The GRE, along with the GMAT, is one of the most popular competitive exams in the world. GRE is usually taken by those looking to join a Masters programme abroad, such as Masters in Management, while GMAT is usually taken by those looking to join a business school to pursue an MBA. Both of these exams test your Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning ability, and also test your logical thinking and writing ability. When it comes to the GRE, a score of 320 is good enough to buttress your profile for the top Master's programmes in the UK and the US. So, is it possible to achieve this score in two months? Absolutely. In this post, I will try and delineate how you can score 320 in GRE in a matter of two months!
Let me first begin with my GRE preparation experience. I have been preparing for CAT 2019, so many (not all) Quantitative Reasoning concepts are clear to me. I am very strong in Verbal Ability, having scored 99.3 in VA-RC in CAT 2018. Therefore, for me, preparing for the GRE appeared to be a walk-in-the-park. Of course, I was wrong. The GRE is quite distinct from CAT, in that the former tests your vocabulary, speed, and time management, while the latter is more inclined towards strategy and logic.
Therefore, I had to start preparing from scratch, and ultimately, I managed to score 320 in GRE, with 161 in Verbal Reasoning and 159 in Quantitative Reasoning. I will also be taking the GRE once again in a few months from now, and if I manage to clear the 330 mark, I will update this article accordingly. :)
Disclaimer - This two month strategy may not be for everyone. $205 is not a small amount, and you may want to be more cautious in your preparation strategy to ensure a 320+ score. I took 1.5 months to prepare for this test, and will be spending more time to improve my score in the next attempt. It is recommended that you take a free Manhattan GRE mock test as well as the Diagnostic Tests at the end of this article to assess how much time you will need to prepare.
Assuming you have familiarised yourself with the GRE paper pattern, let's dive into the GRE preparation strategy.
Quantitative Reasoning (QR)
GRE QR is easy, but the paucity of time (and in my case over-confidence) can often lead to your downfall, even if you know all concepts. With 35 minutes for 20 questions, you have 1.75 minutes per question, which may seem like a lot till a confusing question pops up. Therefore, across all sections of the GRE, time management is key (more on that later.)
I) Syllabus For GRE's QR Section
First, let's understand what topics you need to touch upon to prepare for the GRE's QR section:
Note - Here, topics marked 'Important!' are not the only ones you should focus on but in fact are the ones you should focus on the most before moving on to the rest.
- Arithmetic - Primarily includes T&W, TSD, Ratios & Proportions, and Percentages - Important!
- Algebra - Inequalities, Modulus, Linear and Quadratic Equations - Important!
- Set-Theory - Venn Diagrams.
- Modern Maths - Probability, PnC.
- Geometry - Includes Co-ordinate Geometry, as well as lines and angles, apart from the geometric concepts of polygons such as congruence, similarity, triangle properties etc - Important!
- Mensuration - Includes basics of CSA, Volume, and Surface area of common solids.
- Statistics - Mean, Median, Mode, and Range.
- Data Interpretation - Bar graphs, pie charts, and line graphs.
II) Resources For GRE's QR Section
I used just two resources to prepare for this section:
1. Takshzila Videos - taken by Mr. Nishant and Mr. Chandra. These are free comprehensive video series on YouTube for almost all topics of not just GRE/GMAT QR, but also CAT's QA section. They are soon going to update the playlists on their channel in the month of June, making it a one-stop-shop for any QA concept clarification.
Why Takshzila? Because while other resources (as mentioned below) are excellent, they only take you to the water; you have to drink the water (not calling you a horse). Takshzila enables you to get basic concepts clear, without the hundreds of dollars you will spend on other resources.
2. Manhattan GRE 5 lb Book - The book justifies the name. This is a huge book on QR and VR concepts that are highly relevant to the GRE, with 25-50 practice questions per chapter. If on a scale of 1 to 10, your QA proficiency is a 6, it will take you not more than 1½ weeks to finish the QA problems in this question.
