Yes, I did it! And I am sure you can score more if you plan and prepare well for your GRE. So in case if it helps any one of you, I thought of sharing my experience with GRE and the test-prep process through this blog.
Disclaimer: This post is not going to tell you what the GRE questions look like – all GRE books & websites do that (if they are authentic). I am sure you already know it by now. Here are what I observed and learnt while preparing for and taking the test. This is a rather long and descriptive post. So, I have decided to break it up in 3 parts. In part one I will discuss the overall study plan required for GRE. So here it goes…….
About Myself: Before we start I think I need to introduce myself. I am Sampoorna Mitra and I am writing this article on behalf of Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd. (“DIKSHA” as I am used to call this test-prep centre for GRE/ GMAT). I did my Masters in Geography in 2013 and then joined a private bank in branch operations. But within a year I felt that the job is not cup of tea. I planned for my GRE by end of 2014 so as to continue my higher studies (PhD). After some initial research about the test format and standard, I decided to take a 2 month leave from my office to prepare for GRE. I started my preparation in Feb 2015 and appeared for GRE by end of April 2015. And I got a score of 324 (Quant – 166; Verbal – 158; AWA – 5.5), which I think is pretty decent. Then I resumed working (of course to save some money for applications) and shall be applying for the 2017 fall session. I did most of what I am going to tell you here in less than two months, but of course with long, intense study hours and thorough guidance from the faculty team & mentor at DIKSHA.
The Macro-level Study Plan: Although I had to do it in less than 2 months (as my office didn’t allow more leaves), I wouldn’t recommend the same to you. And I would also not recommend you to take a leave you’re your office or studies to prepare for GRE. Just in case you are a working professional you can think of taking a 1 week leave just before the final exam.
Whether you are working or studying, around four months would be ideal to prepare for GRE without panicking. Start with a diagnostic test – found in almost all GRE books. You may also opt for the Assessment Test carried out by Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd (DIKSHA) to assess your base level. In fact DIKSHA would also help you to prepare your personalized study plan based on your Assessment Test performance and time availability.
In general I think around 2 hours every day for the first three months and then about 4 hours a day in the last month is what you will require. By the way, I am talking about average IQ people. Please don’t come back and tell me that you have scored 335 with 4 days preparation. If you have actually done so then be happy about the fact that you perhaps a genius!
Also note that when I say 2 hours a day of studying, I mean intense preparation. So don’t just try to mug up 5 words over a cup of coffee with family in 30 minutes.
Plan your schedule well. It should be balanced enough to include all three areas – Maths, Vocabulary and Reading. But at the same time higher time should be kept to concentrate on the weaker areas. I do also understand that occasional breaks can happen in your study schedule. It could be your college fest or a project presentation in office. Relax! You can comfortably study for just 5 days a week. Keep the other two days for your personal/ professional work or plain entertainment. But please don’t end up trying to match just the hours. Remember, 2 hours a day for 5 days a week is much more effective than putting in 6 hours a day for 2 days in a week!
Start with the concepts – the very basics of Math and English from your school days, which you might have surprisingly forgotten by this time. This might take you a month or two. Once you are through with the concepts, try to identify your weaker areas and focus on those. The faculty team at DIKSHA clearly identified my weaknesses in Geometry and Reading ability. And I had to go through a lot of drills in those areas to reach a certain level of comfort.
Once you have gained confidence across all concepts, it’s time to practice hard. Get yourself exposed to lot of practice questions. Content is available everywhere today. But please make sure it is relevant for your GRE preparation. There’s no point solving questions of CAT while aiming for a high score in GRE. While practicing please ensure that you work on your timing too. And wherever you are getting stuck (either not being able to solve a question or coming up with an incorrect answer or even taking too much time for solving a question) please speak to your faculty or coach. During my GRE Test-Prep at DIKSHA I used to get my doubts cleared online through email or Skype with respective faculties.
Finally once your practice is more or less done it’s time to get into the exam mode. Take mock tests. And take the full-length ones under timed condition. Due to paucity of time I could tale only 5 full-length mock tests at DIKSHA along with the 2 mock tests by ETS Powerprep. But if you have adequate time, I will suggest go for 10 mock tests of DIKSHA, along with the free tests offered by ETS, Kaplan & Manhattan.
Please remember that taking even 50 mock tests is not going to be much helpful if you don’t review them well. The objective should be to identify your mistakes (in terms of concept, time pacing or the section-specific strategies) in a mock test so as to plug the gaps in the next one. Review each and every mock test with utmost sincerity to ensure that your performance improves in the next one. I got extreme help from my mentor at DIKSHA who used to review the tests along with me and suggest me the improvement plans for the next one.
By the time you are through with the mock tests you have already finalized your test strategy. In the last two days revise and relax. Have confidence in yourself and your preparation – you will need it for the exam day!
So in a nutshell, what I suggest is that plan well for these 4 months of intense preparation for your GRE. Just to appear in GRE you will need to pay more than INR 12,500 to ETS. So do take it seriously. Have a well balanced and personalized study plan ready when you start and stick to it. GRE is less about being genius and more about being rigorous. Be sincere, diligent and determined. And in case you need any guidance I will suggest DIKSHA’s name simply because of the personalized attention and mentoring that I experienced there.