Centre Shock: The Unexpected Challenges Your GRE Test Center May Throw at You!

Hi folks! Today’s post is a write up by Shraddha Barawkar, an engineering student (see brief bio below) about her GRE test experiences at the Prometric Center at Goregaon. We thought it might be interesting for all you GRE candidates out there to hear about how things worked out for her.

 


  • Name: Shraddha Barawkar
  • Branch: Mechanical Engineering
  • College: Pune Vidhyarthi Griha’s College of Engineering and Technology
  • GRE Date: 5 December 2014
  • GRE Center: Prometric Testing Pvt Ltd
  • Center Location: Techniplex I, Goregaon (West), Mumbai

 

Ideally, you should enter your GRE test center full of pep and leave it with a smile! But if you don’t prepare for conditions at the test center or think about travelling there, you may be in for an energy drain that can wipe the smile right off your face. And that can throw off your performance in the GRE!

One of the first things I realized is that it would have been better to be at the test location the day before. I live in Pune and my GRE test center in Goregaon West, Mumbai, was about 120 kms. away – that’s for non-Maharashtrian readers! (Google map and more details here) So, I had to wake up at 4 a.m. and eventually left my house at 6.30 for Mumbai. Not a good idea on the day of the exam!

However, it was early morning, there was only light traffic and so we reached the outskirts of Mumbai at 10 a.m. I heaved a sigh of relief: I had a 12.30 p.m. slot, there were still 2-½ hours for my test and we thought it would take only half an hour to cover the approximately 25 kms to the test center. But by then, the traffic had started up and so, it took us 1-½ hours. As a result, I didn’t even get to have breakfast in peace. Luckily though, my father was able to grab a couple of wadas for me from the vendors outside the center. Finally, at 12.25 p.m., I walked into the center.

My test room was on the 8th floor. As I entered the room, I saw 50 expressionless faces looking blankly at me: those of my fellow test-takers. Simultaneously, I was hit by a sharp temperature drop, from 300C outside, to around 180 inside. I felt as if I had entered a graveyard, and my hands started shivering. Nevertheless, I put a smile on my face and tried to converse with some of the folks there, but they were very reticent, adding to the nervousness I felt because of chill in the room. I could feel myself losing focus and giving in to the desire to just to get the exam over as soon as possible! The atmosphere at the test center, I realized, doesn’t help you to settle into the right frame of mind to take the test.

Shraddha's Overall Evaluation of the Test Center

Somehow, eventually, the formalities got over (passport, ID checking etc.) and, a painful half an hour later, we were asked to put our bags and accessories in the lockers. Then, one by one, we were sent to the main exam room. I relaxed a bit at that point, since I thought that the formalities were finally over. But I was wrong! Inside there was yet another room where I was asked to remove my blazer, unchain my back pockets, raise the collar of my formal shirt and unfold the lower portion of my jeans. This was all done by male authorities, which as a woman, I found quite embarrassing. Finally, I was sent to the test room.
During the exam itself, I encountered two important problems: firstly, typing with nearly numb fingers was a tough job in the analytical writing section. Secondly, during the 10 minute-break halfway through the test, I thought going to the waiting room would be a simple matter. But again I had to complete formalities involving signatures and time entry in order to check out. After the break the whole process of apparel checking was repeated which, took another 3-4 minutes. I was not aware that I had to include time for these things in the break as well and it was only by luck that I had come back early from my break. These circumstances made the GRE a tougher nut to crack!

You might wonder, why I am telling about you my frustrating experiences. It’s because I don’t want you to get demoralized by these things; I want you to be prepared for the worst. The first challenge lies in overcoming the unfavorable conditions at the test center. Only then can you attain the calm state of mind that you need to solve tricky GRE questions!

In conclusion, here’s my advice: if your test center is not located in your home town, you should be at the test location a day before. Find out about nearby places to eat and travel routes and times. Take into consideration traffic conditions too, and try to reach an hour early! You should also eat properly before the test and wear warm clothes. Sometimes the washrooms are far from the test rooms. So, be prepared for a long trek there and, if you are at the Goregaon center, all the formalities of signing in and signing out too!

Hope this helps folks.

This is Shraddha wishing you all the best to give your best!

