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GRE Student Post: How I Scored a 170 Verbal as a Non-Native Speaker

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This week, Alberto is telling us about his experience with the exam. He got a perfect verbal score, and a 169 quant. Amazing job, Alberto! 🙂 


Hi! My name is Alberto and I am from Mexico City. This coming fall I will be a Senior at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. I am majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Economics. After graduation, I’d like to pursue a PhD in either Neuroscience or Biology. I keep myself busy in school by working in a lab and being very involved in Delta Upsilon (my Fraternity) and Greek Life in general.

When I first decided to take the GRE, I took one of the PowerPrep tests and got low 150s for both sections. English being my 3rd language, I decided I’d focus on the Verbal Reasoning and AWA sections first. I realized that the quickest route to a higher Verbal score was to expand my vocabulary. While I already made a habit of reading the Economist and the Atlantic, I would often encounter words I did not know, but would try to guess the meaning from the context instead of looking it up. After watching the vocabulary lessons, I made it a point to look up every single word that I didn’t know. I also began making flashcards with those words and used them in addition to the Magoosh flashcards[Update!: Flashcards just got even better with our new GRE flashcards!]. Eventually, after I felt my vocabulary was up to snuff, I started watching all the rest of the Magoosh lesson videos. To my surprise, most of the mistakes I had made in the Quantitative section stemmed from me not knowing just a couple of number and probability properties. From then on, it was smooth sailing! Having armed myself with all the knowledge our Magoosh had to give, all that stood between me and my dream scores were countless hours of reading and practice.

I very strongly recommend that you pinpoint what topics you need to work on and give yourself a reward each time you master one of them. I know it sounds silly, but that went a long way in keeping me motivated. The only other word of advice I can give you is to try to take as many full length practice tests as you can. I made the mistake of only taking the two on PowerPrep, and I am certain that getting used to the duration of the test would have made it less stressful!

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.

10 Responses to GRE Student Post: How I Scored a 170 Verbal as a Non-Native Speaker

  1. Caio July 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    Nice to know that 3 years ago Magoosh was already helping out a lot of students across the globe. However, I must say that the Non-native Speaker’s GRE Student Posts are usually from people who actually have been immersed in english (it includes people from developed countries because they fortunatelly have the “developed” factor counting as a plus – since they have great standard english classes in their educational system), such as Alberto that is from Mexico City – and had a great score =) but he was already studying in the US!

    I am from Brazil and I am struggling with the Verbal Section (quant is OK) because we brazilians do not even speak in english in our country unless in a private english preparatory course when we are teenagers.

    I congratulate Alberto and the other students for the excellent accomplishments, and I would like to hear stories about someone who was in the same situation as me!

    • Alisson Brito September 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

      Hello Caio, I am also Brazilian and I am seriously studying for GRE. Lets talk! We can study on skype for the Verbal section!

      • Caio September 25, 2016 at 4:06 am #

        Sure, how can we meet? Look for me on skype: caio_velasco

  2. Amy May 12, 2015 at 4:00 am #

    Congratulations! That is really inspirational! For how long did you prep for the gre? I am freaking out because I feel like I do not have a lot of time but there is a big pressure on me to do reasonably well( at least to be on the 90th percentile).

  3. Hani August 10, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    you give me a hope. thanks

  4. Amey Deo August 8, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    Epic Score!!! Congrats!!! 😀

  5. Shiva August 5, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Congratulations! Alberto 🙂

    Just curious to know how long did you prepare for the GRE ? I am also preparing for the test since 1 month and have another 48 days to go, so I am starting to get a little nervous.

  6. chethan August 4, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Congrats dude.Also, Thanks for the info.

  7. Minitha August 3, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    This helped a lot! Being in a non-English speaking country since I was nine has brought the level of English I should be having down. Thanks Alberto. 🙂

  8. Pradeep August 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Congratulations Alberto…! Great score 🙂 What preparation materials did you use for tougher questions on Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion & RC? Approximately how much time did you invest in your GRE Verbal preparation?

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