The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). GRE is used by universities in most English speaking countries for admission into the Graduate program. It assesses the verbal, quantitative and writing skills of the student.
GRE is taken by candidates who wish to get into graduate or business schools. Aspirants interested in pursuing a Master’s degree – MS, MBA, MEM, or a doctoral degree can sit for the GRE. The total duration of the test is 3 hours 40 minutes, with a 10 minute break in between.
To successfully crack the GRE, knowing the pattern and preparing well is the only solution.
So how do you go about preparing for the GRE?
We have mentioned below seven effective and practical tips on how to prepare for the GRE:
1. Choose the right study material
Many students when preparing choose one book and stick to it. While there are many great books in the market, you have not mastered GRE if you finish one of them. Even if you start with one book, use other material as well to supplement it.
The other problem is that with the introduction of the web and smartphone, the preparation material available to you is abundant. It is easy to lose yourself trying to do everything. So instead choose your material and prepare.
Start simple, it will help you understand the concepts and once you have got a hang of it, work your way up to more advanced material. Do not try to do everything at the same time. In the end you will not have covered much. We would recommend you to start with the official ETS GRE guide.
Also remember, when it comes to practice test material, make sure you take the right practice tests – preferably the official ones! If you take random tests, chances are that your results are not accurate thus messing with analysing where you stand.
Also, Don’t be a serial test taker!
The key is to understand when and how often these GRE practice tests should be taken. Exhausting them all at once as soon as you have started your GRE perpetration, for instance, is counterproductive.
If you are just starting your GRE preparation then go through our Comprehensive Guide to GRE Exam Preparation.
Here are a list of other Free resources to get you started:
2. Create a study plan
Depending on you exam date, create a plan accordingly.
Your study plan needs to take into account the number of weeks you have left for the GRE test, your current GRE preparation level, and your target GRE score. Once you have the plan, you take a printout of it and stick it next to your study desk so you can look at it while studying (and get motivated too!).
Once you have a concrete study plan you will feel charged up to complete it. It is the most simple and pain free way for you to start taking action!
Not sure how to make a detailed GRE study plan?
Then you can mail us at CrackVerbal and we will help you with a custom GRE study plan.
You can also check out our comprehensive blog on prepping for the GRE to get a detailed explanation on creating a study plan that suit your needs.
3. Do not underestimate the difficulty of Quant
The GRE is designed specifically to differ from what you learnt in college. Even if the syllabus for Quant takes you back to high school with memories of the amazing grades you scored, it is going to be a little more complicated than that to score in GRE.
A lot of students misunderstand the term and think that “Quant” is synonymous with “Math”.
Mathematics is different from Quantitative analysis. Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE exam, could have easily called it “mathematical assessment” but didn’t, and there is a reason for that.
GRE quant focuses on testing the reasoning ability of the student. So most of the questions are based on a simple logic with a twist in it, making it a brain teaser. Understanding these subtle nuances is often the solution to most problems.
Attempting to solve a problem with only concepts and procedure can be both confusing and time consuming. A far more efficient approach would be to figure out a pattern in the trick questions and create a strategy which can be used for them.
For more details about the GRE Quant section check out our blog on All You Wanted to Know About GRE Quant
GRE Quant is made up of four major buckets:
• Data Interpretation
The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section tests your ability to interpret given data correctly rather than just your knowledge of formulae and concepts. Out of the four topics, Arithmetic is what is going to be tested pre-dominantly, accounting for approximately 40 to 50 percent of your questions. Arithmetic tests your skills in numbers, ratios, percentages and exponents, etc.
Hence, you should be very good at your basics, which you would have typically studied up to the Eighth or Ninth grade.
• For information about Arithmetic questions in GRE Quant, see All You Wanted to Know About GRE Quant Arithmetic
• For information about Algebra questions in GRE Quant, see All You Wanted to Know About GRE Quant Algebra
• For information about Geometry questions in GRE Quant, see All You Wanted to Know About GRE Quant Geometry
• For information about Data Interpretation questions in GRE Quant, see All You Wanted to Know About GRE Quant Data Interpretation
4. Prepare well for AWA
Analytical Writing Assessment allows schools to evaluate the writing skills of the applicant. Even if in comparison with the other sections AWA is relatively less significant, it can take up a considerable amount of your time and energy if you go unprepared.
Before the exam, prepare a format outlining the structure of the 2 essays. Practice writing a few essays using this format. This way you know the kind of points you will need for the essay. It will allow you to focus your thoughts in terms of the content you plan to put in the essay.
The essay is then scored by e-rater®, a computerized program developed by ETS that is capable of identifying essay features related to writing proficiency.
If the human and the e-rater scores closely agree, the average of the two scores is used as the final score. If they disagree, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores.
The final scores on the two essays are then averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point interval on the 0–6 score scale.
Here is an example of a sample AWA essay prompt from the ETS pool of Issue Essays:
“As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate”
There are two ways to approach this – either you develop an argument that speaks in favor of technology or one that speaks against it. You could use real-world examples, things that you’ve read in books or even personal experiences to substantiate your point.Remember to clearly illustrate how this scenario helps prove your perspective though!
