Hello ! So finally i’m back from my sabbatical…and happy to inform you, that i finished with the GRE yesterday…got a score of 1500… Quantitative : 780 Verbal : 720 :)
My test centre was Mumbai, and i stayed overnight at a hotel as the test was at 9.00 am the next day.
The Test : I left my hotel at 7.30 a.m, and reached the test centre ( Marwa House ) at 7.45. It was a big advantage that the hotel was close to the centre. Btw, if your test centre also Mumbai, then maybe it is a good idea to get there the day prior to the test date. The traffic in Mumbai is really horrible… i mean, Pune’s traffic is always written off as being unruly, but i’d stick out my leg a bit and say that Mumbai’s is worse. Atleast we don’t get stuck up behind each other for hours together. Secondly, traveling from far off really saps your strength, and increases your stress exponentially…believe me, you wouldn’t want that to happen. I stayed overnight at Hotel Ashwin. Nice place.
8:00 : The guard at the gate of the building let us in, after signing on a log book. We were directed to go to the first floor. However, on reaching there, no board of either ETS or Prometric was to be seen. After waiting for some time, a guard came over and opened one of the shutters, which was of the actual test centre.
8:10 : After verifying our documents (passport and secondary ID at first), we were made to sign up in another logbook. Then we were assigned separate lockers and instructed to keep all belongings except the passport, secondary ID and the confirmation letter inside. After some more form-filling and signing (the confidentiality agreement), a lady came and explained the rules of the exam (normal stuff that they mention in the Power Prep CD ).
9:00: Finally, we were ready for the test. For some reason, i wasn’t nervous at all….or maybe it was just that i was knocked out stupid and numb…whatever…the calm did me good. We were led into the next room one by one. A nice lady (another one) again made me sign on some stuff…explained the rule about raising the hand and signing each time i left the room. Then she handed me a scratch pad ( pretty big-8 pages greenish colour) and 2 pencils. I was told that i could ask for new sharpened pencils by raising the hand. Phew…i took a deep breath and started off.
The tutorial: Standard stuff…how to use the mouse, how to scroll…all that’s given in the Power Prep. Do you want to proceed to the Analytical Section ? …you bet !
Analytical Writing: This one was pretty good. I mean, i had just written 4 issues and 4 arguments for practice. Considering that, the ideas came to me quite fluently. Well, the earlier day, i had been through most of the topics and had thought up of a few examples and ideas i could write about. That really helped. After finishing off with the issue and argument, i was given an optional 10 min break. I signed at the desk outside, then walked to the outermost room, relaxed for 4-5 min, then came back again.
Next section-Quantitative : This surprised me a bit. I was well aware that the verbal,quant and dummy sections can come in any order, but in all practice tests i had given, verbal was always first. So ok…first surprise. The section started off quite smoothly. With 22 min remaining, i had some 13 questions to go. Then all hell broke loose. Some weird shitty questions combining statistics (mean,mode etc.) and some graphs and stuff…yes ,individual one’s for each question started popping up on the screen. This really took my time. 5 min remaining,6 questions to go. By this time, i was really beginning to freak…2 min, 4 questions to go…FISH !! 1 min…3 questions…just marked off the answers at random…Ram Bharowse Sindhu Hotel !
“Wow ! That was CRAP”, i thought ,”Man…looks like you gonna have to visit Prometric yet another time….hope this was the unidentified dummy,and i get another quant section later….” Somehow i calmed myself again….waited out the 60 sec break,and sort of took control of the situation…, “Nerves of steel baby,nerves of steel….Lets see…lets try to make up in the verbal section….”
Verbal: First 8-9 questions were good…analogies and antonyms more and less from Barron’s word list. RC’s were from around 10-11 , 13-16 , 28-29. Was a little confused in the 5th question which was an antonym not from Barron’s, but sort of managed to figure it out.
Verbal section done, i clicked on the proceed button. At that point, i was really hoping that i would get another Quantitative section…alas…” This is a RESEARCH section. ETS will …blah blah .” I clicked on the Exit Section button…by this time my heart is beating like mad, hitting the roof every single time.
“Do you want to cancel your scores ? ” —> NO
“Submit scores?” —-> YES x 3
Verbal : 720 Quantitative : 780 Yippie ! :) :) Phew, that was close !
After submitting the scores to 4 Universities, i signed at the desk outside, collected my bag, and hurried out. Nice experience, but not exactly sorry that its over !
The Preparation :
So now i am going to preach a bit…about how i had prepared, what i had done , what i didn’t do and should have and my opinion about some of the books. I think i’d better write this section wise…
Analytical : I had joined the Dilip Oak’s Academy ( DOA here onwards) . Basically the ETS has published a list of 100-200 issues and arguments. So what DOA has done is, it has classified the topics into similar categories ( eg. Art v/s Poverty : Should all money used in art be used for poverty alleviation instead) and then mentioned the points along which one may develop an issue. Well,that helped a lot. Apart from that, i had been through Kaplan’s and Barron’s strategies. Kaplan’s is ok….but Barron’s has a good method. Start typing as soon as you can think of some examples. In the end, develop the introduction and the conclusion. I have noticed that writing an effective introduction, especially at the start itself wastes a lot of time. So it’s best to write it after the rest of the body of your issue has developed.
