just wrote GRE (Graduate Record Examination, Conducted by ETS, U.S.) last week. I want to share whatever information I gathered with the future GRE test takers. Basically, I could not find as much info as I wanted when I was preparing for GRE. In addition I realized that people in cities have greater access to GRE aids than those from small towns and remote areas. GRE is quite a simple exam and there is no need you should back away from it simply due to baseless fears. I scored 1440 (verbal reasoning: 710 and quantitative reasoning: 730). Verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores are reported on a 200-800 score scale, in 10-point increments. I am still awaiting my AWA (analytical writing assessment) scores. I know my quantitative reasoning score is just “chaltha hai” (average) but that’s because I tend to make a lot of silly mistakes. If you are the careful sort, you will do well with a little planning. I sincerely hope this article helps you in your preparation for GRE (GRE forum; GRE section).
First things first, Most medicos do well on the GRE. Main reason for being that is during our MBBS course we pick up around 40,000-50,000 new words (while most students doing other courses pick up around 25,000). Most of these words have Latin and Greek roots. So we are familiar with tonnes of roots and words compared to lot of other people. Plus we develop reasonably good analytical skills while working up cases and fitting symptoms together to arrive at a diagnosis.
Basic information on GRE is available at www.gre.org but I recommend the article titled “Basic steps towards MS/PhD in US” by Yogidas in the RxPG Website’s GRE Section. It is exhaustive and contains extremely useful “inside” information for all newbies. You can also go through General Tips For GRE by sunshinenjoy which contains some handy tips about the exam.
TIME REQUIRED TO PREPARE FOR GRE
There are 2 kinds of GRE aspirants:
1. Those who were always good in maths, are avid book readers, were winners in school debates and essay writing contests etc.
2. Those who are allergic to maths prefer movies to books any day and were always among the audience at school debates etc.
I feel that it just doesn’t matter which of these categories you belong to. The important thing is the commitment, seriousness and at what phase of studies you are in. If you are doing internship, are married, have a sick parent to care for or any such commitment, then you should take at least “three months”. The reason being that you won’t be able to spare much time on weekdays for the preparation. If you have completed MBBS, are free all day or are in third year of college or something, then you can easily spend 1-2 hours a day. So 1-2 months will be more than enough. Basically you have to get down to studying and cover a few topics that is it! If u are very committed, you can even do it in 2 weeks. That’s the only criteria.
The important thing is that ETS (Educational Testing Service, U.S.) has limited concepts that it keeps testing you on. So if you read those few topics well, you are all set for the GRE examination. If you study for six moths and prepare the wrong things, you’ll still score less than one who studied for the expected pattern for just 1 month!
This is what you need for your GRE preparation:
1. To know ‘usage’ of lot of words.
2. Few basic matriculation level (O level) mathematics concepts.
3. Lots of mathematics practice to avoid silly mistakes (because medicos are out of touch with even simple concepts).
4. Few “root” essay topics.
5. To be familiar with scoring method on a COMPUTER BASED TEST (CBT).
GRE has 3 components: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and writing skills. Let’s tackle them one by one.
I. Verbal Reasoning Component of GRE
You need to be familiar with some standard GRE words. Being medicos we are already familiar with a lot of words which surprisingly other degree students are not so aware of. Like malignant, insidious, inflammation, and patent, stanch, haemorrhage, inoculate, emaciate, analgesia etc. All these are frequent on the GRE. The books you need for verbal reasoning are:
The wordlist from Barron’s is a must. Do 2-3 wordlists a day or whatever you are comfortable with. Don’t do the respective exercises. Underline the high frequency words (indicated in the book) plus the words you find difficult. Next day, start with exercises of previous day’s wordlists. Then quickly revise the underlined words and go on to today’s wordlists. I was free whole day, so I did 5 – 6 wordlists a day. You’ll keep picking up lot of words but you’ll also forget some of them really fast. Don’t be discouraged, you still retain the familiarity with the term which helps u subconsciously chose the right answer in exam. Do all the practise exercises too. 3-4 days before exam, revise the whole wordlist again quickly. That will be enough. Don’t try to remember every single word.
While learning words, write synonyms and similar sounding words on the same pages of Barron’s or a notebook if you wish. You will remember better by forming associations. Example: “poverty” whenever u come across another word meaning poverty write all the synonyms u know there. Like impecunious, penury, destitute etc. When u see “obsequious”, add servile, toady, sycophant, unctuous etc next to it. Group them like this. Also when u read ingenious (very smart, brilliant) write ingenious (naive, artless) next to it and compare them. Similarly: discrete and discreet etc. Try to form relationships like this. Another method is to associate words like vile, vilify, revile or franchise, enfranchise, disenfranchise or collude, allude, prelude, delude etc together. You can also go by how the word sounds. For example exigent ends the same way as urgent. And it means urgent!! Basically take time with each word to form some association. If it doesn’t come easily leave that word and move on to the next. The very attempt makes u pay lot of attention to that word and I bet you’ll remember it.
2. Thesaurus – Oxford, Webster or any standard one.
Oxford sells a thesaurus with dictionary on the top half of the page and thesaurus on the bottom half for same words. It’s really good.
A thesaurus is more useful than dictionary.
Note: You don’t need words other than Barron’s wordlist.
It is a book of last 20 years questions. Whatever you call this, it’s useful. I got two sentence completions and two antonyms straight from this book. Its a very good practise.
