Your GRE Study Schedule Leading up to Test Day

May 2, 2012
Alexandra Carbone

GRE BlogMy students always ask how to manage their prep in between the end of their Kaplan class and test day.

If you are in a Kaplan class, we recommend that you test 2-4 weeks after your last class. If you are prepping on your own, you too will need to shift the focus of your studies in the homestretch.

This is because you want to hit test day at your peak performance. You’ve been studying intensively for a month or two, but you still have some test-day realities to face.

On test day you have timing limits, and you need to have all the information memorized. There is no peeking at a dictionary or formula sheet. Also, you will have to test for four hours straight, and stamina may be an issue.

So how do you organize your studying now that you’re in the homestretch?

1. Timing
You probably had to take it slow as you were remembering math and mastering new methods. That’s fine at the outset, but you have to face the clock on test day. Timed practice gives you a feel for pacing, and you learn when to guess strategically or skip questions. Good time management is key to maximizing your score, so practice it!

2. Stamina
You can schedule some study sessions for 3-4 hours long, so your brain gets used to working that long. If not, start immediately. Also, schedule your study at the same time of day as the test. If you usually burn the midnight oil, your brain might not function as well at 8:30 am on test day.

3. The Mighty Practice Test
Practice tests should form the backbone of your study between now and test day. They are the most test-like experience you can get, and Kaplan’s Practice Tests give you a good idea of what you would score on a real GRE. So, they are instrumental in assessing your progress. However, don’t burn through them, taking five practice tests in one week. In between, read the explanations (even to the questions you got right) and do any Smart Report recommendations. Think about how you could have done problems more efficiently, with strategic elimination, backsolving or picking numbers. Think about how you might have visualized a problem differently, if it was over your head. Use flash cards to memorize formulas and vocab that gave you trouble on the practice test.

Once you’ve completed this process you can test again, and you should see your score increase. One practice test a week is a good pace.

Here are some resources for practice tests:

  • You have access to 5 practice tests as a student enrolled in a Kaplan class,
  • You can sign up for a free practice test with Kaplan.
  • You can download one from ETS. (In July, you will be able to download two practice tests from the testmaker.) This practice test mimics the interface you will see on test day.

We recommend scheduling your official test for 2-4 weeks after your Kaplan class ends so you can complete ample practice and hit the test at your peak. If you test too soon, you won’t have time for enough practice. If you test too late, you may start to forget what you learned in class.

Let us know how that strikes you… and good luck!

Alexandra Carbone

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