GRE/How to start preparing for GRE


The first general guideline is, the more time you prepare, the better. Practice is what makes perfect. Meanwhile maintain good academics. Also consider taking the Subject GRE. This will help you get into the top 10 colleges (Stanford, Gatech, UMich, UIUC., etc.).

Keeping a backup career option is important. Give your best to go to the U.S.A. Don't ever think that it is the ONLY career option, or it is your life itself or anything like that. It's a good idea to keep it as "one of" the career options.

We don't think you should start off with word lists straight away. Start with books like Norman Lewis and then Rosenblum. The best approach is to read copiously in a variety of fields, as Srihari recommends. However, vocabulary study does help. You need to tackle finer nuances of the language in analogies and some difficult antonyms.

How long does it take? edit

Well. It depends. Some people prepare for 12 months and some even 24. Some test takers can manage a decent score after only one month. It all depends on your potential and on how high a score you're aiming for. For instance, IT is a vigorously competitive field, and so requires scores of more than 320+ Q+V) I don't know what's the scale they use for AWA writing. But you must score well there too. So that means you have to spend a long time preparing, and still I would say it depends on potential. Here are some recommendations:

Quantitative Ability edit

In my opinion, it is a "tactical blunder" to aim at anything lesser than 170 in Quant. So aim at 170. This is because, Quant is the section where you can max your score. Aim at 170 and get it. Since you are an engineer, you are at a certain advantage, you can easily do Quant. You can easily get 170 and don't let overconfidence set in. It may even be that you get a 170 in the first mock without knowing anything about it.

Do Barron tactics for 3 or 4 days. Don't prepare all day for Quant. And in the 30 minutes you prepare, concentrate well. That is enough.

After doing Barron tactics, solve bigbook - one section every day (it takes 30 minutes). Then correct it. Analyse your performance after some time. For example, if you do the test in the morning, you should analyze your performance in the evening and vice versa. See where you have committed mistakes. This way, it will take 54 days to complete Quant in big book.

Every day, you spend a maximum of 30 or 45 minutes on it. It does not help to spend many continuous hours. You have to do "some" Quant daily for about two months. Do the tests in a specified time of the day daily. Analyze it in a specified time of day. For the first six or seven days, this kind of discipline might be too difficult, but once you survive that first week you won't be able to stop even if you wanted to. That is the kind of groove you need to get yourself into. In the meantime, document your results daily. For instance, write down which question numbers you got wrong, how many mistakes you made in each section, and which sections you're struggling with. (Is it algebra, arithmetic, geometry?) Document it properly in a separate notebook or Excel worksheet. This will make you well versed in Quant within two months. But don't rest on your laurels. You may take a two- or three-day break from Quant (merely reviewing the formulas briefly), and then repeat the exact same bigbook tests in the same order. This time see if you can solve a section in 2/3rds of the time allotted, i.e., in a maximum of 20 minutes. Solve more sections each day than before. Compare the new results with previous results you recorded. Are you making the same mistakes again, or new ones? Even on questions where you did not commit mistakes both times, see if you can find a faster, shorter way of solving the problems. If you repeat your mistakes, it means that you need to work on that type questions more. Learn new tactics for those. See what is the best tactic for a problem. Work systematically. This way, within 80 or 90 days, you should complete it with a LOT of confidence. Now, go to the real tests. Take Kaplan CD, see what tactics he suggests, see if there is anything you did not know. Likewise do Princeton. And don't spend too much time on these. You are good enough now. So spend more time on verbal. That does not mean "stop Quant". Review briefly every day. After three months, don't spend more than a half hour a day. After four months, start solving one Kaplan section test per day. Then take a week-long break and repeat the tests. On exam day, concentrate on the question. Read it properly. Just think... and then click. This will make sure you get 170 in Quant. (I hope it makes sure!)

