Scoring 320+ in GRE is Easier than You Think

Verbal 158, Quant 169 :)

Graduate Research Examination (GRE) is a standardized examination provided by the Educational Testing Service(ETS). It is a computer-based test which you can take any time and any number of times. This test is an admission requirement for many Graduate schools in the United States and Canada. It measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills of an individual. The cost to take the test is US $205, but you might promotional discount if you book it along with TOEFL. The official scores are valid for five years from the test date.

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Source: wikipedia


GRE has six sections divided into three categories: Analytical Writing(AWA), Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Ability. The writing section is of 6 marks. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative ability are 170 marks each. Out of these sections, one section is always an experimental section, but it will be impossible to judge which one is that. Say, if you get two Quant sections and three verbal reasoning sections, one of the verbal section is experimental and is not taken into consideration while calculating the score. Also, it is adaptive, that is if you solve the first section correctly you are going to get more difficult questions ahead in next sections.

Based on the responses that you will give in those excruciating four and a half hours, GRE will give you your scaled scores. No one knows how they calculate it, that’s why, anything can happen. But generally, they give reasonable scores. Scores for quant and verbal are in the range of 130 to 170.

You will realize that GRE doesn’t need mastery in English, rather it needs a well-planned strategy to get a good score.

In this article, I’ll only discuss the Quant and Verbal sections in detail.

Strategy for 320+ score

Firstly you have to figure out your area of strength. Is it English or is it Maths? I will recommend you to take a diagnostic test before you start, it will give you a lucid idea of where you stand. The diagnostic test especially the Powerprep test by ETS is very good which is similar to what you will see in the actual exam. Give it seriously without skipping the AWA section.

So to get 320+ scores you need 155+ score in one and 160+ score in another (at least). Generally, quant is easy to score and many can score a perfect 170. If you get 170 in quant you can easily get away with 155 in verbal. Whatever marks you lost in quant you have to compensate by getting the same number of marks in your score of verbal.

Quantitative Ability:

If you were fairly good in high school with maths then you can easily get at least 160. This means that you don’t have to prepare for quant much. Just brush up on the basics of probability, statistics, and geometry concepts.

For scoring 165–170 in quant, you just have to put in some efforts. This section will be consisting of Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, and Data Analysis. you have to clear one thing in your mind that doing the same thing again and again won’t help you, GRE quant is very easy to crack so just learn the basics of all concepts.

Now if you desire for 165+, you have to aim and prepare for 170. Believe me, it is not as simple as getting 165. As the section is adaptive, your questions will get tougher as you keep answering them correctly.

Prepare for the data analysis topic first as you will get six questions from this topic. This has questions regarding graphs and pie charts. Most of these questions are tricky as either the language or graphs for which questions are asked are sometimes not very clear. This whole topic will probably take 5 hours.

After the data analysis part, you should focus on quantitative comparisons as you will get around 10 questions. It can cover many topics such as exponents, geometry, percentage, work, etc. There are high chances of making silly mistakes in this section. It would approximately take 6 hours to practice this type of question. In statistics, you should know definitions beforehand of the following terms — Median, Mode, Variance, Normal Distribution, standard deviation. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to complete this part. in probability, basics of computation and permutations should be done. Recommendation to all those who have taken JEE — questions are not of JEE level in GRE so try to stuck on basics.

In geometry, try solving problems of triangle, quadrilaterals, polygons, circle and co-ordinate. Just go through the formulas and start practicing questions as in GRE, there are direct questions unless some alien has set up your paper xD.

Then go for percents, rates, average speed-time-distance problems. They only require simple logic for solving. It would take around three hours to complete these sections. Then questions such as quadratic or some word problems of age or mixtures should be practiced. The last step would be to go through the miscellaneous topics. This is very important. There are going to be topics you may not be comfortable with. Target them and be in the position of at least gaming such problems.

So now let’s come to BOOKS which you should use to practice and understand the above topics. Don’t use a lot of books but just complete the ones you have chosen. For understanding the concepts, I would suggest you use the official guide. For problem-solving, I used Manhattan 5lb. It has lots of questions for every topic and provides a detailed explanation for every answer.

For 165+ score, complete all the questions in 28 minutes and keep 7 minutes for checking all the questions.

Verbal Section:

You automatically go in the range of 320+ if you get 155+ in verbal and can certainly get near 330 if you score 160+ in verbal. For verbal you need way more consistent and persistent efforts to expand your vocabulary and personal dictionary.