We recommend you spend the first 5-7 minutes in brainstorming and listing your thoughts. Then spend the next 15 minutes expanding your ideas into words and the last 5-7 minutes fine-tuning and writing a conclusion.
More more detailed tips on how to go about writing an AWA essay, check out our blog on how to go about your AWA
5. Build your mental stamina
The GRE is 3 hours and 45 minutes long. You have 1 minute between sections and a 10 minute break after three sections.
In long tests like these, it is very likely that by the middle of the test your concentration will begin to flag and the one minute between sections gives you barely enough time to catch your breath.
So it is important to develop your endurance with sufficient preparation beforehand. Usually you begin practice with blocks of questions in the same category. It is easy to get caught up in it, but mastering concepts is only half the battle.
Once you reach a level of comfort with the different sections individually, the next step will be to take full length practice tests.
Schedule them in regular intervals over the last 2 weeks before the exam and identify the areas which take up most of your time. These are the areas which will probably tire you out the most.
Monitor the time closely and work on improving your speed.
Here are some practical tips on how to stay focussed during your GRE test:
-> To be able to focus for a longer time, it’s important to keep up your energy levels. Try to avoid junk food or anything that contains a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners before the exam.
-> Your posture plays a vital role on your energy levels. So sit up straight and avoid shallow breathing.
-> You should practice the test under the same conditions you will take the test. So if you have booked a morning slot then practice taking your GRE mocks tests around the same time as you would on the actual test day.
6. Know the contextual meaning of the GRE words
A common mistake made by students is spending time trying to learn by heart a list of words within a limited time frame. While the words are important to answering sentence completion questions but the whole point of the questions is to test the vocabulary of the student. So knowing the meaning of the words will be useless without knowing the context in which they are used.
Using examples to learn the words can be advantageous. When learning with examples picturing the word in your mind becomes easy. This relates the word to a situation which in turn makes it easier to remember. This will also teach you the context in which the word is usually used.
For example, a commonly misused word is literally.
Literally means without exaggeration or in strict sense of the word.
So when you say “It is literally raining cats and dogs.” unless you really saw cats and dogs drop from the sky, you are using the word ‘literally’ in the wrong sense.
If you are looking for quick ways learn the contextual meanings of GRE Words then try learning the words using the Mnemonics technique.
To make learning GRE words fun, we have designed a set of 500 GRE flashcards cards that consist of visual mnemonics, to help you learn unfamiliar words by understanding its contextual meaning.
If you found the above video useful, then go ahead and Get our GRE WordToonz Flash Cards – featuring the 500 most frequently tested words.
7. Make a list of your target universities
So you’re obviously inventing a huge chunk of time and money to get into a university of your choice, right? Good – that is motivation enough for you to start researching on colleges that best enhance your abilities, personality and help set you on the right career path.
Make a list of universities – both India and Abroad – and list out the pros and cons. You can include factors such as – finance, duration of course, GRE score cutoffs, the course offerings, to name a few. This exercise will help you narrow down on a few good universities.
Also, don’t forget – alongside preparing for the examination, build your profile too. Find out things you can do to enhance what you already have – say, you’re decent in German – get fluent instead! And you could also start drafting your applications for the shortlisted universities, collect sample essays – basically do your bit of ground work.
If you need an expert to review your profile before applying, then CrackVerbal can do that for you, for free 🙂
Is GRE Preparation on your mind all the time? Then you already know that there are tons of free resources out there. The sad part? Everything looks so confusing and overwhelming.
If you were wishing for a page that will keep it simple for you, and give you a clear path to crack it the with an optimized GRE preparation plan, you have come to the right place.
This page will provide you with all the help you need for your GRE Preparation. So get your coffee mug and keep reading!
Here is a simple four-step process to study for the GRE:
Step 1: Get Started with Understanding the GRE
Anyone who has fought a war (studying for the GRE can seem like one) will tell you that the first rule is to know your enemy. A reconnaissance mission, if you will.
It’s the same for the GRE preparation. So, as the first step, take the time to understand what the GRE will test. Here is a PDF file from the test makers; that would be the “evil” Educational Testing Service (ETS).
As you saw earlier on our post, the GRE Syllabus, the GRE has the following format:
Anyone who has fought a war will tell you that the first rule is to know your enemy. A reconnaissance mission, if you will.
1) A section called “Analytical Writing Ability” or AWA, which is basically just essay writing
Truth be told, as an Indian test-taker, you really don’t need to worry much about the AWA essays.
This section contains two essays:
a) “Analysis of an issue” in which you will be asked to write either for, or against a given topic.
For example, the topic could be about how the greatest ideas come from simple observation. You could either shout “Eureka!” and talk about how it is true. Or you could disagree, quoting how scientific discovery comes after many years of diligent research.
b) “Analysis of an argument” in which you will be given a situation that you need to argue against.
For example, the topic could be about how radio advertising has worked great for a new pizza delivery shop so it should also work well for a newly opened fine-dine restaurant in the same town. Clearly, people who listen to radio ads could be from anywhere in town so works well for pizza delivery but not for a restaurant which usually services customers in the same locality.
