Cracking the GRE Test – Debanjana Nayak (GRE Score 330/340) – Tips for Quantitative,Verbal and Analytical Writing


Here’s the next part of Debanjana’s tips – this time with lots of specifics for each section of the test!


Before starting with this set of tips specifically for the Quantitative, Verbal and AW sections, I must mention that I took classes from Dilip Oak’s Academy and I will be talking a lot about the Academy’s classes and materials because I found them extremely useful in preparing for these sections. In giving these tips, I am also assuming that you too are a student of Dilip Oak’s Academy. Of course, you will have your own experience and perspective, but here’s what I would suggest.

Tackling the Quantitative Reasoning Sections:

  1. OK, I know this is going to sound a lot like what Ashwin wrote in his post, but I still have to say it: attend all the classes and pay full attention. The formulae and techniques that are taught in class are absolutely invaluable and going through the sums in class is great practice – which is important especially if you are working and have little time to practice after the classes.
  2. I know that engineers find the GRE Quant easy, but don’t give up on practicing. If you can keep pace with the classes (and understand what is happening in them!) and then do some practice on your own, you will be able to come up with your own techniques that will help you solve problems faster and more accurately.
  3. Practice all the sums given in the workbooks by Oak’s. They will help you cover most of the common problem types that appear in GRE. Aim at completing at least 20 sums in 35 minutes (i.e. the equivalent of one Quantitative section) every day. (Check with the explanatory answers as well to make sure you understand the answers.) Go to other material only after finishing the Oak’s material.
  4. Before going on to the advanced formulae, make sure you get a good grasp of the basic ones. Begin by applying these first and foremost. All GRE sums can be done using these formulae. Advanced techniques are mainly to save time.
  5. Remember, GRE sums are never difficult, but they may be tricky. When you encounter a tricky sum, don’t panic or confuse yourself by trying to use the advanced formulae. Use the basic ones. Keep it simple.
  6. In case of geometry or co-ordinate geometry, draw figures as much as possible, even if you feel that the questions can be solved using formulae. Difficult sums are much easier to tackle with this approach.
  7. Don’t neglect Data Interpretation. You will definitely get a high percentage of DI sums on the test. Here, try to deduce as much as possible just from looking at the graphs. If time is short and you panic and cannot quickly come up with some efficient technique, use direct calculations – and please make use of the calculator; DI sums were the only ones in which I used it.
  8. First concentrate on accuracy and then on timing. This will lead to more efficient practice.
  9. Finally, learn certain data by heart like the value of pi, or the percentage equivalent of some commonly used fractions and vice-versa, or the squares and cubes of some commonly-used numbers and whatever else you feel like knowing.

Tackling the Verbal Sections:

  1. Here too, there is no substitute for classes, especially for learning the techniques for SC, SE and RC question. If you are in doubt about how to apply them, please consult the teachers and they will help you. The GRE is all about thinking in the right way.
  2. You will have to learn all the 4000 words. There is no alternative. Words from outside the list will also come. However, learning all the 4000 words will ensure that you have at most one unknown word in your options.
  3. Don’t leave words for the end or try and mug more words than you can in a day. Actually, you need to ‘cultivate’ the words rather than mugging them up.
  4. While learning words, try and get familiar with their connotations, collocations, usage and tone of the words. This can only happen if you read (or use) these words. I personally used to read novels by authors like Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and the unabridged versions of the classics. Many of you will find this boring, but you reading books will give you a very good feel for the words. Also, this will provide you with practice on understanding unknown words from the context, which is very helpful if you come up with unknown words in passages in the exam.
  5. Oak’s will show you a variety of ways of learning words. Try all of them and choose the one you feel comfortable with. The VaiVocabulary software is very helpful. Try it at least once.
  6. Some of you may find learning roots of words useful. This will help you remember words longer.
  7. Revise a lot. If possible revise every few days all the words you have learnt till that point.
  8. Try different ways of revising. For example, revise synonyms together or revise similar sounding words together and so on.
  9. You must learn or revise some words every day.
  10. Since I read a lot, I did not find doing RCs very difficult. Oak’s will teach you a number of tricks to tackle RCs. Use them if you are comfortable with them. I personally used to read the whole passage and understand it in my own way and then answer the questions. I did not use any trick.
  11. In all Verbal questions, use elimination to arrive at the correct answer. Even if you are pretty sure of the answer, do eliminate the other options.
  12. If you come across unknown words in the options during the exam, I would suggest using elimination to narrow down the options. I found this more useful than trying to guess the meaning of the word from the roots.
  13. In SC and SE questions, after choosing your options, read the whole sentence or paragraph again fitting in the words you chose in the blanks. If you do so, you will eliminate many silly mistakes that tend to creep in if you choose answers only by looking at the options.
  14. Practice from Oak’s workbooks and once you are through with them practice from other books.

Tackling the AWM Section:

  1. Don’t ignore this section altogether. I know the Quantitative and Verbal scores matter the most. But with a 330+ in Quant and Verbal, a 3.0 or less in AWM does not look at all good.
  2. Make full use of the AWM counselling sessions provided by Oak’s. The personalized, in-depth feedback they provide is really very helpful.
  3. Try to distribute the counseling sessions evenly out throughout the period of your preparation. It is difficult to correct errors in your writing style overnight. So if you start getting feedback early, you will have more time to make the required changes.
  4. Everybody has his/her own writing style. Stick to your natural style (except for the errors, of course!) and don’t try and make major changes in your style to make it seem more impressive. People will tell you to use GRE or Barrons words in your essays. But if they don’t come naturally to you, don’t use them. It will only decrease your score. The AW counsellors will guide you very well in this and other matters of style. They know how much change is required or can be expected out of you. Follow their advice.
  5. Give emphasis to the organisation and structure of your essays rather than to words.
  6. Practice writing timed essays. If you don’t do so, you may face problems in the main exam.