The Ultimate Guide to acing in your GRE


If you decide to watch our pre-shot videos with the author of this book, please visit the following links.

  1. Quant –
  2. Verbal –
  3. RCs & AWA –

This document is directed towards college students wanting to enhance their GRE or TOEFL scores within a couple of weeks. It additionally includes some hyperlinks to the materials one can use while preparing. This manual is primarily based on specific first-hand experiences with the tests and in no manner is comprehensive.

The scores of both the GRE-General test and TOEFL is required by most of the universities while applying for Masters in any discipline of Engineering in the USA.

While these tests may not act as a deciding factor in your admissions, both these tests can and do serve as a red flag for ad-com (admission committee) members while reviewing your application. A stellar GRE/TOEFL score may not help you get into the program of your choice if the rest of your profile does not support it. However, a low GRE/TOEFL score will drop your chances of getting reviewed by the ad-com members.

Being a part of this education system, initially as students and later as mentors, makes us knowledgeable enough to create a guide about GRE and TOEFL. Well, we are no experts either, but this guide is an insight into years of student experiences with tried and tested methods that can surely help you move up those scores.

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

About The Test

GRE is a standardized test used by universities in the US to shortlist the best student candidates for the admissions process. Aspirants interested in pursuing a master’s degree, specialized master’s course, MS, MBA, MEM or doctoral degree can appear for the GRE Test.

To begin with, if you are planning to apply for the Fall 2021 batch and haven’t given GRE yet or plan to regive the tests, it’s not too late. Many universities have deadlines post 15th January. However, you need to book your test dates as soon as possible to start preparing for the exam immediately. Once you’ve done that, it is essential to go through the first chapter of the official ETS GRE Guide to learn about the exam pattern and contents. If you have already given the GRE and are planning to reattempt it, we still advise you to read the first chapter for absolute clarity about the exam pattern and what it entails.

Once the exam pattern is clear, it’s time for you to give your first mock test and explore your weaknesses. While we are on the topic of GRE mock tests, we suggest you buy one of the Manhattan GRE Verbal Guides as you get a pack of six full-length Manhattan GRE Practice tests free of cost. These tests are one of the best and a steal at this price.

One can go for the ETS Official Mock Tests, but it’s advisable to give one of the Manhattan tests if you have them readily available as it allows you to save the ETS mock test for the end, which is the closest mock-up of the actual test you can get. Try sitting down within a time frame of 3 hr 30 min while giving your first mock test to mimic the actual test conditions (Always give the AWA section with your GRE timed test and do not overlook the same).

After giving your first GRE mock test, it is time to analyze your performance. Start by analyzing each question, understanding which questions pose a problem, and making a note of all the mistakes you have made. Understanding what question type and which subtopic is problematic for you is very important at this stage so that we can devote a few extra hours for the same.

GRE Quant

Depending on your score in the practice test, try approaching each section differently. For the quant section, let’s classify the score in three categories:

  • 160-170 (Good score)
  • 150-160 (Work on improvement if you are decent in verbal and have time)
  • 130-150 (Need to improve for an MS application).

If you got a 160+ score in the practice test- you could quickly improve your score to get a 165+ or even a 170, and is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall GRE score. First of all, try to point the difficulties you faced during the practice test that decreased your score. Some of the general problems people face include, but are not limited to:

1. You faced a shortage of time and could not complete all the questions in the test. In this case, you need to remember that all questions in the test have a similar score value and getting stuck on a difficult question for 5 min will severely hamper your chances of getting a good score in the section. You need to keep track of time while doing the test and refrain from spending more than 2 minutes on any questions. To score a perfect 170 in Quant, try completing the test in 20-25 minutes and then using the remaining 10-15 minutes to reattempt all the questions again (Do not just go through the answers you have already marked, instead reattempt the question as you might have missed some details while reading the question and a fresh mindset might help you correct the mistake). Do this for any question you have the tiniest bit of doubt about, and we guarantee you, it will help you correct at least one mistake you made. PRACTICE MORE TIMED TESTS to improve on the timing issue.

