NOTE: This set is compiled based on my experience and is NOT official. I will be joining UCLA for the coming fall 2014 session and wished to help my fellow friends who are just thinking of pursuing their M.S.
Q.1 What is a ‘good’ GRE score?
While it is true that a decent GRE score aids your admission, from the trends that I have seen, GRE is simply a means of filtering out candidates. A GRE score above 320 (With 160+ in quant and 150+ in verbal) with a 4.0 in AWA is pretty good to apply to any college that you wish (specifically for engineers). The universities will then look at other aspects of your application to decide your eligibility for the course.
Q.2 How important is AWA?
It is the best to treat AWA with respect and score a 4.0 in it. It looks pretty good on the score card. Good marks never hurt. Further, if you practice writing, getting a good verbal score in GRE as well as a decent score in TOEFL is guaranteed. Any top league school would require at least a 3.5 in AWA, if not more.
Q.3 How to tackle the verbal section?
In my experience, the pattern of GRE has changed. For a person who reads often and is from an English medium background, wrote learning a lot of words may not be really required. More important than memorising the words is learning to deal with the comprehension questions. The passage questions require a lot of patience and perseverance. One way is probably to read every section of the news paper whether you find it interesting or not. The other way is by simply solving more and more questions.
Q.4 What is a ‘good’ TOEFL score?
TOEFL scores are seen only on a ‘cut-off’ basis, i.e., if the cut off is 80, it doesn’t usually matter how much above 80 you got. A score above 100 with above 20 in each section would suffice for most universities (even the top ones). Some universities demand a speaking section score of atleast 23 to be considered for a TA post.
Q.5 What is the ideal time to give GRE/TOEFL?
Anytime between July to October should be good (Assuming you are aiming for fall 2015). The earlier you give, the more time you have to decide on your universities (Which is the MOST critical and time consuming part of the process).
Q.6 How much time does it take to prepare for GRE and TOEFL?
GRE typically takes around 2-3 months. TOEFL as such requires no preparation (you can’t really learn English now). A week or two of intense practice to get acclimatised with the pattern works for most of us.
Q.7 Is coaching required for GRE/TOEFL?
This depends on if you have a peer group studying with you. If you do, there’s probably no need of coaching. Classes are a great way to meet people who are headed in the same direction. As such, it is completely possible to prepare for GRE completely on your own. As for TOEFL, the coaching class can’t do anything more than getting you acquainted with the pattern. So it’s really not needed.
FAQs related to SOP, LOR, acads, resume, finances, counselling and other such stuff shall be discussed in PART 2 & PART 3.