ETS ScoreSelect for the GRE: a Boon …More or Less!

For students who have given the GRE more than once, the worry has always been that the universities will see their low scores along with their high ones. To deal with this problem the ETS launched the ScoreSelectTM feature some years ago. ScoreSelect allows you to decide which GRE scores will go to universities and colleges which means that you can omit poor scores from your graduate school applications. If you are retaking the GRE therefore, or have GRE scores that you are not keen to show the universities, it seems that ScoreSelect will allow you to breathe a little more easily. But you should be aware that this apparent boon does have its limitations.

Firstly, you won’t be able to mix and match your best maths and verbal performances from separate tests to create a super report. ScoreSelect only allows you to send score reports as a whole. Secondly, if you want the full flexibility that ScoreSelect offers then, it comes at a price.

As the ETS explains, after test day, you can send Additional Score Reports and select the ScoreSelect.

  • Most Recent option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from your most recent test
  • All option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from all tests in the last 5 years.
  • Any option — using which, you can send your GRE scores from one OR many tests in the last 5 years.

As you can see, it is the third option that gives you full scope to exclude the ‘bad’ scores you don’t want the universities to get. But, at this point, i.e. after test day, you will have to shell out $27/- per report. On test day, on the other hand, when you can choose 4 universities to send your score report to AT NO ADDITIONAL COST, this magical option is not available. All you have is the ScoreSelect Most Recent and All options. In short, if you want to get the full benefit of the ETS’s ScoreSelect option, you will have to pay for it at the rate of $27 per score report. As someone once said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

The third problem is that universities are all aware that you may be making use of this facility – and so, some may ask you to send score reports of all the GRE tests you have taken in the last 5 years anyway! If that’s the case with a university that you have selected, then you are stuck, and ScoreSelect is not going to help you.

So, the option exists. But it’s expensive, and it may not always be possible to use it. But, if the university you are applying to is willing to let you show them just the best side of yourself then, if you need it ScoreSelect is always there. Proceed thoughtfully!

How to Save 180 Dollars When You Take the GRE and TOEFL

Most of you know that preparing for the GRE test involves things like hours of practice and learning lots of words and formulae by heart. For the TOEFL, as you are aware, you have to brush up on your grammar. But you most probably never thought that preparing for these tests would involve thinking through which universities or colleges you would like to apply to. But it does, and here’s why: saving the 180 dollars referred to in the title is as simple as selecting the 4 names of universities from a drop-down list. Here’s how it works.

At the end of the GRE test, the ETS allows you to choose 4 universities to which they will send your GRE test score to WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL CHARGE. This is the ‘free score reporting’ feature, so called since the payment for reporting the score to those four institutes is included in the GRE registration fee. The TOEFL has a similar feature. The difference here is that the selection of the university or college you would like to send your free scores to needs to be done BEFORE the exam – any time after you have booked the TOEFL exam date up to 24 hours before your TOEFL test date.

Most students don’t make use of these useful money saving features since they generally don’t decide which universities they want to apply to before their GRE or TOEFL exams. The reasoning is that the choice of university depends on the GRE test score hence, university selection can be done only after the test. So, students normally request what the ETS calls Additional Score Reports (ASRs) only after they have selected universities to apply to (according to their GRE score). At that point they end up paying a fee of 27 dollars for each additional GRE ASR they request and 19 per TOEFL report. But, if you have already made use of the free score reporting feature, you make a saving of $27 + $19 = $46/- per university and $184 for all 4 universities!

But how do you select which universities you want to apply to before you have even got your GRE score? Well, you should have some idea of what universities you want to apply to beforehand – after all, on the basis of your GRE test scores you will only be making a selection of 4 for ‘free score reporting’ from that list; and though you may not have your GRE test scores in hand before the actual test, your mock tests will give you some idea of what scores you can expect. To make that list, talk to seniors or get on to some good discussion forums. This is something that you have to do in any case.

If, on this basis, you can make you make up your mind about what universities you would like to apply to before the GRE and TOEFL exams, you’ll be able to keep that $184 /- in your pocket! That works out to over 11,000 rupees, and you could buy a pretty decent smartphone with that amount or… plan a trip to Goa!

