My GRE Experience – Taha Jalil

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Experience of GRE Students, GRE | 12 comments

Here’s Taha’s advice for GRE preparation and test day, based on his exam experience. If you’d like to submit your own experiences please email us at

“I had a really bad experience on the GRE test last week in Karachi, Pakistan. I thoroughly prepared for the GRE test on my own for almost 45 days. Every day I put in 5-6 hours of rigorous preparation but on the test day it did not work for me.

My target score was 320. I wanted to score at least 165 on math and 155 on the verbal section.

But in the end I got only 305 with 164 on quant and 141 on verbal 🙁

On my practice tests I got the following results:

On 3 Barron’s mock tests for the GRE I scored from 316 to 328 and on the 5 Kaplan mock tests I got 319 to 331. Moreover on the GRE powerprep software I scored 325 and 315 respectively.

Regarding quantitative I would say that it was not easy since I never got anything below 166 on any of my practice tests. When I analyzed my GRE scores on the GRE diagnostic report this week I found out that I had 5 incorrect answers for which I lost 6 points.

4 of these 5 incorrect answers were multiple-choice questions where you had to select more than one correct answer. I would advice students to be very careful in solving such MCQ’s as they look easy at first glance. Always give these questions a second glance.

I got many statistics questions from mean, median, mode and standard deviation. I even got a question on cumulative frequency, which I had not studied, in any of the GRE books out there.

Many questions also came on geometry and inequalities. On geometry there was a huge focus on coordinate plane questions. For inequalities nearly all questions were tested on the quantitative comparison question type.

Overall quant was easy but I would really WARN you on the multiple answer choice questions; those were tricky.
Plus my advice would be that on the test day, time flies like anything and if you are in doing quant you will end up missing a lot of questions. Please don’t waste time on a question you are stuck at. Skip it and come back to it later if you got time.

Verbal was my dummy. I had always been bad at verbal but in none of my practice tests I got less than 148. So I was expecting that on the GRE test day I would at least get 148. The vocabulary was darn easy especially on the first section and I had prepared around 1200 new words for the GRE from ETS official guide questions.

I would say verbal was not difficult at all but I just got nervous and confused. I got blank headed on the first verbal question, which was a super easy 1 blank text completion. All the words were familiar to me and I started confusing their meanings.

I just got one really long reading comprehension with 5 paragraphs but it had 5-6 questions with it. I spent 6 minutes reading the passage and then started solving questions. On every question I got confused between 2 options and as a result nothing happened for me. I made a mistake of leaving these questions and moving to the next RC. Please don’t do this; it is another big mistake. What happened was that although I was reading the next RC, but my mind was still on the last one and I kept focusing on that. Again time flew and I just randomly marked the answers.

When a saw my diagnostic report I found that I had just got 3 questions correct in the first section of which none was text completion or sentence equivalence. This means that either I hurried through the questions or because of the bad technique I used of skipping the RC’s after reading it I got flustered.

Since I did so bad in my first verbal section the next verbal section was very easy in which I got 10 questions correct. So overall I got 13 questions right but only 11 marks for it to get 141. So it is extremely important to focus on the first section if you want good marks in GRE.

My advice is to be calm and don’t look at the watch too much of the time. My mind was all the time on the timer 🙁

I used the following material to prepare for the GRE:

Vocabulary: Norman Lewis for learning the words and as a result my vocabulary was good but I forgot all the meanings for important words on the actual day. But still I would say the words were not difficult but their usage and application was very hard for me.

For all the rest of the preparation I used the 1014 book by Princeton review, Kaplan premier and Barrons. I also used the ETS official guide for the GRE but I found the RC’s on the actual exam a bit too obscure. The options were too close and always ended up with 2 options that caused a lot of frustration.

In summary I would say that please concentrate on the test. The verbal section really drains you out and you lose focus. I am planning to re-take the GRE in October after my TOEFL. My field is chemical engineering and maybe my would work but let’s see what Talha advices me.

Good luck to you all!


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    I got 161 Q and 157 V. No prep . Although I regularly read the Economist. It really helps on the Verbal Section.

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      Saad, thats a pretty good score….well that’s the big thing now on the GRE verbal section; it checks your usage of words and the sense you make out of reading a sentence or passage….Unfortunately we in Pakistan are not very used to reading regularly hence we face problems…plus there are no short cuts to improving GRE verbal section except that you may get some improvement by learning a few words quickly but that too doesnt help much on the new GRE…

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    i got a 168 in quantitative and 147 in verbal. Since GRE is one of the most important factors for graduate admissions, how strong would you say my score is?
    also, did you get into cornell based on your score of 305 or did you improve your score?
    What would you recommend me, should i take the GRE again to improve my verbal score or is my quantitative score sufficient enough to get me into Engineering grad school?

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      Hello Abdul, This is NOT my score 🙂 This was shared to us by someone from Karachi….We don’t know him and have never him either….he just shared his personal experience with us so that we can post it up for other future GRE aspirants….

      I got 340/340 & got into Cornell based on that….your verbal score is low please retake it….155 is the crossing line!

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    Dear Talha,

    I took GRE yesterday, I have a score of Quant 151 and verbal 156, should I retake the test? I am applying for fulbright, should I retake the test.

    Best Regards,
    Daniyal Ahmed javed

    • Avatar

      What is you field of application?

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    Dear Talha,

    I am applying for banking and finance. I am retaking the exam on 4th April. I’m giving one more shot to improve my score. I think I can easily push it to 160 in each section. What do you suggest?

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    Dear Talha,
    Can you tell me what is the score range for GRE to get Full bright . By the way my stream is Engineering and my TOEFL ibt score is 100.

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      Hi Soumya, For Engineering graduates, you need 160+ on math and 155+ on verbal to feel safe 🙂

  6. Avatar

    Hello Neha, Yes sure – how can I help?

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    Hey Talha.
    I was wondering what this GRE test is all about. I was reading about Student Exchange program and there I found about this teSt. Why does one have to take this test?

    • Avatar

      Hello Noor – it is mandatory for all graduate programs in the US and canada – no entry to any program without taking the exam.

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