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A How To for the GRE (by flounder)


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How to improve your GRE Score


++ There are lots of free online GRE practice Tests available. Take one of the test without any distractions and see how you score in Verbal and Quantitative.


++ For the questions you have answered wrong, make sure you find out why you selected the wrong answer and find how to solve it right. If you happen to learn a new formula or words, make a note of it. you could use a separate notebook, one for Verbal and one for Maths.


++ Also, spend at least 1 hour per day for GRE Vocabulary from Barron’s GRE book. It has 50 Word Lists. Try to remember atleast 1 word list per week. So, every week you can read 50 to 100 new words.


++ Week 1 read the first word list, Week 2 revise the first word list and then start learning the Second Word List. So, that you will not forget the words.


++ Best way to remember new words is to form a sentence for each word. ( Other technique I used is Flash Cards )


++ Next, take an GRE Practice Test again and see how much you score, and for mistakes you make, again evaluate what went wrong. In this way, you will learn new maths formulas and at same time your score will increase month by month.


++ No need to worry that you are scoring less in GRE tests now, every student initially has the same problem. Spending atleast 1-2 hours per day for first 3 months from now will get you going. In 4-5 months time you will see huge difference in the score.


++ So, the key to improve your GRE Scores and skills is to practice daily and if you select a wrong answer in your practice test, make sure you find the right answer and how to find the right answer.


++ Majority of the students make the mistake of not finding out the right answers for the questions they go it wrong in GRE Practice test. This is the most proven way to improve your scores in GRE. In your GRE exams (practice) and lets say you score 1000 and 2 months later in your GRE Practice test if you score around 1000 again, then I can say, 2 months of time spent studying GRE is of no use, unless the score improves.


++ If your score dosen’t improve, try following different approach for preparation. I will write about other ways to study for GRE.


Did your Score Improve?

Having tried above steps your scores will have to improve, but if thats not happening, then you are not really trying hard to improve your score.

GRE Score Curve


When preparing for GRE exam assume you have 2 months to exam. Taking exam during first 2 weeks will give you score based on your initial knowledge you have about math, verbal.


As you start learning lots of techniques and strategies, you will see your scores drop. That's normal.


then again in 2-3 weeks time your score will start increasing in practice test.


Thats reverse of bell curve :)

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Thank you.

I really like reading english on-line daily. I often read Nationalgeographic, Nature, Scientific American. But I don't read Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Economist. So I will read them. Your suggestion "It means scrutize it. What does it say? Whats the main topic and theme? Whats the actual scope, and what does the author hope to accomplish through this writing? Note the author's tone. It is sarcastic, approving, neutral, disparaging or skeptic etc. " will be helpful to me.

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Great post Ali..!! thanx so much!!


I was wondering if u can provide some insight into the follwoing plz... would u recommend memorising a whole list of words - say Kaplan's 500 word box, or the High Freq Words - BEFORE starting with the GRE practice tests?? i mean u can only answer so few correctly without really craming large sums of vocab words, no?? :hmm:



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Ok first of all, if you have the time available, I would suggest a 3-4 months prep time. Why? Well, since many of us come from Eng


Q How to prepare? Why just follow the posts on TestMagic of course.

Q Where to prepare from? I'd recommend in order of preference (difficulty from challenging to a bore): Power Prep, Big Book, Barrons, Kaplan and maybe Princeton Review

Q What to prepare? How much time needed to prepare? Read on :))




Vobabulary Building?


Ok, well and good. How to go about the vocabulary building? Well many people have suggested many different techniques, and at the end of the day, the one that will win is the one that suits you. I prefer the flash cards, and making them myself. They don't have to be cards, just get plenty of A4 size pages and and a paper cutter and start cutting cards of the apposite size. Make plenty of them. You can never have enough. And even after your GRE, you can still look at them to jolt your vocabulary. Maybe your kid brother and sister might use the same for their SATs or GREs or GMATs :) or if they are in good shape and you have no intention to humor the words further, you can sell them for some quick bucks he he he. I am sure many people would be interested hehe.


Another excellent source of words is the Big Book. It has some 27 actual administered paper GRE tests (2q and 2v sections each). Start giving the tests asap, and while you are at it, learn the new words from these tests. Remember these are the real tests, so you should know these words. By the end of the 27 tests, your vocabulary will be richer by another 500 or so words, not found in the previous lists.


Side by side, I'd suggest the use of some vocabulary building software like Guru's GRE (freeware available and can searched for on google.com). Its a nice easy way to learn new words. By now you would have learnt many words. So I'd suggest that you take all the 51 tests in Guru's GRE. You would know around 50-60 percent of the words. Don't guess on the words you don't know. The good thing is that the software remembers the words you didn't attempt. You can then continue to learn those ones.


