I am writing this article because a lot of people wanted me to share my experiences regarding GRE. I took my GRE on the 17th of August 2005 and scored a neat 1370 (580 verbals + 790 quants).
* The first thing you need to decide on is whether you will be able to handle the whole process of preparing and taking the GRE. Ofcourse there must have been tougher exams you have taken in life. Never mind that. All you need here is a lot of funda in english and the ability to do school level maths quickly. Remember, a lot of people take it, and make it as well. All you need is a positive attitude and lots of motivation and hard work.
* You have to know that there is no "formula" for success, rather, you have to make your own formulae to make things work out. When you take a primary test, you know what are the sections you are good at and what are the sections you need to work really hard on. For me, maths was never a problem, but english needed a lot of effort. Due to a many exams going on simultaneously for me, all i could manage was about 3 months of consistent effort(about 1-2 hours everyday) and 1 month of concentrated effort(about 15-16 hours every day). But then again, this is the formula that worked for me, you have to decide your own formula based on the time and the resources you have.
* VERBALS: #This was something I really worked hard on. Initially, I would always get a score of say 340 to 400, and that was just too bad. Soon I realised that i need to master the vocabs first. For vocabs, Barrons is more than sufficient. There was not a single word I encountered that was not from Barrons. I also used the book "WORD POWER MADE EASY" by Norman Lewis, it is low priced and a very good book and I would highly recommend you to study that.
#Don't just sit and mug up words. Use them. Write stuffs using the words you have learnt, make sentences out of them, constantly keep repeating the new words in your mind, and above all, be aware of the roots of the words, it makes learning a lot more easier. I did this and many would be surprised to know that I cmpleted the 50 word lists of Barrons in 7 days. Just 1 week. All because I just did not learn the words, I used them. Also, be aware of the nuances in word meanings. While a spendthrift always squanders money, a thrifty person is just the reverse. To be vindictive is to be revengeful, but to vindicate is to free from blame. Be very careful about the secondary meanings of words.
# Having done this, half the preparation is over. Analogy, antonyms and sentence completions become a lot more easier when you know the words. And do not omit a particular answer choice if you do not know its meaning. In analogy, you have to know how to make connections between the pairs of words. But I'm sure you are aware of all this, so I'll skip this part.
#The one thing that was always a problem for me was the RC. I never had the patience to look at the screen and get the meaning of everything, and I have always performed pathetically in RC. If this is not a problem for you, verbals should be a cakewalk. The only way to master it is by practice. But in my main exam, I did something that I would not recommend anyone to do. I had a real long passage and two short passages. The science essays were okay(were they?), but I always get lost when it is something on arts and the social sciences. So at the end of my first passage, I did not even know where all this was leading to, I was totally lost. Even the 5 answer choices were 5-6lines each. So I just kept making educated guesses and moved on. I know that is where I lost my marks, but never mind that, 'coz time management is another thing. You just cannot pore over the RC part and not complete the entire test.
*QUANTS: #You need to brush up your school level math. Ofcourse the questions would not be that easy, but you need to get your basics right. Geometry, algebra and arithmetic was extremely easy for me. I got a lot of SD and y=mx+c types sums that I was not comfortable with. There was also a data interpretation question that proved to be very very tough and time consuming. So rather than doing the sum, you should be able to just look at the answer choices and have an idea of what the answer possibly could be, and then confirm it. If I did each and every piece of calculation, I could not have completed it. This especially goes for calculating percentages and the value of fractions. All you need is a lot of practice, nothing more, nothing less.
*ESSAY WRITING: This was the best section for me. You will be surprised to know that I had not practised writing even a single essay prior to my exam, I just could not manage the time. But i managed just fine. This is because I write a lot in general, in my blogs, personal diaries, and if you could develop this habit, nothing better. Some people ask me if they should mug up a few topics and go for the exam. Trust me, that is the worst thing you can do. Just decide on your topic and get your brains storming for ideas and examples to write in your essays. The time allotted is a lot, I finished about 10 minutes early. And for the record, I wrote about 10 medium paragraphs in my essay and 7 quite well reasoned paragraphs in my argument. If you do not have the flair for writing, you cannot change in a month. All you can do is get into the habit of writing.
* I was lucky that I got a research section and not a repeat section. The test was too exhausting, and I did not have the enthusiasm to go for a repeat section. But then, its your luck that counts here, you can do nothing much about it.
* Regarding the preparation material, I had amassed a lot of it. But then again, there is no hard and fast rule regarding how much you should practice, the more, the better. Initially I would take 3 mock tests per week. In the last 2 weeks, I would take a test everyday. But then again, do not over do things.