Doesn’t sound too hard?
As we discuss in the blog, How to prepare for GRE AWA, you need to have a solid, templatized approach to cracking the GRE AWA section.
However, the GRE AWA scores really don’t matter much in your Masters, or MBA application. What matters more is your TOEFL score so ensure you prepare well to crack that one. Here is a blog on TOEFL preparation.
2) Two sections of 35 minutes each for Quantitative Reasoning (fancy-speak for Maths)
Okay, so you are an Indian Engineer? You should be great at quant, shouldn’t you?
Remember that this is the GRE and not really your friendly neighborhood math paper where everything can be derived if you just remember the formula. GRE Quant can be tricky. Most Indian engineers think they can score 170 but it is not as easy as you think.
The four areas in which you will be tested are:
d) Data Analysis
Yes, the usual suspects!
The most important part of preparing for the GRE Quant section is to ensure that you follow these three steps:
a) Revise the basic formulae needed for GRE Quant
b) Practice, practice, and practice difficult GRE Quant questions
c) Understand common hacks for solving GRE Quant questions
GRE Quant can be tricky. Most Indian engineers think they can score 170 but it is not as easy as you think.
But hey, don’t worry! We got you covered with our detailed page on GRE Quant. Right click and open the link so you can head there right after you’ve read this blog
3) Two sections of 30 minutes each for Verbal Reasoning (nothing but plain old English)
The GRE tests you on your ability to effectively use words to convey your thoughts as well as your ability to understand the semantics of the written word. In other words, the GRE wants to make sure you don’t mess up while writing a journal in grad school, or while reading a difficult book on Quantum Physics to pass a test!
But the GRE is not going to ask you for the meaning of words, but is going to put it in “context” by asking you questions in the following two ways:
a) Text Completion in which you will be given a sentence (or two) with one, two, or three blanks. From among the options, you need to pick the word(s) that correctly convey the intended meaning.
b) Sentence Equivalence in which you will be given a sentence with one blank and you need to pick two (yes two!) options from among the six given. As you can imagine, the two words you pick should be synonymous, and fit in the blank.
Apart from this, the GRE also expects you to understand the written word well so you have another question type:
c) Reading Comprehension, in which you will be given a passage followed by a set of questions that you need to answer. The answer could either be explicitly stated in the passage (easy!) or implied through context (tough!).
Don’t worry! If you have not yet figured it out, – we got your back!
Head over here for a comprehensive blog on GRE Verbal. So yes, now you have three tabs open, but we promise that it is all we have for you.
4) One section of either Maths or English that is not scored
GRE also gives you one extra section of either Maths or English. Thus, in total, you will have five sections in either of the two configurations:
Two Verbal sections of 30 minutes each
Three Quant sections of 35 minutes each
Three Verbal sections of 30 minutes each
Two Quant sections of 35 minutes each
The deal is that you will never get to know which section is the “dummy” section. It could be the first, or the last.
That’s it about “knowing your enemy”; now let us see how to tame the devil!
The deal is that you will never get to know which section is the “dummy” section. It could be the first, or the last.
Step 2: Get the right GRE Study Material
No war can be won if you don’t have the right tools with you so it is important that you understand the main arsenal you have to combat the GRE.
There is plenty of FREE advice out there on preparing for the GRE; what is important to know is the CORRECT advice on preparing for the GRE! The biggest culprit that we have found in our interaction with students is that they tend to hoard a lot of material (most of it either useless, or repetitive), and they somehow feel that they have to do ALL of it to get a great GRE score.
No, you don’t!
In fact, many of our students who have done well on the GRE – scored above 160 out of a possible 170 in both Maths and Verbal, have vouched for this fact.
The biggest culprit that we have found in our interaction with students is that they tend to hoard a lot of material, and they somehow feel that they have to do ALL of it to get a great GRE score.
Following are the GRE study materials available to you:
a) GRE Preparation on the internet
With the advent of online content and fast internet speeds, why would you want to stick to the “traditional” methods of pen and paper? Online GRE preparation gives you the flexibility to study on the go. Test preparation companies such as CrackVerbal offer you great options to study from the convenience of your home. See our GRE Online course.
Further, you have a lot of material available to study on your own. For example, the ETS offers its Official Guide book on an app Too bad that it is available only on iOS and not on Android, but don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to prepare for the GRE using the mobile phone you have in your hand. Here is a round-up of Top Mobile Apps that help you prepare for the GRE
You also have a bunch of resources from ETS that help you prepare online. Just remember you need to log in here to buy the resources (which isn’t a bad idea because you have to log in to register for the GRE – so you might as well do so now). This link will give you the online versions of the Official Guide to the GRE® General Test, the Official GRE®Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, and the Official GRE® Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions. With all these resources put together, you will have over 300 questions.
In the Indian examination parlance, think of these resources as the “past year’s question papers”!
