A Math major
I wish I was that smart. My strength lies in the verbal portion though. I've been using magoosh GRE prep. I only have this month to prepare; so hopefully this would be enough to get a decent score on Math.
I agree it's a really stressful and expensive process, especially when you take into account the competitiveness. I'm only applying to five schools, and they only accept 5-7 students max. One of my professors thinks that I've next to no chance, because my background in not strong enough. So I need to get excellent GRE scores to be even considered.
Did German universities also looked at your GRE scores, or did they have their own requirements? Do you have to know any German?
Applications are much easier in Germany(though I applied only to 1 place here). No GRE. They only require some proof of English proficiency(ex. TOEFL), that too not all universities ask for it. No application fee either. As for German language requirements, depends on the University and the program. For my program, I need to pass a basic test in German within a year of registering for my PhD, else I will be forced to withdraw(that's why I'm continuing my current RAship for as long as possible and delaying registering for the PhD program till I absolutely have to
). However, countries like Germany have direct PhD's(only research, no coursework). So, you need to have a Master's degree to apply.
For US Grad Schools(PhD programs), from my two years of application experience, I can say that the most important thing is your recommendations. More importantly, you should get a good recommendation from someone they(the schools you are applying to) know. i.e. Use your Professors' contacts to your advantage. That is literally the most important thing. Anything else can be overcome by this. If your Undergrad/Master's was not in the US, the TOEFL matters a LOT for getting TAships.
For the Quantitative section, I really recommend using Kaplan. At least that's what my brother told me, who had not done any Math for 6 years when he gave the GRE. You should be able to get a free ebook online. (If not, I could send you one
As for competitiveness, International students have it much much worse(again, only for PhD programs). Though this effect gets reduced a lot if you studied in US before.
thegradcafe.com is a great place to meet other people who are applying(though don't know if many people from linguistics visit there). But approach that site with care. Many people there are more stressed than you can imagine and you may catch that too.