Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What you've always wanted to know about GRE preparation

When I was preparing for the General GRE, it was a completely mad rush, with me having to ask anyone and everyone for help and advice. So, the conglomeration of all that information is what guided me throughout. Today, I am going to put that all down (combined with my own experiences) so that others don't have to grapple with the same questions and uncertainties and can really concentrate on studying for the exam.
  1. Don't fall into the trap of not booking a date!! You will find it hard to study if you haven't booked a date
  2. Book a date sufficiently into the future (say 2-3 months) and work towards it as if the date can not be postponed. I've seen many people postpone the date just because they can. Don't fall into that trap
  3. I used the Barron's book for everything
  4. Don't take the quant section lightly. Even though it is easy, it is time critical and there are many trick questions
  5. Even though the word list will seem daunting at first, keep at at and try to do as much of it as you can. I must have landed up knowing close to 3000 (out of the 3500) words in the Barron's word list
  6. Attack the High Frequency Words first (about 350). Make sure you use the list from both Barron and Kaplan. This file contains all such words and words that I found hard. Use the Barron's and Kaplan's list from here and make you own list of "hard" words (everyone will find a different set hard)
  7. Then do the words list-by-list. There are about 50 word lists in the Barron's book. Each word list can take you anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to do if you are doing it the first time. Towards the end, you should be able to do all the word lists in 2-3 days (assuming 5-6 working hours each day)
  8. Solve as many exercise problems in the Barron's book as you can in the quant section
  9. For quant practice, use The Nova GRE prep. book. The quant in this book is easier than what you will get in the GRE, so use this as your first round of preparation
  10. Take the 5 sample tests given at the end of the Barron's book. They are very close to the actual GRE test in terms of difficulty
  11. The Kaplan tests too are of GRE difficulty level (I would say a tiny bit more difficult, but that shouldn't be something you should factor in). The 6 practice exercises in Kaplan are way too easy (for quant) and the 30 min you get to solve them is sufficient. The quant in the 3 sample tests is harder and is of GRE difficulty level
  12. POWERPREP (the official GRE prep. software) is something you must do before the test. They give you 2 sample tests. Take them 1-3 days before the real test when you are sudo prepared for the test. These will give you a great indicator of what score you might land up getting. If you do badly in some section, try to spruce up your act in that section. The drawback of taking it so late (just before the test) is that you don't give yourself enough time to rectify your weak areas. However, I wouldn't want anyone to "waste" these tests before they are fully prepared for the simple reason that these tests are really good indicators of how much you might land up getting
  13. None of the other tests I took were of the GRE difficulty level, so make sure that you take all of the tests above before you take the GRE
  14. On the day of the test, make sure you arrive at the test center on time and have all the required documents
  15. That's about it and all the best!!