Zariya Mushtaq- GRE 319

Zariya Mushtaq from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) scored 319 on the GRE. She has shared some invaluable pieces of advice on how to tackle different sections of the GRE:

On Reading Comprehension

There are two types of reading comprehension questions in the GRE.
The first type is relatively easy: it’s where you have to go through the given 2-3 lines and answer the question that is based on those lines. My advice would be to attempt such questions at your earliest so as to get them out of your way and focus on the second kind.
The second type is a bit tricky. It’s where you have to go through a full-length passage and answer the subsequent 2-4 questions that are based on that particular passage. For such questions, I would suggest that you skim through the passage in order to have a basic idea as to what the passage is about and which idea lies where. After you have given the passage a cursory read, go through the questions; now, you will know exactly where to look in the passage. This time around, read the relevant portions of the passage carefully, understand them and then proceed to solve the questions.

On Sentence Equivalence & Text Completion

For this section, it all comes down to how vast your vocabulary is and whether or not you can make sense of the complex sentence structure.
In Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion, you have to fill in the blank with the right word/phrase. If your vocabulary is good, you will be able to:

  1. Pick the right answer choice instantly; or,
  2. Eliminate the wrong choices and thereby improve your chances of getting to the right answer.

To build my vocabulary, I memorized the Magoosh word lists. I will recommend that you guys download the Magoosh app on your phone and memorize the words whenever you have some free time on your hands.
Having a vast vocabulary will indeed help you in the test but it is equally important that you guys are able to make sense of the complex sentence structures. Often times, the questions do not contain difficult words; they are simple, yet tricky. In order to effectively solve such questions, you need to be able to make sense of the complicated sentence structure; you need to know if the words used in the questions have a positive or a negative connotation attached to them. Whether words like “while, however, contrarily” have been used in the questions. These little flags and hints will take you to the right answer choice. Thus, my advice would be that you practise from different books (ESPECIALLY THE ETS GUIDES) to familiarize yourself with such question types and sentence structures.

On Time Management on the Verbal Section

As mentioned earlier, try to solve the shorter passages first and bag as many scores as you can. That said, sometimes the longest passage is the easiest of all and the shorter passage is difficult to comprehend. In such case, start with the passage that you think is the easiest. You can come to the difficult questions later on.
For instance, if you are a law major and there are certain questions in the exam that are related to law, you might want to attempt them first. On the other hand, you might not be able to easily fathom a passage that revolves around engineering or borrows concepts from the hard core sciences; in such a scenario, it is better to leave that passage for the last.
Since every question is worth one mark, you need to know when to let go of certain questions. This will come with practice; the more you practise, the better you will get!

On Quantitative Concepts & Question Types

I attempted Quant practice tests from 4-5 different books including Manhattan, Kaplan, Barrons, Princeton and ETS guides. Some books had comparatively easier questions whereas the rest had some tough ones. If you practise from different books, it will prepare you for all kinds of questions.

General Advice

First of all, gather the relevant books and material so you have everything just a tap/click away. Next, start preparing for the exam and take some practice tests for each topic. Once you have covered all the major topics, take a full-length mock exam and see which part requires more effort.
Dedicate more time and effort to your weak points while simultaneously maintaining a vocab-learning routine. After 10-15 days, take another mock exam and see which parts have improved and which parts still require your attention.
All in all, I will suggest that you take at least 3 full-length mock exams (including the essay part) before your actual exam. This exercise will give you an idea as to how to manage time and stay focused throughout the exam because often times we get tired towards the end and try to finish the final two sections without putting in our sincere efforts. This can hit your score badly. If you have managed to sail through the first 3 hours, don’t let the last 30/45 minutes plunge your score. It is important that you stay focused for the entire 4 hours duration of the test. So, PRACTISE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!!!! Good Luck! 🙂

Basit Ghauri – GRE 317

Muhammad Basit Ghauri from NUST H-12 increased his score from 303 to 317 on GRE in 2 months. Here is how he approached his preparation.