4. ETS PowerPrep CD-ROMs
It has practise questions which are a must. The main exam will be of the same level.
5. Princeton review
This is optional. It has good tips on how to tackle analogies and RCs.
II. Quantitative Reasoning Component of GRE
ETS tests us on few concepts it keeps on repeating. For the first 3 weeks of my preparation I read RS Agarwal and lot of other general books. Then I did a model test on Barron’s and got 14 on 30 which is terrible. Then I started studying the GRE pattern and realized more than half the problems I was practising will never appear on the GRE.
I recommend doing books for quantitative reasoning in the following order
1. KAPLAN maths
Go to the pages titled “maths review” at the end of the book. Start your maths here. It’s broken down into level 1, 2 and 3. It discusses 100 different types of problems of GRE and exactly how to tackle it. It is surprisingly simple and easy. At the end of this (it only takes half a day at most) you will have covered 85% of questions on GRE.
You can complete the five chapters given. They will cover almost everything in level 1 also which is not given in Kaplan. I am suggesting you to do Kaplan first because the print and the conversational style are simple and refreshing. It will take away your fear of maths. Then you can tackle the boring looking small print of Barron’s easily.
3. You need to cover few more topics now to cover the remaining 15 %.
a. Statistics: standard deviation, mean, mode, median, variation
b. Co-ordinate geometry: how to find equation of a line, distance between 2 points, Find X n Y coordinates of a given equation, find points on a circle with centre at ‘O’ etc. Request any engineering friend to help you or get a maths book. I have some material on all this. If I am allowed to post my notes by RxPG, I will. (RxPG Editor: Of Course, we welcome all contributions!)
c. Probability, permutations, combinations.
d. Sequences or series: how to find n’th term in arithmetic and geometric progressions?
NOTE: all these questions are increasing in frequency nowadays. I got three questions on probabilities, permutations etc, and three questions on coordinate geometry (including equation of a circle), two sequences and two mean, mode questions.
The same thing happened to three more friends of mine. You can read some of this from PowerPrep CD math review.
4. PowerPrep CD practise questions
They really helped me
5. BIG BOOK
Take this with a pinch of salt. It’s good for practising the simple questions but it’s not enough for the newer questions I mentioned above.
Note: the most important thing to remember is that GRE never tests you on lengthy calculations. There is always a shortcut or simple concept you are missing if your calculation is running too long. The test only tests us on knowledge and application of concepts.
III. Analytical Writing Component of GRE
This is naturally easy for some and difficult for some. But hardly anyone ever enjoys it. But since it appears as the first section in the test it is important to do it coolly and not carry over any disappointment or tension to the other two more important sections. The good news is these scores are not added to your score out of 1600 unlike in TOEFL so u can do average on these essays and still have a good score. This score is more important for literature and arts students than us. So just take it easy. Barron’s is really helpful with this.
My tips for analytical writing:
1. Argument: this is the easier part. As it is more predictable. To save time in the exam hall just prepare a general format at home with introduction and conclusion you can apply to any argument. Follow the same order as the extract given to maintain flow and continuity.
2. Issue: You need an introduction, body and conclusion.
-Introduction: For introduction just present the given topic in a social/practical context and state your stand on it.
-Body: For body just take three main ideas and develop each into one paragraph. Don’t be tempted to write 100 unconnected ideas there. Include the fourth paragraph speaking for the side you did not take. You will appear open-minded.
-Conclusion: For conclusion, just some up all u said briefly. Use any quotes or examples u can think of to make a strong ending.
Practise writing opinions on topics which are the “roots” of all GRE topics, like science, tradition, art, education, history, technological tools, and social effects of science, politics, celebrities, teamwork, and individuality.
For writing effective examples you can look at your own field of experience. World of medicine provides u with an example to match almost every occasion! Also, look at all the sample essays on PowerPrep CD.
After all this preparation, you should not forget that it’s not a paper based test, Its a CBT. Use that fact to your advantage. Plan your time such that you spend more time on first 8-10 questions. Double-check all of them. If you get these correct your scores will be above average already.
Use Barron’s diagnostic tests and model papers to identify problem areas, not ETS CDs. You can use these CDs to assess your preparation. Do the first test 2-3 weeks before exam after reasonable preparation, second one in the last 2-3 days. So that you can still identify problem areas and fix them.
Start this 3-4 days before exam. Read these:
1. Barron’s wordlist
2. All maths concepts, especially the new ones I listed, revise formulae.
3. Go through your issue and argument practice notes to maintain flow during exam
4. Difficult analogies and antonyms from big book (which you marked while reading earlier)
THINGS TO DO ON THE DAY BEFORE THE GRE EXAM
Frequent wordlist – Barron’s, Kaplan’s, Princeton – whatever you can.
DAY OF GRE EXAM
Just chill. Tension will spoil the show. Remember, your only competition is yourself. You have to keep your cool and give it your best shot during those three hours. With all the work you put in, you’ll definitely score well!
RxPG Editor: You can also use some of the free online GRE revision tools provided on RxPG website. These are word list revision (based on a popular GRE word list by Oleg Smirnov), Vocabulary Crammer (a tool to cram almost all of the dictionary in a fun way). If you want to look for meanings, we have an online combo dictionary (English + Medical) as well. This was an extremely helpful and thorough article by queerangel. We at RxPG hope that people benefiting from this article will continue with the RxPG spirit and write their own experiences and tips as well for the benefit of the community.