Verbal Ability edit

Verbal ability is the most important section of the test and deserves considerable preparation. It is difficult by design, but not impossible if you keep up your efforts. Anyone can succeed in this, but you must be absolutely disciplined. To put it in a single word, you should try and be the word "discipline" itself. It demands nothing else from you. What I will suggest is that you begin with "Norman Lewis". If you have any questions in your mind like "Should I learn these useless words, especially because they are not going to come there in the exam?", remove any such doubts. I agree that you are preparing for an exam. That does not mean, "You should learn only what comes in the exam". You can never afford to miss any word. NEVER. Not one word should be missed. So all books are important. Work with them. Develop a love for words. Enjoy words. Only then you can be successful with verbal. For this you need to develop a keen love for words. What I am saying is that you learn words to learn them. Not for marks. If you feel like you want to learn words only for marks, then, I am afraid, you are taking a dangerous path, which will never ultimately fetch marks. You lose on every count if you work this way. 100% Sure. Damned sure. And on the other hand, if you begin to develop a love for words, it will ultimately fetch you not only marks, and also a sense of well being, of having been enriched and improved. You will be totally different. You will improve on all counts. Marks is just one of them. Think of the multiple benefits you receive if you work this way. So understand that you need to develop a deep love for words. You cannot afford to hate them. It's far too costly. Read a LOT. See what's the new word in each page. Search. Find out. "Think". Read an English newspaper. It's one of the best ways to understand the meanings and contexts of words.

So, begin with Norman Lewis. Do 1 section(or 2 at the most) everyday (It will take you 10 to 15 minutes per section). Do the tests given in it seriously. NOT frivolously. Meanwhile, begin to work with Barron. Look, I strictly do not advise cramming of 100 odd unconnected words everyday. It won't help. You will remember nothing. So I suggest the following: Read each word. Look at its meaning as it is given in the dictionary (Webster is preferable, Oxford is okay. If you have any others (especially English-Tamil), throw them away. They are useless.) If you don't have a dictionary, please buy one. TODAY. Do some "thinking" about each word you learn. Look at the example usage (sentence) as it is given in Barron. Read the dictionary usage. Think what that sentence could "exactly" mean. After this, think of a situation in your life where you can use the word. Frame a meaningful sentence. It will be especially good, if you can frame a sentence that has some special meaning (and appeal) to you alone. Maybe not that much to others. You may ask, "Why this way?" This is because, you are trying here to associate something that is part of your life (and uniquely yours!) with a new word. And, from now on, whenever you see that word, you must remember that situation in your real life. This will remind you of "that" sentence, which you first formed. After that sentence, you will ultimately remember the meaning. Please note here that the meaning of the word as you remember it will NOT contain the exact words as it appears in Barron/dictionary. It may come very close. In most cases it is never the exact. Only rough. And that doesn't matter. What matters is that you remember a meaning.

By now, you must be conscious of having really learnt something new. You must be able to "feel" your knowledge increasing as you continue your work. This way, try and form your own sentence for every word you learn. Write it down in a notebook. If not, maintain a text file, where you type in your sentence. You read this file now and then, even if you are doing it frivolously. To do this for every word-list, it may cost you more than 4 or 5 hours. Allot a definite time of the day each day. Learn not more than 30 words everyday.

Revision: It's importance edit

Disciplined revision is more important than learning itself. So revise each wordlist on the following days:

  • revision 1: After 2 hour.
  • revision 2: The Next day.
  • revision 3: Exactly after 1 week.
  • revision 4: Exactly after 1 month.

I know it is very difficult to follow the above procedure, especially in the beginning. And once you are used to it, it must feel ok. And after month, the routine would have set in. You will revise the following after a month.....

  1. Today's words (30)
  2. Yesterday's words. (30)
  3. Last week's words. (30)
  4. Last month's words (30)

It might be difficult to do 120 words per day. But 90 are those you already know. So it hopefully should be easy for you.

How to revise edit

Well there are many ways. Use the one that suits you. One is to go through the Barron again. Other is to see the sentences you prepared. Third is to take a test in the word list. I chose the last. In my opinion, it is the best. Sometimes I used studywiz, And mostly I used "Voctutor".

What else should I do edit

Please remember here that Barron is not "Exhaustive". You have to collect non Barron Words from many sources. These sources include mainly the bigbook, Voca s/w, American Edu aids book, GM Voc tests, "GRE6000 - the chinese list" etc.(there are many more).The words in the Chinese list are especially weird. You have to follow the same procedure as Barron for these Non Barron words as well. Learn them. I have uploaded the Non Barron( words I collected (And it is not "Exhaustive")in the files area.. See if it helps.

