Scoring 320+ on the GRE

I recently gave the GRE on 18th August. Call it a paradoxical chimera but I was able to score above my target score; at the same time I knew what question had gone wrong as soon as I left the exam center.
I used to read a lot of articles about how people prepared for the exam and they did actually help me a lot with my planning. So to give back something in return, sharing my experience below!

First, my score: 326
Quant: 167
Verbal: 159
AWA: 4.5
Mock test score at the beginning of preparation: 310.

Scoring a 320 on the GRE is not really that difficult. Trust me! Why? I myself am an average student and cannot concentrate for long hours. However, the GRE is a lot different from all your other exams. With proper and gradual mastery of the required skills one can be the master of this domain.
Without much dilly-dally, let's start!

GRE tests the skills you have been using since 6th or 7th grade. This applies to the quant as well as verbal section. No one here needs to sharpen those quant skills. You're an Indian and an Asian too (adhere to the stereotype :p).
Since, you know that you will be giving the GRE. Start sharpening those verbal skills. You can do that by reading a few novels and watching some series(without subtitles).
I hadn't read novels for like half a year so I began by reading the simple works (Paulo Coelho) and then moved on to the complex stuff (Charles Dickens).


Go through the official GRE guide by ETS. The first step to begin preparation.

I studied words from the Magoosh app, Barron's hf 333, Manhattan GRE combined list.
A lot of words are repeated so it is good revision. Also while preparing I started writing down the words I felt weren't on the lists but were important. Unexpectedly, this turned out to be a 26 page long list(was expecting 10 pages maximum). People will recommend doing about 4k words, but it isn't really necessary. During the exam I felt like doing even these 2k words was a waste, as the GRE tests your understanding of words based on context and sentence structure and that is what is important. It will come only through practice and not just mugging up the words.
Don't be scared of learning new words. Embrace the language. I could hardly do 20 words a day initially and then went on to revising about 500 within an hour as the exam date neared. Use mnemonics, relate words to things that will help you remember them. When you Google a word check out the image results too! Practice words with friends. Small things will make a big difference.

Quantitative reasoning:
You need to be strong with all of the basic math concepts. If you are not that confident; start with the Manhattan strategy guides. The Magoosh videos are also good to understand topics. For quants I solved Manhattan 5lb, then solved the Nova Math Bible... after a long break for my semester exams again solved the 5lb and then Princeton 1014. This much preparation is more than enough to go through every type of question the GRE will throw at you.

Verbal reasoning:
This is the most dreaded part of GRE preparation. However, studying assiduously for a month will help you conquer this section too. Start with the Official Guide for Verbal Reasoning. Then move to the Princeton 1014 drills. After that RC and Logical reasoning from Manhattan 5lb( I skipped their sentence completion part). There is one more document having a few questions. Will be sharing it at the end of the article. My RC part was extremely fickle. I used to either get all answers right or all wrong for any particular RC. So had to give special attention to that. Firstly, learn to start reading actively. Then, solve the 99RC book. People will say it's for GMAT etc. But what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger! :p. Also, it has a lot of questions about inference and purpose. If you get those correct, you won't have any problem with the other RC questions.
For active reading practice use these sources and read frequently from them: ALDAILY, Scientific American.

This is tricky! I did not write a single article on this blog during my prep just because I had to stay in the AWA groove. AWA writing is very specific and requires some very particular demands to get a good score. I watched the Magoosh and GreenlightTestPrep videos and then wrote about 10 essays each of both the types. This helps in building your own template as well as time management. Getting your essays evaluated is not that easy. You won't have any evaluation sources just like me. The Princeton mocks and Crunchprep mock will grade your essay. So use them wisely. Scoring a 3 on the essay section is not that difficult.

Mock tests: 
This was perhaps the most important part of my preparation. They help you cope with the pressure for the D-day. Consider a mock as an entire revision of whatever you have prepared. Make sure you review these mocks with utmost attention. Do not fixate on the scores. Sometimes you do poorly on these mocks and feel demotivated. However, use these tests to get into a comfort zone. Give an exam even when you don't feel like it. This will prepare you for the worst! I really felt like taking a break in the middle of one of my verbal sections during the GRE, but I had given mocks in much boring times and that helped me carry on with confidence. Try to imitate the real GRE conditions for each and every mock exam.
I gave about 23 mock tests and 10 sections each of verbal and quants from Kaplan Premier. Won't be commenting on which mock is good and which is not. All are standard material providers after all. But, here is a compilation of all my mock test dates and scores. Hope it will help. "Plan your mock tests wisely!"

Extra pointers:

  • Distribute your study as evenly as possible between Quant and Verbal.
  • Work on your mistakes.
  • Refrain from buying books. Use the PDFs which are available for free. 
  • Spend as much time as possible on the computer during preparation.
  • You can get most of the tests, material for free. Do proper research before splurging.
  • Make use of Facebook groups where questions, doubts, tips are posted. 

Exam day pointers:

  • Stay motivated. This can be the day you changed your own fortunes.
  • WEAR A HOODIE. You will realize why all caps after your exam.
  • Stay away from negative stuff. All of it can be dealt after those 4 odd hours.
  • Most people affect their exams due to anxiety. Whenever you feel like it do some deep breathing. Increasing oxygen supply to the brain helps.
  • For verbal, finish all the TC/SC questions within the first ten to thirteen minutes so you now have enough time for RCs.
  • Try your best to submit the essays before the time's up. This is good to be safe from technical errors as well as mentally it prevents getting demotivated. I did not submit my issue essay and after the screen blurred I could see a patent mistake staring me in the face.
  • For quant sections, leave Data Interpretation questions for the last.
  • Each question within a section has equal weightage. Think wisely and don't end up wasting time on some difficult question.
  • It's just an exam. Admits are given by evaluating profiles holistically. GRE is not the only criteria!
Here are the materials! These are the essential ones. Find other stuff from those FB groups.

That was one verbose post. Thanks for reading though. Hope it helped in some way. 

For you few regular readers, I will be back! Didn't write because of this preparation and now suffering from a lack of ideas. Be back soon..Till then...

Au Revoir! 


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  6. Hi! You explained very well about the effective preparation of GRE. Many students try to crack this exam in order to get admission to a reputed university. The GRE is commonly used by many graduate schools in the U.S. and Canada to determine an applicant's eligibility for the program. I completely agree with your suggestion of preparation for enhancement of vocabulary, only cramming of words won't work, students must devote some time to understand that how a particular word may be used in any sentence and in what context. GRE preparation requires a pretty good vocabulary and quantitative aptitude as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences here.

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