A Day in the Life of Studying for the GRE

June 7, 2017
Caroline Smyth

Studying for the GRE is all about balance.

One grad school hopeful shares her typical GRE prep schedule.

Welcome to my standard Saturday study schedule. Today I’ll be walking you through a typical day of studying for the GRE and sharpening tools that will help ensure everything goes smoothly and successfully. Are you ready to get started?

9:10 a.m. – Breakfast of GRE champions

Rise and shine—it’s time to start the day! One thing that I particularly enjoy is allowing myself to sleep in a bit on the weekends. This helps prevent exhaustion throughout the day. It’s also important to schedule your social life around your work schedule. Don’t go out on a Friday night and expect to be ready to focus and work the next morning.

I usually take this opportunity to make sure I eat a well-balanced and filling breakfast. That way I’m not constantly hungry while studying for the GRE. A good study breakfast usually consists of iced coffee (can’t live without it!) and almond butter and jelly oatmeal with fresh fruit. This breakfast not only consists of healthy fats for endurance but will give just the right boost of energy needed to stay focused.

10:10 a.m. – Unplug, focus, and set study goals

After giving myself a good amount of time to wake up, eat a healthy meal, check any texts or emails that need tending to, I “give up” my phone privileges for the next few hours. That means unplugging from everything other than my GRE resources. I send a quick last-minute text, then away my phone goes for the remainder of the day. By not having a smartphone distracting me from my work, I can get more accomplished.

It’s important to create some sort of study schedule. Map out your day—write down what you want to spend your time doing and how you want to accomplish your goals. Perhaps the day’s agenda is the Verbal Reasoning portion of the GRE. That means you’re going to focus a majority of your time on that specific portion of the exam—but this doesn’t mean that has to be all you focus on.

11:30 a.m. – Studying for the GRE commences

Now that actual studying is underway, I usually go online to take advantage of the loads of free test prep resources that are available. One of my favorite places to start is the free 20-minute workouts on the Kaplan website. These are a great place to get warmed up with sample questions.

One of the best strategies I’ve learned is to not spend too much time on any one specific question or practice test. Sampling multiple questions and exams is more beneficial in the long run. That being said, it is also crucial to gain exposure to more complicated or confusing question types so you can approach them again later to make sure you know what the answer is and understand why that answer was the best choice. Learn what kind of question you’re looking at, then determine how to approach it.

Another strategy that has been useful in successfully focusing my study time is learning how to eliminate answer choices. I dedicate some time in my study plan to figuring out the ins and outs of the exam. This better equips me for both studying for the GRE and will eventually help me cut down on the time needed per question during Test Day.

Finally, by committing yourself to as much of a test-like environment as possible while taking a full-length practice test can also increase your GRE performance and build stamina for the exam day.

1:30 p.m. – Break time for brain food

I make time for short breaks during my Saturday study schedule to either get a snack or to do something other than studying. I usually like to spend some time outside—eating my snack or taking a walk around the block—as this refreshes my attention span and shores up my stamina for another intensive study session.

4:00 p.m. – Prime studying time

Perhaps it’s because it’s so close to dinner time, or because my motivation seems to wear off, but by 4:00 p.m. I need to turn to GRE prep tools that are interactive and confidence-building. It’s at this time that I normally switch things up from the normal questions and try something new.

By taking a Kaplan course, I have access to an entire world of various means of studying, from my prep book, to the quiz bank, to the online on-demand lessons. This is when these resources help switch up my study method. If I’ve been reviewing from the book for the past few hours, I might try to look up a lesson related to a past question I was working on and try to gain a deeper understanding of why I was struggling.

5:00 p.m. – Make a home cooked meal

Dinner is my favorite part of my Saturdays, as it usually means study time is nearly up and I can look forward to some downtime later on. Having post-study social plans set in place for the evening makes time fly by a lot faster and reassures me that I’ll be able to unwind from the intensity of my prep.

For dinner on study nights I love to take half an hour or so to make myself a home cooked meal. Whether it is my favorite type of burger or a homemade pizza, it’s a meal that’s hard-earned and well-deserved—as opposed to a quick meal of fast food. Ultimately, dinner makes going back to my work for a few more hours feel more positive.

8:37 p.m. – Meet up with friends

Time to go out and be social for a few hours. I usually like to make some sort of plans after my day of studying—dinner with friends, a movie date, or even just taking some time to try out a new recipe. It’s important to have some motivating force at the end of a long day of studying for the GRE.

12:30 a.m. – Bedtime review

After studying, working on problem sets, and getting some social time in, I usually try to get to bed at a reasonable time. GRE prep can be exhausting, so I make a point of ensuring I get sufficient sleep.

Before my head hits the pillow, I make a list of everything that I nailed down that day and also everything that I still need to work on in future study sessions. I also reward myself for my good work with a little dark chocolate as dessert.

While everyone’s “typical” study day will be a little different, the best test prep strategies incorporate structured practice, focused review, and endurance-building habits. No matter which study tips work the best for you, or what you enjoy doing to take a break from studying for the GRE, it’s important to strike a balance.

Ready to focus on your future? Explore our GRE prep options and upcoming class schedules to secure Test Day success.

Caroline Smyth Caroline is a junior graduating a year early from Binghamton University with her bachelor's in English Literature and Rhetoric. Her studies focus on writing, social media, and marketing, and she is currently a potential accelerated BSN student for this upcoming fall. As a writer, speaker, and juvenile diabetes advocate, she's known for her obsession with Instagram and her involvement as a Kaplan Student Brand Ambassador. In her spare time, Caroline can be found enjoying beautiful New York City, going to the beach, or cooking a delicious meal for her friends.

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