How to Start Studying for the GRE

One of the most common questions we hear from people planning on taking the GRE is, how should they start studying? There’s a lot of material and a lot of test strategies to remember, so having a game plan to start out can be really helpful. Here are four steps to take to help you get started on your GRE prep:

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1. Determine the GRE scores you need.

Do some basic research to find out the scores you need to get into the programs that interest you. Programs will often give a minimum score for acceptance on their ‘admissions’ page. If not, you can look up statistics of the most recently admitted class and find the average or median GRE scores there. By learning exactly what scores you need, you’re getting information that will help you set a realistic, informed goal and ultimately get you closer to acceptance into a program you’re interested in.

2. Register for the GRE.

Choosing a test date and registering for the GRE should be one of the very first things you do when you’re beginning your GRE prep. If you don’t do this right away, it’s easy to keep procrastinating until you have very little time to prepare for and take the GRE before your grad school applications are due. If you commit to a test date right away, though, you can choose (and stick to!) a study schedule that fits your timeline.

3. Make your GRE study plan.

Once you’ve decided when you’ll take the GRE, decide how you want to study and for how long. How busy your schedule is and what type of learner you are will make a big difference here: if your GRE date is a ways off but you have a busy work season coming up, you might choose to start your GRE prep closer to the test and only study for two months. Or, you might study better over a long period of time, and sign up for the GRE well in advance and spend a little time every day for several months preparing. Once you have your timeline in place, decide how you want to study: are you a great in-person learner? Do you love classroom settings, but need the flexibility of an online curriculum? Do you need 1-on-1 help? Or do you study best on your own? Whatever your learning style, there are resources available to you.

4. Take a GRE practice test.

Taking a full-length practice GRE under test-like conditions will tell you what you need to work on. You can use your score report to help create your study plan, allowing for more study time on areas where you need extra work. Kaplan has a free on-demand practice test available to everyone, and when you finish you’ll be provided with a detailed score analysis so you know how to proceed with your GRE prep. Remember that getting a great score on your first practice test isn’t the goal–and it’s not very realistic. Your goal in taking this diagnostic test is just to help you structure your study time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a score you’re happy with this first time.