GRE Score – 337/340: Ashwin’s Tips for Cracking the GRE (Part 2)

TrophyThis week we bring you the second part of a really trophy-winning article: Ashwin’s tips for cracking the GRE.

In this part he gets even more specific, with tips for the Practice Tests and each of the sections – Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning and the super-hard Verbal Reasoning section. Read on. There are literally dozens of pointers that you can really benefit from.


Tips for the Practice Tests

1) If you haven’t given exams like Pravinya, MTS, NTS etc. the GRE exam may be a new experience. If that is so, I would advise you to give one of the mock tests within a week of finishing classes just in order to know where you stand (editor’s note: you can use the Oak’s free test for this purpose).

2) Practice, practice, practice. The more preparation you do the better you will score. It just works that way. There are studies that show if you prepare just one hour beyond the point where you feel you know everything, you can increase your marks by up to 5% (which is significant in an exam like this one).

3) Make sure that you complete all 4 Oaks exams, the entire set of Kaplan mini tests, the Princeton review and Kaplan free tests in the last 3 weeks before the exam. It will help you get used to the length of the exam: sitting 4 hours plus at a go is not an easy task!

4) DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE RESULTS. Take the exams as practice keeping in mind that the marks in your mock tests are just a baseline to begin from. Make sure to analyze your results though. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Spot areas in which, with a little more effort, you can easily score more marks. See if you are repeatedly making the same type of mistakes and eliminate them.

5) If you have prepared properly, the exam has been set in such a way that you have time to make at least one complete review. Make sure you use the mark and review buttons provided to the fullest extent.

6) With this in mind, make sure that you utilize all the time provided in the Quant sections. What I mean by this is that, even if you finish the section early, review and revise to check if you have made silly mistakes as long as time permits.

7) In the Verbal sections though, I would recommend at most a single review. Second guessing yourself beyond that point will actually cause you to lose marks.


Tips for the Quantitative Section

1) Note that the sums are meant to be solved in a maximum time of one and a half minutes. Ideally, however, a lot of the sums (especially in the first quant section) can be solved in half a minute. If you can limit the amount of time you spend on easy questions, it will give you that much more time to focus on the harder questions.

2) It is very important to note that the pattern of GRE is very different from most other exams you have done so far. The GRE algorithm is interested in the correct answer and not the correct method. There are several types of sums which may be easier to solve by brute force methods, than by applying complex formulae.

3) Basic maths is very useful. I would recommend learning by heart, the squares of all numbers till 30 and cubes till 20 before taking the exam.


Tips for AWM

1) As an engineer I emphasized mathematics more than AWM. However, it is essential that some amount of studies be directed towards AWM which, requires special focus if you are oriented towards a language-based major.

2) Ensure that you make full use of the AWM sessions (editor’s note: if you are a student at Oak’s you can take 4 individual AW counseling appointments of 1 ½ hours each – in these our counselors will discuss your essays and give you in-depth feedback on how to improve them). Ideally, I would recommend 2 sessions per week in the last 2 weeks before the exam.

3) I would also recommend that you practice writing timed essays (i.e. within 30 minutes per essay) – at least 2 of each type i.e. issue and argument. It would also help if you prepare points (though not essays) for 6 more of each type.

4) If you are fairly fluent in English and have your own writing style, do not try to modify it. The results can often be disastrous.

5) Try to avoid high flying words. In an effort to sound sophisticated you may misuse a word and end up falling flat on your face. Simple fluent and well-structured essays will get you decent marks. If you need something beyond that I am, unfortunately, not in a position to advise you.

Tips for the Verbal Reasoning Section

1) The following sites were very useful to me in preparing for the exam:

Try to make full use of them. Ensure that you read at least 2 full length articles per day online. This will familiarize you with the level of English language required by the test and also help you with practicing reading online.

2) Also try to download a few phone apps to learn words on the go. I found Kaplan Vocab very useful.

3) For learning words quickly, although the flashcards are invaluable, it is essential that you know their usage, specifically their connotation (whether they sound positive or negative) and collocation (which other word they go with and which ones they don’t) since this helps in eliminating incorrect answers. (Editor’s note: the VaiVocabulary DVD are useful in this regard)

4) One of the most useful methods in learning words was that of grouping similar words together. It helps covering vocabulary in large batches.

5) At a glance in the Verbal section you can generally eliminate all but 2 probabilities. The last 2 are slightly tricky generally and, in sentence completion type questions, may cause trouble if you are not aware of the exact usage of the words. But it is very important to remember that it is much easier to pick a correct choice out of 2 than out of 5-6 options, so elimination is very important.

6) For sentence completion, text completion and sentence equivalence questions, after you have chosen your answers make sure you read them in the context of the sentence as a whole. Don’t just read the answers in the part of the sentence in which the blanks appear. Very often you may find that options that appear to make sense when you read them looking only at the immediate context don’t make sense when you consider the sentence as a whole. Reading your answer will help you to catch quite a few mistakes.

7) Reading comprehension was my weak point. Quite frankly, I simply followed the rules recommended in class to get the answers to these questions. The ‘read the introductory line and the last 2 lines’ method is very useful in this question type.


Well I believe I have rambled on long enough. I would like to reiterate that the exam as a whole is fairly simple and should not be given so much worry as to create burnout. There are many cases where people overstress before the exams and cannot think as clearly during the exams on account of the same. Do not take it too lightly either ; although I must admit, at least in my experience, I have yet to come across anyone who took it too lightly. And remember you always have the option of a do over.


Good luck with your preparations.

Also must reads:

Part 1 of Ashwin’s Article

Tanmay Gurjar (Score 338/340)

Rasika Joshi – How I got 325/340