Scoring good marks in the GRE exam is important for any study abroad aspirant. While the tips are all present online, the best way to learn is from your peers. To enhance your GRE preparation better, we interviewed a 338/340 GRE topper, who gave his insights about how to create a relevant GRE strategy, how to pursue each GRE section, and more.
How do you feel about scoring so well in the GRE?
Thank you. The feeling is good. However, there is a long way to go from here.
How long did you prepare for the exam? Could you give us an overview of your study strategy?
I'd seriously started preparing for the exam two months prior to it. The first month was spent in revising concepts and giving subject tests while in the second month, I focused on full-portion tests. I gave the exam in March, so I'd started preparation in the last week of January. I did not have any fixed pattern of study in the first month and studied whenever I could. Given that we had our college festival and midterm tests during that period, it wasn't a lot. I practised questions during free lectures or during the break with friends. In the last month, I spent 6 hours a day studying (including the full portion tests).
Do you believe coaching classes are necessary for cracking the GRE?
Well, it differs from person to person. Coaching classes help in guidance, some amount of doubt solving and planning your study strategy. Most importantly, they have loads of material that can be used by you. There's also the motivation to study when you see all your friends studying beside you. Apart from that, the effort has to be put in by you, and nobody can help you there. So if you're self-motivated and can plan well, there is no reason why you won't succeed without a coaching class.
What test prep material (books, software) did you use in the course of your preparation?
I used a variety of books. Manhattan prep, Princeton, Kaplan, Barron's, NOVA, 5 lb. and 1014 are the ones I used. It is not necessary to do all books cover to cover. You can be smart and study the chapters that are written best in that book. It is also useful to do tests from different books so as to be exposed to different types of questions. I had also used magoosh notes for verbal. I used only the free ones and did not buy the course material. However, I hear it is good.
You have a perfect score in the verbal section. How did you achieve this?
I was pleasantly surprised by the verbal score. I did focus a little more on verbal during my preparation stage. However, I think it is difficult to score very high in verbal with just a few months of practice. I've had a good reading habit since childhood and I'll attribute the verbal score to that more than my two months of preparation.
How did you tackle the quantitative analysis section?
Quant is not very difficult, given that it is standard 10 mathematics. The only thing required is a good amount of practice, and you should be fine. If you're an engineer, always aim for full marks in quant.
How did you prepare for the analytical writing section?
ETS has specific parameters that they use to evaluate your analytical writing section. Hence, I looked at them and the sample responses given on the ETS website. Manhattan was also useful for essays.
What were your initial Practice Test scores? How did you improve on your weak areas?
Generally, my practice test scores were in the 325-332 range. I scored well on the Power prep tests, with a 335 and a 337. I'd say analysis of every test you give is the best way to spot your weak areas and be careful about them next time. The importance of analyzing where you went wrong can never be overstated.
In your opinion, how much do counsellors contribute to helping a student select a university?
Ideally, a counsellor should help the student decide for himself the criteria which his preferred university needs to fulfill. The process of shortlisting must begin only after that.
What is your advice to other GRE aspirants?
- If you've time, it is more beneficial to develop a good reading habit than it is to focus on individual words.
- It is very important to stay calm throughout the test and not let one section affect the other irrespective of whether it was good or bad.
- Simulate actual testing conditions when you practice to identify some situational problems that might occur. For me, I would have a massive headache by the last section if I didn't eat during the break. It was helpful to know this beforehand so I could plan my strategy for test day.
As this GRE topper stated, if you as a student have the right motivation to do well in this exam, you will. All that is required is the right strategy that can help align your personal and study space well. The best way to manage this is by investing in a complete tool that lets you conduct a GRE practice test, scores you well, and lets you do the same everytime you sit down to study. One such tool is Yocket GRE Prep and Yocket GRE Prep+.
Yocket GRE Prep is a free basic tool that lets you conduct mock tests for each sections of the GRE exam. But if you wish to conduct multiple mini tests and unlock more relevant tests, making use of our premium tool Yocket GRE Prep+ is a wise investment. Most students opt for the premium tool because you can do multiple things in one place such as access 40+ topic-wise practice tests tailored to your performance, 4 Mini and 3 Full-length GRE® Mock Tests with timed/untimed modes and more.