The GRE is an intriguing test, mystifying to many. Often we find students getting complacent that it is easy to crack without much training and a popular misconception is that only the Verbal section could be a challenge to work towards. However, the reality is quiet contrary. Along with Verbal, students, in spite of a strong potential fail to get close to a 170 in Quant, and often end up in the low 160’s. In verbal often students end up around 150’s with a resultant total of 310. But you can score high, and remember higher the score, the better the universities where you can apply and higher the chances of admit and even scholarships!
Here are some tips to crack the GRE exam:
- Target your dream school, not your dream GRE score, and work backwards.
- Consistent practice. Getting there is not difficult; with proper coaching and consistent practice high GRE score is possible.
- Know your concepts well
- Keep a track on your speed
Crack the GRE Quant
The test is tricky and section adaptive. Students often fail to identify the traps and end up marking the wrong answer. Constant practice will train you to avoid such traps and think quickly. The main hurdle on the test is speed. If you know the concepts that you are tested on well, you can go through the major part of the test quickly with a minute per question. This gives you enough time to solve the tougher questions, especially the Data Interpretation questions which will typically take more than 2 minutes per question.
Understand, what is judged is your analytical capability, and not just your mathematical knowledge.
Consider this question of Quantitative comparison.
- Column A: Number of factors of 100
- Column B: Number of factors of 441.
Is A > B; B > A; A=B or cannot be determined.
The concept requires you to prime factorize i.e. 100 = 22 * 52 and 441 = 32*72. The number of factors of each thus is 3 * 3 = 9 factors (using rule of counting). Thus the two columns are equal. If you know this concept you can do the question quickly. There are many such concepts in each of the main topics namely, Numbers, Statistics, Geometry, Coordinate Geometry, Sets, Speed Time Distance, Work Rate time, Counting and Probability. Knowing these concepts ensures you are fast in the test. Remember to always practice in sets of 20 questions, and time yourself - 35 minutes for a set of 20 Questions for Quant and 30 minutes for a set of 20 Questions for Verbal.
How to crack GRE Verbal
In the Verbal section, students tend to memorize words in isolation and that is a foolproof way of practicing for failure in the actual test of Sentence completion and Sentence Equivalence. In the older version of GRE, students were tested on synonyms and antonym questions and at that time rote memorization used to be helpful. But in the new GRE you need to have knowledge of words in context of sentences. In most of the tough questions the words are not that difficult; however the meaning of the sentence and the connections between the blanks is tough to comprehend. One needs to practice and develop the skill of drawing meaning of the sentences from the clue words and transition words and predicting answers of the blanks.
When building your vocabulary, try to understand words rather than memorize. Also make sentences of your own which will make the meaning of the word stick in your memory. For example, consider the word ‘anachronism’. An easy way to understand this word is to break it as ana + chron + ism. This allows you to see that the root is ‘chron’. We know that chronology means pertaining to time. Thus this word must be related to time. ‘Ana’ is a prefix which means ‘out of’. Thus anachronism must be something which is out of chronological time. Now to easily remember this word make a sentence – for example, ‘Sword is an anachronism in modern warfare’. Ice the cake by writing down a few synonyms of the words. If you learn in this way not only will you understand the usage of words but it will be very helpful in Sentence Equivalence where you need to find two words which have similar meanings.
Lastly, let’s address the most challenging section, Reading Comprehension. There are many strategies to handle RCs and you need to use the strategy that works for you. For most, the strategy which works best is to scan quickly the first time, understand the main idea of the passage and each paragraph, rather than the details. You can then go to the questions and start reading the specific details of the passage pertaining to each question.
Last but not the least, the most important thing to remember to crack this test is to write a lot of genuine tests and analyze your mistakes carefully. Try and find out what kinds of mistakes are recurring. Are you getting caught in traps? Did you make any concept mistakes? Did you make reading and understanding errors? This analysis is the key to high scores.
Remember, if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail! Good Luck…
Ankur Rupani (UMCP and IIT alumnus, GRE – 331/340)
Head of Training, Imperial Overseas Education Consultants.