Number2.0 has a good vocabulary building online engine. I'd recommend it wholly. Ok, now you can come back to the world of Barrons. I am assuming you still have some weeks left before the test. Go through the more common letters first like O, E, I, D, P, R, S, T, A, you etc. you and D help a lot with a lot of antonyms as in usage like dis- and un- which reverse the word. So you would be learning two words with each word.


Verbal Section:


Ok, apart from the vocabulary building, the



Thats it. That ladies and gentlemen, is the whole truth behind the GRE. Timing and pacing yourself, keeping a cool head, a good vocabulary and practice. You can signifantly improve your scores from those first dismal power prep scores, even by as much as 400 to 500 points. But practice and consistency would be the key.


Get the big book. It costs a lot, but its every penny worth it. No other book even comes close to the amount of practice that big book can offer you. Give the verbal tests. The timing is stringent as compared to the current GRE and that helps you to develop a good pace for attempting questions. The reading comprehension is difficult as hell, which is a good thing coz in the actual GRE the same is the case. And its a good vocabulary building exercise too.




I think my favorite part was your mention of engineering students. I was a physics major and I just got owned by the GRE after studying for a month or so to improve my score. I basically learned all the Barron's words and increased my vocabulary by about 400 words (you're probably thinking that I didn't study much, and you would be correct..though i crammed hardcore the last 2-3 days...and most of it has stuck..i didn't have many words to learn anyways).


However, I ended up with the same score as before almost.. earlier i had a 780 math/630 or something verbal..well the verbal study must have helped a little because on the entire GRE there was only one word taht I did not recognize at all. However, i still got a 750 on verbal, meaning that i missed a lot. I don't think i've ever missed a sentence completion, but i have weaknesses on critical reading (due to sometimes inferring things from outside the passage instead of from the passage as it states....or by poor understanding in choosing between two similar answers) and i also sometimes have weak understandings of closely related words...that's what i spent most of my time trying to improve while studying the small list of barron's words.


i'm looking for a better list with harder words now...although, it is mostly for completion's sake..i love english, and want to know as many useful synonyms for adjectives and adverbs..or even various epithets with which to refer to things (i thought of the word soubriquet..can't seem to remember whether that has any difference in meaning..will look it up later)...



the math section, which i had originally thought was pathetically easy for a physics major..owned me..i just worked way too slow...just a few months of no math slowed my skills down immensely...what i get for underestimating the test...but can you blame me? when you study quantum theory and end up doing complex difeq, vector calc, and matrix algebra...you aren't likely to take a test involving mere geometry and a few functions seriously...but I've learned my lesson...even if knowledge of how to solve something is in your head..if you haven't used it in ages, you will be too slow.


I was thinking about how you said the GRE doesn't have anything to do with intelligence..and i've always told people that as well..yet at the same time..i can't understand it when i face people who spend literally 100x more time studying for the GRE and still get owned by it really hard. However, perhaps they really are just that far behind in vocabulary and basic math skills.


Anyways, the people here really make me feel like working hard..when i think about my attempts to learn a 2nd language...i shudder to think of taking a test in that language. I know 2 years worth of japanese...but I don't have that much interest in learning the language due to the difficulty of kanji..if they converted over to a pure hiragana/katakana system..then i would willingly devote my time to that language since the grammar isn't too hard..and i love anime...but as it is..i find it unlikely that i will go to japan in the near future because I would rather learn korean. It's always painful to be surrounded by korean people in america...and no, there are no people fluent in korean who speak in just english..they will speak in korean when spoken to in korean..that's just reflex..and no, it is not enough to just hear part of the conversation..


anyways, i have promised myself not to worry about learning korean until i make my way into a good grad school or find a job. Unfortunately a physics degree is pretty useless for someone who doesn't want to be stuck in a lab..very few engineering jobs seem to take physicists..thus i need to get into an engineering program or something. I have a dual major in finance, so i am also looking for jobs involving that..such as consulting or financial analyst jobs, but most business jobs involve accounting it seems. Does anyone know other job position titles that would relate to finance? I would love to have some more places to apply to.


wow, i rambled on in a rather desultory manner..i meant to ask whether you think I should go through the big book or the guru program would be more difficult? also, i can't seem to find that other program called number 2.0

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As you are well aware, you'll be taking the GRE on a computer. This computer version is called the CAT, and here are some tips for killing the kitty:

