Akshay Bapat, GRE 331 (170 quant, 161 verbal, 113 TOEFL) Undergrad from IIT Jodhpur (Mechanical Engineering), shares his secret to 170 in quants.
- When did you decide to turn for higher studies and prepare for GRE?
After my second year of engineering.
- How was the approach and what material did you refer to?
I focused on learning more words, because that is the most time and memory-consuming task to do. The rest is just practice, practice and practice.
- Verbal is a weak point for a lot of Indian students. What was your take on it?
It certainly is tough. You need to learn an insane number of words – and there’s no avoiding it, because text completion and sentence equivalence questions in the verbal section are almost all about understanding the meaning of the sentence and the answer alternatives. The rest is pretty much common sense. The reading comprehension is also tough, not because of the vocabulary, but perhaps because Indian students have never ever experienced such questions where you need to analyze each and every damn word of the paragraph.
- Tips for the writing section.
I personally feel that you need to keep in mind that this section is not there in the exam to test your vocabulary. Exotic sounding words aren’t going to help you here. I feel you are expected to think logically from a certain perspective and articulate your thoughts concisely. So, my tip is write naturally. Don’t try to impress the examiner by sounding like you have a PhD in English literature; no, you’re simply not expected to do that. Keep it simple.
- It would have been a perfect 340 if not for the Verbal section, if given a chance to reappear for the exam, what would you do differently?
I guess I could have revised my words better. But still, I feel I could have reached 335. Beyond that, it’s up to luck, because every person has his/her own way of thinking, and questions like those in RC require you to think in a particular way.
- How many Mock Tests did you give? How were they useful?
The more mock tests you appear for, the better (obviously). But, I believe that a couple of weeks before the exam, it is better to retake the earlier tests because that way we can assess what we have learnt and what concepts are still unclear. From personal experience, I think the revision tests helped me secure an extra 5 points in the exam.
- 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’m aiming for a career in robotics, so I have shortlisted the better universities in that field, such as University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, etc.
- What did you do to take your mind off the preparations? Any hobbies or recreational activities?
I love playing the guitar and also football. Physical exercise (football) and mental stress relief (guitar) were essential for me to stay focused.
- How can one score an exemplary 170 in quants? Let us know the secrets from your Pandora’s Box.
It’s not as awesome as it sounds, yet it is not easy either. The concepts in quants are not really tough, everyone knows that. The problem with us Indians is that we are so used to solving much more competitive mathematical problems that we make unbelievably silly mistakes in the quant section. My strategy was that I solved all the questions in less than 15 minutes (typically 12-13) which left me a good portion of the 35 minutes to re-check my answers. In every mock test that I took, I have found at least a couple of silly mistakes that would have reduced my score. So, re-checking is absolutely necessary. Also, verbal is very mentally straining due to the amount of fancy language you need to read and recall from your memory. So, quant also served as a mental break for me. I literally closed my eyes for a few minutes during the quant section to cool down. That was, of course, possible because I had confidence that I could solve all the questions and re-check them in 20 minutes. So even after a five-minute break, I was left with ten minutes with nothing to do. So basically, quant is all about your composure.