How to Prepare for GRE?

So many students have been asking the alumni on how to prepare for GRE. Well, we have a write-up by Ms. Deepthi Thomas (CEC 2011 BTech), who is currently in the US, on her experiences during GRE preps. Hope this will be useful to our students, and thanks to Deepthi for writing this stuff for us.

An old post in this blog might also be worth looking at this point of time:

GRE Preparation

My GRE Days

Deepthi Thomas (CEC 2011 BTech)

I kick started my preparation by seeking advice from my seniors who have already done their MS in US.  I referred happy schools blog to prepare a study plan.

My very first hassle was to choose a good book to guide me. I was not planning to join any coaching classes thus it was important to choose the book wisely. After some research I decided on Manhattan Prep and ETS’s official guide to GRE revised General Test. I recommend Manhattan Prep because it gave me a platform to get all the strategies required in an extensive fashion in one place. All the strategies that I adopted were from them. They also offered six online mock tests with detailed evaluation reports. This really helped me in improving my performance. I did tests and exercises from ETS’s Official guide as well. The two online tests offered by ETS were really helpful since the real test resembled the same format and pattern.

Even though I was good at essays during my school days, it was of little help in my GRE. I was scared to write one spontaneously. I knew I needed lot of practice to frame a good essay in 30 minutes. I was able to do so with a bit of help from my husband and in-laws. They gave me at least one topic a week and reviewed my essay. This slowly built up my confidence in developing one and improved my essay writing skills.  Learning a few “starter” sentences and practicing to modify them according to our needs is very important.  Finding points and framing them logically with good examples and reasons in 30 minutes need good practice. Few framed sentences can save a lot of time. Having a good vocabulary is an advantage in essay and verbal preparation. Unfortunately I lacked it and hence had to work hard to compensate for it. Though I started reading articles and news in the beginning, I regret about the fact that I dropped it in the due course of my study.

Considering Issue essay, brainstorming few essays from the Issue pool in a timed framework can help in overcoming the fear and anxiety we may encounter when given a new topic. It’s always good to discuss the points with somebody who can add on to yours.  My husband helped me a lot in doing this. When compared to issue essays, argument essays are very easy during the exam time, provided we have done our homework well.  Prepare an extensive checklist of flaws and by-heart them. Identifying the flaws at the first pass can save a lot of time. Brainstorm and read as many argument essays as possible. With few framed sentences for flaws and improvisation of argument, everybody can perform well in them.

GRE applicants find verbal tougher when compared to quantitative. Though one reason could be that, most of them are engineers and  are good in math, a more apt reason is, most of the GRE words are not the ones that we come across in our conversations. An extensive reader might have, but for one like me, who seldom reads, most of them were new.  In order to get a very good score in verbal, I realized that I need to stress on my weakest area- vocabulary. There is no escape from it but there are many efficient techniques which is available in most of the preparation materials. Frequent revision is as important as learning new words. Two of the many methods I followed were-deliberate use of these words in sentences as well as using “post-its” to familiarize them.  Knowing all the words in GRE might be impractical; however you always have an advantage if u can make out the meaning of most of them. This can save a lot of time. Reading lots of articles and making your own notes on your understanding of the passages can help in increasing the speed and understanding of reading comprehensions.

Though I was good in quant, I used to make a lot of careless mistakes and this was a great concern for me. Managing time is another hurdle. With continuous practice and time management techniques I could overcome both of these troubles. One question type that eats up most of my time is data interpretation- but through continuous practice of different types of DI questions I could perform wellJ.

Have a study plan from the start of your preparation. Recognize your weakness and strengths. Concentrate on weaker areas and strengthen your stronger areas. Getting high overall score(verbal+ quant) with very low score in any one of these and very high in other can do no good, since universities ask for individual scores and getting a good score in both is necessary to be a competent applicant. I used to allocate 3-4 hours per day for the 2 months and at least 4-5 hours in the remaining 3 months. When I lost days, I used to compensate for them. Start doing small tests while learning the strategies for each question type. However, I started with my full length tests only after learning all strategies and completing all small tests which I had targeted for.  One of the important things to take care is, never skip a question, always mark the best answer you can think of and come back to it if you get time.

 I did all the exercises in Manhattan Prep, ETS’s official guide and from I started doing full length mock tests one and half month before the exam. Practicing these full length tests is a key aspect because sitting in your seat for 4 to 5 hours without big breaks and more importantly with full focus, giving your best, need some practice. Don’t skip the essays while writing mock tests. They are as important as the remaining part of the exam. I did 2 ETS online tests and 6 Manhattan prep online tests. The ETS tests were very helpful as they are very similar to real test.

