Lessons Learned: Cracking the GRE

So a friend of mine has asked me for advice on cracking the GRE couple weeks ago, and with the experience I had preparing for American standardized tests, I’ve decided to write an article about it so others interested could share my lessons as well.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a Master of the GRE. I’ve scored 160+ for both verbal and quantitative sections and a 5 out 6 for Analytical Writing (AW) in 3 attempts without proper practice over the short period of 2 months. I DID take a 10-day Bootcamp in between, so I’d share some of that here in the future. I’m going to take it again next year aiming for 165+ on both sections to bolster a PhD application package. So in a sense, this would be a plan of attack/preview for myself that I’d actually be following 🙂

Verbal Reasoning: As the name itself suggests, reasoning is as much of a critical factor as verbal in evaluating this section. Yet many people tend to overlook this simple fact, and often times I see people try to cluelessly study up their vocabulary. In my experience, cramming up vocab this way didn’t really help (o’ good memories of the SAT), but I do recommend two sources of vocab builder for those who 1) have plenty time or 2) are serious about nailing their vocabulary:

  1. Magoosh GRE Vocabulary Flashcards Mobile App – super convenient and can even be addicting at times of commute, etc.
  2. Barron’s GRE High-Frequency 333 Words Vocabulary List – please buy the book if you enjoy this – its Math section is also super useful!

For me what worked wonders was to just think of it as a logical reasoning test (more math, if you will) and approach with a problem-solving mindset. An example would be to pay special attention to the connective phrases in between clauses of a long sentence to infer the mood (contrast, agree, unrelated, not enough info) that is intended at different parts of the sentence. There’re down sides to this, obviously, in that because the verbal section always comes first with a 1-hour writing, if you focus your logic really hard to excel those, by the time it comes to the math section you might be mentally drained. Different people have different ways to maintain their willpower, and I’m definitely not an expert at this, though I find this book to be very entertaining.
Bottom-line: Would I do this again? Maybe, though for my field any score above 160 is considered more than good enough. So I’d take this methodology with a grain of salt.

More to come next time on the Quantitative and AW sections. To be continued…


Published by


AI & Robotics graduate at Georgia Tech. Computer Vision at Lyft AV, Data Science at Spotify, macOS at Apple. Dual-degree from University of Southern California.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s