How to score a 330 on the GRE
As I began preparing for the GRE, I knew I needed a 330+ score to be considered at some of the top universities in the world, and particularly for scholarships.
I began with a mock to assess where I currently was.
324 (161 — V, 163 — Q), I had some work to do.
I realized the challenge with Quant was accuracy, specially on the advanced problems. On Verbal, my limited vocabulary was proving a hurdle.
Over the next two months, along with pursuing my post-grad diploma, I tried to take out time for practice, Vocabulary quizzes, and read up on basic quant formulae, along with 1 mock practice test a week.
My scores as I progressed with my practice (you can compare them as you go through yours, don’t get worried by sudden drops) -
Manhattan 1 Q — 161, V — 158, TOTAL — 319
Manhattan 2 Q — 161, V — 162, TOTAL — 323
Manhattan 3 Q — 168, V — 164, TOTAL — 332
Manhattan 4 Q — 163, V — 162, TOTAL — 325
Manhattan 5 Q — 166, V — 163, TOTAL — 329
Manhattan 6 Q — 164, V — 162, TOTAL — 326
Powerprep 1 Q — 169, V — 166, TOTAL — 335
Powerprep 2 Q — 167, V — 170, TOTAL — 337
Ultimately on test day, I scored
Q — 169, V — 165, AWA — 5.5
TOTAL — 334
Mission Accomplished. The final test was much more challenging than the two Powerpreps for me, however that experience differs from person to person. That’s why though my score was lower than in the Powerpreps, I was happy. I know I struggled through my second Verbal and Quant sections on the actual test.
Before talking about how to prep for the GRE it is important to understand that this is an aptitude test testing very specific skills. All of us have developed these skills through our school and college education, but to differing extents. GRE Preparation of a few months can help you polish those skills, ensure you don’t make silly mistakes, and can provide you with stamina to do the test. However, it can not compensate for the skill development process. Thus, when you give your first mock you will understand where you currently stand in terms of these skills. Following the below steps, your score can see a jump of about 10 points. However, it is unrealistic to expect that you can go from a 300 to a 330 in a few months.
As soon as you know you will be giving the GRE someday, give a mock test. Understand where you are. Decide what score you need to hit, for the universities you are targeting. That will tell you whether you need to invest 6–8 months in the preparation process or just 1–2 months. This blog talks about the latter — few months of preparation, to pick your score up by 10 points or so. For help with a longer prep duration where critical thinking or analytical writing skills need a lot of work — message me in the comments section if needed.
Prep Plan —
Instead of dictating a plan for all, I’ve put together the various elements of preparation that need to be focused on. Since everybody has different schedules, it makes sense for each person to make their own plan.
So let’s get into it.
- Practice Tests
Use the paid Manhattan Prep test series for your mock test practice, they are challenging. The 2nd Quant section will have you struggling for time, don’t worry about that. Its good to go through a stressful experience before the actual test, so you are calm in case it happens on test day.
There are 6 tests available here. Along with this, you’ll find 1 free Kaplan test, 2 tests in the ETS Official guide, and 2 free Powerprep II Tests that you can download from the ETS website. Don’t do more than 1 mock a week. And save the Powerpreps for the end. (Avoid Crunchprep, at least the verbal)
The GRE is a long long exam, and even after doing many mocks, the final test day can be pretty draining. That is why not taking any shortcuts on the mocks, is extremely important. It is also important to ensure that you do the tests around the time that you will be giving the GRE, so that your mind and body are ready to be alert — 8am, 10am, or whatever slot you will be booking.
Begin your preparation with Manhattan’s first mock to know where you stand and what you need to work on — weaknesses. That’s free.
After that — using the same email id with which you make your Manhattan a/c, go on Amazon and buy the Manhattan Sentence Equivalence book — Kindle version. Then email your amazon receipt to Manhattan from that same email id. They will activate your mock tests — 6, valid for 6 months. (Google this process once to make sure its still valid, shouldn’t have changed since I just did it 1.5 months back). This way you can get the tests for less than 500 rupees.
Vocabulary needs practice from the start, everyday. For that the Magoosh app is good, but a better way to do it is — download the ‘Quizlet’ app on your phone and search for Rajeshwar1247 or “Magoosh GRE Flashcards”. This kind individual has uploaded everything from the Magoosh Vocab book onto this app. You can learn and quiz yourself through this, so its a much faster method. Start doing this asap.
Don’t bother learning too many words, these 1000 words should be enough. The difficulty on the actual test is not that words are unfamiliar, but that the sentences are complex.
So instead of buying more vocabulary books and wasting money, practice all the Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions in the Manhattan 5lb book, note down each word you do not know, and make a separate list of those. Also go through the answers to catch your mistakes.
3. Analytical Writing
All the issue/argument topics are up on the ETS website, but going through them all does not help. First, Any guide (Official ETS Verbal guide, Manhattan RC guide) will provide you with an explanation of the general patterns of each type of essay. It is important to understand this and then read a few sample essays that score high (again found in guides).
The writing sections are not testing knowledge but instead structure and critical thinking ability. If you have a flair for writing, this should not be too challenging. However, if not, then take up a few topics and write your own essays, and then compare them with sample essays provided in the verbal or Manhattan guide. You will notice that you have missed out on a few arguments, and that will slowly help you think more critically, and write better essays.
4. Verbal and Quant Practice
Step 1 is to do the ETS General Test guide cover to cover, to understand the test and the Verbal and Quant sections. Do all the questions in the book and ensure you are clear about every concept in Quant.
Then you begin practice. Here the Manhattan 5lb. book is the best resource, with over 2000 questions. Solve questions in small sets of 20–25 and then go through the answers, understand your mistakes and note your weak areas. Use the insights from this practice and your mock tests to understand topics that you need to be more thorough in.
Then pick up the Manhattan book that is specific to your area of weakness and go deeper into that particular topic to completely clarify the concept for yourself. I did this with inequalities, but did not need to for most other topics. Don’t do this unless you feel it is required.
For VERBAL in particular, please also do the Official ETS Verbal Guide a few days before your actual GRE exam, since it is important to get accustomed to ETS’ way of testing.
If you create a plan covering 25–40 Vocabulary words and 20 practice questions a day, and 2 essays and 1 mock practice test a week, you will be more than prepared for a 330+
As a bonus, I did all this without spending a penny (except on the manhattan tests). This drive link has some of the resources I have mentioned above. The link isn’t mine, I happened to find it while I was doing my prep. Please download the resources on your system, as the last link I had found was pulled down by the owner eventually.
You will find things easily with some searching. Focus on:
- ETS General Guide
- ETS Verbal Guide – essential to do closet to your exam date to get used to the language used — https://drive.google.com/open?id=1u-0Mgu83Wv0XrmxmlVPngNJK8x-UAI_7
- Manhattan 5lb Book for practice
- Individual Manhattan series books depending on individual topics you want help with
- Magoosh Vocabulary book, though the practice via the app is more crucial
All the best for your test and hope this is useful!