GRE Strategy Debrief

It’s a bit more than one year ago when I took GRE. It was December 29, 2009 and it was my second take on GRE since I underestimate the first exam more than a month earlier. I thought that I would be able to tackle the GRE with ease because I had experience taking GMAT exam two years earlier. Boy, I was so wrong!

My first GRE score was lower than 1000 and I was so devastated. I’m blessed enough to have family and friends who supported me to retake the exam, and believed that I could score much higher than the first result. I took it and the score was 1340 (Verbal 550 & Quantitative 790). I can’t say that my second GRE score was exceptional, but it really made me happy and encourage me to proceed to apply for computer science school in USA.

This GRE debrief was written two days after I took the exam so it is as accurate as possible to what helped me to achieve that score.

GRE Debrief

Finally, after four straight months of GRE study, it all end very well, too good to be true rather for me. Only by God’s grace and help I could got the score of 550V and 790Q. Winston Churchill is right, “if you’re going through hell, you better keep going.” Oh, GRE is really one of a hell alright.


I will start with quant first, because this is really my main focus since I plan to take Master in Computer Science. GRE Quant is really sick math! It is designed to take everyone (or at least me..) down.

If your major is mathematics or any course that are really heavy on math, maybe you won’t had so much hard time here though.

All I can say is GRE Quant can be cracked by constant practice, and memorizing math shortcuts.

You only have 1 minute time to calculate the answer, so the better option is always… DON’T CALCULATE!

Many GRE quanti questions can be solve just by simple looking and estimation, for example is this question, which has higher value, the equation A or B:



Calculating the result will at least take more than a minute. Using estimation, however, the problem can be solved in less than 10 seconds.

So if you’re still confused on how to increase your GRE quant score, do these:
1. Practice as many variative questions as possible.
2. Find the fastest way to solve them. If you need more than two minutes to solve a question, then it’s not the “right” way to solve it.
3. Develop speed. Try to do 30 questions in 30 minutes.


For someone from a non-English speaking country like me, GRE verbal is a nightmare. The words are so out of this world and are never normally used in any popular publications.

So don’t waste the reading comprehensions section questions, they are your best help to increase your score. You should manage to perfect them because all of the answers are there. Unlike antonyms and logical reasoning sections where if you don’t know the word meaning then your chance of getting the answer right is greatly reduced to 20%.

There is no shortcut for verbal. You’ve really got to increase your vocabulary with GRE words. There are several ways to do this:
1. Brute force memorization
2. Games
3. Stories
4. Mnemonic


Read the Arco’s GRE Essay Answers, get familiar with how a perfect essay response look like, and practice writing them.

I find argument question as the easier compared to the issue question because we just need to be overly critical and pessimistic. Issue question is a bit more challenging because you got to find supporting reasons for your position.

Practice writing essay until you feel natural to write both issue and argument essays without any pressure.

Review Length

Time needed to review for GRE varies greatly. I need at least 4 months cause I still had my full-time job as a programmer, with the last one month I reviewed more than 3 hours daily.

Review Materials


  1. Start with Nova Math Prep Course Book, it has great discussion for those who need to refresh their basic math skills.
  2. Practice the Korean Big Book, time yourself, and do the 30 questions in 30 minutes to build up speed.
  3. Memorize and practice math formula shortcuts from TestMagic forum.


  1. Start building vocabulary with the Barron’s 300 GRE words, and find the meaning from Oxford dictionary maybe fine but not for all words.
  2. Try to memorize these GRE words everyday until test time.
  3. Practice with Big Book, time yourself too.
  4. There are some logic in solving reading comprehension and sentence completion, practice till you master them.


  1. Arco Essay book is a must.
  2. GRE Official Essay guide is also indispensable.

Last Advice

Do GRE Prep till you drop.

I know your scores will eventually not a true reflection because you might have remember some of the questions. But if you cannot get the score you wanted in GRE Prep (read: perfect 1600) even with repeated questions, there is little chance you will get it on the real test.

I do GRE Prep every week on the last four weeks also.

Final Word

That’s all there is regarding my GRE experience guys. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to write them on the comment section below. For all of you who are going to take GRE exam, good luck and God bless! 😀

Author: Trijito Santoso

I’m Trijito Santoso, a Seventh-Day Adventist, a medical technology graduate, and a software developer. The reason why I shifted from medical technology to computer science is because I love to create things (design, software, articles, anything), and being a software developer allows me to create things everyday. I’m currently studying Master of Science in Computer Science at Northeastern University, Boston. My Google Profile+

2 thoughts on “GRE Strategy Debrief”

  1. Hi, Djitz,

    mau tanya, maksudnya GRE prep every week itu tes prediksi GRE kan? tesnya dimana? online kah? klo ga online (ditempat les misalnya), bayarnya berapa? btw klo mau download soal latihan GRE dimana ya?bisa minta linknya? thanks.

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