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Ayush P’s GRE Test Day Experience

We’ve recently gotten some great stories from students reporting back on their experiences with the new GRE! You can submit your own or read what others have shared by going to Student New GRE Experiences.

This post features the latest submission, from Ayush P.


“After a month and a half of grueling preparation, I have finally finished taking the GRE. Heading into the final week of preparation, my primary motivation was not to get a target score, but to make sure that I do well enough to not have to take this test again. Despite not getting an ideal score range, I am hopeful that there is no need to retake it.

If you are reading this post, then either you are scouring internet for anything about the new GRE or you are a Magoosh subscriber. Several weeks ago, I was like one of you, trying to absorb information and weighing my options on whether to old or new GRE. Taking the brand new GRE was a risk, as even the test prep companies were in dark about it. To be honest, the 50% off discount incentive was a major factor in taking the new GRE in August. Is it necessary to memorize 3500 words? Should I take the old GRE before it disappears forever? Does the inclusion of calculator mean than the math section is going to be a lot harder?

Despite the threatening confidentiality statement that ETS makes everyone write down every word by  hand, for some unknown reason, I think I can safely answer some of these questions based on my test day experience.


Fortunately, the Math section was very easy and straightforward, even easier than the Official guide practice test. The “one minute per question strategy” that I devised during my preparation, worked perfectly during the test. According to this strategy, some questions will take a minute or more, while some will take merely 30-40 seconds. So, if you are solving questions at a one problem per minute rate, evening out the time to roughly one per minute, then you are well on course to finish the section in 20 minutes sparing 15 extra minutes. Not surprisingly, data interpretation questions take a longer time, but if you managed to spare even 5 minutes to review then that would give ample time to catch silly mistakes. This worked for me in the first section on math, giving me enough time to review and even watch the clock wind down for the last couple of minutes.

However, it was a different story in the second math section, which was much harder, presumably because of the section adaptive feature. I had to resort to intelligent guessing for a few curve-ball questions that I couldn’t figure out in the spare minutes that I managed to muster in the end. Beware of the multiple answers math questions.


In retrospect, if I could change one thing regarding my test experience, I would have taken the exam later in the day, or definitely not as early as 8:30 am. To make matters worse, the proctor made me take the test at 8 am; I had arrived in the center 30 minutes early to be safe. This bad judgment hindered my verbal section performance as I felt I could not concentrate fully, which is clearly demanded by the verbal section. It is very important to keep one’s focus during the verbal section as it is easy to get stuck in one question, thereby missing questions at the end. As the test progressed, I felt that I was increasingly in  control. This was in complete contrast to other test taker’s warning that the protracted length of the test enervated them.

The verbal questions were similar to the format in the official guide, with no surprises. The reading passages were not that hard either, even though I was stumped by a science passage with a lot of jargon, which wasted lot of extra time. I felt that pacing was the most important aspect of this verbal section; time pressure in the first verbal section made me extra careful to keep sufficient review time in the end for the next one.

To prepare for the verbal, I compiled lists of high frequency vocab words rather than working with a single list. I highly recommend the Word Smart book, which had a very good list of words and corresponding sentences that seemed more likely to stick to one’s memory as well as show up on GRE. While memorizing 4000 words will not up increase your score on the new GRE, it will not hurt your score at all. My advice would be to read as many high level articles, newspapers, and news materials found in sources like the Guardian, the New York Times, Economist magazine etc., and then identify the GRE words that you memorized and understand their meanings in context [Chris says: “This is the perfect approach!”].


As everyone expected, the writing section hasn’t changed much, except the timing, of course. I used the 5-20-5 strategy, which is 5 minutes planning, 20 minutes writing, and 5 minutes proofreading. As I am a bit slow with the keyboard, I was worried about the length of my essay. So, I tried to focus on the quality of the essay rather than writing.

Finally, I would like to thank Magoosh team for their excellent blog-posts and GRE product which was very helpful for the preparation. Also, I appreciate that they allowed me to share my experience with Magoosh readers and subscribers.”


A big thank-you to Ayush and everyone else who have been sharing their experiences with us!

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

3 Responses to Ayush P’s GRE Test Day Experience

  1. Bolor December 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi, Ayush.

    Are u from Mongolia?

  2. elyse conklin October 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I took the GRE on the very last day it was offered for half price, September 30th, at 1 PM. I am applying for political science phd programs, so I need a high score in all three sections. I have been studying for about seven weeks, seeing a tutor for three hours a week and only utilizing practice tests (not strategies) from the ets book (first the old test book, then the new test book about a week before the test), kaplan, mcgraw-hill, and the princeton review.

    English was my second major and i am very involved in policy debate, so i didnt really study for the verbal or the essay section outside of practice tests (i made sure to look up any words i didnt know). I found the verbal section of the test to be pretty easy. I finished each verbal section with 15-20 minutes to spare, and was thankful to have an extra minute to close my eyes…word of advice, make sure to go to the bathroom before the test and not to drink a lot immediately before the test. I had to go to the bathroom sooo badly during the second section, knowing i had a quantitative section coming up. I managed to only lose about three minutes of test time, going back and forth, but it was a major gamble.
    My experimental was a verbal section and initially was very difficult, but not too bad second time around. The ability to go back and forth is very nice.

    Quantitative was my biggest obstacle. I didnt excel at math in high school and only took one basic math course early in college and a basic stats course. I met with a tutor twice a week and he would teach me basic concepts and evaluate questions i missed on practice tests and worksheets. On my first section i got bogged down in a standard deviation question and ended up leaving two blank, my second section was much easier.

    I was most worried about burning out, but i worked through it easier than i thought i would. Taking my test later in the day was a great choice.

    Verbal: 690-790
    Quantitative: 590-690

    The range seems rather large. I think i am going to sign up for another test as soon as i can retake it if the scores made my schools in time, i would have liked 700+ on quantitative and the difference between a 590 and 690 is huge, so i dont want to risk too low of a score.

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette October 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      Thanks for this, Elyse!

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