Online GRE preparation gives you the flexibility to study on the go.
b) GRE preparation books
If you think the internet is a distraction and want to stick to a book, there are several options to choose from. You could either choose resources from a test preparation company like CrackVerbal, or stick to the official books published by ETS, as already discussed. CrackVerbal resources are:
The Official Guide to the GRE (reviewed by us here)
Shameless marketing plug: Our books have all the magic sauce you need to score well on the GRE! *wink*
c) Free downloadable GRE preparation material
Okay! You are now getting greedy. You want GRE preparation material that is free to download.
Do you know that Khan Academy has explanatory videos for many topics in the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section? (Trivia: Khan Academy was founded by Salman Khan, who has degrees from MIT and Harvard). You can find the videos here.
You can also have a look at learning words through Learning Words the Fun Way – Flashcards. If you find them interesting, you can head over to Amazon to buy the entire set of 500 flashcards with quirky cartoons to help you quickly remember words and their meaning: CrackVerbal’s GRE Flashcards – pack of 500
Step 3: Prepare for the GRE
Duh! Sounds simple? But yes, now that you know what the GRE can throw at you, and you have all the right material at your disposal, let us get started with the actual preparation!
Of course, you can sign up for a classroom program such as CrackVerbal GRE Classroom Coaching.
Here are a few things that you are probably thinking:
How do I prepare for the GRE in one month?
Is it possible to study for the GRE in a month?
You just need to be diligent in ensuring that you study for at least three to four hours every day. And tank up on a lot of caffeine!
On second thoughts: Ignore the caffeine part! Plenty to prove that coffee isn’t that great after all 🙂
Where can I get a good GRE study plan?
So you have made sure you have just the material you need to score great on the GRE and have booked the test date. But not sure what to do next?
You just need a clear GRE study plan that is customized to meet your needs.
Psst…do you know that if you mail us at CrackVerbal we will help you with a custom study plan?
For many GRE aspirants, the study plan needs to be designed based on urgency to appear for the exam. For example, if you are planning to apply in August-September (fall intake) and it is already May, you would need an intensive three-month plan to be able to apply with a score.
It always works this way – when you start a plan, you will be charged up to complete it. It is the most simple and pain-free way to start taking action!
Depending on how much time you have, you may prefer a one month plan, or more elaborate study plans.
For many GRE aspirants, the study plan needs to be designed based on urgency to appear for the exam. For example, if you are planning to apply in August-September (fall intake) and it is already May, you would need an intensive three-month plan to be able to apply with a score.
What are some great GRE preparation tips?
Here are the top three GRE preparation tips:
a) Ensure that you are diligent: Nothing beats consistency. This is not your engineering test where you can play a 20-20 game by doing a “night out” just a day before your final exam. GRE requires you to consistently study for several weeks; so make sure you are prepared for it.
b) Understand the techniques: This is not a test of just Math and English. This is the GRE. You need to deep dive into each question type and ensure you have a clear strategy to approach each question on the test.
c) Take a sufficient number of tests: Remember you need to build your mental stamina for four hours. Solving a question in the comfort of your home is very different from sweating it out in the test center on your GRE test day. Condition yourself by taking at least a few tests in the practice condition.
How do I study for the GRE on my own?
Though taking a GRE preparation course would improve your probability of doing well on the test, we understand if you want to go down the GRE preparation road by yourself.
If you are preparing by yourself, you need to remember the following points:
a) Ensure that you get your queries clarified: The biggest problem with self-preparation is that you don’t know why a particular answer is wrong. Or as a corollary, why a particular answer is correct. It is important for you to do enough research to get your answers clarified.
b) Get your hands on the right material: Most times, during preparation, students end up using incorrect study material – either too dated or non GRE standard, or both. Make sure you use the right preparation material.
c) Form a study group or a meetup in your area: It is important that you have a peer group that you can reach out to for help, or just moral support. You can join a GRE forum such as GRE Prep Club. At CrackVerbal, our students usually hang out at CrackVerbal Student’s Forum
The biggest problem with self-preparation is that you don’t know why a particular answer is wrong. Or as a corollary, why a particular answer is correct.
Let us now get the GRE out of the way!
Step 4: Take the GRE
“Winter is coming” and as a GRE taker, you need to get ready for the inevitable.
GRE practice tests
Before you go into the battlefield, you need to ensure that you have enough “match practice”.
There is good news and bad news.
The good news is that the GRE practice tests offered by ETS. are a fairly accurate indicator of where you will stand on the real test.
The bad news is that you have only two full-length practice tests. Hence, after you take the tests, there is really no way to know if you are improving.
You can always drop into your nearest CrackVerbal center if you want to take a free test, and have it evaluated by our inhouse GRE experts.
Here is our post on how to take the GRE practice tests
Here is a blog that shows you how to improve your scores without necessarily reading anything new. This will help you in getting a better score on your first practise test.
The good news is that the GRE practice tests offered by ETS are a fairly accurate indicator of where you will stand on the real test. The bad news is that you have only two full-length practice tests. So once you exhaust taking the tests, there is really no way to know if you are improving.
GRE Test Day Tips
It is important that you get a good night’s sleep before the test. Scientific research says eight hours is optimal for peak performance.It is also important that you don’t stress yourself before the actual GRE test. Watching a movie or going out to the mall with friends could be counter-intuitive but is strongly recommended to unwind.
