Things You Should Know Before Moving Forward
What does a 330+ score really mean?This has got to be one very important question that everyone needs to know, before they attempt to get that magical score of 330. What does it really mean to get a 330+ score? To answer that, you need to understand that a 330+ score is usually the 98th percentile of all GRE scores, which means only 2% of all GRE test takers in the world get a score of 330+. That’s how difficult it is. Now to really understand what a 330 really means, you need to understand the difference between a 320 and a 330. A 320 is generally considered as a good GRE score. But the fact is, it is as difficult to go from 320 to 330, as it is to get to 320 in the first place. The difficulty of the questions you see on test day increase exponentially from 320 to 330, which means, it is not right to say that it is as easy to go from 320 to 330 as it is to go from 300 to 310. So, what this means is, if you have scored a 330+ on the GRE, you have done a tremendous amount of work to get there, especially since scoring that high is pretty rare. It also means you are better than 98 percent of the people who took the test along with you, and this statistic alone is good enough for many top schools to consider welcoming you to their incoming class. That is why, it is rare that a person with a 330+ score doesn’t get into a university he/she wanted.
What does it take to get a 330+ score?To get such a high score on the GRE, you will need three things. You cannot score high unless you have mastered all the three:
1. KnowledgeAs you might have expected, knowledge is the most important aspect of your GRE prep. There are many things that you need to learn, such as basic grammar rules, math formulae, basic and advanced concepts for each topic that the GRE tests you on, and last but not the least, the seemingly difficult vocabulary that the GRE very much likes to test you on. Knowledge is something that anyone can easily attain, if they are determined to work hard. It might be easy for some test takers to get a hang of all the math and verbal concepts, but for the vast majority of the test taking multitude, it might seem a little difficult to cope with the syllabus and the wide variety of concepts that they need to master. But having said that, it is not as difficult as it seems either. If you can buckle down for a few weeks and learn each and every concept with proper understanding, it will be an easy journey for you.
2. SkillsThere are some very specific skills that the GRE required you to master, and if you are looking to score 330+ on the GRE, you should definitely learn them all. Some of the important skills you will need to possess are reading skills, logical reasoning, ability to extract information data from a math questions, data interpretation skills, process of elimination, etc. Learning these skills is not that difficult, and chances are you have already learnt most of them by now, through coursework during undergrad or high school. All it takes is to remember all those strategies and techniques you have learnt in the past, and then implement them when solving tough questions.
3. StrategyThe GRE is not your usual midterm exam. It is a test that requires some very well devised strategies and solving techniques, which you will definitely have to include in your arsenal – educated guessing, skipping hard and time consuming questions, learning how to perfectly manage time, and how to build your mental stamina to withstand 4 hours of rigorous work. Now, do not expect to get away with only one or two of these three strategies. A great score on the GRE always demands that you master all the three skills, since no two skills can separately get you there. For example, you can never do very well in RC unless purely based on skill and strategy, since you have to have the knowledge – good vocabulary – to understand the passages. The same thing applies if you don’t know the formula to a question on arithmetic. And if you have mastered the knowledge and concepts for the GRE and have the sufficient skills, it still doesn’t mean you can do really well, since you need to learn to manage your pace throughout the test and not end up with unfinished questions at the end of a section. So, you need to make sure you really master all these three aspects.
Can a 330+ score get you any university you want?Not really. If the university you want is in the top 10, then no. But if it is in the top 100, then it is a resounding yes. Remember, you should keep in mind that the GRE is but one part of the entire admission process, and universities give a great amount of weightage to your entire application, and not just the GRE score. Getting a 330 on the GRE does not guarantee you a seat in a top school across the world, but it can only improve your chances by several folds. Having said that, if you are still looking for universities that you can get for a GRE score of 330+, we have made a proverbial list for you.
