Shweta Chopra, GRE 334 (169 quant, 165 verbal and 5.5 AWA), She is currently working as Senior Analyst at Samagra Development Associate.
- When did you decide to turn for higher studies and prepare for GRE?
I was pursuing my Postgraduate Diploma in Liberal Studies at the Young India Fellowship when I decided that I would attempt applying for higher studies abroad. This had never seemed an option given my financial background, however I decided to give a shot at getting substantial scholarship. This was around April 2017. I went on to give my GRE in June 2017.
- How was the approach and what material did you refer to?
My approach was to first ascertain where I was, by giving a mock test. I followed that up with going through the ETS General Guide to ensure I had complete familiarity with the test. To ensure regular mock test practice at the time my actual test would be, I would take 1 mock every 8 to 10 days at 8am, and do the entire test, including the writing sections. I used the Manhattan Test Series (6 mocks) for practice. This helped me understand my weak points – RCs, Vocabulary and a few Quant concepts. I addressed these by referring to the Manhattan topic specific books and using the Magoosh Vocabulary 1000 Word List.
- Verbal is a weak point for a lot of Indian students. What was your take on it?
The GRE is a test of aptitude, which can only narrowly improve within a few months. It is built up over the years. Luckily for me, I’m comfortable with Verbal, and so it was not as much a challenge for me as for most Indian students. However, I did work on improving my vocabulary, and also gave special attention to the Reading Comprehension section – particularly understanding how arguments are structured. There’s an interesting HongKong University Philosophy Department link which explains the same. This proved useful for AWA as well as RCs.
- Tips for the writing section.
The writing section was fairly comfortable for me, as would be for anyone who has taken a prior writing course. There’s a simple structure to be followed for the kind of writing the GRE attempts to test:
- Introduce the topic/argument
- State your view/stand in 1 sentence
- Now substantiate your stand by providing 2-3 arguments in support of your stand
- Provide rationale against 1-2 arguments that might be used to oppose your stand OR qualify cases where your stand may not apply
- Conclude by restating your stand and briefly repeat the arguments in favour of it
This section tests writing structure and style, and so practicing within this structure has a significant impact on your quality of output in the final test.
- What things, if given a chance to reappear for the exam, would you do differently?
I think the only factor I would change is my prep time. More practice would have helped. But largely, once you have brought yourself to a certain level, the final day depends on luck. My test was a lot tougher than I expected. It’s really luck that decides between a 334 and a 336.
- How many Mock Tests did you give? How were they useful?
I gave about 10 mock tests. 6 Manhattan, 2 from the ETS book, 2 Powerprep Tests. These are extremely important for building stamina for a long test, and for learning to maintain focus.
- AWA at 5.5 looks pretty cool. What was your approach for it and any suggestions for the related practice sessions
Same as Writing Section tips above.
- Which Universities are you aiming for and why? Also we would love to hear about that one job you’d aiming while at university.
I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. I have received 75% scholarship for the MS in Social Policy and Data Analytics program. Other universities I received admits from are UChicago and CMU. I only applied to the few colleges that offer the course I am interested in.
I look forward to a data analyst role at organisations that work for social good (policy/governance), and my aim is to come back and serve India.
- What did you do to take your mind off the preparations? Any hobbies or recreational activities?
I was pursuing the Young India Fellowship at the time, so I had enough to do besides the GRE Preparation. It only took up a few hours in a week.
- How can one get a score of 330+. Let us know the secrets from your Pandora’s Box.
- You need to already be at a 315-320 score at the start or you need 8-10 months to get there
- Use tests and practice as a diagnostic tool to determine your weaknesses, such that you can strengthen them
- Build stamina by practicing mocks at the appropriate time, and don’t take any shortcuts on the mocks. Otherwise the final test will be a lot harder
- Set yourself a goal (I knew I needed scholarship and so had to aim for 330+, else all my effort would have been worthless). Depending on where you want to apply, set an appropriate target. Work hard to get to that. A 340 score is not necessary to get admission, and so whenever you’re clear you are getting the score you need, go ahead and give the test. It’s just one part of the application process and is not everything.