And yes, alcohol impairs your cognitive abilities so it’s better to steer clear of any beverages that may give you a hangover on the test day.
Here is what our experts have written about what you need to do on the test day:
Option of retaking the GRE
In the unfortunate event that your GRE does not go as planned, don’t lose heart.
Firstly, if something goes drastically wrong and you suspect that you did terribly on the test, for example, if, you ran out of time with plenty of questions left. You always have the option to cancel your GRE test scores.
The only flip side is that you have to cancel your scores BEFORE you get to see them!
Secondly, if you suffer from remorse at a later date, and want to see your scores at a later date, ETS will allow you to reinstate the score. Of course, at a cost. Generosity isn’t one of ETS’s virtues!
If something goes drastically wrong and you suspect that you did terribly on the test, say you ran out of time with plenty of questions left. You always have the option to cancel your GRE test scores. The only flip side is that you have to cancel your scores BEFORE you get to see them!
You can get more information here.
Lastly, you have the option to send the best GRE score among your attempts to the school. The school will not get to see your other scores.
The ETS calls this feature “ScoreSelect” and you can read more about it here.
If you are planning to retake the GRE, we have compiled a nifty list of things you need to take care of for your second (or third) attempt:
We spared no effort while compiling this blog to make sure you get everything about GRE preparation in one place.If you liked what you saw – you can bookmark this page to return later.
You can also spread the love by sharing it on your favorite social channel.
If you have any queries about your GRE preparation, please leave a comment in the section below. We would love to hear what you have to say! We respond to all comments and questions within a few days, so expect an answer soon.
That’s all folks!
If you are looking at retaking the GRE because you either feel that the score doesn’t reflect your potential, or you messed up on your test for some reason, there are a few things you should take care of. Here are a few points to help you plan and approach your next GRE attempt better.
Booking your retake
The GRE can be taken every 21 days. You can take the GRE a maximum of five times in a 12-month period. We’re not suggesting that you should do this, though!
While taking the test twice will not have any negative impact on your chances for admission, becoming a serial test-taker will!
Make sure that you realize the reasons behind your botched attempt; analyze and list out the areas in which you require improvement.
Plan your retake test date after considering the time you need to improve on these areas. Don’t just sign up for the next date you can and commit to cramming. You’re bound to have other things going on in your life that will take up time as well so consider your schedule and think realistically about how much time you’ll actually be able to devote to test preparation.
Typically, a time frame of one to three months is realistic.
Identifying Areas that Need Improvement
So, you took the test the first time and your scores were disappointing. Although the score report doesn’t really help with giving you specific perspectives on areas for improvement, ETS does provide a nifty tool: The GRE diagnostic service does exactly this.
This tool shows you your performance on each question type and helps you evaluate your areas of weakness. This diagnosis will help you plan an effective study plan, and schedule a test date, realistically.
To access your diagnostic service, you need to wait until you receive your official score report online, or by mail. You need to enter the ‘Registration Number’ listed on the score report along with your test date and date of birth, in order to access the report. This service is available for six months after you take your GRE. After that, you will not be able to access the diagnostic tool.
Following are the features provided in the diagnostic service:
• Right/Wrong: For each question, the diagnostic tool tells you whether your answer was correct, or incorrect.
• Difficulty Level: This is the best feature of the diagnostic tool. For each question, you are shown a difficulty from 1 (easy) to 5 (hard). You can see whether you got the hardest ones right!
• Time Spent: You can see how much time you spent on a particular question. This helps you identify your most time consuming question types and topics.
• Topic: Lists all the questions in each section and assigns topic categories to them, such as ‘Arithmetic’, ‘Algebra’, ‘Sentence Equivalence’, etc.
Here is a sample diagnostic report for both the quant and verbal sections
Reflect on your Mistakes and Weaknesses
Perhaps your key weakness is vocabulary, or maybe it has more to do with time management. Whichever it is, ensure that you identify your weakness by analyzing your diagnosis report.
If your core weakness is conceptual (perhaps the dreaded inequalities!), get your conceptual knowledge fixed through online content like blogs and eBooks.
Here are some great resources:
If your core weakness is time-management, plan to solve a mixed set of 20 questions at one go, keeping time a constant. Your goal must be to respond to as many questions accurately as possible. This sometimes means letting go of a few questions that might eat up too much of your time.
Depending on what your identified weakness is, plan a course of action to remedy it.
Try Out New Study Methods
If you studied a significant amount before your first GRE and didn’t get the score you wanted, you’ll likely also need to change your study methods before your retake the exam.
One of the most common mistakes people make while studying is that they study too passively. To avoid this, try different study methods such as using flashcards including more practice questions in your studying, and pausing every few pages to ensure that you’re actually retaining the information you’re reading.
Although you may be able to analyze and identify core weaknesses, and even evaluate effective plans of action, you may find yourself stuck at a particular score level – unable to jump beyond it.
The only way you can surpass the “wall” you’ve hit is by getting strategic guidance from a mentor. Having a fresh pair of eyes look at your test taking approach can help identify problem areas that you might not be able to identify on your own.