Also check out the link at the end of this sentence for what to do about sending scores to ‘unlisted institutions

Cracking the Verbal Section 2: Turning Verbal Debility into Verbal Ability

Cracking the GRE Verbal Section

(Note: debility means weakness or disability; verbal debility here means a weakness or disability relating to the verbal section. Also, check out the other difficult words in this post. To get the meaning, just hover your mouse over them.)

 

How to Improve Vocabulary

1. Get those Vocab Lists, Look up those Dictionaries

As we said in our previous post, a good grasp of vocabulary is instrumental to achieving success in the Verbal Section. To improve your vocabulary, start by learning word meanings, synonyms, and antonyms. In order to do this you will need to find a good GRE list on the net – there are several available – and look up the synonyms and antonyms on a good online dictionary e.g.

On every handy piece of software to download and install on your laptop, phones, tablets, PCs etc is wordweb (http://wordweb.info/free/): it will give you words, meanings, sample sentences etc. for every word you hover your cursor over.

(Note to Dilip Oak’s Academy students: you already have VaiVocabulary – this gives you the word list along with synonyms, antonyms, easily confused words and a whole lot of revision features.)

2. Learn, Revise, Repeat

Developing an effective vocabulary also means consistent learning and revision so, start learning well before the exam – at least three months is recommended – and set up a learning and revision schedule. Make regular revision an integral part of your schedule: unless you revise regularly and repeatedly, you won’t remember any of that difficult vocabulary you are learning.

4. Target the Tough Ones

When you revise, mark out any words that you tend to forget: they need extra revision. The more you tend to forget them, the more they need to be revised; and the more you revise them, the better you will remember them!

5. Start Small

Doing all the learning and revision required can be an arduous task so, start with a good 500 high frequency GRE® word list. A short list like this will be a good stepping stone to the longer ones; and learning it will help you in overcoming the mental blocks associated with vocabulary learning.

6. Put it in Context

Keep in mind that simply memorizing words by rote is not enough, however; and developing a good vocabulary is not merely a matter of memorizing meanings of thousands of words. Often students notice that simply knowing the meaning of an obscure GRE word does not guarantee selecting the right answer in the exam. A proper understanding of exactly how to use vocabulary is necessary. It is this knowledge of usage that helps you to choose the right word for the given context. It is therefore advisable that, along with all your efforts to increase your vocabulary, you focus on getting a clear understanding of how to use these GRE words and which words fit in a particular context.

 

Developing Good Reading Habits

Apart from going through word lists, developing good reading habits is also crucial. One way in which this helps is getting an understanding of usage and context as we saw above. Secondly, though the GRE® is not a test of general knowledge, the reading comprehension passages in the verbal section cover a variety of topics and areas. Some background knowledge of the subjects being discussed in the passage you are reading is always useful since it is always easier to understand something that is at least somewhat familiar than something that is completely unfamiliar. For both these reasons it is imperative that you read a variety of articles from newspapers, magazines, and the web. Sites like the ones below give you access to an eclectic collection of very high quality writings.

http://thebrowser.com/ (easier but nevertheless intriguing reading – good to start with: it stimulates your interest and gets you reading without bogging you down with difficult words or convoluted sentences)

http://www.aldaily.com/ (more complex stuff, really long articles – get into this slowly)

Reading through this material at random can ensure both plenty of practice for comprehension and exposure to vocabulary in context.

(Note for Oak’s students: check out this link)

 

 

Cracking the GRE®: Verbal Reasoning 1 – the GRE exam’s Toughest Nut to Crack

Vocabulary tough nuts

First, here’s some basic orientation for GRE® rookies. The GRE exam incorporates 3 types of section:

  • Analytical Writing (the essay writing section which is scored on a scale of 0-6 with half point increments)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (which tests Maths skills)
  • Verbal Reasoning (which tests English skills – both Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning are scored on a scale of 130-170 in 1-point increments)

Typically, cracking the GRE requires 4-12 weeks of preparation. A major chunk of this time will inevitably be invested in preparing for the Verbal section. Why is this so? Firstly, a lot of Indian students taking the GRE are engineers or others for whom the Quantitative Reasoning section is not a major problem. But Verbal reasoning includes questions on Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence which require good reading skills and an extensive vocabulary. However, most Indian students don’t tend to read much and, as a result, these are precisely the skills and knowledge that they lack. So, the Verbal Reasoning section is a tough nut to crack. What difficulties does it throw up?

