right answers are got from the passage, the question setter doesn't need to make them.. But when he makes up the wrong answer, he definitely has a strong logic for why that option should be ruled out by you. Try to arrive at that logic.
3. Keep track of words that give you an idea of how the author feels about the issue.. words like although, inspite of, however.. etc, serve as indicators of how the author sees the relation between the two points.. focus on them..


  1. mast yaar.. tum to useful posts likhne lag gaye.. :)

  2. Wonderful Score. I will post about your experience in my blog..Happy Schools Blog.

    If you want to write a guest article to my blog, it will be awesome.

    Happy Schools Blog


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