Exams Know-how

Top Tips To Ace GRE From 338/340 GRE Topper Souptik Sen

Kashyap Matani

Souptik Sen, who scored a massive 338 / 340 in GRE with a perfect 170 quants, shares his experience with Stupidsid & Yocket users. He was born and brought up in Bhilai Steel City. Those who had taken interest in their geography classes during school might recognize the name of this place. He lives in Hyderabad for the past two years where he is working in an MNC. He is a movie buff and also loves travelling. He often goes on long road trips experiencing different cultures, environments and cuisine.

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  1. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)
  2. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
  3. State University of New York at Stony Brook
  4. North Carolina State University, Raleigh (NCSU)
  5. University of Massachusetts - Amherst (UMass)
  6. Dartmouth College

How did you prepare for GRE & how long did it take?

I started in mid Februray and my GRE was on 15th June. So I had about 4 months. Most part of Feb, I spent in talking to friends who had taken it earlier, arranging the study materials required and getting acquainted with the pattern. Then I started going through Barrons 800 wordlist and completed it by the end of March. Once I was done with the basic wordlist, I started with rigorous preparations. I gave 8 to 10 hours on weekends, solving 2 mock tests every weekend. Studying on weekdays was not possible for me due to work, but I tried to read at least 1 article from the Atlantic everyday before going to office. So you could say (9 weekends * 20 hours/weekend) + (50 weekdays * 30 minutes/weekday) = 205 hours total. If you are a fulltime student then these 200 hours can be finished in lesser number of days too.

Did you aspire doing MS from 1st year? If yes, can you share with us how did you plan your profile?

No not at all. I started planning a year out of undergrad.

What sections were you weak & how did you overcome them?

Most Indians find verbal section harder than quant and I am no exception. Though I won't say I was drastically weak in verbal to start with. In fact I was quite a voracious reader in my school days, thanks to my mom who is herself a writer and a teacher. She made sure that I read the English newspaper everyday in school.

Still GRE verbal is daunting for us, since we are non-native English speakers. The first thing you need to realize is that GRE verbal is primarily a test of your reading ability. Your vocabulary comes second to your ability to comprehend dull, tedious, boring passages. To give an example, I just went through Barrons wordlist and Magoosh app and did not find any unknown words on the test. As I told you, I have been an avid reader in the past but to prepare myself I started reading tons of boring material on topics like American African rights, feminism, book reviews, works of art, etc. You know the kind of passages which come in the GRE. Primarily I was reading such articles on the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker. My advice would be have a sophisticated reading palate and get yourself acquainted with scholarly text, it would come in handy both in RCs as well as text completions and you will also get some fodder for AWAs.

What study resources did you use for preparing?

The online magazines I mentioned above for daily reading. Magoosh course and Manhattan 5lb book for practice. Nothing to prepare much in quants if you are from an engineering background but still if you want to refresh your probability and p&c, you can take a look at NCERT maths for 12th standard.

Any hobbies that you think helped you achieve this feat?

I like reading so that helped I guess.

What about your AWA, Academics, Extra/Co curricular? Did you plan all this from beginning ?

My first 2 years in college were horrible (academically) but loads of fun. You know first time out of home and the freedom kind of gets to your head. I was a 6 pointer and thankfully somehow managed to pass in all the classes. In the starting of my third year, I was not allowed to sit for internships owing to my low GPA. That is when I took notice of my situation and then I scored straight 8 pointers in the remaining 4 semesters, thus bringing my CGPA to a decent 7.6. I was not thinking of an MS or MBA then. I just wanted to have a GPA high enough to sit for a job. That was my only goal.

Now cut to 3rd and 4th year. There were all core CS subjects - compilers, distributed systems, automata etc. and in the quest of raising my GPA I actually got interested in CS. I would be lying if I said that the thought of an MS hadn't crossed my mind yet. But there were more important things to take care of, like placements. Since I wasn't sure of cracking a good university with my kind of GPA.

Thankfully in my campus placements, I cracked a good product based company. My teammates were very knowledgeable and the work was good, but I felt something was missing. I wanted to work at the hottest companies in the CS world like Google, Facebook, Twitter working on the absolute cutting edge areas like distributed systems and machine learning. That's when I decided to get an MS in CS. I am young and carefree now, with no responsibilities, so this is the perfect time to go for a Masters. To learn, become an expert in my area whilst exploring the world. I went to Canada on an office trip in 2013, and that blew my mind. I knew I had to come to North America. It might sound foolish, but the excitement of living in a new country, travelling to new places, all this also contributed to my MS plans.

As I started planning, I knew I needed something drastically remarkable to make it to top-20 university in US. I started talking to my friends and seniors who had gone there and they advised 2 things:

  1. a kickass GRE can make up for a poor GPA.
  2. and get some research experience since I had none in college.

To get some research experience I caught hold of some like-minded people at office, and we would spend weekends trying for patentable ideas. In the end, I filed 2 US patents (actually 1 at the time of application), and this was very, very important for my admits.

This is a crucial piece of advice to all the young folks out there: GPA matters. A lot. And I had to work very hard to undo my past sins. To be honest, we all know it does not require superhuman kind of intelligence to do well on our sem exams. So work hard now, so that you don't have to cry later. If you are already lost like I was, don't worry and start working hard from that time. "Subah ka bhoola shaam ko ghar aaye to use bhula nahi kehte"

Tricks you would like to share that helped you gain advantage over others in your preparation

One particular trick that I would like to share is for my absent-minded friends, who like me tend to commit silly mistakes in quants.

For a 170, you should get everything right. At the max 1 wrong, else you are done. First, I realized that I commit silly mistakes. How to overcome it? Resolve the entire paper once again. As quant was a 35 min exam, my strategy was complete the paper in 15 minutes or as fast as you can. Don't focus on your mistakes yet, since you will be catching those later. Now use the next 10 minutes to solve the entire paper again. Don't look at the answers, start from scratch. I used to catch 4-5 mistakes in this stage. Last 5 minutes I would go through the comparison kind of questions, trying to cover all cases.

Verbal paper: start from the easiest comprehension (you know science / technology / whatever topic you feel is light reading for you). Then the text completions and finally the hard RCs (on art, feminism, etc)

Advice for the exam day

Keep calm. GRE is more a test of your nerves than it is of anything else. In the break, instead of brooding over how the paper went, did I make any mistake or not, just tell to yourself, "ki maine phod dia hai pehla set ab doosra bhi phodna hai"

If you wish to engage with Souptik, you can head to his profile on Yocket and chat with him through the app.

Doing well in all sections of the GRE exam is important. As you've read above, Souptik's continued to make mistakes and learnt from them. His focus was to complete the paper and then re-analyse it to eliminate any possible mistakes. This is a great strategy when it comes to preparing for GRE, which is why we believe Yocket GRE Prep is a beneficial tool that lets you conduct this activity during your GRE preparation. 

This free tool lets you conduct mock tests for each category of GRE, such as verbal, etc. A score is then exhibited, letting you know about your performance. As it is a basic tool, you can only have access to limited features. It is suggested that to prepare for GRE, having one tool that lets you do all is a wisable investment. This is when you should consider our popular premium tool, Yocket GRE Prep+. The top features include unlocking all practice and multiple mini-tests, getting instant score reports with performance analysis & solutions and more. 

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