Cracking the GRE Test – a Working Student’s Experience – Debanjana Nayak (GRE Score 330/340)

Trophy GRE ScoreThis week’s blog is by another of our high scorers, Debanjana Nayak who got a a really great score of 330/340. What makes this score a special one is that Debanjana is working.

So, this post is especially for all the working folks: if you are in a job and feel it might be difficult for you to prepare, here’s some inspiration! (By the way this post is just the first part. More to follow!)


Before, I start with my tips, here is a bit on my background. I graduated with an Electronics and Communication Engineering degree from WBUT in 2010 and soon after joined Tech Mahindra as a Technical Associate. I have been working there for almost 2 years now.

After having worked in the company for about 1 year, I decided to pursue higher studies in the US (targeting fall 2013). Since I intended to keep my job and prepare for the exams (GRE & TOEFL) side-by-side, I started preparation early, around October, 2011, almost 7 months in advance. I finally gave my GRE on 25th April, 2012. My scores are as follows:

  • Quantitative – 166/170
  • Verbal – 164/170
  • AWM – 4/6

I feel that the key to cracking the GRE test lies in the Verbal Sections (though one cannot neglect the Quant sections either). The fact that my entire education has been in English medium helped me a lot. So did the fact that I am an avid reader and read articles on any and every subject. My exposure to a wide variety of fields really helped me with the RCs and vocabulary. Quant was relatively simple and did not bother me much. However, the ‘4000 words’ was a real burden, but it was a necessary one, as far as GRE is concerned.

First, here’s some general stuff about the GRE test.


1.) The GRE test can be given in 2 slots – the first in the morning (from 8 a.m.onwards) and the second in the afternoon (from 12 noon). Consider both the times very carefully and decide on the slot when you feel you would be able to give your best performance.

Many people choose the 2nd slot. I personally felt that 8 a.m. was better for me. Very few people are present in the morning slot, so there is a lot less disturbance (I was alone in my case). Afternoon slots are usually full. So take that into consideration as well.

Once you have decided your time slot, create your study schedule such that you do most of the studying during this time. Also, give the practice exams in the timeframe you have decided for the main GRE.

2.) I know many people suggest concentrating on maths more. But GRE Quant is very simple for engineering students. So the better approach for engineers would be to improve your Verbal skills, while brushing up your Quant concepts through regular practice. Trust me 170 in Quant would get you nowhere, if you get only 135 in Verbal!

3.) Don’t give the GRE test as a ‘trial’. A few of my friends went for trial attempts at GRE with the idea that it would be very simple. Their scores were not at all good. This got them demotivated and they have entirely given up on the idea of studying abroad. So I feel that you should not go for trial attempts.

4.) So, do not underestimate the GRE and take it very lightly. Practice a lot. Prepare very well for the GRE, and fix on a date only when you think you are ready.

Again, do not overestimate it and stress yourself too much about it. Do not stress yourself in the last week. Don’t even think about studying on the day before the exam. Stress can create problems on the D Day.

5.) While taking the actual exam, do not worry about scores.Don’t worry if you feel that the 2nd sections have not increased in difficulty level.Take each section as it comes. I found it useful to train my mind to think that I was giving 7 exams of about 30 minutes each, rather than 1 exam of about 4 hrs. This was one thing that helped me perform well on the actual exam.

6.) After completing a section if you have some time left, revise. Don’t be in a hurry to submit the exam. There is no award for this.

7.) I know a lot of people who have given the GRE recently and it is my general observation that people who got 3 Verbal sections scored more than those with 3 Quant sections. I have no logical explanation for this. The GRE algorithm is very complex and you cannot predict how it will behave.

8.) After giving the GRE, if you feel that you could have done better, don’t worry, you can write it again. Analyse your performance, work on your weaknesses and, if your preparation was not as good as it should have been the first time, with good preparation you should be able to do better on the second attempt.


Practice Material & Tests:

Oak’s workbooks are very good and first complete these. I found that it good to go through as much material as possible and complete as many CBTs as possible. Get all the practice you can.

That’s all I have to say about the test in general. In my next post there will be more specific tips on Verbal, Quant and AW.Keep watching this space!