III) Points To Keep In Mind
To be frank, a 159/170 is only a 70th percentile score, so clearly my QR strategy is wanting. However, considering that 70% of the junta scored less than me, I will try and share some learnings from my first GRE attempt:
1. Do not be overconfident: I thought I was well prepared for the exam, but in reality, I had been lax in my preparation and made unfounded assumptions, one such assumption being, "Inequalities aur modulus kaun hee poochta hai." The preponderance of Inequalities, Mods, and Co-ordinate Geometry questions stumped me, and I was only able to attempt the Arithmetic, Geometry and Statistics questions with ease. In other words, don't underestimate the exam - it can come back to bite you.
2. Do not run away from feared topics: For me, Permutations & Combinations is an eternal pain in the butt, and in my first GRE attempt, I ran away from it. I did the same with Set Theory. As of today, I have re-visited and thoroughly prepared for both these sections, and I am confident I can attempt these correctly in the GRE, GMAT and even CAT. So, regardless of how tough the topic may seem, there is no running away from it.
3. Speed is of the essence: GRE tests your time management and speed, therefore, you cannot compromise on that just for one right answer. You will have 1.75 minutes per question; ensure that you spend no more than 1.5 minutes per question. By the end of the test, you should ideally have 3-4 minutes remaining for revision (no pressure!).
Verbal Reasoning (VR)
The VR section has a lot to do with improving your vocabulary. If you have a good reading speed and vocabulary, no one can stop you from getting a 160+ in VR.
I) Syllabus For GRE's VR Section
Let's understand what topics you need to touch upon to prepare for the GRE's VR section:
- Text Completion - This is essentially an advanced version of fill-in-the-blanks, and you're supposed to choose from 2-3 options that, when filled in their respective blanks, make the sentence complete and coherent. Purely based on vocabulary.
- Sentence Equivalence - Here, you'll be presented with a single blank in a sentence. You'll also be presented with 6-8 options and out of those, only two words will be appropriate for the given blank. You have to identify those two.
- Reading Comprehension - Short as well as extremely verbose paragraphs will be given, and questions will be based on it. These can get quite tough, and are based on a variety of mostly unfamiliar topics.
II) Resources For GRE's VR Section
At the outset, I must declare that the most useful resource for GRE's VR section is the Magoosh GRE Flashcards. If you're good at swift (not cursory) reading and have a limited vocabulary, this is the only resource you need to spend your time on, apart from mock tests of course. This app is available on PlayStore for free. Please go ahead and download it now.
The other important resource is Barron's list of 1100 words. There are numerous PDF files available online, so just download any one and start learning.
For RC practice, I have compiled this curation of the best VA-RC resources for CAT, which should be enough for GRE as well. Also useful is the aforementioned GRE 5lb book. You should also download the Indian Express app and read regularly. Also, watch Karan Thapar's television shows on the HTN News YouTube channel - the man uses words and idioms that are way too advanced.
III) Points To Keep In Mind
Here are some important points to keep in mind:
- Study all of the vocabulary words from the Magoosh app, especially in the 6 'Advanced' sections. You are highly likely to get words from that bank of complex words. In my actual GRE attempt, at least 80% of the vocabulary questions were directly from the Magoosh app's 'Advanced' section, and the team at Magoosh has done a fantastic job of curating these words.
- Be quick. Speed is of the essence in GRE. The moment you spend over 3 minutes on an RC, you're done for. Remember, vocabulary is like GK - you either know it or you don't know it. Spend no more than a minute on each vocabulary question, and if you can't figure it out, make an intelligent guess and move on.
- If you have a lot of RCs towards the end of the section, skip those, complete all of the other vocabulary questions till the very end, and then come back to the RC. In this way, you will ensure you don't give undue time to the comprehension and miss out on sitters.
Preparation Strategy - QR+VR
Since you have two months in hand, it would be prudent to finish off the preparation for both QR and VR within 1 month, and it is not impossible. Here is how I split my preparation strategy of 1.5 months:
- In the first month, I finished the theory of 70% of the QR topics (I was complacent about the other 30% and that lowered my GRE score), and also finished half the words in the Magoosh GRE Flashcards app. I took 10 days to finish 90% of the QA concepts in the GRE 5lbs book, and also took 2 Manhattan mock tests in this period to test my preparation efforts.