The Score Select Option
This option enables students to select the scores they want to send to the universities of their choice. This option is great if you’ve attempted the GRE multiple times and want to send a score that best represents your performance, or will fulfil the performance requirement that a university is looking for.
Right after the test has been taken, a student can decide to send either ALL scores, or the latest scores, to a maximum of four universities (for free). A student can also decide not to send the scores to the universities (scores can be sent at a later date for a fee).
The Score Select option therefore gives students flexibility with respect to choosing the most pertinent set of scores to be sent to a university. For example, if a university requires a high quant score, you might want to report the test score with the highest quant score.
Visit the official GRE Score Select Option page for more information.
Although not the most difficult exam in the world, the GRE is definitely one of the most tricky. When you start your preparation, you’ll realise that scaling your score from a 300 to a 310 isn’t that difficult, but pushing past the 320 barrier, which counts as a good GRE score, can be quite challenging.
To get a great GRE score, you need to approach your preparation strategically. You will also need to have a very solid plan of action with a clear timeline in mind. Below are the five steps you need to follow to ensure a killer GRE score!
Step 1: Know where you stand
There is no point in attending a preparation program or practicing volumes of questions if you haven’t taken a full-length mock test. Doing this will ensure that you know exactly where you stand and the kind of weaknesses you have. Furthermore, taking a full length test will help you get a taste of what the GRE really is: long, stressful and challenging.
You can take a full length mock test by downloading the Power Prep Tests that the test makers provide. Take the entire test: this includes the two AWAs and all the Verbal and Quant sections. This mock GRE score will help you gauge your current level. This should be your starting point.
Based on your GRE score, have a plan that sets targets within specific time frame. But please keep your targets realistic. For example, if you get a mock GRE score of 140 in Verbal, it is possible to scale up to a 145 or to even a 150 in a month and then to a 155 the next month. But expecting to scale to a 160 within two weeks is unrealistic!
Step 2: Become Passionate about words
50% of your Verbal ability tests vocabulary. This includes the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions. There are primarily three things you need to know about these question types:
1. They test words in context.
2. The words tested are rarely the kind you come across in every day life.
3. The answer options tend to be very close to each other: this makes choosing between options very challenging.
These factors make vocabulary a very important aspect of Verbal Reasoning, and building vocabulary meaningfully becomes essential. You’ll realise that just memorising the definitions of a word alone is not going to help you.
Rather, you must know every aspect of a word such as its contextual meaning and usage, the connotation it carries and the degree of negativity or positivity that it has in comparison to other similar words.
Start building your vocabulary early. The most ineffective thing you can do on your GRE prep is to start cramming up words a few weeks before the test! We’ve written many blogs about building vocabulary meaningfully – keeping these aspects in mind: here’s a good place to start.
Step 3: Know what’s tested
If you are planning to focus only on vocabulary and possibly practice a bit of reading comprehension from some online source, then be warned – you may be shocked by the score you get on the day of the test!
Although Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension are important, you need to understand that the way GRE tests these abilities is quite different. It is, therefore, important that you practice these concepts in a setting that is as GRE-like as possible.
The best resource to get to know the different types of questions is the Official Guide published by the test makers themselves. Also checkout our GRE Guide and Workbook; this addresses each question type in-depth and provides sumptuous amounts of practice to fine-tune your approach.
Step 4: Practice, Review, Analyse
Practicing volumes of questions may not be effective if you do not follow up your practice with review and analysis. Remember to prioritise quality of practice over obsessing about quantity of practice.
What does review and analysis mean?
First, ensure that your practice-sessions are realistic. Either pick up 20 questions of a particular question type and solve under a time constraint or pick up 3 passages (8 questions), 6 Text Completion, 4 Sentence Equivalence and 2 Critical reasoning questions and set a time limit of 30 minutes to solve all the questions.
Second, once you’re done and you’ve checked the answers – analyse the following questions:
1. Those you didn’t know how to answer
2. Those you got wrong, because you were caught between two or more likely options
3. Those you guessed and got correct
4. Those you took too much time for (irrespective of whether you got them correct)
While analysing these questions, merely understanding what made the correct answers right will not help you scale up your score, instead, you must pay heed to WHY the wrong options were wrong – understand what made them wrong and therefore what kind of traps was set in that specific question. Having this perspective WILL ensure that you learn how to overcome tricky questions and as a result increase your GRE Score.
Step 5: Manage Stress
The biggest variable that can affect your GRE score on the day of the actual test is stress! This can be induced by time pressure, performance anxiety or the sheer intensity of the test itself (the GRE is almost 4 hours long!). Some of these stress factors are valid, yet some aren’t.
For instance, on the day of the test – a student might get stressed because she is unable to make-up her mind about one of the questions. This could play out in two ways:
1. The student understands that it’s OK to get a few questions wrong.
2. The student pressures herself into trying to get each and every question right.
The first approach ensures that she has time to get as many of the other questions right – increasing her total score. The second approach results in the student wasting too much time on just one question and that results in a drastic decrease in overall score!
Remember: It is not possible to avoid stress. What you need to do is to ‘get used’ to the kind of stress you are likely to face on the day of the exam. This you can achieve by taking full length practice tests and understanding the kind of challenges you face.