2. If you face issues in a particular problem or a specific topic, try clearing your concepts about the same. This can be done by going through both the ETS Official Guide and reading up on the topic, and going through the Manhattan Strategy Guide of the topic. Once you have cleared your concepts in the area, start practising those problems extensively, and you will see improvement in your mock test scores in no time.

If you got a 150-160 score in your practice test, then it is most likely a combination of sufficient time to complete all the questions and lack of conceptual clarity in one or multiple areas.

  1. Read the Quant sections from the ETS official guide for GRE and attempt all questions given in the guide to starting with. It should clear out the fundamental problems in Quant and help you figure other problems while giving the next Practice test.
  2. Give another practice test to pinpoint the problems that remain. If you have completed the above step, your score should have improved, and you can move on to reading the Manhattan Strategy Guide of the particular topic and solving questions from the Manhattan 5lb Book for any topics you are facing difficulty with. At the same time, many people find the Manhattan 5lb book tedious and boring. It helps a lot in clearing the misconceptions and improving scores in the actual exam.
  3. Finally, give as many timed practise tests as you can since it’s known to improve your score in the final exam. (PS. Read the section for 160+ score once your score improves)

Suppose you got a score below 150 on your practice test. In that case, it is majorly a result of not remembering the concepts clearly, reflecting the need to focus on your Quant section before you even move on to improving your Verbal score, as a good Quant score is considered more important than an excellent Verbal score by ad-coms.

1. Read the Quant sections from the ETS Official Guide for GRE and attempt all questions given in the guide to starting with. It shall help in clearing out your fundamental problems in Quant. Move on to both the Manhattan Strategy Guides and the 5lb book ten from here and practice as many problems as you can from the 5lb book.

2. After 4-5 days of practice, you should be done with most of the problems in these books and have a firmer grip over the concepts in Quant with considerable improvement in scores (Once you see an improvement in the score, read the sections for 160+ score or 150-160 score to improve your score further).

A majority of the problems could be solved just by clearing the concepts and practising sufficient mock tests. If you are getting a low score in Quant, focusing on it is the easiest and fastest way to improve your overall GRE score. However, do not get stuck on improving your Quant score after reaching a 160-165 since a lot depends on the test day. Just keep practising, and you will be golden.

GRE Verbal

Being less acquainted with GRE Vocabulary and complicated Reading Comprehensions during schools and colleges makes people find GRE Verbal the most challenging part of the exam.

GRE Verbal section can broadly be divided into three question types: Text Completion Questions, Reading Comprehensions and Sentence Equivalence questions. To begin with, you need to understand all three question types by reading the ETS official guide for GRE. Once you have a better understanding of all these and how they are scored, you can move on to analyzing the problems you are facing in each sub-section.

Text Completion Questions base themselves on your knowledge of GRE level vocabulary, understanding of English grammar and sentence structure. However, suppose you are having problems in all three sections of GRE Verbal. We suggest you start by improving on Reading Comprehensions as they are the easiest to begin with among the three and accounts for about 50% of the verbal questions.

1. To improve your performance in the Text Completion section, begin with improving your Vocabulary using the following schedule depending on the amount of time you have: begin with Barron’s 333 most frequent GRE Words. DON’T MEMORIZE THE WORDS AND THEIR DEFINITIONS BUT UNDERSTAND THEIR USAGE IN SENTENCES TOO. For the above, we recommend getting Barron’s Essential Words for GRE as it has excellent sample usage and is the perfect wordlist to follow up the Barron’s 333 most frequent words. Finally, if you have some time in hand or you like studying word lists on your way to work, try out the Magoosh GRE app. The more time you have for preparation, the more words one should try to study.

2. If you have additional time in hand, an excellent way to improve your reading comprehension, grammar and Vocabulary is reading articles from sources like the New York Times, The Economist, Hindustan Times etc. This method can be used along with the words list for students not used to reading a lot in their daily life as it gets them accustomed to the GRE level reading.