- In the next 15 days, I gave one of the two ETS Powerprep tests, and also focused entirely on vocabulary. Your target in two months should be to give at least 3 mock tests and aim for a 320+ score. Whenever you find free time, just read from the Indian Express app, especially the Editorial section.
- Do not take a mock test 2-3 days before the exam, and halt your preparation 1 day before the exam. You don't want that kind of unneccesary stress.
GRE Mock Tests To Take
There are two mock test resources I used:
1. Official PowerPrep GRE Tests - These are 2 full-length scored tests of the actual GRE level which you get for free when you schedule your GRE, and another one which is full-length but unscored. Attempt these to understand where you truly stand in terms of your preparation. After a fortnight of dedicated preparation, you can appear for the first practice test.
2. Manhattan GRE Tests - Manhattan is one of the biggest names in GMAT and GRE prep, and for a reason. They make excellent study material, but also make superb mock tests. The GRE pack of 6 mock tests costs approximately Rs. 6000. The vocabulary is slightly tougher than the actual test, and the QA is of the same level as that of the GRE. There is complete analysis provided, which can help you identify your weak areas.
If you don't want to buy this pack, then you can even take the full-length Manhattan free mock test, which is equally beneficial.
There are numerous mock tests available on the internet, but these two resources are the most trusted, especially the former.
Points To Keep In Mind
Please do not be demotivated if you score less than 315 in your mock tests, and do not become complacent if you score more than 320. These are not tests of your competence, but tests of your preparation. A low mock score does not mean that you are the scum of the Earth; rather it means that you need to put in more effort to improve your performance. Similarly, if you score 325 in your tests, it does not mean that you are now eligible to crack even JEE Advanced; rather, it means you are in the right direction but you must stay prepared for unforseen hiccups.
I scored a 312 in the mock test I gave 4 days before the exam, and that too on the official ETS Powerprep mock test. In the real test, I scored 320 (though I did score 320 and 320+ consistently in 3 Manhattan mocks). You will find people saying on online forums, "Your real GRE score is the average of your two ETS mock scores," which is an unfounded claim.
Just focus on improving yourself.
Diagnostic Test - Quantitative Reasoning
The following is a diagnostic test I made for you to test your general aptitude for the GRE. Some of these questions are of the same format as in the real test, though slightly easier than the actual test. Please attempt this test in 15 minutes or less, and time yourself. For every extra minute you take, deduct one mark from your total score. For an accurate depiction of your performance, don't refer to study material or any other resource for help. All the best!
What Your Results Mean
- If your score is ≥ 7, then you are in the right direction and may need just a month to prepare for the GRE. Your focus should be on solving as many questions as possible and perfecting your test-taking strategy through mock tests.
- If your score is < 7, then you need to go back to the drawing board and solidify your concepts. This is not a worrying score by the way, even if you get a 1 or a 2. You just need to practice more. Simple.
Diagnostic Test - Verbal Reasoning
The following is a diagnostic test I made for you to test your general aptitude for the GRE. All of these are authentic sample GRE questions. Please attempt this test in 10 minutes or less, and time yourself. For every extra minute you take, deduct one mark from your total score. For an accurate depiction of your performance, don't refer to study material or any other resource for help. All the best!
What Your Results Mean
- If your score is ≥ 7, then you are in the right direction and may need just a month to prepare for the GRE. Your focus should be on solving as many questions as possible and perfecting your test-taking strategy through mock tests. Also, expand your vocabulary bank by downloading the Merriam Webster dictionary app.
- If your score is < 7, then most likely, your vocabulary is poor. Not to worry. Just memorise and learn 40-50 words every single day, and try and use as many as you can in your daily conversations. In a month, you'll be Tharoor-ified.
I hope that this guide was of some help to you. You can join the GREClub forum (from the founders of GMATClub) and find some free test material and questions there.
All the very best!