How difficult is it to score 330+ on the GRE?Not much. A 330+ score is very rare, and chances are you know only one or two people who have got there. But does that mean it is so difficult? Does rare equal tough? Not necessarily. The only reason why we don’t see many test takers with such high scores, is because they don’t know how to get there. Many test takers believe that it is nearly impossible for them to score so high on the GRE that they resort to scoring averagely, and end up applying to normal universities. They believe that it is enough if they can get a 300+ score, and somehow get an admission from a decent university. That’s the problem – the belief. If you don’t believe you will ever score a 330 on the GRE, you never will. A famous saying goes like ‘Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you are right.’ So, if you one of those who think they can do it, this guide is for you.
I’m not a topper. Can I still score 330+ on the GRE?The short answer is, yes. The GRE is not a test of your intelligence, or a test of how well you remember the things you’ve read a few days before the test. Rather, the GRE tests how well you can take the GRE. It is as simple as that. If you know how to crack the test, be it through strategies, or unique prep methods, you can end up with a high GRE score. But the trick is, to understand the test completely, and devise proper study plans and prep strategies, so as to overcome your weak areas, and bolster the areas you are already good at. If you can do that, you can easily score a 330 on the GRE.
How long should I study?How long one should study for the GRE really depends on a myriad of factors, including how ready they are to take the GRE, how fast they can learn new concepts, how well they can apply concepts to get questions right, how high they would want to score, and how well they can manage the test and the time. That is why, it is not so easy to say how long one should study to get a 330+ score on the GRE. But, just to give you a fair idea, it requires at least 100 hours of dedicated study and practice for an average student to score as high as 330. This means, it may take you anywhere between one to three months, depending on how much time you are willing to spend every single day.
Resources You Will Need To Get ThereAnother thing about the GRE prep that confuses many students is what kind of study material they should be using when studying. Given the wealth of information available online and offline, and given the range of choices that students have when it comes to picking a prep course for the GRE, it is understandable that there is a lot of confusion. Here is a detailed recommendation on what you should be studying, if you want a high score on the GRE. Keep in mind that this is just a recommendation from us, so feel free to make changes as you see fit, based on your personal experience.
Essential Study Material
1. ETS Official GuideThe Official Guide is a beginner’s bible for the GRE, hands down. Written by the maker of the GRE test, this official test prep book covers all the basic concepts that you come across on the test, and also includes a few example questions for each of the topics discussed. If you are starting your GRE preparation now, this book is a must read. In addition to lessons and tips, the Official Guide book – which can be bought from ETS itself – also includes a free copy of the POWERPREP II software is the form of a CD. Contents in the book include two complete full length GRE practice tests, authentic test questions that appeared on the GRE previously, explanations to those questions, test-taking strategies, sample essay responses with reader commentary and more. The Official Guide is available in print or eBook versions. The questions that appear in these two tests are curated from previous GRE tests and this makes them super valuable. The official guide and the two practice tests that come along with it are the only material out there that is as close as possible to the actual GRE.
2. ETS Math and Verbal GuidesAlong with the Official Guide, just about a couple of months ago, ETS has released two new dedicated guides to both Math and Verbal sections on the GRE. It is a well-known fact that the Official Guide does not have too many problems for you to work on, and this causes many students to search elsewhere for practice problems. But with the release of these two guides, you do not need to worry about the lack of authentic GRE practice problem anymore. Now, even though there are some good practice questions and books out there in the market, remember that none of them are official but the ones published by ETS. The Math and Verbal guides not only have several practice problems, but also contain lots of strategies and tips that can come in handy during the test. So, go ahead and purchase these two guides as well, along with the Official Guide.
3. ETS PowerPrep SoftwareThe PowerPrep is a set of two free practice sets provided by ETS, the makers of the GRE. Since it is the creators themselves who are providing these practice tests, the PowerPrep is by far the best source of practice you can get for the GRE. The questions on the PowerPrep are those that have previously appeared on real GRE tests, so you can exactly know what kind of questions to expect on test day, and also how difficult the real deal is going to be. The user interface is exactly the same as the real test, so if you can get a hang of the PowerPrep, things will be easy for you on test day, as you don’t have to sweat the small stuff like the tutorial section, or how to mark and skip a question, etc. Also, it is a widely accepted truth that your final GRE score won’t differ much from what you get on the PowerPrep; it is that accurate.
