Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Score: 1370

When you take a primary test, you know what are the sections you are good at and what are the sections you need to work really hard on. For me, maths was never a problem, but english needed a lot of effort. Due to a many exams going on simultaneously for me, all I could manage was about 3 months of consistent effort(about 1-2 hours everyday) and 1 month of concentrated effort(about 15-16 hours every day). But then again, this is the formula that worked for me, you have to decide your own formula based on the time and the resources you have.


Initially, I would always get a score of say 340 to 400. Soon I realised that I needed to master the vocabs first. For vocabs, Barrons is more than sufficient. I also used the book "WORD POWER MADE EASY" by Norman Lewis. Don't just learn words. Use them. Write stuff using the words you have learnt. Be aware of the roots of the words, it makes learning a lot more easier. I did this and many would be surprised to know that I completed the 50 word lists of Barrons in 7 days. Just 1 week. All because I just did not learn the words, I used them. Also, be aware of the nuances in word meanings. While a spendthrift always squanders money, a thrifty person is just the reverse. To be vindictive is to be revengeful, but to vindicate is to free from blame. Be very careful about the secondary meanings of words.

Take care of the words with more than one meanings.

Do not make me RESTIVE(restlessly impatient), you RESTIVE(obstinately resisting to move forward) man.

Gabbar's men BESIEGED(surround with armed forces) the village in Sholay, and the villagers BESIEGED(harassed with requests) Jai and Veeru to leave.Sounds ludicrous, huh? Never mind that, as long as you can remember each and every word

Remember, learning some odd 2.5k words is not a matter of joke, so you have to work on it.

Analogy, antonyms and sentence completions become a lot more easier when you know the words. And do not omit a particular answer choice if you do not know its meaning. In analogy, you have to know how to make connections between the pairs of words. But I'm sure you are aware of all this, so I'll skip this part.

The one thing that was always a problem for me was the RC. I never had the patience to look at the screen and get the meaning of everything. In my main exam, I had a real long passage and two short passages. The science essays were okay, but I always get lost when it is something on arts and the social sciences. So at the end of my first passage, I did not even know where all this was leading to, I was totally lost. Even the 5 answer choices were 5-6 lines each. So I just kept making educated guesses and moved on. I know that is where I lost my marks, but never mind that, 'coz time management is another thing. You just cannot pore over the RC part and not complete the entire test. Not that I am recommending you to make guesses, don't do it as long as you can handle RCs well.


Brush up your school level math. Of course the questions would not be that easy, but you need to get your basics right. Geometry, algebra and arithmetic was extremely easy for me. I got a lot of SD and y=mx+c types sums. There was also a data interpretation question that proved to be very time consuming. So rather than doing the sum, you should be able to just look at the answer choices and have an idea of what the answer possibly could be, and then confirm it. If I did each and every piece of calculation, I could not have completed it. This especially goes for calculating percentages and the value of fractions. All you need is a lot of practice.


My favourite section. I had not practised writing even a single essay prior to my exam. But i managed just fine. This is because I write a lot in general, in my blogs, personal diaries, and if you could develop this habit, nothing better. Some people ask me if they should rote learn a few topics and go for the exam. Trust me, that is the worst thing you can do. Just decide on your topic and get your brains storming for ideas and examples to write in your essays. The time allotted is a lot, I finished about 10 minutes early. And for the record, I wrote about 10 medium paragraphs in my essay and 7 quite well reasoned paragraphs in my argument. If you do not have the flair for writing, you cannot change in a month. All you can do is get into the habit of writing.

I was lucky to get a research section and not a repeat section. The test was too exhausting, and I did not have the enthusiasm to go for a repeat section. But then, its your luck that counts here, you can do nothing much about it.


There is no hard and fast rule regarding how much you should practice, the more, the better. Initially I would take 3 mock tests per week. In the last 2 weeks, I would take a test everyday. But then again, do not over do things.

I did my word list from Barrons and the Norman Lewis book. Apart from this, there are two websites I found very useful.

Ofcourse Barrons is sufficient. For me, it never really harmed to learn a few extra words.

Apart from this, I did a lot of test papers in the USEFI. I had totally completed books like the Princeton and Arco. And yes, the Big Book is an extremely good one. Regarding the CDs, I did each and everyone of them.....Powerprep, Arco, Cambridge, Rea, Petersons, Kaplan, you just name it. That went a long way in improvig my scores.

Keep a record of your scores to see how you are improving with time. In maths, I always used to get 770-780 from day 1, but verbals started pathetically for me. In the initial few weeks, I could not go beyond 1120-1140. Slowly, I picked up pace. I did quite well during the last few days, getting somewhere around 1360-1420. And my actual scores are pretty close. I always had some serious problems with the RC part and that's where things went wrong. Never mind that.


Just relax, get a good nights sleep, be in good shape and remember, you are at your best. Avoid last moment cramming and keep your cool. And do not forget to carry your secondary ID other than your passport and mail confirmation.

Good Luck.


Update a few weeks later:

My scores are here. Although not earth shattering, they are decent enough. GRE: 580 verbal, 790 quants, AWA/Essay section- 6.0. TOEFL (290, 6.0 in essay).

And I hope this qualifies me to give you some basic advice about handling the writing section. This post is mainly in response to the deluge of mails in my mailbox, every body wanting to know how did I tackle the writing section.

I did not even write a single practice essay from either sections prior to GRE/TOEFL. 

Just 2 solid tips. Build a strong vocabulary and start writing.

Read whatever you can lay your hands on, make note of any unfamiliar word you come across and look up the dictionary. Do not go about blindly learning words, USE THEM. Let some of your friends be people with an amazing vocabulary. 5 years back, I once invested my whole month's salary in buying myself a copy of the Oxford Dictionary. Till date, it’s been my best investment, and the most frequently used book in my study.

Get into the habit of writing NOW! In school, I was very average in English and my essays would never be read aloud in class. They were so unimpressive that I was once interrupted in the middle of my essay reading and asked to go back to my seat. However, I am sure that I have impressed my GRE/TOEFL essay readers this time.

Writing is a habit, an addiction. Start writing a diary or a blog. Read some good blogs everyday. It is all about how well you articulate your thoughts and put them into words. And there is always a social responsibility when you know that there are many people who invest their time reading your blogs, that makes you want to better your writing skills.

And these things would not just help you for your GRE. They will help you all your life.
Hope these few basic tips help. Any body with specific questions or problems in any of the sections, please feel free to write to me.

Good Luck.


the stallion said...

i agree with both the views of not overdoing things and secondly of remaining calm and confident.
Good job! most people dnt tell others to these two v imp things.

sunshine said...

stallion.....thanx buddy.

balmy beach reflections said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
balmy beach reflections said...

hey! Got ur blogspot from one of my gre yahoo prep mails.
Did u get snapped at one of the Pizza Huts ?

Arun Radhakrishnan said...

Hi SunShine,

I came across your post on GRE tips on a forum. Its great of you to share tips on the preparations. Really appreciate that. I was keen to know what colleges you got calls from and which one you finally joined. I am taking the test in a few months. Would be grateful to hear from you.