On Reading Comprehension

For Comprehensions I first went through the whole passage just to get major idea about it. Although skimming through paragraph did not allow me to remember any specifics but it gave me a structural idea of what part of passage will answer my particular question. So after reading the question, I re-read that particular part to find the correct answer.
I believe that strategy to this varies from person to person. One strategy which is good for one person might not work for other. So I suggest to check your performance by practising all strategies before selecting one for final GRE.

On Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion

According to my personal experience, foremost requirement of GRE (Verbal) is vocabulary. I improved more than 50 % marks in my mock test after learning 1500 words of GRE vocabulary. For text completion, understanding logic of the sentence is important. Text completion with multiple blanks gave me a hard time and was my weakest area. Strategically i suggest to fill in the most obvious choice first if there is, then try to complete the rest of blanks accordingly. However, It should be remembered that even after selecting the most obvious option for first blank, you have to check other options as well. Sometimes one word itself seems unsuitable until other three blanks are completed according to it and together they make better sense.
For me these questions were most time consuming and they may get applicants tense about performance. One should know before exam that getting stuck on these question or their time consumption is normal, so no need to get nervous.

About Time Management on Verbal Section

In my view, time management can be done in any way as suitable to applicant. However whatever strategy one plans to adopt, it must be practised before test.
For reading comprehensions, some comprehensions are harder than other, so whatever happens, dont spend more than your pre-decided time on any set of questions. If you are exceeding your set time range, than leave those questions for the end.
I personally left couple of comprehension passages for the end after realising they might take more time. However i finished all sections before time and kept 3-5 minutes for revision of solved questions only.

On Quantitative Concepts and question types.

Best Strategy for Quantitative section is to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. You should learn shortcuts for solving problems. For data interpretation questions, I first read question and then understand the graph thoroughly. I spend more time on understanding the graph because once its done, getting an answer becomes too easy and less time consuming.
Also improve your general mathematics skills in case math is not your strong point. That can be done by PRACTICE only.

On Time Management of Quantitative Section

I had no issue in time management of quantitative section. One can proceed in order of questions and passing time consuming questions for the end.
One should keep in mind that first section of quant might be easier and you end up finishing it well before your time. Dont let it mistake you for expecting same questions in next section. You might end up short of time in next section after finishing early in the 1st section. So keep track of time management for each section as decided before exam.I personally keep extra 5 minutes at last for revising questions.

General Advice

Everyone have potential for scoring good in GRE. All it needs is determination.
For people weaker in verbal, focus on vocab. For those weaker in Quant, focus on practice and shortcut solutions.
For mocks, its best to do them after achieving a particular milestone of your preparation (For instance, i took them before starting GRE, after learning vocab, after finishing of with all topics of quant). It gives you an idea of how much improvement you are having. Also helps in motivating you and gives you a reality check about your performance.

Mohammad Salman- GRE 325

Mohammad Salman from NUST College Electrical & Mechanical Engineering increased his score from 307 to 325 with 2 and a half months of preparation. He has shared some invaluable pieces of advice on how to tackle different sections of the GRE:

On Reading Comprehension

I mostly relied on tips which are normally available online and they worked well for me. But along side these tips, it is necessary to bring your comprehension skills to the level of GRE passages which typically utilize an elevated writing style. It’s not just the vocabulary used, but also the sentence structure, writing style and other related stuff. So it’s good to read articles which also utilize this form of writing. I recommend Magoosh’s "article of the month" section in which they have compiled a list of such articles.

On Sentence Equivalence & Text Completion

Like most people, I wasn’t really fond of learning vocabulary. So I think I did around 500-700 words (Magoosh apps did a great job in getting me this far). However, this is a low number. In fact, I feel that you should at least get 700-800 words down.

Only relying on contextual based understanding can only get you so far. There will be times when it won’t help you and only your knowledge of vocabulary will help you. So the more words you have at your disposal the better.

But since learning 1000 words or more can be a daunting task for candidates like me, I guess you should try and find a compromise between contextual understanding and vocabulary memorization. For me, if I had been able to get around 800-900, my test may have gone better (like 3-5 points better).

