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Sofia S.: Aiming for a High GRE Quant Score

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 heading over to Student New GRE Experiences.

Here’s the latest one, from Sofía S.

“Hi everyone!

I’m Sofía, I’m from Mexico but am currently doing my undergrad in Chemical Engineering in Canada. I am thinking of doing grad studies in engineering, so I knew I had to do particularly well in the quantitative section of the GRE.

I probably started studying for the test about a month in advance. However, I was also working full time and only spent about 2-3 hrs a day studying for about 3 weeks. It was not until the week anteceding the exam that I decided to increase the intensity of my study to about 6 hrs / day. Regarding the preparation for the exam, I was very concerned with the lack of appropriate prep material. There is not that much out there that properly reflects what the New GRE is like, except perhaps for the ETS guide / Powerprep software. However, these only provide 2 full practice tests, and a couple of other questions for quant and verbal. The full list of materials I used were:

Kaplan’s New GRE: Strategy, Practice, and Review 2011-2012

As Chris already mentioned, the verbal questions are usually considerably easier than what you get in the New GRE. Still, it is good practice to start with if you have the time.

Kaplan’s New GRE Math Workbook

Already knowing all the math basics, I only got this book for extra practice. The questions were decent for extra practice, but I didn’t find many challenging ones.

Kaplan’s New GRE Verbal Workbook

Same as with the big book, described above.

ETS Official Guide to the revised GRE

Very useful in terms of showing what the difficulty level would be like. However, it does not have much practice material. Getting it is a must, though, I would say.

Princeton Review’s Math Workout for the New GRE (only the 2 Sample Sections)

I borrowed this from a friend about 2 days before my exam just for extra practice on math. I found the 2 sample sections were not very challenging, but they are useful for practice (as are the Kaplan ones).

Kaplan’s Advanced Math for the GRE: You only Guide to an 800

This book was writte for the old GRE. However, the questions provide excellent practice if you are looking for more challenging math questions. I did almost every question on this book, and they were all at least medium in difficultyThe toughest questions I got in the actual exam were about this level, so it was definitely good preparation to increase my speed in challenging questions.


In a nutshell, these were my impressions on the exam:

Analytical Writing

Nothing unexpected here–the topics come straight from the issue/argument pool published by ETS. I even got a topic that I had read and decided was too lazy to write a preliminary essay on (should’ve done it and probalby would have nailed the actual one!).

My preparation for these consisted on writing timed essays for random topics chosen from the ETS AWA pool, and it helped me not blank on exam day and organize my ideas more efficiently.

Quantitative Reasoning

I did not find the math questions very difficult. However, I did get very nervous because I knew I needed a perfect or almost perfect score–this influenced my performance negatively, because I took longer to move on from questions by double-checking them every time when some were very straightforward. I did not pay proper attention to the timer and when I was about to click an answer for my last question of the first quant section, the time was up! So definitely click at least something if you are running out of time, and then change your answer by guessing smartly if you have the chance.

The second section was harder in content, but I was less nervous and actually finished it with some minutes to spare. Main advice: try not to stress too much–I know, much easier said than done.

I had a third math section, which I hope was the research one. It was similar in difficulty to the second one, but I was really exhausted by the end of it and had to quickly guess about 3 questions because I was running out of time.

Regarding the calculator, I used it only to ease my computations in about 20 – 30% of the questions. The math is usually straightforward and I found in the questions I got, I was better off doing it on my own–I felt clicking the calculator operations was more time consuming than me computing it on paper, to be honest.


Verbal, as expected, was not easy. However, I did not find it that terrible, either. The questions are similar in difficulty to those in the ETS guide. I did notice a slight increase in difficulty in the second section I got, mainly I got more and more complex (and time-consuming) reading comprehension questions, and the sentence completion had more blanks on average than the previous section.

My advice when preping for verbal is to take Chris’ advice and daily read passages from newspapers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Economist, etc. This should not be your only preparing, though. I would definitely suggest looking at some word-lists (I revised Kaplan’s), and then doing some practice questions, even if they’re not entirely representative of what you’ll get in the exam (but then again, no one except ETS provides you with that, and it’s only a couple questions to go with so you do what you can with what you’re given!)


So, after 4 grueling hours, I was finally done with the exam. My projected scores were in the range:

Quantitative Reasoning: 750-800

Verbal Reasoning: 620-720 

I hope this post is somewhat useful, and good luck with your exams!”

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One Response to Sofia S.: Aiming for a High GRE Quant Score

  1. Frank Lucas September 7, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I find it very informative and it will definitely help me in my preparation. Congrats on your great score!

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