Azeez Scored 334 on the GRE. Read His Experience

Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Experience of GRE Students | 12 comments

Read this actual GRE experience of a student from Pakistan. You can read more GRE experiences here.

I have been a reader of the Brightlink Prep blog for quite a while. I recently gave the GRE and just wanted to share my experience with you. Hopefully, you can improve your score by quite a few points with these tips.


I practised from several sources for verbal section. I used the

  • Official ETS guide
  • Powerprep 2.0 software
  • ETS 150 questions verbal book
  • Online Manhattan tests
  • Manhattan 5 LB book
  • ETS Big Book

I would strongly recommend the ETS material. For the Big Book, only the passages and the Text Completions are relevant. I found the reading passages to strongly supplement my preparation as they are very similar to the actual test. As regards the Manhattan tests, they are good for practice but I had some issues with them. Firstly, they evaluate your score a little harshly and secondly I felt that the Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence were more focussed on vocabulary rather than the actual convoluted structure of the sentences that comes in GRE. The actual GRE SEs and TCs are tough but not to the extent that one can not guess the meaning of any of the choices.


For quantitative, I practised from the following sources:

  • Official ETS guide,
  • Powerprep 2.0 software
  • ETS 150 questions quantitative book
  • Online Manhattan tests
  • Barrons

Again, ETS is best for preparation. Manhattan is again tougher than the actual test but one should still practice from it as it really helps with timing on the actual test.

Tips for practice

One thing I would like to stress for practice is to do it sincerely. That means practising several sections at a stretch under timed conditions. I am quite surprised that this point is never discussed by any of the test takers. The main concern I noted is that the GRE is a very boring exam especially in the verbal section. Thus lots of practice is required for creating the necessary mental stamina to take on the actual test. The topics themselves are somewhat boring if you are a starter. As an engineering student, I personally slept through the passages on the history of blacks, women rights and music. It takes a while for you to get in the groove and start answering passages from other disciplines with the same attention as those from subjects of your own interest.

Diagnostic service of GRE

I analyzed the scores of two previous candidates and found that the level of difficulty of questions greatly affects the score. For example, one had a score of 157 in verbal while getting fourteen questions wrong. The other had 162 despite getting twelve questions wrong. Both had thus answered a similar proportion of questions correctly but the former had answered easy questions incorrectly in his first section. His second section scaled down in difficulty to reflect this. The latter performed better in his first section so the second section scaled up in difficulty. The important thing to remember for test day is not to panic if the second section scales up in difficulty. It means the first section went well and you are already in a higher score range.

Test day experience

I took the GRE exam in the morning.The test centre is a very calm place which is really very relaxing. I got the following sections in my test: QVQVQ. My first quant was very tough and took me longer to finish than I had done in my practice tests. I remembered my friend telling me that quant was very easy so I had a feeling that this might be the experimental section. The other two sections were much easier comparatively.

The verbal sections were a bit harder than I had practised. I especially found myself struggling with the Text Completions and Sentence Equivalencies. I did however feel that the big book of ETS is a very good source for practising passages.

After I finished, I received a pleasant shock to know my score was 334 (Q170 V164)

My own test Diagnostic Service

I analyzed my own GRE through ETS’ diagnostic service. I noted that my first verbal section performance was very good and it set the tone for the next section. The second section was much harder and I made a few mistakes in the TCs and SEs but they were high difficulty questions so they didn’t affect my score significantly. All in all, I made 9 mistakes in both the sections to end up with 164 in Verbal.

I also noted that the vocabulary tested in the second section was quite difficult for me. I personally feel that it is not really very useful to focus on vocabulary if your English is good. The amount of time you spend does not justify the incremental score increase. Rather, it would be more beneficial to practise as many reading passages as possible. The ETS Big Book, in my view, is a treasure chest of great passages and seriously underrated. Infact, I was able to maintain my performance of passages in the relatively difficult 2nd section. So I believe that passages are much a better investment of your time as far as your final score is concerned.

Please note that the advice to focus less on vocabulary is only for competent English speakers. I am in no way saying that people with weak English should skip vocabulary. Rather, they should focus on both equally.

For quantitative, my only advice is to recheck at all costs and stay cool during the exam. There is really nothing too hard in it. It is just silly mistakes that can hold you back.

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  1. Which one is ETS big book? There is no mention about this book on ETS site. What I heard thhat BIG BOOK was an integral part of old GRE prep. Did he follow that book?

    • Yes that was part of the old GRE and is no longer officially available.

      • hello,
        pls tell me how can I find the big book?

        • Hey you can search for it online.

  2. you mentioned that you analysed the diagnostic reports of two candidates. did you get those reports somewhere on the internet and if so can you please tell me the link or maybe even upload photos of your own diagnostic report

    • Nope – the students shared them with me.

      • just wondering if this book available online
        ETS 150 questions quantitative book

  3. how can i get the ETS Big Book plz.

  4. Can you post the list of books through which you pass your students in Brightlink during GRE course?

    • We have our own course content and we do not follow any prep books

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