Doing well in reading comprehension entails, among other things, an ability to read challenging unseen passages on unfamiliar topics, locate relevant information within the mass of details given in the passage, understand assumptions and implications and, get the main point. Choosing the right options from among several close alternatives requires insight, and discrimination, and the ability to recognize correct restatements and inferences.

 

In Sentence Equivalence or Text Completion questions, a proper understanding of the logic and reasoning of the sentences plays an important role: without it you won’t find the correct approach. Then, there are the vocabulary challenges. We all know that word meanings in the English language can be quite tricky. The GRE exam makes this problem even trickier by offering you close choices in Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions – ones which require you to understand the nuances of meaning and usage of words. Understanding usage and context therefore play a very important role in eliminating the wrong answers. Further, the wide variety of sub-question types and the high difficulty level of the questions is a challenge to most students.

Given the difficulties verbal questions pose, preparation for the Verbal section means developing a thorough mastery of vocabulary, reading skills and the strategies for tackle them successfully. Naturally, doing well in the Verbal section takes intensive preparation and practice for all students. You have to start well in advance, have the right resources and a good study plan. Our next blog will give you a few tips on how to move closer to attaining prowess in this difficult section.

 

The Revised General GRE: All the Details

The Revised General GRE was introduced in August 2011. But if you are thinking of giving the GRE just now, it is still all pretty new to you. So, what is the test like? What are the sections, what are the questions like and what are the challenges? Contained in this blog are links to descriptions of every section in the GRE and a description of some of the most important challenges they offer.

Click on the links below to go to he individual posts.

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Make Learning GRE Vocabulary Fun for Yourself with this Hilarious (But True) ‘History of the English Language in Ten Minutes’

Here’s a fun help for GRE verbal section preparation – especially for those students who find learning the vocabulary a bore! This hilarious video by the Open University, England gives you insights into the ingredients that have been combined to create that wonderful melting pot that we call the English vocabulary.

Some highlights: Shakespeare’s contributions to the vocabulary of the English; before that the additions to the language through the invasions of tribes such as the Jutes, Angles, Saxons and the role of conquerors such as the Normans from France and the Romans. Towards the end of the video there are even parts on the role of the Internet, of America and even India! Definitely worth a watch, maybe even several! Happy viewing!

 

P.S. just in case the embedded video is not working here’s the link:

The History of the English Language in Ten Minutes

Related Links

GRE Prep: Verbal Study Plan Overview

Here from Dilip Oak’s Academy are the GRE Prep highlights. As the graphic above indicates the basic plan for verbal preparation for the GRE is as follows:

  • at least 3-5 months before your GRE, begin vocabulary preparation and preliminary reading practice
  • 2 months before your GRE, begin going through the practice material
  • 1 month before your GRE, begin your practice on the Computer-Based Tests (CBTS)

This is explained below: As you can see there are four aspects of preparation that you have to cover:

  1. Vocabulary Learning and Revision
  2. Preliminary Reading Practice
  3. Covering the Practice Material
  4. Practice on the Computer-Based Tests (CBTs)

Each of the sections below gives you a brief idea of how to handle one aspect of preparation. Each section also contains links (in red) which give you further important details about the aspect of preparation that it deals with. Before you read through the sections below read through the post on ‘some principles’ for GRE Preparation. This will give you important guidelines on how to work through the material described in each of the sections.

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Free GRE Tips on Preparing for the Verbal Section

Guiding Principles

I. First Techniques, Then Timing

When working on your practice material, first get comfortable with the techniques and start focusing on timing only when you have reached a high level of accuracy and confidence with the techniques. If you try to push yourself to do the questions faster, without first getting a good grasp of the techniques, you will end up making more mistakes and losing confidence. So,start by getting accurate and confident with the techniques first.

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How to Crack the GRE

Here’s a compilation of terrific tips on how to crack that all important exam – the GRE. The first set is from Dilip Oak’s Academy’s top scorers. The second set is from the academy itself.

Tips from Our Top Scorers