"The exam is approximately four hours long.
"You have to prepare yourself to sit through four hours without any distractions. It is equally important to stay calm and composed."
Arjun Shah who scored 340 in the Graduate Record Examination this year tells us how he did it.
Arjun Shah doesn't like to call himself 'academically bright'. A student of Cathedral and John Connon, he'd scored 94.7 percent in class 10 ICSE and over 90 per cent in class 12 HSc.
At 20, he's managed to clinch the perfect 340 in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) held in January this year.
Administered by the Educational Testing Service, the GRE is a standardised test required to seek for admission into most graduate schools in the United States.
On January 10, 2018, Arjun appeared for the exam which tests candidates for reading and analytical skills.
At the end of the test, which he took in Goregaon West, his screen displayed the score: 340. Arjun says he "couldn't believe it."
"I wasn't sure. I asked some people at the centre and they confirmed that if I had seen it (the score) on the screen, it must be true."
But it wasn't until January 20, when Arjun got the official score card, did the excitement dawn on him.
"I never expected it. It was too good to be true," says the topper who is currently pursuing chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Matunga, Mumbai.
Arjun lives in Mumbai with his parents, both stock brokers at the Bombay Stock Exchange.
He tells Divya Nair/Rediff.com how he prepared for the test and why he intends to study abroad.
When did you start preparing?
I started in October 2017. I’d study three hours each on weekends. But it was all light studying -- getting to know the type of questions being asked, browsing reading material, learning new words etc. In December, after my examination got over, I started paying more attention.
Between December 20 and January 10, I attempted many mock tests so I could be fully prepared for the exam.
How did you prepare? Did you take coaching?
Yes, I signed up for coaching at Jamboree (Jamboree Education's Dadar). It helped me manage my time and balance studies. Although I was referring to the official GRE guide, the reference material provided by my coaching centre also helped.
For English, instead of simply learning random new words, I wrote down the words and meanings of words I was reading for the first time. I maintained a book. This helped me improve my vocabulary. I read as many newspapers I could so I could improve language, speed and perform better in Reading Comprehension section.
What were your weak areas? How did you improve?
I didn’t touch mathematics because i was confident. I had to work more on improving my speed and accuracy in English. Time management was also important.
What were the mistakes you made while preparing for the test? How did you overcome them?
One of the mistakes we all make is not preparing for the actual examination. All candidates study, prepare and even attempt mock tests. But the exam is approximately four hours long.
You have to prepare yourself to sit through four hours without any distractions. It is equally important to stay calm and composed.
If you spot a difficult question, you shouldn’t let it stress you. It would affect the following questions and your score. The best of students who prepare well can bundle up under pressure.
While attempting mocks, it is important to allot time for feedback and analyse what went wrong.
What are your career plans?
I have eight months before I can decide on which stream to specialise in. But I'd like to consider applying to CalTech (California Institute of Technology), Stanford.
Why do you want to study abroad?
I want to pursue research in chemical engineering. In India, I see there is a lot of scope but it pales in comparison to the scale and cutting-edge technology available abroad. I'd like to explore that.