Writing the GRE with lockdown, Corona, sem exams, and a full-time job.
It was late Dec 2019, I think, when I first started thinking about doing a master's program abroad seriously. It was already the April of 2020 when I started looking into how I can and was met with the then scary-looking exam - The ETS GRE. If you are reading this blog, you probably are planning too, and want to know how it went by for others and what you can take away from the experience. This is not a toppers guide; in fact, it is far from it. I am not a topper or high scorer. My final scores were a 162/170 in Quant (the 79th percentile) and a 155/170 in Verbal (68th percentile), putting my total at 317/340. But it is the lessons I learned on my turn at the exam, things I did and wished I did but was too late that I write about here. I hope this would helps you make your plans for studying too. So let's gethelp right to it. I wrote my second and final GRE exam, had dinner, and sat down to write this blog. Things couldn't get any fresher than this. =)
What is GRE
If you are a GRE aspirant, then obviously, you know what the GRE looks like. But for the sake of the blog, we can loosely say that the GRE is an assessment exam often asked by thousands of graduate universities across the globe, mostly in the US, sometimes in Germany, Australia, etc. for admission to different graduate programs.
The GRE is structured into three parts, you could say. Writing, is known as AWA, Math is known as The Quantitative Assessment and Language is known as Verbal Reasoning. You have two pieces of writing in AWA, 30 mins each, two sets of Verbal and Quant; 20 questions - 35 mins for each section, and an additional experimental section, Verbal or Quant - same format. They do not take the scores from the experimental section. No, there is no way you can say which of the 3 verbal/quant sections you get for the exam is experimental. Yes, that is rough stuff, puff. Yup, the exam is 4.5 hours long.
The path I planned, the one I actually took, and the one I wish I did mesh into the one I would recommend
Step One: Write the GRE exam
It sounds stupid, but if you are at the start of your GRE prep, then it is my highest recommendation for you to write the mock exam. You can't know how well you are progressing in your preparation for your exam if you don't know where you stood when you started preparing. So the very first thing you need to do is to take a mock test.
Prepare nothing and write the mock test as a blank slate. Don't worry; the math knowledge required to write the mock is basic 10th-grade math, and the verbals and writing are similar to what we did in the school of English assessments. Create an account on the ETS GRE website, and they have two or three free practice tests. You can use one of those. Look under Test Preparation Section. You can know the score of everything except the AWA section.
I took mine right around the time the lockdown started, April, I guess, and was shocked and a lot disappointed by the score. It was 305. While I do not remember how much exactly I scored in Verbal and Math, i remember being around the 53rd percentile for Verbal and 48th for Math. How percentiles work is if, say a 100 people wrote the GRE, I am below the average score. The GRE exam is so designed to push maximum people to score an average mark. And I managed to score below average for Quant. Ouch! I am not saying 305 is a bad score, it isn't, but for where I wanted to go, it wasn't enough.
Also, unlike most engineer aspirants, I found Verbal easier than Math. My basics, I assume, were not as strong as I thought. Math was harder than I thought, even though it was testing basic 10th-grade math minus the trigonometry. So I knew I had to get help.
After scouring a lot of online forums, and blogs about GRE prep, I decided to go with Mangoosh. It was cheaper and was also highly recommended- the sweet spot. It had a sale going on then, and I chose a 6-month plan. Though I felt it was unnecessary then, since I would be done with the exam real quick, Corona had different plans. Or, as my mom would quote from the bible,' People make plans, but the final decision is the lords,' in this case Corona, a uni exam that won't get over and work.
The Starting Line for the race - THE ETS website
Step 2: Read what ETS has got to say
The ETS website is your home, obviously. Once you know where you stand, make sure you plan to read all test related blogs on the ETS website. Trying to read all that in one go might not be a good idea. You are likely to retain less info by the end of it. Bookmark each based on the topic and add it to recommended reading to your first days of the schedule. ( You obviously would need one if you are serious about the prep)
Now that we know where we, let's start working on getting to a better place.
Part two here