For instance, perhaps you end up blanking out when you see a passage in the last verbal section of the test, or that you aren’t able to manage time within the quant section. These observations when worked on will substantially help improve your GRE score.
Now that you know what you should and shouldn’t do, are you ready to start prepping? If you have any questions, leave a comment in the comment section below!
Before you begin, read our quick guide on preparing for the GRE!Explore 15-minute GRE guide!
Improve your GRE score without learning anything new? Well, you probably think there’s a catch somewhere.
Obviously, proficiency in the concepts tested coupled with some strategies is essential to improve GRE scores. But, following these test-taking perspectives will ensure that you get the maximum possible score for the amount of preparation you’ve had.
1.Don’t worry too much about the AWAs
The AWAs are the first tasks you will have to respond to. These are about an hour long and if you aren’t careful, you might end up getting very absorbed by these tasks.
Why is this a problem?
Because, you ability to stay focused is a quickly exhaustible resource. If you spend all your mental-ability to focus into the AWAs you may not be able to do as well on the Quant and Verbal sections. Remember: it’s enough to get a 4 on the AWAs but you need as high a score as possible on the Quant and Verbal sections.
How do you keep from stressing out?
Create Templates! AWA responses need to be predictable and to draft a good AWA response is quite easy (if you know what to do). Checkout our blog on the AWAs to know more/
2. Fight the easy battles first: use Skip, Mark and Review
A. The GRE lets you do a particular section in any order that you want : you can start by answering the last question first or in any which order you please.
B. Within a section each question carries the same amount of score (irrespective of how their difficulty levels may vary).
C. Your score depends on the number of questions you get right.
Therefore what you should do is Skip the difficult questions and get all the easier ones correct as soon as possible. Then attempt the difficult ones Mark any question that you’re stuck in – come back to it later by using the Review button. This ensure that you get the maximum possible score within a section!
3. Guess : Leave no question unanswered
An extension of the previous point; there is no negative marking on the GRE.
Therefore, when you’ve completed a section – go back to the questions you still haven’t managed to answer and make an intelligent guess or pick an answer in random (if you haven’t the slightest clue). If you got it wrong – you don’t lose anything; if you were lucky: BRILLIANT!
4. Don’t spend too much time Reading the Passages
While solving Reading Comprehension questions don’t spend too much time with the passages. Remember the passages are there to help you answer the questions. No brownie points are given for reading a passage intensely.
Read only what you need to: this is essentially the stuff the questions test you on.
Read this blog to know more.
5. Use the scratch paper intelligently
The Scratch paper will be provided by the test administrators at the test centre.
Many students only use this for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the test. What you need to be doing though – is utilising the Scratch paper for everything!Use it to put down your reasoning for all questions.
Write down the Gist of a passage, the word that could fill a blank for Sentence Equivalence and the probable inferences you could make for a Critical Reasoning question.
Also, let your scratch paper reflect your reasoning for the answer choices as well. Once you see the first option put down on the scratch paper what you decided about it: is it a keeper, is it definitely wrong or are you unsure? Keeping a track of this helps reduce silly errors substantially. It also helps avoid traps!
Follow these simple steps and you’ll see your score improve drastically (without even learning one new word or formula!).
So, what do you think of these techniques? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Looking for expert guidance on your GRE prep? Explore our GRE Courses!Explore GRE Courses!
Now that you have made plans to start your GRE preparation, you will also realize that there are tons of distractions coming your way – right from IPL to your friend’s party this week.
Don’t worry – we know how students think which is why we got a way for you to sift through all the content out there and distill it in 3 simple, easy and QUICK ways to kick start your GRE preparation.
Step 1: Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of GRE preparation material you have
This is perhaps the biggest culprit that we have found in our interaction with students – they tend to hoard a lot of material (most of it either useless or repetitive) and somehow feel they have to do ALL of it to get a great GRE score. No you don’t! Infact many of our students who have done well on the GRE – scored above 160 out of a possible 170 in both Maths and Verbal have vouched for this fact.
So start with a single word-list of around 500 words or so. CrackVerbal has a great word list that in our research we found to be tested MOST often on the GRE. Apart from that consider buying the ETS Official Preparation book for the GRE and supplement it either with other GRE preparation books or join a course such as this.
That’s it! Now get your nose to the grindstone and start studying!
Step 2: Have a clear GRE date in mind – don’t study and plan for the exam later
If you ask most students studying for the GRE, they will probably conjure imaginary dates such as “Once I am done with the word list”, or “Once Bittu Bhaiyya’s wedding gets over” etc. That imaginary date, well, remains just that – imaginary!
If you want to action on your plan then you need to have an end-date in mind. This is the first rule of goal setting – having a target to hit. How long should you take? A conservative estimate based on our experience is 3 months. So add another 2 weeks to it and book a date roughly 16 weeks from now. That will give you all the time to prepare for the GRE Exam! Read our article here on how to register for the test. It is pretty simple and you need to remember just a few guidelines for what you need to do on your GRE test date.
So go ahead and book the date now. As the Nike ad says “Just do it!”