  • The 10 first questions of each section are the most important ones. Why? Because as you know, the GRE adapts itself to your answers, so if you get the first question wrong, your next question will be easier. The test proceeds as such, pinpointing your score. But if you get the first ten questions wrong, you'll have to answer a whole bunch of questions correctly to dig yourself out of the hole. Did we just lose you? Then think of it this way: the tougher questions are worth more points, so you get a better score by answering the hard questions correctly. But the only way to get to the hard questions is to get the first few questions right. Yes, it's a bit confusing, but all that matters is that you should devote about half of your time to the first 10 questions.
  • There is no penalty for guessing. That's right. None. Not even an Indian burn or a pile driver. So NEVER leave a question blank. Flip a coin, spin a bottle, ask a Ouija board, pray for divine intervention, but you must guess. Besides, you can't skip questions either, so you might as well take a guess. Below, we'll give you some tips for effective guessing on each section.

Verbal tricks

The verbal section is one of the toughest sections to handle, because it's so based on whether you know the definitions of words or not. But there are little tricks that can help you out.

  • First and foremost, PRACTICE these questions over and over. You can get your hands on practice GREs at bookstores, so buy the book and PRACTICE. Sometimes the same words (or variants of them) pop up on multiple tests.
  • Study vocabulary words that commonly appear on the GRE. Many preparation booklets have lists of these words, but you can also buy GRE study cards here and here.
  • For the ANALOGIES:

    The most important thing to do with analogy questions is to
    turn the relationship between the two words into a sentence
    . Write that sentence down on your scratch paper so you don't forget it.


    Some of the most
    common relationships
    to look for are: part to whole, cause to effect, person to occupation, word to definition, and synonyms.

  • For the ANTONYMS:

    Antonyms can be tough because you have no context to work from; either you know the word or you don't. If you get a word you don't know, first
    try to pick the word apart
    . If part of the word looks familiar (for instance, it starts with "bio"), then use that information to try to guess at an answer ("bio" means "life," so the right answer will have something to do with "lack of life").


    Second, try to
    get a sense of the mood of the word
    . Even if you don't know what the word means, you can often tell if it's "good" or "bad." So if you have a gut feeling that the word, whatever it means, is a "good" thing, then it's opposite should sound "bad."


    Before you look at the possible answers, try to
    fill in the sentence with your own word
    . It'll make it easier to go through the answers.


    Use the context of the sentence
    . If the sentence implies that you're looking for a "good" word, then your answer should be a "good" word. The context can tell you tons about the sentence. For instance, you should look for buzzwords like "
    ," "
    ," and "
    ," which can give you clues.


    If the sentence has two blanks, then
    make sure that BOTH words fit nicely


    Read the passage as carefully as you can
    , no matter how boring it is. They make it boring on purpose, to get you off your rhythm.


    Read ALL of the choices
    before you pick an answer.


    The best way to prepare for the reading comprehension section is pure

Mathematics tricks

In order to ace the math section, you merely have to brush up on very specific math skills: algebra, fractions, percentages, geometry, and data analysis (reading graphs). We're not going to re-teach you algebra, so you gotta bone up on that stuff on your own. A study book would REALLY come in hand for re-familiarizing yourself with these concepts.

  • Use the process of elimination. Often times, you don't need to do any work when you can merely eliminate the wrong answers. For instance, what if you're presented with the question "What is 326 multiplied by 458?"

    A) 149,303

    B) 149,305

    C) 149,308

    D) 149,311

    E) 149,313

    You don't even need to bother doing the math. An even number multiplied by an even number ALWAYS has an even result. 326 and 458 are both even, and the only even choice is C) 149,308. So answer C and move on. Don't even bother doing the work.

  • Use your scratch paper. The drawings on the computer screen will be all out of proportion, and doing math these kinds of math problems in your head is impossible (unless you're Rain Man or Good Will Hunting). So make use of the scratch paper you're given, and feel free to recopy diagrams or charts.
    Analytical tricks

The biggest problem people have with the analytical questions is not that they're hard, but that they take too much TIME. There's an easy way to fix that:

  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. The only way to improve your speed on the analytical problems is to get used to the kinds of questions they ask.
  • When you read the rules to a logic problem, immediately write ALL of the rules down on your scratch paper BEFORE you try to answer any questions. Find the connections between the rules and map it all out, drawing pictures if necessary. It speeds things up enormously.
  • Abbreviate things. If they give you the names of colors, people, rivers, whatever, just use the first letter.
  • Never assume anything unless you're explicitly told it's so. The analytical section is basically testing if you jump to unfounded assumptions or not. Prove that you're a "not" and follow exactly what the rules tell you to do.

