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Sandy's Story (323 Q: 156 V: 167)

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Joined: 16 May 2014
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GRE 1: 326 Q165 V161
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Sandy's Story (323 Q: 156 V: 167) [#permalink] New post 24 May 2014, 14:47
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I appeared for my GRE on 25th of November, 2013. In the new format GRE had three sections. Analytical Writing, Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning. The first section is worth 6.0 points and the last two is scored on 170 points each. My scores were 4.0, 156, and 167 respectively. My motivation for taking the GRE test was to pursue my PhD in the field of Power and Energy Systems.

My preparations began roughly four months prior to my examination. Since I was working at that time it was not possible for me to join any coaching forum. I depended largely on the books I had procured and online resources. In my experience there is more than ample material online to study for GRE. However a strict and disciplined regimen is required to make use of them effectively. I purchased the following course materials; The Princeton Review (Cracking the New GRE), The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General (ETS) and Barron's GRE 20th Edition and used the following online resources exhaustively; manhattanprep.com, kaptest.com, princetonreview.com.

At the very beginning of my preparation I took a sample test available online at kaptest.com. Since I had numerous friends and seniors who had taken the test before, I was no stranger to the pattern of the test. Owing to my background, Engineering, I was fairly confident that I would do well in my quantitative section. However, taking the test revealed that I have numerous week areas in all the sections. Needless to say that I did not fare as well as I had hope in the qualitative section of the exam, I scored somewhere around 162. The verbal section was in a really bad shape. This first test was most instrumental in defining my preparation strategy. The first few weeks were very challenging as I was unsure where to begin! I decided to buttress my quantitative reasoning section. I hoped it would be the easiest first step for me and it indeed was. The first couple weeks I burned through numerous exercised available in the Barron's GRE book. I soon realized that I was losing points in this section because of trivial mistakes. I usually misread a question and arrive at a different answer than the correct one. Further quite a lot of these questions I was trying to do mentally which afforded greater room for error. I had to develop the habit of using scratch paper more effectively. It reduced my speed greatly but I made very few mistakes. This is however easier said than done it took me about four weeks before I was able to use scratch paper properly.
English language was never one of my strengths and hence Verbal Reasoning section was the most difficult one for me. After about five weeks into my preparation I started to solve verbal exercises. Even after working out a significant number of exercises I hardly made any progress. Verbal section fundamentally had two type of questions one required mastery of word meanings while other required reading skills. Initially I found myself plugging answers into blanks and process of elimination to solve all problems. This did not yield good results. So I started memorizing word meanings. I started small with Barron's 333 High Frequency GRE Words and later moved on to Barron's 800 High Frequency GRE Words. Even then I was unable to use my vocabulary effectively. The trick here was using the new words that I had learned in sentences. This was tough exercise for me however what I soon realized that I did not need to remember all the words for my GRE preparation. There are dedicated wordlists that comprised of high frequency GRE words. Before the final test I did manage to learn and effectively used five hundred new words.

Final hurdle was the Analytical Writing section. Since English was no friend of mine, this section was not easy for me either. Initially I struggled a lot and I consistently scored 3/ 3.5 but never better. I finally caught a lucky break! I came across a few sample responses online (http://www.testpreppractice.net/GRE/awa ... say-1.html), and when I was reviewing these answers I found that certain patterns existed in the answers, that were graded 4 and above. Needless to say to score more than 4 one needed a strong grasp on sentence structure and grammar. Which, I lacked. Further the written piece must not contain many spelling errors. After spending most of my life writing in Word processors, which came with built in spell-check tools, this was a major setback for me. The only thing I could do, at that point, was writing short sentences with simple words. I did find myself wondering if things would have been better had I paid attention to my English lessons in school. Still I stuck with the answer pattern that was suggested in the Samples of Analytical Writing.
By the time I was done with the preparations I had but a month left. I dedicated the entire month towards test taking. I religiously took tests and analyzed my mistakes. This step is probably the most important step in the entire preparation process. Just taking test are not enough! After this final phase I found that I had a sound ability to use my scratch paper, I was able make good use my wordlist and I wrote in short and simple sentences as much as possible. For comprehension type questions I was not able to figure out a decent strategy so I went with the same old process of plugging and elimination. In my sample tests I was scoring somewhere between 320-330.

Before my examination date I made sure that I knew the way to my exam centre (I ensured this pre-emptively). My test was scheduled to start at 12:30 PM on a Monday. This was the best slot for me. I got a good night's sleep the night before. GRE is an adaptive test, this means that the questions get tougher as you submit correct answers. However bear in mind that trying to guess if your last section went well based on current sections difficulty level is probably not the best thing to do. I would recommend that just don't think about it and just get on with it. There are two analytical writing sections each half an hour long, followed by a section of Quant or Verbal and then the following four sections alternate between Quant and Verbal. There was one experimental section there whose points are discounted. Again, it's better not to think about which section is experimental and best get on with it. So that makes, 7 Sections each about half an hour long, a total time of 3.5 - 4 hours. That's a pretty long time! I did carry some food with me so that was a good thing. At the end of the exam they asked me if I wished to cancel my scores, which I didn't, and they give an option to send my scores to four colleges. With that the test ended.
Well this was my experience with GRE! If you work with discipline and hard work, it's not really a tough exam to crack! So work on your basics and best of luck!!

Cheers!!
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Sandy's Story (323 Q: 156 V: 167)   [#permalink] 24 May 2014, 14:47
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