The Final Step edit

Finally, you should try and learn how to associate words with each other. This will help you remember both the words. For example, think of the word "Curmudgeon", then you must remember a related word, which is "Stingy",then "Skinflint", then, "codger", then, "Parsimonious" then, "Niggardly" then, "Tightfisted", then ,"Tightwad" then, "Thrifty" then,"Frugal" and then.."Husbandry"....

This is the way I learnt at datamatics. I have found it damned useful. Extremely useful. This is because, each of the words differ lightly in meaning(Note here that "stingy" has a negative connotation while "frugal" has a positive connotation)...And each of the words means almost the same(Yeah. Both "frugal" and "stingy" means not spending much).If you can see in which way they are "same" and in which way they are "different" have succeeded... See if it helps.

Besides, after completing Norman Lewis, try and do "Rosenblum"...its also good. Enjoyable. You can also play vocab games in rea and kaplan to relax. This will help you enjoy while you learn.

AWA Writing edit

Well I don't know much about this section. But what I know for sure is that it must be easier than the now "antediluvian" Analytical section. Analytical is a difficult section (Remember that's where I lost ~14 valuable points -:(.....I despise it for that. I think AWA should be easier. Because its writing (At least for Indians). It must be easy..since we have good English knowledge...some times better than Americans). What I can advise here is "Be original" in your writing. It always helps. Don't mug up and write standard essays that are found in ARCO essay book and all that.. Take some guidance from books...But be original in your writing. I think other people can guide you better here.

A Final Word edit

These techniques have worked well for me. I am an ordinary person. If they have worked for me, then it must work for anybody. I believe so. I will be extremely happy if you succeed by using the above techniques.

My single Advice: Work hard. It REALLY pays off! AND Work systematically and intelligently!..Don't Get carried away by too much hype and rumours.. work your own way.. you will succeed...


WORD TO THINK ABOUT: sempiternal

What to look for when preparing for GRE? edit

I suggest you look at the following:

  1. Personal interests.
  2. Career ambitions
  3. Research, Teaching standards.
  4. Fame of school, presence in their local area. Employment opportunities.
  5. Rank, score requirements, your profile match to their students' profiles.
  6. Financial aspects - funding, costs etc.
  7. Do remember that your decisions define your life, it's not the other way.

What you should NOT use:

  • Weather
  • Proximity to relatives, proximity to Hollywood (don't worry most good schools will naturally create that for you :)),
  • "my friend told me its a great school despite what you hear",
  • "my seniors are there" and so on.

FAQ edit

Some of the questions in the minds of the aspirants are.

  1. While I am applying for my admission in the USA/Canada universities what should be my best approach to attract them
  2. What sort of subject I should select while applying?
  3. Some names of good engineering schools that would match with my profile and I've got a fair chance to get admission there.
  4. What should be my minimum GRE score to apply ?

Welcome to the group. Your queries are quite general in nature, which is not unlike those of a beginner. However, for us to be able to focus down and help you better with the answers, it would be nice if you spent some time looking at the files, and at least some of our more recent archives. These files and emails will help you understand how we guide people along with their queries.

There are no baseline scores that will work for any particular set of schools. However, to ensure smooth sailing during your visa interview procedures and to stay at least moderately competitive, you will need scores of 500 and above.

The departments and programs you choose will be of your own volition and we always recommend you spend most of the time doing research on programs. A good place to start would be through the generic list of top 50 or so schools (remember we don't say that those schools listed by US News as Top 50 are actually top 50, its just a list to start from).

You should set aside a considerable portion of time (given that it is your future we are talking about) to research school websites, professor profiles, their publications and to chat with students present, and past from these schools.

We have several documents on how to attract schools, but the basics include a clearly thought out SOP, a well written (or typed) application stating why you need to be admitted by the school, great references and punctual submission of documents and follow up.

It is also generally pleasing for the schools "'f u don' write in da kool way dat impresses non on" and "DONT WRITE IN CAPS". In essence, punctuation, grammar and syntax generally please people who are looking for responsible graduate students.