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Fantastic Posts!!! you guys are all great help. Forums are awesome when it comes to test preperation. I've had a previous experience to another test/Forum and yes I GIVE a lot of credit for the posters. I am extremely new to the GRE. I am planning to apply for Masters of Architecture Fall of 2010 (Application Due January 2010 including GRE Results) which leaves me 9 months to research, study, practice practice and practice!!!!! 4 out of the 5 programs in the southern california area require GRE! My first question is: Is there a passing number/score on GRE? Does each university ask for it's own standardized score?

Thanks, Rania Thanks Much Ali.

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hi.. I am giving my GRE in a month..I got a score of 510(v) and 590(q)in the last practice test that i took..I am very confused as to how to prepare...I found a lot of tips in your blog..but with one month left..how do I go about it? I am working on my essays and Reading comprehension...I have done the hit parade and beyond in princeton and now plan to start barrons high frequency...I need to improve my quant badly and work on verbal a bit..any advise will be a help!!
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hi Ali,


It is a very useful post.I have just started my prep for GRE.I need some suggestion.I already have kaplan,ets,barrons 16th edition.

I have heard about Barrons 12 th edtn is much better...is it true?What do you suggest?Are these books sufficient or something more is neded?

please help

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How about making stories... check this out... if you like this story or want more stories reply back on guptavix[at]gmail.com


Here she comes. She looked as pretty as ever, the dapper young Aarti flaunting her dappled décolleté dress passed Harsh. She was holding a dainty cup which she has just bought. Alas she fell down. Her clothes were daubed with mud. There was a delirium of what she should do. Harsh got a chance to dally and offered help. He debunked her theories that she was careless and that’s why she fall, rather blamed the excessive declivity of the slope. He offered help. She had first demur the idea of going to his home which was nearby but agreed as she came over her mental delirium. He defrayed her cup’s ( J I don’t know why ) Bill and started walking with her down the street. It was a rather romantic autumn weather. Leaves from the trees have defoliated. With his deft fingers he rubbed off the little mud she got near her lips.

Harsh was maintaining a perfect demeanor towards her. Aarti was demure in the way. Becoming a perfect source of demotic entertainment, she was turning demoniac and demented. She deign with horror. She has deified the Harsh room to some temple as this would only save her from the denigration. She deplored over her behavior as she has earlier objected to come with Harsh. She descries herself in the fall mirror. She despised the paint that has smeared his dress and due to which her hairs have turned red. Face was luckily not daubed. Even the paint could not dare to desecrate the sanctity of her beauty. She wondered what else could have happened due to the derelicts like the one in Bar. She tried to forget all this and looked through the dormer to find a diorama of natural beauty.

She could see the dinghy coming through the river.

By dint of luck Harsh had got a chance. To her dismay, he started a diatribe. He started giving off a didactic lecture on how anyone needs to be attentive. He dilated the whole subject to a meaningless long time in his din noise. Her head drooped. She was feeling so weak as if already a dote with dotage. Harsh asked her to be comfortable. She laid with the dorsal back on the couch. She looked drabbed and dowdy. She felt downcasted Harsh put on the dulcet songs of enigma.

He dissuaded her from making any noises and divest herself of clothes and have his shirt for the time he get the clothes washed. She became disconsolate, discombobulated and discomfit. She first dissented but distraught by her looks she agreed to doff her clothes. Dispirited she moved to the privy to take bath and change clothes. She behaved like dolt and doused in the bath tub. She dowsed herself with water. Mud dripped off as dross material. She could see the dregs of mud lying near the bottom of the tub. A draught of air from the window gushed and she shivered. When she had done the drudgery of cleaning herself up she donned the shirt given by Harsh. She behaved no more like dolt.


A doggerel theme of enigma was running through her mind. With only shirt on her, her lower half had been divulged. Harsh was waiting outside in doldrums. He became distrait as she came in. The droll Harsh dissimulated to be relaxed. He started a formal discourse and droned to lighten the situation. Harsh blurted out that he has been demented, the day he had seen her. She felt as if suffering from dyspepsia and dysentery. She now wondered all the feelings that were coming to her were not one-sided. . Their disparate thinking were now no more dissident. She came close and osculated him intensely.



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Since the original post from Ali dates back to 2003, I was wondering if all his great advice is still valid for someone who plans to take the test in 2011?


In summary, these are his recommendations:




Barrons High Frequency

Barrons 3500

Princeton Review list

Arco list

Kaplan's List

Big Book


Vocabulary building software


Guru's GRE


Verbal Section



Big Book



Princeton Review




Barrons Math review

Kaplan Math

Power Prep

Big Book

TestMagic Forum



what do you think? all is still good? any additions? any changes?

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