Recommended Study MaterialNow, for the vast majority of test takers, the study materials mentioned above won’t be enough. With great respect to ETS and its quality study material, any student looking to score super high on the GRE would not be satisfied with general strategies and a few practice problems. Test takers who are looking to score above the 95th percentile, would want to learn some advanced tactics and strategies, and also would like to be exposed to tough problems, both in Math and Verbal. If you too are looking for such material, below are some of our recommended study material for the GRE.
4. The Ultimate Guide to Destroy GRE Reading ComprehensionThe Reading Comprehension section is regarded as the toughest of all sections on the GRE and many students find it difficult to either understand the passages thoroughly, or finish answering all questions within the time limit. This is why, you should pay utmost attention to this seemingly deadly section. But that doesn’t mean you will have to struggle with the RCs. It just means you will need perfect strategies and techniques, which are exactly what you will find on our reading comprehension guide, which has been regarded by many students as the most comprehensive guide ever on RCs. You should definitely include this in your arsenal, if you are planning to score anywhere close to 160 on the Verbal section.
5. The Advanced Guide to Analytical Writing on the GREEven though your final GRE score is in no way related to the AWA section, scoring 330 and then scoring a 3.0 on the AWA doesn’t sound great. If you are looking to score a 330+ on the GRE, you will also need an equivalent score on the AWA section and to achieve that, you will have to be a lot more planned than most other students. Just as with the Verbal and Quant sections, mastering the essay section on the GRE requires the same amount of confidence, persistence, and practice. And in addition to all that, you will also need a solid guide that can help you with all the strategies and tips. You will need an AWA Bible, so to speak. So, if there is one guide that you should read to score a 6.0 on the AWA, it should be this.
6. CrunchPrep 101 High Frequency GRE WordsIf you have heard that you need to learn 3000 or 4000 words for the GRE, you must understand that it is just plain wrong. No student can learn 4000 words in a matter of weeks, and moreover the GRE is not a test of memory; not by a long shot. So, the best thing you can do, is figure out the most frequently tested words on the GRE exam, and then try and learn their contextual usage, so that you will not only forget them on test day, but also use them in your everyday life and sound smarter. But, to save you all the time and energy, we have done the research, and figured out the 101 most frequently tested GRE words. Do your best in learning these words first, and then you can move on to other great lists available on the internet, such as Barron’s 333 words, or Manhattan’s 500 advanced words.
7. Free GRE Practice TestsThere are quite a few free GRE practice tests available on the internet, and you should definitely make great use of them all. We have sorted them all out according to how close they are to the actual test, and have given ratings to each practice test. If you can, try and make sure you include all of them into your study plan, and take a practice test every weekend, or even twice a week, if need be. There is no need to purchase additional practice tests either online or offline, because taking these 33 tests will more often than not be enough to get you a great score on the real deal.
8. Quality Study MaterialIf you think the official guides won’t cut it for you, or if you find a lot of time even after finishing all the official guides and the aforementioned study material, you can go ahead and purchase some quality third party material. Some of the popular players in the market are Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review, and Barron’s. You can buy any one of these books, but make sure to make full use of it when you buy one. Practice as many problems as you can from any one of the said books, and get yourself exposed to numerous types of questions and concepts.
Optional Study Material
9. Word Power Made EasyWord Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis is easily one of the most popular books on vocabulary in the world. Even though the book consists of a wide range of English words including their contextual usage and meanings, there aren’t quite a lot of words that the GRE tests you on. So, if you do not have a lot of time, it is recommended that you don’t use this book, since it not only takes a lot of time to complete all the exercises and understand the words, but also isn’t particularly useful to improve upon your GRE vocabulary. So, it is up to you to decide if you would want to learn words through Word Power.
10. Barron’s 333 High Frequency wordsLike we discussed earlier, you would need to completely master the high frequency words before you move on to the others, since these few hundred high frequency words, as the name suggests, have a much higher probability of appearing on your test than the remaining thousands of words. Barron’s 333 word list is one popular list of high frequency words, and once you have mastered CrunchPrep’s 101, this should be your next stop, if you have the time. Only once you have completed all the 333 words from this list, you can move on to the other word lists.