* I did my word list from Barrons and the Norman Lewis book. Apart from this, there are two websites I found very useful.
Ofcourse it is not a mandatory thing to go through the words here, 'coz Barrons is sufficient. For me, it never really harmed to learn a few extra words, thats why i did them thoroughly. Apart from this, I did a lot of test papers in the USEFI. I had totally completed books like the Princeton and Arco. And yes, the Big Book is an extremely good one, it's a shame that I got the book just 10 days prior to my exams, nevertheless, it helped a lot. Regarding the CDs, I was fortunate in having each and everyone of them.....Powerprep, Arco, Cambridge, Rea, Petersons, Kaplan, you just name it. That went a long way in improvig my scores.
* Keep a record of your scores to see how you are improving with time. In maths, I always used to get 770-780 from day 1, but verbals started pathetically for me. In the initial few weeks, I could not go beyond 1120-1140. Slowly, I picked up pace. I did quite well during the last few days, getting somewhere around 1360-1420. And my actual scores are pretty close. I always had some serious problems with the RC part and that's where things went wrong. Never mind that.
* ON THE TEST DAY: Just relax, get a good nights sleep, be in good shape and remember, you are at your best. Avoid last moment cramming and keep your cool.
The one thing that every one wanted to know was.....How could I complete Barrons in 7 days? As I said, there is no formula for success, you have to make your own formulae as per your time and other resources. I have been trying to mug Barrons for about 1 month but could not go beyond 10 word lists. Mugging blindly has never been my cup of tea. So i did some serious cerebration, and this is what I came up with.........
# Seen Parineeta, the movie? Been through word list number 15 in Barrons? What if i were to ask you to read the following sentences?
Shekhar had his DOMICILE in Kolkata. Lolita's uncle had to take a huge loan in his DOTAGE. One day, Lolita found the DOSSIER that changed the whole course of the story. She could not be made a DUPE. Her friendship with Shekhar has never been of DUBIOUS nature, yet Naveen Rai was a DOUR man who would tolerate no DRIVEL in business deals. But Shekhar was a DRONE, easily DUCTILE in the hands of his dad. And Girish's DROLL episodes of London life soon made him popular amongst the ladies.
Well, are you laughing? Or do you see the point I am trying to make? Learning a new word becomes easier when you associate it with a particular sentence. So I made sentences, of each and every word in the 50 word lists. This done, it took me a week. It is not necessary to make meaningful sentences, sometimes, the funnier the sentences, the better you could remember them. Take a look at this one.
# Mallika Sherawat is always BEDIZENED and BEDRAGGLED. If you could BOWDLERISE obscene matter from the movie Murder, you could watch it with your family. If you want to be like Sherawat, you will have to bear the BRUNT of such CANARDS with CANDOR.
Definitely I am a bollywood movie buff. And i used it to my advantage. You may not know the meanings of PUGILIST and PUGNACITY, but if I were to tell you that Mike Tyson, the PUGILIST, is filled with PUGNACITY, you'll know what i mean.
# Once you get the hang of it, you can even construct the antonyms and synonyms on your own. You will know that BILK=COZEN=CHISELED.......CHARY=CIRCUMSPECT=CAUTIOUS....... CHOLERIC=PHLEGMATIC......ICONOCLAST=NIHILIST.
# Take care of the words with more than one meanings. For each, make different sentences. Look at this....
* Do not make me RESTIVE(restlessly impatient), you RESTIVE(obstinately resisting to move forward) man.
* Gabbar's men BESIEGED(surround with armed forces) the village in Sholay, and the villagers BESIEGED(harassed with requests) Jai and Veeru to leave.
Sounds ludicrous, huh? Never mind that, as long as you can remember each and every word.
# Some of you wanted to know if maths was that tough. I never said that it was tough, its just that its been more than 6 years since I've been in touch with maths, and I was not very comfortable doing certain sums.
# They did ask to see a second ID after my passport, and since I passed out last month, my college id card din help, so I had an official letter made my my HOD with my snap and signature and the college official seal on it, and that worked out fine. THEY REFUSED TO SEE MY PAN CARD AS THEY SAID IT IS NOT A VALID ID, NO IDEA WHY.
# Remember, learning some odd 2.5k words is not a matter of joke, so you have to work on it. Let me know if my strategies helped. Further questions and queries are welcome. Feel free to contact me.
You could also go through my blogs.
Note: Sunshine's blog is located at sunshinenjoy.blogspot.com