Secondly, it helps to have some preconceived notions. Try to think about examples for the different topics. It’ll save you a lot of sweat in your final exam.
Verbal: DOA material was again irreplaceable. If you don’t have it, then solve all Kaplan’s, Barron’s, Nova’s , Princeton’s material and whatever else you can lay hands on. Btw, you should know all 4000 words from Barron’s list pit-pat. Try to finish them of once atleast 30 days before your test . I didn’t, and had to keep crazy sleeping hours during the last 20 days ! RC’s from big book are pretty much how RC’s in the test will be…actually i managed to solve just 8 big book tests , and it has 54. As for the RC’s, get used to reading it at top speed with full concentration and understanding it as you do so. It will help you. Kaplan’s has very little practice as such. It is a costly book, and i had bought it, but frankly it is not worth it…a lot of things having the tone of ” Kaplan’s Quant Comparison Strategy” , “Kaplan’s Antonym strategy” …but nothing extra- ordinary.
Quantitative : There’s much to be said about this. First let me tell you a bit about my maths. I’m pretty fast….infact, make 30 people sit with me,and make us solve the same 30 q’s , and i’ll probably be in the top 3 as far as the speed is concerned (not always the accuracy ;-) ) I practised quant mainly through a lot of tests, and had no problem whatsoever with finishing it..be it kaplan’s, princeton’s or anything else. For practise , i had completed nearly all of DOA material. But actually i’m not very happy with it…because it focuses on hard word-problems types, but the actual GRE questions are of a slightly different type….a blend of statistics with a lot of tables. I felt the practice given for statistics sorely lacking. Not only in DOA, but also in Nova, Kaplan and everything else. Secondly, i think Nova is a pretty good book for maths. Don’t even bother looking up Kaplan’s. It’s crap with 5-6 questions for practice in each category. Do a lot of co-ordinate geometry , focusing on slopes of line. I can’t go into much details, because i don’t want to break any confidentiality agreements.
The CBT practice : It is vitally important having enough of this. I’ll mention which all tests i took,in order and at what point of time before my actual GRE date.
Davidson’s : 40 days before . Score 800 Q 580V
Kaplan’s 1: 33 days before . Score 800 Q 550V
Kaplan’s 2: 25 days before . Score 800 Q 580V
Kaplan’s 3 : 10 days before . Score 800 Q 582V
Princeton’s 1 : 10 days before . Score 800 Q 720V
DOA 1 : 8 days before. Sore 600 Q 590V
DOA 2: 8 days before. Score 700Q 560V
DOA 3: 7 days before Score 780Q 590V Didn’t appear for any DOA test after this…i mean, well its too difficult…and “the more difficult the better” logic doesn’t hold good a week before your test.
Power Prep 1: 5 days before Score 800Q 710V
Barron’s : 5 days before Score 800Q 700V
Power Prep 2 : 4 days before Score 800Q 700V
Princeton’s 2 : 3 days before Score 800Q 740V
GRE Bible : 3 days before Score 800Q 800V
Gave Power Prep tests again…some 4-5 questions in each section get repeated. Got 1600 both times.
Actual GRE: 780Q 720V
As you can see, Princeton’s, Barron’s and most importantly Power Prep are the surest indicator’s of your score….as long as you remain dead calm at the test. Pay close attention to Power Prep, especially the type of questions. You’ll get similar stuff in the exam.
Wow….that’s a lot of preaching…sorry for that. But i tend to get a little verbose when i’m trying to help. My advice is…remember to keep your cool and hold your nerves at all times. While practicing, try to complete verbal in 28 min and Quant in 40 min…it’ll help you.Each person’s way of remaining calm is different. For me looking at my passport - ‘Republic of India’ helped. Patriotism to combat nerves :) Psyching yourself is vitally important. GRE is all mind game, though the difficulty level is quite low. And the correct way of approaching Verbal is trying to reduce the amount of marks that you lose, and not by trying to score ‘as many marks ‘ as you can.
Lastly, i would like to thank Mukul sir, Atul sir, Anil sir and all others at the Dilip Oak’s academy for all the help and guidance.
If you are appearing for the exam, Best luck ! Be steadfast, God speed :)
PS: Whatever I have written above is of my own free will, and my opinion alone. Nobody has paid me to write it ( i wish they would ;-) ).
Kaplan’s CBT : Part 1 , Part 2 (Extract both parts. Then extract the kaplan_gre_cd.part01 first. Others will extract automatically)
GRE Big Book
Kaplan’s Sample Essays (didn’t read much of this. Don’t mug it and write it directly in the exam. ETS uses a software which has all these essays in the database. A match of 75% will result in cancellation of your scores.)
Got my score card the other day (24th April). Got 4 in AWM :-( . Perhaps i should consider abandoning blogging :-) . Anyway, guess you can’t have everything. Well, the main point is, when you get your score card, you’ll find a registration number on it. ETS provides a free service where in you can put in your registration number and check your performance. As in, they show you where all you made a mistake, and what sort of a question it was. I checked it out, and am posting the tables in the pics below. Please note that in the actual table, questions are clubbed type-wise, so i have reordered the table just to emphasize on the actual serial numbers of the questions and places where i made a mistake. This should give you a idea about the highly mysterious adaptive algorithms used by the ETS. Cheers ! :-)
Score Interpretation : Yellow=Wrong