3. Finally, usage of the Magoosh English Grammar Practice for a basic overview. We strongly recommend you create your own set of flashcards for the final 10-12 days of vocabulary practice, as going through the usual word lists gives you a false sense of accomplishment from the words you already knew, and you don’t get as much practice as needed on the words giving you trouble. For this purpose, the Vocabulary Trainer Flashcards app is a great tool to create your wordlists and revise them in the last few days of my GRE preparation.

4. We also suggest getting as much practice as possible from the Manhattan 5lb book as learning from example has a more significant impact on your mind than simply rote learning.

Reading Comprehension Questions account for 50% of the total verbal questions in GRE and are the easiest among the three sections. It doesn’t implicate that the Reading Comprehension Questions are easy, as they pose their own set of challenges.

  1. People with an extensive reading habit find this section easier than others. However, one can begin with the Manhattan Strategy Guide for Reading Comprehensions to build a concrete base. “The tips and tricks proved to be very useful to me and drastically improved my RC score over a few days”.
  2. One of the best tips to help with improving your RC score is extensive practice. You can get sample RC questions from the Manhattan 5lb book or the RC-99 passages. Practice RC questions in a timed manner even when doing sample questions from these sources. You can allocate a single RC question around 2 min, 2-3 questions around 3-4 minutes and RCs with 4+ questions approx. 5-6 minutes. Following all the instructions provided by the Manhattan Strategy Guides has helped numerous students over the years in improving their RC accuracy from around 50-60% to 90+%. Hence, we strongly suggest you use them.

3. Manhattan Strategy Guides mention another type of RCs, known argument-type RCs, which are somewhat different from normal RCs and require a different approach while solving them. Learn to identify these and solve accordingly, as a few of them are bound to appear in the final GRE test.

Sentence Equivalence Questions are the devil’s work for anyone who is not good with GRE vocabulary. One should possess the knowledge of usage of words, synonyms, sentence structure and much more. Entering guesswork as an answer has fewer chances of turning out correctly if you haven’t eliminated some of the answer choices. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t take chances with guesses as GRE has no negative marking and every point counts when you are running out of time.

1. To solve Sentence Equivalence Questions, follow all the steps you have taken for Text Completion Questions and better understand synonyms and sentence structure. GRE Test makers often provide two sets of synonyms in the answer sets to confuse test-takers, so pay attention.

2. You can follow the following materials for Sentence Equivalence Questions: Barron’s Essential Words for GRE, Manhattan StrategyGuides, Manhattan 5lb. Book, Magoosh English Grammar Practice and others that were mentioned earlier.

In our experience, the GRE Verbal is not a very big hassle if approached the right way. Using correct techniques and the right amount of practice, it is easy to attain a good score. As with all the other sections, the key to achieving a good score in GRE Verbal is keeping your wits about you during the exam and not giving it too much thought. Just go and give the exam as you would in any other practice test, and you should be scoring excellent marks in no time.

GRE Analytical Writing

The final but not so less crucial piece to the GRE puzzle is the GRE Analytical Writing Task. Many people tend to look at the AWA task as unimportant when it is far from the truth.

Most universities have a lower cutoff for AWA, and not clearing that can be a lousy way of getting rejected for an admit. On top of all, the GRE AWA is the first section you face in the exam, and if you get stuck while writing these essays, it has higher chances of affecting your confidence and overall scoring ability during the exam.

1. One of the most incredible tips for succeeding in getting an above-average or good score in the AWA section is practising the AWA portion of the exam whenever you give a mock test. This technique helps you get used to the exam pattern in real-life conditions and helps improve your writing skills. Getting your mock essays reviewed by friends, colleagues and teachers for external inputs and suggestions are a great way to improve your writing skills and the scores on exam day.

2. You can go through the following materials to improve your performance during the exam: ETS Official Book for GRE, ETS AWA Question Pool, Guide to Argument Essay and Manhattan Strategy Guides.

Our final advice to every student for improving their GRE score is to give Mock Tests. Give as many mock tests as possible and analyze your performance after each mock test. It helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses and helps you turn the efforts in the right direction.