What should I study the week before the GRE?

The week before the GRE is the time to put the finishing touches on your preparation. It’s also time to taper off so you are completely rested and ready for Test Day.
If your GRE is a week away and you believe you won’t be able to get the score you need, keep in mind that the testmakers allow you to change your test date for a fee of $50 if you do so no later than 4 days before your appointment. If you change your test date later than this, then you will be charged the entire $250 test fee.

Take a GRE Practice Test

Take your last practice test a week before the real test. Focus on your timing and on applying critical reasoning skills: answer questions efficiently by using strategic shortcuts whenever possible. Over the next day or two, review every answer explanation thoroughly.

If you got the question right . . .
Reading the explanation will reinforce your understanding, allowing you to approach a similar question confidently and efficiently on Test Day.
The explanation might point out a more efficient way to arrive at the answer or explain some math facts or vocabulary you didn’t know. If so, do the question again using this knowledge so you internalize it. Even though you are working with new information, you are applying it to a question you are already familiar with, so you can master this new material.

GRE Vocabulary

Review the GRE words in your flashcards or vocabulary journal that you have learned. If any words that you have studied are difficult to recall, think of a way to use them in a sentence that you will remember, maybe by associating them with someone you know or something you’ve done. Reviewing the words you have already learned will help you remember them during the test.


If you answered the question incorrectly . . .
Use the explanation to understand where your thinking went off track.

  • If you simply did not know how to approach the question at all, put this type of question in the “write-off” column; do not spend time studying it this week, and if you see a similar question on Test Day, simply guess on it and move on.
  • If you were on the right track to getting the correct answer—maybe you were able to eliminate some incorrect answers, or maybe you did part of the question correctly—then once you understand the explanation, do the question again. If the process still feels uncomfortable, do the question yet another time. Actually doing the question correctly gives you the experience or “muscle memory” of doing it right, which is more powerful than just reading about how you could have done it right. This experience of working toward the correct answers will transfer to similar questions you see on Test Day.

GRE Reading Comprehension

The GRE doesn’t ask you to read passages the way you probably read textbooks in school, to memorize facts. Instead, it calls for a particular kind of strategic reading that focuses on main ideas and opinions as well as the structure of the passage. You should be well practiced with this type of reading by now. This week, practice with a few passages and their associated questions to make sure you are mapping passages correctly and not falling for common GRE wrong answer traps.

What you don’t want to do the week before the GRE is cram a lot of new information into your head. You won’t have time to master its application to GRE questions before you need to use it on the test. However, you can raise your score by thoroughly reviewing what you’ve already learned and reinforcing the habits of critical thinking that the GRE tests.


GRE Math Facts

Just as you review the vocabulary you’ve learned, review the math content that the GRE uses to test your critical thinking skills. Again, if there is math content you haven’t yet mastered, do not try to learn it this week. Instead, focus on making sure you are comfortable with what you have learned. Here is a list of math facts to have fresh in your mind:

  • Number property rules (positive/negative numbers, odd/even numbers, divisibility)
  • Working with fractions, exponents, and radicals
  • Solving for percentages, percent change, and fractional proportions
  • Factoring quadratics
  • Translating word problems into math equations
  • Solving systems of linear equations
  • Geometry rules for lines, angles, circles, and polygons

Day Before the GRE

You’re done studying! Make sure you know exactly where your test center is and how to get there. Gather together everything you will bring with you, including the correct identification and comfortable clothes. Set your alarm so you leave for the test center with time to spare, in case of traffic delays. If you have used Kaplan’s Official Test Day Experience, then you know exactly what to expect during the testing experience because you will have gone through it once already. 

Day of the GRE: Warm Up First

Don’t let the test be the first serious thinking you do today. Lightly run through some vocab words you know, a reading passage and questions you’ve done before, and a few math problems you’ve done before. This is like jogging in place and stretching before a marathon. Of course, you won’t take any study materials into the test center with you. And you won’t need to—you’ll be ready!