101 Powerful Tips to Score 330+ on the GREHere are some general tips that we believe would help you get closer to your target GRE score. These tips are more like a checklist of things that you need to make sure you do, before you take the actual test.
Since it is an extremely tough ordeal to keep track of so many tips at a time, we have included a link which will give you a downloadable version of this entire guide. Download and take a print out of this, and stick it wherever you need.
1. Get to Know the TestAs simple as this may sound, many students often tend to neglect this part of their GRE test prep. It always makes sense to get to know the test first, and then figure out how to crack it. So, if you are looking to score very high on a timed test like the GRE, you need to know everything about it, in and out. You need to know what sort of questions you will face on test day, what and how many topics you will have to learn. Learn more about the test format, and understand what you will have to deal with, during the next few weeks of study.
2. Take a Diagnostic TestIt is always important to test the waters before you go for a deep dive. A lot of students do not take any form of diagnostic test, simply because they think all practice tests should be taken after studying for the test. Some students also argue that they may score low on the diagnostic test and it may hit their confidence levels. Not true. The diagnostic test should not be taken as a benchmark. It is not a representation of your final score. It is only there to tell you where you need to focus your attention during your preparation for the GRE. So, don’t worry about seeing low scores, or wasting a practice test. There are so many free practice tests available online, that you should definitely make proper use of.
3. Know Your Strengths & WeaknessesOnce you take a diagnostic test, you will clearly understand where you are scoring really well, and also where you are lagging behind. You might have thought Algebra was a piece of cake for you, but once you take the test, you may realize that you actually forgot some of the basics in Algebra. So, the diagnostic test really plays a role in helping you realize your strengths and weaknesses, thereby helping you devise a perfect study plan.
4. Set a Realistic Target ScoreSetting a target always helps, because you always have a benchmark in your mind that you are consciously or unconsciously keeping track of. Now, it is completely fine even if you are not targeting a huge score of 330+, but even if your target is 315 or 305, always set a target and keep it in mind. Keep comparing your practice test scores with your target score and measure how far you have come along, and how far you have to go. If it helps, write your target score on a sticky notes or chart papers and stick them all over your room.
5. Understand How Much Time You Will NeedNow that you have your strengths and weaknesses ready, you should understand how much time you would need to study for the test, before you make a study plan. This is purely individual, and obviously varies from one test taker to the other, so do not try and compare study plans with others. You should try and make your own study plan.
6. Make Your Own Study PlanIt is important that you create your own study plan, even though there are dozens of plans available online. The reason being, you know yourself better than anyone else in the world, and it is you who knows how busy you are throughout the week, or how confident you are right now, or how much time it would take for you to master the entire Verbal section, for example. So, it is better if you can try and create your own study plan, based on several factors that affect you and your schedule. Of course, you can use the standard study plans you find online, as frameworks, and then make necessary changes as you see fit.
7. Review the BasicsReviewing the basic concepts is a very crucial part of your test prep, especially when it comes to math. Even though you may have scored high on the diagnostic test, it is in your best interest to review everything starting from scratch, unless you have already studied the concepts very recently, or unless you are retaking the test. Again, this also depends on how much prep time you can afford to spend, and how much time you have before your test day. Our suggestion is that, if you have a lot of time – say at least six to eight weeks – before you sit for the test, you should start reviewing the basics before you take the plunge.
8. Learn to Balance Your TimeWhile studying for the GRE, you must consciously balance the time you are spending on each chapter or concept that you learn. Sometimes, it is easy to go adrift, and spend more time than necessary on a particular topic, or even a question. Sometimes you may get stuck with a tough question or a complex topic, and spend several hours on it, not realizing that there are many other topics waiting to be covered. Do not make that mistake. Always learn to balance your time, by allotting sufficient time slots for each and every topic in your study plan.
9. Focus on Your WeaknessesTwo things don’t allow students to focus on their weak areas. One, it might seem very tempting to keep on solving problems you can easily solve, and two, you are scared of failure whenever you attempt to study difficult topics that you are not very confident of. But the fact is, if you want a score anywhere close to 330, your strengths alone cannot take you there. You cannot afford to ignore your weaknesses if you are aiming to score sky high on the GRE. Always make a study plan around your weaknesses, and keep working on them periodically.