I completed all my revisions and tests save one, before the last week.  I did my last mock test and revised few key areas in which I was weak in the last week. I didn’t try to learn anything new, following advice from my seniors. Last minute learning is of little help in cracking GRE. I stopped revision one day before the exam and went for trekking. Getting relaxed is very important in order to have a fresh mind the next day. Be prepared with the colleges you are planning to send the scores to and carry a valid ID to the exam center.

These are the strategies that I followed. Everybody is different; hopefully my article can give you guidance in preparing for GRE.  All the Best for your exam!


We have some more tips from Amal Krishnan, our alumnus, for those who are preparing for GRE. They follow:

Vocabulary: Flashcards for hard words, MP3 wordlists,

Avoiding Careless mistakes in Quant: I used to make tons of careless mistakes in the Quantitative section. I picked up this technique (I forget where) to work on this problem. Every time you make a careless mistake (found during verifying your answers), write down in a sheet of paper what kind of mistake you had made with a count. If you make the same kind of mistake again, increment the count. As you do more practice tests keep building this list. I found that the number one reason why I made mistakes (15-20 counts) was skipping steps and mis-reading numbers (1 instead of 7). So I started working on not skipping steps and writing more legibly. You might have different reasons behind making mistakes. This technique helped and I ended up scoring 100% in quants

General Score Building: I took full-length practice tests every week. The next week’s prime focus would be on areas that I sucked at. I saw a significant increase in my performance with this technique.

I posted something on edulix a couple of years back. The resources may not be useful now because of the new GRE format, but some of the techniques I talk about might come in handy. As follows (also at:


I was sort of shocked when I saw the score as I thought i did pretty bad in quants. AWA topics were pretty straightforward and I was pretty happy with what I wrote. Then came Quants. Quants was significantly tougher than powerprep and I had to do some guessing to save time. Verbal started off easy. But RCs that came in the middle were tough as hell. I got two pretty hard RCs one after the another. That sorta kicked me in the nuts and I thought i lost it. I guess I lost my verbal 50-70 there. Sentence completions, analogies and antonyms were pretty straightforward. No words out of barrons thankfully. I guess the actual scoring mechanism is a bit more lenient when compared to powerprep; I’m pretty sure i messed up more than 3 questions in quants.

I spent about 2 months preparing … about 40 days of preparation along with work. Finished Barrons, Novas and content during this time. Took about 20 days off from work and focused on word list revision, Kaplan verbal workbook, Bigbook and exam sims…

I’d recommend the following materials for each section:
Antonyms – Kaplan Verbal
Analogies – Kaplan Verbal
RCs – Novas (Hands down)
Novas and Barrons
Novas Novas Novas !!

Some of the other aids that i used include a hell lot of flashcards and mp3 word lists (listened to them while commuting). I also highly recommend Word Master Vocabs. Although not GRE oriented, it’s an excellent resource to learn some new words.

And the scores of all the full length tests that I attempted in chronological order:
Barrons I V590 Q430 (Fooled around in Quants Confused )
Peterson I V520 Q570
Kaplan CAT I V600 Q690
Kaplan CAT II V600 Q740
Barrons II V650 Q630
Powerprep I V680 Q740 (Sept 19th)
Princeton CAT V700 Q780
Barrons III V650 Q770
Barrons IV V650 Q700
Barrons V V720 Q700
Princeton CAT 2 V740 Q800 ( This sorta made me feel complacent)
Powerprep 2 V680 Q750 (A week before) (This broke my heart)
Kaplan CAT 3 V610 Q750
Poweprep I again V710 Q770
Powerprep II again V680 Q770 (Day before the exam)
GRE V700 Q800

Attempt powerprep exams atleast twice… a lot of different questions popped up the second time I attempted them

Best of luck everyone … and thanks a lot to everyone here for making this forum active! Oh yeah… few other tips

<> Keep going no matter how much you think you screwed the previous questions … its important to stay focused on the question in hand. This comes with practice !

<> Learn to let go: Being an comp sci guy, i never used to give up on a math problem. I would spend an inordinate amount of time trying to solve them. Even though this is honorable, it is a pretty dumb thing to do in GRE, since timing is very crucial. Thanks to quitting and guessing 2/3 questions, i managed to finish the section in time and get a 800.

Thanks, Deepthi Thomas and Amal Krishnan for sharing these pieces of advice with us all.

Arunanand T A
CEC 2010 BTech