THE GRE JOURNEY/सफ़र (Read Suffer)

Suffer — yeah, I mean it. Come on, who would love to sit for an exam which is 4 hours long and the preparation for which doesn’t even add any value ? I had already made up my mind knowing the test format, even before thinking of taking it, that this is not my cup of tea. Moreover, I had pretty good reasons to “believe” how this is impossible for me to achieve :

  1. I was in Marathi medium school (Semi-English to be precise). So, apart from technical words which were introduced in Science and Maths, I had (read have) zero vocabulary knowledge in especially History and literature. I didn’t even know what artillery means until I started preparing for the GRE vocab. (not kidding and don’t judge!)
  2. I hate Reading Comprehensions (who doesn’t? Tell me) even to the point where we had our placement season going on and I almost skipped all the companies’ online round which was having a verbal section. And the ones I did attend, I almost randomly selected any option because that’s how frustrated I was ! (Obviously, didn’t get shortlisted XD)

Given my history with verbal, I was convinced that getting a good GRE score would require a lot of preparation -(preparation to get into something I probably hated the most). Thankfully, I managed to get 326/340 in GRE (170 in Quants, 156 in Verbal, AWA 4) which is I guess a good score (at least for me. XD)

Coming from an Engineering background, I didn’t have to invest much time for Quants. Mostly I prepared by taking mock tests and analyzing where I was making mistakes. Quants in GRE is more to do with how much you pay attention to details than to do with your skills. You ignore a pinch of information and you lose one mark. I was literally talking out loud (not to the point where other test takers can hear obviously XD) while reading questions- e.g. okay, so these are just numbers (not positive, not integers but numbers).

Now, the big question — verbal !! I would be lying if I don’t mention how I used to go on social media, watch random videos on YouTube for hours just to get out of the frustration of studying 1 hour of verbal, only to realize I felt more frustrated because of the time I wasted. I even tried reminding myself of the end goal & the consequences of not getting satisfactory marks if I don’t study. This was adding more stress than to alleviate it.

Isn’t focusing too much on the end goal wrong? It just makes you feel anxious about the future. So, I need 320+ — that means I need at least x in quants and y in verbal. How am I supposed to do that if I don’t even have patience to read a paragraph from RC for 5 minutes?!? Forget about understanding it. So, I realized I had to concentrate on the system, the preparation process itself. I needed to actually enjoy or at least not hate what I was doing. And that’s what I did. Fake it till you make it ! XD

You know how affirmations work? You repeat positive affirmations to yourself (with right feelings) and you can actually reprogram your thought patterns with your subconscious mind. Again, I am not saying I started liking RCs on the first day itself. But if you “say” you are positive about doing something, you do feel a little (may be fake) enthusiastic for a while. And that’s all I needed to finish one RC and the corresponding questions.

I think another aspect that the GRE exam tries to test is your ability to remain calm and patient for such a long duration. AWA and the experimental section which can be of any type, can be any section out of five sections and also can have any level of difficulty do add a lot of uncertainty to the exam. If you miss some questions due to time constraints, one should be able to detach and not overthink about the previous section while the new section starts. I think mock tests do a great job to make you familiar with the test environment so that you can evaluate and decide what works for you.

I mean actually stay CALM!

I prepared by myself(material is available online) some important tips that worked well :

  1. Create your own vocab dictionary book. Write down words (I prepared from magoosh app). Use mnemonics and learn root words wherever necessary. Do not make it way too exhaustive (which I did and ended up anyway having unknown words on the exam day)
  2. Manhattan strategy guides — verbal (must) — learned about these a little late, but go through these before starting the practice.
  3. Try and create strategies that work for you and practice them — e.g. Elimination technique
  4. Quants — Manhattan 5 lb for practice and manhattan strategy guides for concepts
  5. Give as many mock tests as possible and create an excel sheet to keep track of the marks and mistakes you made (Do not focus on individual test marks as one can see the drop in the marks in between preparation) Even my score dropped in the 2nd ETS free test because I got panicked.
  6. Start preparing your last day notes from day 1 — quant formulas, concepts you want to revise, verbal strategy notes, etc.
  7. AWA — create your own document having few points from each essay you practice.

GRE EXAM day tips :

  1. Reach early to the center — Nothing adds more anxiety than doing things in a hurry.
  2. Start your test only when you feel comfortable and mentally ready — that’s why you should enter test center early so that you get enough time to get yourself familiarize with the test setting
  3. Utilize the breaks effectively — I got verbal experimental section that too the 1st one (I guess as it was worst amongst all) — I used the break to let go of that section and recharged myself for the next one
  4. Be adaptive to the questions — With the two ETS free mock tests and other tests, I had seen different types of RC questions: Strengthen/weaken, select a sentence, Roles of two sentences, etc. (I used to attempt these first). However, in the exam, I saw only 1 strengthen/weaken question, and others were all long passages having inference and specific details related questions. So be ready to change your strategy if required.

I hope this helps someone in some or the other way.

Keep calm and enjoy the process !