10. Don’t ProcrastinateIt is easy to feel tired or distracted whenever you are studying something that doesn’t interest you. But that doesn’t mean you should quit or postpone it. If you already had a fixed study plan, procrastination really disturbs the entire schedule, and it will all be chaos before you realize it. So, make it a point to not procrastinate no matter what, because ultimately, you are dreaming for a top score. And a top score always demands hard work, and determination. Remember that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
11. Work open bookFor the first few weeks during your GRE prep, try to work open book. If you forget a formula or a method, or if you really think you need help, do not hesitate to look it up. Do away with traditional learning methods, and have an open book policy for as long as you think you need it. Once you gain confidence and you can solve questions easily, shift to a normal study plan, and practice without any books or helping aids.
12. Build Your Mental SelfThe GRE is a mental game, and you always need to be fit in order to win this mental challenge. Staying mentally fit can be done in many ways, but since you are preparing for the GRE, you need to be fit to take the test. Build yourself mentally, by studying at regular intervals, testing yourself when you are done studying a concept, and taking frequent full length GRE practice tests. This will help your mind get used to the fast paced test environment, and you will be able to sit through the actual deal comfortably.
13. Start EarlyStart your GRE prep as early as you can. Doesn’t matter if you are still a sophomore student, or a working professional three years out of college. Start studying for the GRE as soon as you decide to study abroad. This will really help you because you will have lots of time to study, and you can go at a relaxed pace, rather than hurry at the last moment. If you have not decided when to take the GRE, maybe it is time you gave it a thought.
14. Learn Vocabulary in ContextLots of students waste their time every year trying to learn the GRE vocab by heart. There is no point in learning words by heart, because one, it is going to take the long time; two, you are going to forget it anyway; and three, it defeats the very purpose. Instead, you would be happy to realize how easy it is to lean vocabulary in context, and how studying this way, you can remember words for a long, long time.
15. Focused, Targeted PracticePractice is only very effective when it is targeted. Every time you sit down to study, you need to have a defined sense of direction and purpose. The big difference between a 310 and a 330 is targeting weakness and improving constantly, every single day. Which means, sitting down to study, and working on those weaknesses. Always be on the lookout for weaknesses. You need to be honest with yourself and keep track of your weaknesses in a notebook. Then when it comes to practice, focus on improving those skills.
16. Study ConsistentlyStudying consistently and on a regular basis is a lot better than studying with gaps in the middle. Make sure you devise a study plan keeping in mind your semester exams, thesis submissions, and other family obligations, because a good prep requires constant study and regular monitoring. Just make sure you don’t have a lot of gaps in the middle, as these can turn out to be hiccups in your prep, and you will forget some of the concept you have learnt previously.
17. Take a Prep Course (If you can afford it)Studying for the GRE is not a normal ordeal, especially if you are aiming at a really good score. There are so many things you need to take care of, from diagnostic tests to performance analysis, from making dynamic study plans to performing regular mistake analyses. Which is why, we strongly recommend that you take a prep course if you can afford, since you can leave all that hassle to the people who do it best, so you can concentrate on what you can do best – studying. If you think conventional in classroom coaching classes are too expensive for your liking, consider taking an online prep course, which has many advantages.
18. Find a GRE Verbal Study BuddyMore often than not, you probably have a friend who is also studying for the GRE along with you. Rather than studying alone, it is better to have a study buddy for the GRE, since a friend can help you with many things. Firstly, your friend can help you learn the things you didn’t know previously, thereby saving your time. Also, you get a chance to help your friend learning something you know, so you have a chance to study something for the second time. But the real reason why you should have a GRE study buddy, is because you and your friend can help each other learn the GRE vocabulary. Make a pact with your friend that whenever you two talk to each other, or text each other, you will use 5 or 10 GRE words per day. This conversational learning will help you understand the meaning of the words, and their contextual usage, thereby help you learn vocab faster than otherwise. Plus, you can always create a healthy competitive environment between the two of you, as to who scores higher in the next practice test.
