GRE verbal - prep advice

SpaceMarine's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 267

Hey guys,

my hope is that many of you (traders/quants) have gone through a quantitative graduate program (such as MFE) and therefore have taken the GRE prior to admission.

I'm studying for he GRE right now as I plan to apply to a quanty Msc program this year. My exam date is in about 6-8 weeks (still have to register for an exam).

Right now, I'm doing lots of practice exams. On the quant part, my score was never below 95% which is already pretty good.

But I get totally fucked on the verbal part, never being able to do better than 60% (maybe I'm retarded in that sense lol). I've been learning all the vocabularies (from Magoosh flash cards) for weeks and can memorize a lot of them, but the amount of unknown vocabularies on the practice exams just doesn't seem to have an end...

And also, in terms of reading comprehension: I get absolutely crushed every time I have to deal with a longer passage, due to (too) slow reading and poor understanding, in a way that frustrates me more and more... Sometimes it gets so bad that I can hardly finish 70-80% of the verbal questions within the time limit...

Any tips and best-practices for preparing for the varbal part of the GRE would be hugely appreciated !!!

Also: How important is the VERBAL score for graduate admissions to some of the well-known MFE programs like Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, NYU, MIT, Berkeley (...) ?

Thanks a lot :)

Comments (9)

Jun 30, 2014

Do they do GRE scores as percentages now, rather than the 800 max? Anyway, quantish programs, be they comp sci, engineering, and MSFs probably have pretty low average verbal scores. I think I had a 680 verbal when I took the GRE (5 or 6 years ago) which was good enough for ~80th percentile of scores. That was more than enough for the top-end engineering programs.

Jun 30, 2014

Hi thanks for your response. They now have a score range from 130 (=0th percentile) to 170 (=100th percentile).

What I mean by "95%" is to say that I got 19 out of 20 questions right. But on the verbal side, I usually only get 10-12 questions right out of 20 -.-

What did you do for verbal prep? 80th percentile sounds solid though and much better than my current score...

Thanks bro

Jun 30, 2014

To be honest, I just read through a book once and did a couple practice exams. I've been lucky enough to have a pretty good intuition for the verbal stuff, so while my skills had certainly atrophied from the days in high school when I was actually taking english classes, I didn't find it too hard. The GRE, like most of these structured exams, are all about practice. However, if you find that your practice exam scores are not improving in time, then you need to try a different way of studying.

One thing worth noting is that a lot of these quantitative master's programs are a little bit of a degree mill, and they end up taking a lot of foreign nationals who do not speak english as a primary language. As a result, the verbal GRE scores tend to be a little on the low side.

I recall getting a lot of the verbal questions wrong, too. However, I can't recall the exact range I would fall into in terms of raw percentage. Anyway, just keep practicing and do your best. If you put in 6-8 weeks of consistent effort you'll know you did your best, which is all that you can ask for. Any more work would improve your score so marginally as to not matter at all.

Jun 30, 2014

I got a perfect score on the GRE verbal - I didn't do much, but I found that using some online vocab tools helped me in that regard.

Jul 2, 2014

Hi, thanks for your comment!

Could you specify a little what tools you used?

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Jul 2, 2014

Magoosh free online flashcards were vocab were probably the most helpful thing I found. Knowing more vocab makes the comprehension section easier, in my opinion.

Jul 3, 2014

Verbal on the GRE was pretty hard I thought. I got a 680 on the GRE but scored in the 99.9th percentile for verbal on the GMAT in half the time allotted on the verbal parts.

So GRE verbal is definitely testing stuff way beyond what you would need for a quanty degree. Some thing above 650 is probably fine.

The flip side is that you need to kill the quant part, 780-800 or bust.

Jul 3, 2014

@GOCARD: thanks dude... definitely true that the quant programs are highly international, although carnegie mellon has some sick verbal average scores as well (90%ile - ish)... but I've been told that those "showroom scores" are prone to manipulation

@mbamfinquestions: OK I recently started using magoosh but so far havent really realized any substantial gains in verbal skills... I'm aiming for 50 vocabs a day, plus the magoosh online training that I recently purchased, hope that helps haha - did couple of practice exams yesterday and missed half the questions ooops, but I'll keep practicing for the next 6 weeks or so :)

@GoodBread: On quant part definitely 800 (well now it's 170) or bust bro, though sometimes I get 1 wrong out of 20 T_T

What do you guys do to improve reading speed? Practice exams or reading WSJ/Economist/Bloomberg couple hours a day?

Jul 3, 2014
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