Interview with GRE topper (340/340) Ashwini Nene
Over the last few days, there is someone who has been in the news much more than our regular Politicians, Corrupt Bureaucrats, Cricketers and Celebrities who own cricket teams. We are talking about Ashwini Nene, the third year undergraduate engineering student from Mumbai, who achieved a milestone by scoring a bullseye, 340/340, in the new format of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). When Stupidsid Reporter contacted her, she was highly ecstatic and this is what she had to say: Stupidsid Reporter (SR): First and foremost, Congratulations on a perfect score. Tell me, how is the feeling overall? Ashwini Nene (AN): (smiles) Thanks a lot! It feels great. I did not expect to score 340. As soon as the results were displayed, I could not believe. I made sure, I'll confirm the news once I receive the Official Score Card.
SR: Do you know anyone who has achieved this feat?
AN: (Laughingly... ) No.
SR: How did you prepare for the exam?
AN: I studied for three hours a day for the first 2 to 3 months. In the last one month, I stretched my timings to 4 to 5 hours a day. I solved around 15 full length tests with good analysis. I guess, that was the key to the full score.
SR: Which sections were you weak at? How did you overcome it?
AN: I love Mathematics since childhood, so that was not a big problem. Verbal was the weaker zone, especially Reading Comprehension (RC). I used to make a lot of mistakes because I never read the questions properly. At times, I used to skip some content of the passage. Avoid such practices. The long passages can be annoying but if you read them well, you can easily ace them.
SR: Which books did you study from?
AN: Princeton Review, Kaplan and Barrons. These books, if solved completely, can certainly fetch you a very high score.
SR: Did you join any coaching classes for GRE? If yes, how was the experience?
AN: I had joined KIC Education Andheri branch. The mentors, teachers, support staff are excellent there. Study material, practice tests helped me a lot. It all depends on how well you've studied. Coaching will just monitor your progress and guide you, if you falter anywhere. A student has to put maximum efforts from his/her side to expect some sort of guidance as well. Since I've scored full marks, I am going to get free counselling from KIC Education for my applications to the universities abroad.
SR: Which universities have you reported your score to?
AN: Well, I have been very optimistic and thus I have chosen all the top universities. I have reported my scores to
• Cornell University
• Columbia University
• University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and
• University of California at Berkeley
I am pretty unsure, if I'll make to any of these top universities of the US (shrugs Ashwini). I have heard a lot about University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (UMich), Gerogia Institute of Technology, Atlanta (GaTech) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).
SR: I am sure you will, Miss Nene. What about your other credentials? AWA? Academics? Engg. College and Stream?
AN: I am currently in my 6th semester (Third Year) studying Computer Engineering from Sardar Patel Institute of Technology (SPIT), Andheri. My aggregate of the last 5 semesters is 73.9%. I scored 4.5 in AWA (Analytical Writing Analysis - Essay) which I think is pretty good enough for most of the universities.
SR: Which countries are you looking at for your Masters/PhD course? And which course?
AN: Well, I am certainly going to apply for Computer Science course but my specialisation is not yet decided. I have spoken to a couple of seniors after my GRE exam and they have told me that specialisation is very important. I'll surf through various online portals who guide about MS in US, take help from my counsellors at KIC, constantly take advice from seniors and relatives abroad before deciding the field. So, it cannot be an overnight call. I'll start working towards my course and specialisation after 6th semester exam.
I am going to apply only to the United States of America (USA). From what I have read on many websites like stupidsid and edulix, and other seniors who have guided me, application is a tough part and eats up a lot of time. It is best if you focus on one country and try to get an admit from the top school. USA has one of the finest universities in Computers. So, I am going to stick to the States.
SR: Excellent! What are your other interests/hobbies?
AN: Ummm.. Well, I am an avid reader. So, my free time is pretty occupied with reading. Since, engineering is a very demanding course, it takes up most part of the day. Hence, I am not so much into extra curricular activities. But yes, I've recently started learning Spanish as I've got this fetish to learn different languages.
SR: Do you've any internship offers after the third year of engineering?
AN: Yes, I've got a 2 month internship opportunity from Microsoft in the IT division. My work location will be Hyderabad and training will begin as soon as the university exams are done (mostly June).
SR: One last question. What advice, tips & tricks would you like to give to your juniors?
AN: VERBAL - Do not ignore the wordlist. Eventhough the new pattern has no analogies and antonyms, it is still very important to have strong vocabulary. Sentence Completion and, at times RCs, can be solved quickly if you know the meaning. Practice a lot of questions. There is ample study material available online and offline. Read articles and newspapers. It helps to improve grammar, you come across new words, and are habituated with long passages.
QUANT - It is all about concepts and applications. I believe that if the concept is clear, a student can solve any possible question. Even average practice can fetch you 160/170 in quants. So, spend time, understand the concepts, get used to the questions and analyse your mistakes, if any.
AWA - Like many other students, I did not study it in the last minute. I wrote around 25 essays from the ETS pool of topics. It is very important to follow the pattern. Do not simply use big words. Logical writing is the key. It is not easy to fool them by simply making it verbose. Understand the topic for 2 minutes, jot down all the points that you are going to argue/support and then pen down the essay.