19. Get the Right Prep MaterialStudying from the right prep material is almost as crucial as anything that concerns your GRE prep. Many students start with one book, leave it in the middle, and skip to some other material or online sources very frequently. This will seriously affect your schedule and learning process, since each material has its own way of explaining the concepts, and some books might use different notations and terms, for example. This will only hamper your chances of learning faster and better, so it is better to stick a particular set of material throughout your study plan.
20. Do not try to solve any question you see anywhereSolve each and every practice problem from the official guide, and the other guides that we have mentioned earlier. Do not try to search for additional problems, once you are done with these. There is no point in practicing ten thousand problems, if you cannot understand the point behind every question. So, do not try to solve any and every question you see on the internet or elsewhere.
21. Get over FearLike a dialogue from a Hollywood movie says, fear is nothing but a mere choice. Understand the fact that you fearing for the test does not alter the situation you are in. If you are underprepared, better postpone the test rather than go in full of fear and doubt. But, if you are fully prepared for the test and are confident of getting the score you dreamed of, then there’s no point in being afraid or anxious of the test. Learn how to cope with test anxiety and get over all your inhibitions.
22. Build your staminaAs you might have already been told several times, the GRE is a test of endurance. For most students, it is probably the first time in your life that you are sitting through a 4 hour test. It’s a grueling experience, which you must get used to before the test day. For this, you must make it a point to take as many practice tests as you can, in front of the computer. No paper tests, people. Use the computers, since that’s how you are going to write the actual test.
23. Take a GRE Practice Test Every WeekendSince there is a ton of practice material and scores of practice tests available on the internet, all for free, take a practice test every single week using quality tests from Power Prep, Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Manhattan. These practice tests will be very crucial for helping you build the stamina you needed to sit through the 4-hour test. When making a study plan, make sure to take into consideration the fact that you need to take a GRE practice test every weekend. Doing this will help you stay abreast with the test format, and test strategies, and at the same time help you gauge your performance on a weekly basis.
24. The two minute ruleAlways remember the two minute rule, which says that you should never spend more than 2 minutes on a single question on the GRE. After 2 minutes, if you still can’t figure out a solution, find out an alternative approach, or start a guessing strategy. But, be sure to be done by 2 minutes, or else it will hurt your chances of scoring high on the GRE.
25. Do all OG QuestionsIf you have all the time in the world, you must do all the problems from the Official Guide. This is because only the OG has real GRE questions that have appeared in the previous tests. But like most students who are studying for the GRE, if you are under time constraints, you must study in a smart way. Instead of trying to solve all the questions from the OG during crunch time, you should focus your energy in the last 100 or so questions from each section, as they are the most recently retired GRE questions and also tend to be the hardest questions of each section. This will help you understand the exact kind of questions you will face on test day.
26. Maintain an Error LogError logs are probably one of your best friends during your GRE prep. If you try and use the error log effectively for a while, you will be able to see a distinctive pattern of the mistakes you make and the areas you make them in. Believe it or not, the error log will be your best teacher! You can only get a higher score when you know if you are improving constantly or not. It is quite easy to create an error log; it can be anything, but an excel file would be the most preferred option, since it is easier to not only use, but also make changes in the future. Make an excel sheet with the entire list of topics you are going to study in the next few months: Algebra, Geometry, Text Completion, etc. And write down your confidence levels in the next column, on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being ‘very confident’ and 1 being ‘clueless’.
27. Review Wrong Answers ThoroughlyIf you get a question wrong, you need to be extremely vigilant about it, especially since you wouldn’t want to repeat the same mistake next time around. When you make a mistake, don’t read the explanation immediately. Try to solve it on your own. Review all material with a pen and paper in hand.
Any mistake you make any time, you should make sure you would not make it again.So, whenever you get a question wrong in the practice tests, take time to review each and every question, and make sure you review it properly, including finding out the reason why you couldn’t get it right. You must understand why the correct answer choice is right and why the wrong choices are wrong. This exercise may seem boring or repetitive, but it will help you avoid mistakes in the future.