336(Q-167, V-169) – GRE Experience of Pakistani Student
A GRE Test Taker from Pakistan has shared her experience of test prep and the GRE test day experience. She has scored 336 on the GRE with a 169 on Verbal and 167 on Quant. Here is what she wrote in her own words:
Since I have been a regular reader of the brightlinkprep blog during my GRE preparation, I have decided to share my experience.Your awesome blog has been crucial to my score and my two cents might be helpful to someone (they might grow into a lot of cents but kindly bear with me).
The posts on brightlinkprep were very helpful by delinating everything from the degree attestation procedure to GRE registration. However there was an aspect which was not mentioned anywhere and it almost proved to be my undoing. I had comfortably made my plans for taking the GRE on a convenient date and time and when I tried to inform ETS, they informed me back that there was no seat available within a 1.5 months duration, before the Fulbright deadline. Besides being very inconvenient and pushing your test date to weeks before your preferred day, it causes you to dwell on your laziness and ineptitude for quite some time and wonder about what is going to become of you and it is not very nice.
First of all, I would say that identifying the right material for preparation is very important. The main resources I consulted for information used during my preparation were the Magoosh blog and yours. Your post about the best and worst GRE books was immensely helpful. Since one is going to spend a lot of time preparing for the test, it is only logical that some of it is dedicated to devising strategies for the said preparation.
Quantitative: Manhattan 5LB GRE. Since I have an engineering background, I figured that I could skip the 6 Manhattan guides. I did almost all the chapters and although there was rarely anthing new in there, I believe it did help me in identifying some silly mistakes like ignoring the -ive factors of a number. The chapter on advanced quant was one thing that I enjoyed doing and it taught me some new stuff. I think I did the hard question sets from the official guides and read the review about normal distributions etc.
Verbal: Here I took the advice from someone who shared their experience on the Brightlink blog (a thank you to them, too) about using the Magoosh vocabulary app. It is simply superb and a very convenient way of utilizing long commuting hours to and from work. The alphabatecial ordering used in most memory lists is beyond horrible and should never, ever be used by a beginner. Although most advice I came across dictated that one should improve one's reading skills, I figured that I did not need more reading practise and focused most on learning words the primary school way.
Vocabulary: For this part I learned the 1000 Magoosh words and revised them about 5-6 times before the test so I really knew almost all of them along with the sentences. The way these sentences show the use of a word is not paralleled by any other list.
Then I got the Manhattan Vocabulary builder app which had about 300 new words for me. However this list does not accurately reflect the kind of use GRE seems to be testing, but I was scared of the 3000 figure. So this, along with a list of about 50 words I made during SE and TC exercises was the total extent of my vocabulary.Here I'd like to add that a very nice side effect of learning these words is that whenever you pick up a book or a paper or an article online, you know almost every word in it.
Moral: Do not be intimidated by the time and count figures you come across.
For SE and TC, I practised stuff from the GRE big book as well as some questions from the 12 and 14 guides on your blog and all the questions from the official guides.
For RC, I practised from the Manhattan book, the official guides and half of the exercises from the GRE big book. These used to haunt me even though I have been reading non-fiction like stuff on IR and life sciences for quite some time and fiction for a very long time before that, so reading boring passages was sort of the habit with me. Still in the beginning of prepration I used to get a lot of answers wrong but things definitely improved with practise. Here I'll second someone who said here that practise will reflect in the scores. A great strategy which I found out mid-preparation is to read the passage and read a question and then try to find the answer in the passage without looking at any of the answer choices but this technique requires some extra time.
Duration: A couple of weekends of serious study and 5-6 with intermittent studying and dawdling. I learnt most of the words in a month and spent the next one revising them. Sometimes I did some RC practise on returning home after work to get used to working with an exhausted mind. Here again I was intimidated by the 5-6 hours daily figure since my work does not leave me half that much wakeful hours per day. Now I have realized that the preparation one requires truly depends on one's current position. Quantitative is a piece of cake for STEM folks and even though I was bad at RC in the beginning, my time spent reading fiction (and microwaves!) had given me a lot of practise in tying to guess the meaning of a sentence.
Here I would like to share my strategy for SE and TC. After reading a sentence, I would try to make sense of it without peeping at any of the choices and could almost always predict the words which was immensely helpful and quick. Also for 3 blank sentences, I always started filling them backwards since this makes the most sense. One can get really quick with these questions which leaves you with all the time in the world for RCs (I might have spent about 10 minutes on the long passage and 5 on the short ones each).
Experience and observations:
Quantitative: So I got 3 of these sections. Two were very easy; the third was a more enjoyable one with some interesting probability questions. However I would say that except for a couple of these questions, none of them could even equal a Manhattan advanced quant question, let alone the brain twisters the Magoosh people post on their blog. They were all from the usual topics and only one from the a-bit-harder section required a bit of out of the box thinking. Most of the time I repeated mundane calculations thrice or even 4 times just because the question seemed too simple. Turns out that I still made some mistakes but they were most probably oversights.
Verbal: The RC, particularly the long passage was thankfully an easier one. The SE and TCs on the other hand had easier vocabulary but the making sense part was harder. I also noticed that unlike preparation material, they ususally had pairs of similar and incorrect choices. Elimination is a great strategy for verbal and a lot of times I was not very confident about the answer at all but all the other choices were very clearly wrong. During the test I thought that my verbal part was not going as well as the quantitative thing but then I told myself that it was quite all right and one can only do one's best.
The exam center itself is a serene place and once one gets inside, the jitters just go away by themselves. It probably also helped that the weather that day was very nice and my score should ideally be corrected for that factor.
For score reporting you should either rote learn the codes or at least know the state in which the university is located (in the US), otherwise you will have to fill some form after leaving the examination room. I was also scared of inadvertantly clicking on the cancel report button but the UI is nice and this button is kind of difficult to click on. So I checked my score and it was Q 167 and V 169 and I thought I should thank you guys since all the posts here have been really helpful.
AWA: Precisely on the 9th day I received a score of 5. In this section I believe I am qualified to dish out advice even though I did not act on all of it myself. Length, style and grammatical correctness help and so does a sprinkling of sophiscated words. In the argument section, I basically split hairs. For the essay, a little background knowledge seems to be required for quoting relevant examples. Adopt an intermediate stance and don't be judgemental.
Power prep test 2 scores: These I mention for the sake of completeness, and also because after taking these test I searched online for the correlation between these scores and the actual numbers. Mine were Q 167 V 164 on the day before the test, I think I paid attention in the verbal section on the test day.