Step 3: Have a clear GRE Plan that tracks your preparation on a day to day basis
Okay! So you have made sure you have just the material you need to score great on the GRE AND have booked the test date. But not sure what to do next? Worry not! You just need a clear GRE study plan that is customized to meet your needs. Do you know that if you mail us at CrackVerbal we will help you with a custom study plan?
Yes the plan needs to take into account the number of weeks you have left for the GRE test, your current GRE preparation level, and your target GRE score. Once you have the plan, you take a printout of it and stick it next to your study desk so you can look at it while studying (and get motivated too!).
It always works this way – once you start a plan you will feel charged up to complete it. It is the most simple and painfree way for you to start taking action!
Okay so now that you know the three tips – do you want to get started right away? If you think there is anything that you need, please leave a comment below and we are happy to help you.
Looking for expert guidance on your GRE prep? Explore our GRE Courses!Explore GRE Courses!
AWA expands to Analytical Writing Assessment. There are two tasks tested in the AWA section: The Issue and the Argument Tasks, each with a time frame of 30 minutes. These tasks are distinct: you need to approach each of these tasks with a different set of perspectives. More on that in a bit; let’s first look at a few facts about the AWA sections.
What’s a Good Score?
Your AWA score will be reported with the official score report within a week of your taking the test. The AWA is scored between 0-6. Getting a 6 is difficult, although, getting a 4 or a 5 isn’t (as long as you know how your essay needs to be written). It isn’t necessary that you get a 6 on the AWA, remember that the AWA score is more or less a hygiene factor, very few schools insist on a 5+ score!
A score that is 4 and above is considered good on the GRE. Although, getting a 3.5 or anything below that could hamper your chances of getting into the school you have in mind. Let us put this in perspective: according to the scoring guide that ETS released this year a 3.5 on the AWA represents a percentile score of 29 (that’s a pretty sucky place to be in on the percentile front!), a 4 on the other hand puts you at the 48th percentile.
That said, understand that on the day of the test – you’ll have to spend an hour of the initial testing taking time on the AWA sections. This could potentially stress you into underperforming on the Verbal and Quant sections. Our goal is to avoid this!
Keep Calm and Create Templates
The best way to avoid letting the AWA stress you out is by creating templates. Like discussed previously, each of the tasks require you to do different things. Let’s find out what these are!
The AWA Issue Essay:
These are essentially a “general essay”. You will be given a prompt to which you respond by discussing your opinion. You will be required to substantiate this opinion with some evidence. That’s all there is to it.
Here is a sample prompt from the ETS pool of Issue Essays:
“Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.”
There are two ways you could approach this – either develop an argument that speaks in favor of scandals or one that speaks against them.You could use examples from real world instances, things you’ve read in books or even personal experiences to substantiate your point.Remember to clearly illustrate how this scenario helps prove your perspective though!
A template for the Issue Essay will look something like this:
1. Your opinion:
2. Example 1: Significance:
3. Example 2: Significance:
4. Example 3: (if any) Significance:
Analyze the Issue prompt and fill in this template on your scratch paper before you start writing. Doing this ensures that you spending less time thinking and therefore get less stressed! This also ensures that you adhere to a good structure while writing the essay.
The AWA Argument Essay:
This is quite different from the Issue essays. There is no scope for “your opinion” here. You’ll be given an Argument, an opinion or a suggestion backed by some evidence, which you are expected to critique.
To give you an analogy- while writing the issue essay think like a journalist. While writing the argument essay, think like a lawyer.
Here is a sample argument from the ETS pool of Argument Essays
”Arctic deer live on islands in Canada’s arctic regions. They search for food by moving over ice from island to island during the course of the year. Their habitat is limited to areas warm enough to sustain the plants on which they feed and cold enough, at least some of the year, for the ice to cover the sea separating the islands, allowing the deer to travel over it. Unfortunately, according to reports from local hunters, the deer populations are declining. Since these reports coincide with recent global warming trends that have caused the sea ice to melt, we can conclude that the purported decline in deer populations is the result of the deer’s being unable to follow their age-old migration patterns across the frozen sea.”
That argument suggests that the decline in deer population is caused by global warming. Realize that the flaw in logic is that no other potential causative factors are discussed or dismissed; in other words the author assumes that there is no other cause. But maybe there are outher causes; perhaps overhunting caused the decline?
In the argument essay you are supposed to analyze the argument, expose the flaw in reasoning and also suggest why these flaws weaken the argument.
A template for the Argument Essay will look something like this:
What the author says and why:
Flaw #1: Biggest flaw in the argument
(in case of the previous example, it was the causation)
Flaw #2: Second Biggest Flaw
Flaw #3: (If any)
The information you fill out for this, is all you will need to write the argument essay!
1.It’s relatively easy to get a 4 on the AWA sections.
2.It’s important not to lose your cool during the test.
3.Follow templates to avoid the stress of having to “Think” your way into writing the essays!
This will ensure that you have the mental bandwidth to approach the Verbal and Quant sections without “diminishing” your capacity! 🙂
Hope you found this informative; do let us know what your other AWA peeves might be by leaving a comment below!
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