GRE verbal section is a hard nut to crack for students in Pakistan. The verbal section tests reading comprehension, critical reasoning and most difficult of all – vocabulary. Therefore, it is a no brainer that most Pakistanis and other non-native English speakers face a horrible time preparing this section. To be blunt, most of the time the fault lies with them as they don’t develop a proper strategy to tackle this section. They often get lured by raw online practice tests and vocabulary lists and waste their precious time cramming them. GRE verbal is much more than vocabulary and tests analytical, reading skills and time management skills more than vocabulary. Here is how a non-native English speaker should go about preparing GRE verbal.
Develop a habit to read
Most people start by trying to remember 10-30 words a day but in a week they lose your interest. You should start by reading basic material from dense english publications like New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal etc. Read material on topics of your interest so that you don’t get bored. Keep this habit for 15-20 days and then move on to advanced reading stuff from novels like ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘1984’ etc. While reading, simply write down any words you don’t know as you encounter them. You’ll start to notice that certain words appear again and again and they will automatically become ingrained into your memory. This way you can keep your own vocabulary journal.
Don’t memorize vocabulary
This is a trap many GRE test takers in Pakistan fall into. Every single GRE student asks me “Sir koi fit si vocabulary list bata dein” (Talha please suggest a great vocabulary resource). Well if GRE verbal section was as easy as memorising words and their meanings, then anybody would ace GRE in Pakistan – especially since we are great at “Ratta” (Rote learning). So if you just cram a few high frequency words from your magic list without understanding the context in which they are used, then you are going to get a hard time on the actual test. The more you read, the more confident you will become.
Practice using timed exercises
Along with reading, you should also do timed practice exercises – reason being that time management is a big challenge on the GRE verbal section. Most students in Pakistan will do well on untimed practice questions, but a week before actual test they realize that they are taking longer than what GRE allows them. In order to tackle this, I would suggest that you do as many practice questions from the GRE Big Book and the ETS official guide.
Do 40 questions at a stretch – this will keep a check on your stamina as well.
One last important point: GRE rewards those who think critically and analyse what they read. It penalises those who try to breeze to the answers before fully understanding the information and questions. Be aware of this fact and practice the techniques above.