On Time Management on the Verbal Section

Again, tips from the internet were good enough for me. In fact, if I remember correctly, I followed Sir Umair’s plan which he has shared in his articles. And I think that plan should be suited to most candidates (with minor changes here and there if needed to personalize it according to your abilities).

The long passage should be kept at the last since the points you will get for attempting those questions is the same as all the others (assuming weightages aren’t applied within a single section. Sir Umair can guide you better on this). Also, I believe the long passage is also a little tougher so it’s best not to spend too much time on it at the start and then having little or no time for all the other questions.

On Quantitative Concepts & Question Types

Nothing new. I learned all the techniques for solving these types of questions from Magoosh videos.

As far as the concepts are concerned, being an engineering student I didn’t have a lot of trouble tackling these concepts for the GRE.

A tip for attempting these questions from a standardized exam perspective, however, could be that you need not show the whole working or doing things step by step if you can do them directly comfortably enough. Because you will only be getting points on your final answer unlike in school or university. So I got some tips and shortcuts for doing some typical questions from Magoosh.

On Time Management on the Quantitative Section

I didn’t have anything personalized I think. The usual strategies typically work well (with slight adjustments if necessary).

General Advice

Please spread your mocks throughout the preparation period. And save like maybe one or two tests from ETS for the end because those tests would truly depict the difficulty of an actual test. So your score on those tests would be more representative of how you may do on test day.

What I did was that I took one ETS test before I started any preparation to see where I stand so that I can gauge how much have I improved. Now in order to improve you definitely need to maintain some form of an error log for sure so you can, after some time, look over them and keep them in your head so you can avoid them in the future. Same goes for vocabulary. Keep relearning all the words that you have done like a week or month back so that they stay in your memory. I have already highlighted the importance of vocabulary in a question above.

Also, at the end, I would like to add a point which I faced during my preparation. So it may not be for everyone. I got a 311 on my first ETS test, which I did without any preparation. I then practiced for sometime and I gave a mock test and my score was only very slightly different from the first. Again I practiced, and again I got a similar result (in case you’re wondering, the practice tests were different each time). So I had kind of plateaued and the scores I got ranged from 307-311 or 314. Yeah, I got a lower score after practice (307)! And the funny thing was that I actually felt that I was improving. It was just that I wasn’t able to put it on paper. It was disheartening for sure. I think I even did no practice for like 7 or 10 days because of thinking that I wasn’t progressing.

Finally as the test date approached closer, my scores also grew. From 314 it went to 317 and finally 320. On the actual exam, thanks to Allah, I got a 325. And most of this growth was during the last three weeks. The thing is that the mock test "tests" your whole skill set and not just the topics you have done. So don’t feel down like I did in case you plateau. Just keep at it. IA as you cover and get better at more topics, you will start scoring better on your mock tests. Just give it time, and be sure to learn from your errors.

So these were my two cents. The typical strategies and tips for preparation and for test day, and for the day before the test day can be found online and if you’re with Sir Umair, follow his advice. I took some tips from him and they definitely worked for me. Practice and pray and trust yourself. That’s all from my end.

Umer Jamil- GRE 323

My biggest fear was taking the mock. I didn’t feel confident enough that I will be able to sit through the 3-4 hours long test and get a respectable score at the end. I went on with my preparation while continuing to avoid taking the diagnostic test. When I told Umair about this, he helped me in this regard by offering me to come to his facility to take the mock in a peaceful environment. Afterwards, Umair analyzed the results and gave me invaluable guidelines, such as those related to the best resources out there and how I should maintain an error log of my practice.

During the prep, Umair guided me at every step of the way. I remember that 3-4 days before the test, I took the PowerPrep II mock and my score was 309 (148C, 161Q). It was too low. I talked to the mentors there and they convinced me that one anomalous mock score does not predict the score in the actual test. Their constant reassurance helped me regain my confidence before the big day.

My score on the actual test was 323 (158V, 165Q). Due to Umair’s help, I raised my score by 15 points (8 points in verbal and 7 points in quant). Needless to say, without Quva, I would still be preparing for GRE