Your verbal section will have 6 questions of text completion type where sentences with blanks are given and you have to fill those blanks with the most appropriate word from the given options. There can be single blank, double blank, and triple blank sentences. There is no partial marking i.e. you won’t get a mark unless all the blanks are answered correctly in a given question.

After text completion, you will be provided two Reading Comprehension passages with a varying number of questions. The length of the passages also varies. Some passages would be around 400 words while some might be a mere 100 words. But you are going to get at least one big passage.

After RC, you will have 4 sentence equivalence questions where there is a single blank sentence. You have 5 options out of which you have to select 2 most suitable options. This is the easiest question type in the verbal section.

After sentence equivalence, you will have remaining RC questions. The length of these paragraphs varies a lot.

You will have 30–35 minutes to solve all of these questions.

It is impractical to know the meaning and usage of all the words. But GRE has a set of words that appears frequently so it is very important to remember these words. According to me, Barrons333 is a wonderful list and a must for all aspirants. The best way I found to fortify these words in memory is Mnemonics. Along with this, the Magoosh GRE flashcards app is available for iOS and Android. This app has an amazing list of words divided into three types of the list- Common words, basics, and advanced. I made an excel sheet alphabetical wise of all the new words I came across in the following format- word- meaning-mnemonic to remember the word by — sentence using the word. It helps you mentally when you complete each alphabet. REVISE! Go through this list almost daily.

Reading Comprehension is the more important part of your Verbal Score. Approximately half of the questions are regarding RC. If you answer them correctly you are going to be 155+ or even more without a doubt. The more you get in other sections correctly, the higher would be your scores. But without good scores in RC, you can never have good verbal scores. You should not read a passage more than once in its entirety i.e. you should be able to understand the structure and main point of the passage in the first go. Good reading speed will surely help you in RC. It comes with practice.

PRACTICE!!! For verbal, it is a very crucial step as the text completion, sentence equivalence problems and RC are all full of traps. You have to keep an eye on extremes, overstatements or understatements. I would highly recommend Manhattan 5lb book because it has elaborated answers explanation which will teach you how to approach these question types and how to avoid falling into the most common traps.

General Tips:

  1. Give a diagnostic Test before starting your preparation.
  2. You need to take care of a few things while practicing. The most important one is to keep track of time spent on each question. It will be helpful at later stage.
  3. Keep the last two days for review and get done with the learning and problem-solving phase before that.
  4. Practice by sitting in one place for 5 hours. Otherwise, it would be hard on the test day
  5. Select universities you want to apply to beforehand.

The main point I am trying to make is GRE is not a difficult exam and it is not that difficult to score 320+. Understand the exam, strategize, and execute. Make your own strategy.

For the quant section, I used to solve all the easy questions first in the exam and then solve all medium questions. And then spend my remaining time out on Advanced/hard questions.

For the verbal section, I tried to solve all Sentence Equivalence questions and then come back to Text Completion. Then spend my remaining time on RC. For sentence equivalence questions, I tried to find the pair first and remove the options whose meaning doesn’t match with any other option. Then go through the sentence and figure out, which pair is most suitable for the given blank. For text completion questions, I go through the sentence and then try to guess the solution without going through the options. Then select the option which is most connected with my guessed answer.

In the RC section, you need to move smartly. First, try to find out the passages that are short and has more number of questions. Because if you can clearly understand this passage, you will be able to solve most of the questions correctly in less time. Second, go through the passage first and carefully. It’s not important to go into the detail because sometimes author use difficult word just to torment the reader. But what is more important is to understand the main idea/gist and important points. Take notes during this section while making a connection in your mind. Then start going through the options from last to first because most of the trap answers are given in the beginning. Also, remember that author in 90% of cases won’t make any extreme statements. He won’t directly criticize or praise the subject mentioned in the passage. He will generally state the facts.

Finally, you should take more Practice tests that imitate the real testing environment. Try out Princeton Review, Kaplan, and ETS official practice tests. Complete the test in one go as you would do on the test day and don’t skip analytical writing sections.

Also, I am no expert. This is the strategy I followed and score 327 in my GRE. I know it is not a wonderful score but I just wanted to share my approach and strategy.

All the best for preparation and exam! Hope you will reach your dream score :)

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