New GRE – A sneak peek : Gaurav Lahoti


PREREQUISITE

Know the revised pattern; number and type of questions in both verbal and quant section, time allotted for each section and set, breaks during the exam, scoring pattern etc. before reading this article. The required information is present here. Also, this article has been written specifically for verbal section.

Let’s get started right away.

CLARIFICATIONS
1. Although the scoring has been changed to be out of 170 for each section, you won’t get your score out of 340 till after you finish your exam. The exam will give you a range of marks had you given the old pattern. For instance, after you finish your exam, the screen will show something like this:
Verbal : 580 – 680
Quantitative : 750 – 800
The exact score along with percentile will be reported depending on the date you are giving your exam. Details are present over here.
2. Rumor has it that revised GRE has elements of sentence correction, grammar etc in its verbal section. If you have checked out the pattern, you would know that grammar is not required for verbal section.
3. As GRE people say, they have reduced the emphasis on pure vocabulary. This is true. However, it does not mean that you do not need vocabulary. Good GRE score still relies on a good vocabulary and doing wordlist is still a must.
TIPS AND TRICKS
1. Give as many timed tests as possible. Do not get depressed if you are not able to write a good essay or not able to complete the verbal section for the first time. Take a test and contemplate on the shortcomings and do well on the next test.
2. Earlier, almost everyone used to do the vocabulary from Barron’s. Barron’s 19th edition (Barron’s book for new GRE), unfortunately, didn’t include any vocabulary. Get an older edition of Barron’s (18th or less) and do the vocabulary. Doing the wordlists at least ONCE would help a lot.
3. Now GRE doesn’t rely heavily on vocabulary. Therefore, from what I have noticed, out of the 3,500 words in Barron’s wordlist, about 1000 words are the one which are heavily used and learning only those words immaculately can fetch you a very good score in sentence completion and sentence equivalence questions.
4. The frequently used 1000 words are the one which represent some emotion or property of something (adjectives). The prominent properties being : to criticize, deceive, being sad, talkative, stubborn, etc. Whenever you encounter words which mean the same or the opposite or related to the ones represented above, writing them down would be a good idea. Losing marks on these prominent words would be carelessness.
5. Try and give all the practice tests at the same time as your GRE paper. It has two benefits :
a) It will help maintain your schedule. This is specifically important for people giving the test in the morning. Also, as GRE exam is about 4 hours long, you will get to know your endurance level.  Giving the tests at the same time will make you more adapted for GRE to that part of the day.
b) You will get to know more words which are used heavily. Almost all the tests are full of words which are used extensively by GRE makers. Practicing more and more questions will also serve this purpose.
6. After giving some tests, I personally found that skipping over comprehensions initially helped a lot. Completing all the questions except comprehension in 11-12 minutes, doing comprehension questions in 15 minutes and keeping about 3-4 minutes for reviewing questions used to be my aim.
GRE GUIDE BOOKS AND PRACTICE TESTS
ETS OFFICIAL GUIDE
This book is a MUST for now. It will give you detailed instructions on the new GRE and gives you a decent number of questions to practice and the strategy to handle each type of question. ETS people have explained the answers to all the practice questions and going through the explanations once would be a good strategy as it will really give you an insight on how to analyze questions and think along the lines of test makers.
Tests
It has 1 paper based test at the back of the book and 1 on the CD that comes with the book.
How to handle paper based test is at you discretion. It is different from computer based as for each set it gives you 25 questions for verbal in 35 minutes and 25 quant questions in 40 minutes which is not the case in computer based test. Detailed explanation of all the answers is present after the test. Taking it as untimed or timed practice test is your choice but I would suggest you to take it as timed test for obvious reasons!
The test on the CD is same as the one present on ETS website with the name POWERPREP II. Giving POWERPREP II timed test is a MUST before taking the actual exam as it will familiarize you with the actual exam interface and the instructions. The questions are presented in the same format as would be in the real exam and the difficulty level on both the ETS test is closest to what you will experience during the exam.
P.S. On page 133, they have given the math conventions. Quickly browse through them once as they give some clarifications which might not be very obvious.
This book is available on Flipkart.
BARRON’S 19th EDITION
This edition misses out on the content which had been the USP of Barron’s GRE guidebooks: wordlists. This book has decent no. of sentence completion exercise and very few comprehension questions but the number of tests offered offsets the shortcoming. This book has some good tips on writing essays and solving comprehensions. Rest of the tips are average. It’s not necessary that all the tips are useful. Use the ones you are comfortable with.
Tests
The book comes in 2 variants. One with CD and one without CD. You know which book you need to buy or arrange and from where you can get the CD. ;)
The book has 2 sample tests at that end and 2 tests in the CD. The book tests’ structure conform with the computer based test and it would be good to give them as timed tests. The CD test’s user interface is not same as GRE’s interface and there is no option of jumping back and forth while in the middle of a set. You can only do it once you reach the end of the set. Also, the graphs and the charts are not quite obscure in all the questions, whether on CD or on book. Do not get vexed and continue. In official GRE, they are appropriate and won’t be much of a problem.
CAUTION: The software in the CD is a faulty one. After you have completed a test, do not get disappointed by the marks. Software’s checking system is faulty. Also, if you try to jump to questions after finishing the test, the software hangs and you have to kill the process. To get around the problem, start the test again and this time start it as untimed test. Go to each question and see the correct answer and check all the answers yourself.
Verbal difficulty level of the book is same as the original GRE.
This book is available on Flipkart.
KAPLAN’S NEW GRE 2011-2012 : STRATEGIES, PRACTICE AND REVIEW
This book has a good number of practice problems and some good tips on writing essays. Rest of the tips are average. Behind the book, you will find some material for learning words. Many of those words are high frequency words. There is also a section dedicated to word roots. Learning them will help you deduce meanings of many words.
Tests
At the end of the book, there is a test conforming with the computer based test and you get a unique ID with the book which you can use to take the online test. Although I found the test behind the book average and not up to the challenge, there is no harm in giving the test as a timed test. I couldn’t give the online test, so can’t comment on it.
Verbal difficulty level of the book is a bit lower than the original GRE.
This book is available on Flipkart.
PERSONAL REVIEW
The revised pattern definitely moves away from just vocabulary cramming but the multiple choice questions and sentence completion with 3 blanks (9 options!) maintain the test’s difficulty. The option of moving back and forth and marking questions for review is also helpful and should be used to the fullest. Giving as many tests as possible and developing a strategy accordingly is important.
Along with 2 predefined verbal sets, my experimental set was also verbal. In all the 3 sets, the structure was same. First 5-6 questions would be sentence completion, next 5-7 questions would be comprehension, followed by 4-5 sentence equivalence questions and then followed by 3-5 comprehension questions. This was the pattern I observed and should not be taken strictly.
Suggestions invited. If you have better strategies or want to add something, please comment here!
*Verify all the facts and figures before acting on them. I have tried to be as precise as possible with the facts. The tips and tricks emerged out of my own personal experience.