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GRE Student Post: “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

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This Thursday, we’re hearing Varun’s story. He has some great tips for all of us, so listen up! Thanks, Varun. :) 

About me: A techie by nature, I love learning new technologies, gadgets and hacking them to use them as per my convenience. My passport reads “Varun Joshi” , but I mostly answer to the sobriquet “Joshi”. I’m from India and being a tech enthusiast and a computer geek, I settled for an Engineering degree in Computer Science to explore the plethora of sub fields in it and really narrow down my interests. 

Now, every kid has a dream, some kids dream of being a pilot, some dream of being doctors. I on the other hand, had it really narrowed down to become a scientist, “Computer Scientist” as how I used to call it. Over the years, getting to know about the whole computer world scenario, I dreamt of studying at MIT, Stanford or Berkeley. I’m aiming for the fall ’15 admissions, and I’m gonna try my best to at least land anywhere near the top. “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” 

Besides all the geeky stuff, I’m an avid biker! I love my Yamaha r15 and love going on long road trips, discovering new places, meeting complete strangers and interacting with them. I mostly have my DSLR along with me on such trips which satiates my hunger for keeping memories intact in the digital form! I also love adding visual effects and graphics to videos to develop short movies and funny video clips. 

My biggest challenge: Verbal! Oh god, I got the creeps when I gave my first verbal diagnostic test to assess my standing. Oh it was horrible! Places where I lacked were vocabulary, reading comprehension, in short, the whole verbal section. Being from a family of avid readers, I was embarrassed to the point of being ashamed even to have such a lack of vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Partly to be blamed on the education system followed in India, I nevertheless geared myself up to conquer it. Let me state point by point how I worked on it. 

Reading Skills: if you are not already reading the Magoosh blog, trust me, you are missing out on a huge lot of preparation tips! The blog post by Kevin, on the sources for improving your reading skills was a godsend. I started reading The Atlantic which has such great and awesome articles along with a pleasant and pleasing website UI. I also read The New York Times, mostly for its really insightful opinions section. I followed it up with reading so many classic novels, like Catch 22, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Fountainhead etc. They immensely helped me improve my reading skills, because you really need to devour the lines to trully comprehend the actual meaning of the story. 

Vocabulary: For vocabulary, I just referred to the Magoosh flashcards. I sincerely would like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making them free. I mean, they are just so wonderfully made, along with meaningful, easy to relate sentences. Since the words need to be learnt in context, rote memorization does little work here. 

I would like to refer to one of the instances where I desperately needed someone to show me hope that a good score in verbal was possible for me. I was scoring in the 145 range in my practice tests in verbal and desperately needed an improvement, and I sent an email on the 15th of March to Magoosh asking for help or just assurance that it is possible. The next day I received a reply from ‘Jonathan Model’, that was so helpful and assuring. It calmed me down so much and I was so happy with the reply. He even delineated how to approach the RC passages. I wanted to thank him the same day, but I thought I’ll thank him , and all you guys at Magoosh in the end. It truly helped me a lot. Please do pass my regards to all of the Magoosh staff for doing an awesome job. 

Helpful tips for other GRE students: 

One really important tip which I have now started giving out to anyone I find who is giving the GRE exam is, be intelligent about the date and time of the exam. For me personally, sleeping a day before an important event is an arduous task for me. Same happened for the GRE exam. I switched off the lights and closed my eyes at 10pm sharp, but I just could not fall asleep. I last remember checking the wall clock at 2: 30am. I woke up at 5 30am, took a cab at 6 30am for the testing center which was far off , as my exam time was 8am. I reached by 7 15am, and started giving the exam at 7 30am itself.  Now two things happened. I was sleepy, irritated, not able to focus properly, yet I somehow managed to type the AWA section. Now, the worst happened, when my first section came, everyone in the room had their AWA going on, which meant, so much noise cause of the keyboard clicks, that it further impaired my focus. I remember praying to God, to at least help me get a score above 300+ judging by my lack of focus and the difficulty of the exam. 

Had I booked a time later in the day, like 1: 30pm , I would’ve at least slept properly and been able to focus. I had dreamt of a score at least above 320, so as to aim for the top schools but ended up with a 316 ( 156V, 160Q ). What I take from this score is, I have immensely improved my verbal skills! and got a pretty descent quant score. 

Needless to say, all the credit goes to Magoosh. No doubts regarding it. Might sound silly, but I literally love you guys for all that you have done. I don’t know how, but I kind of feel at home talking and thinking about Magoosh and would love to be in touch or associated with you in the future. I hope it happens, somehow. 

About the Author

Rachel Wisuri graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in History and French. She will forever be a student at heart, and in her free time she can be found eating peanut butter, listening to the Beatles, and hanging out in the park. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter!

2 Responses to GRE Student Post: “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

  1. Mireille June 19, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Congrats, Joshi! I hope that score will help you get into the programs you had in mind in the end! Great advice, I’m not a morning person — I will definitely be one of their late birds, even though the testing center is about 20 minutes away from my place.

    Rachel, is it possible to get a link to Kevin’s post Joshi is referring to? I’m kind of in the same boat here, English not being my native language, the only exception I’m not a computer geek, nor a math prodigy. But I’m OK! :D I want to do this and I will, that’s something I can work with! :)

    Again, Joshi…thanks for the time you took to give you all the insightful advice and wishing you all the best in your career ambitions… and not only. :)


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