One of the first questions our students often ask when starting to plan for Test Day is, “How long should I study for the GRE?” We usually see the anticipation in their eyes, as they’re perhaps hoping for an answer like, “Well, are you busy right now? The next fifteen minutes or so ought to do it.”
Scheduling time to study for the GRE
We get where the question’s coming from, and on the surface it seems entirely sensible to wonder how much of a time commitment studying for the GRE will be. However, there is no one-size-fits-all prep plan that works for everyone. On closer inspection, the question stops making sense once you take into account the many variables you’ll need to consider to build up your Test Day performance.
Would three months be enough? Well, not if you study for the GRE in short 20-minute sessions each week and spend the rest of your time binge-watching Netflix. On the other hand, if you study a solid six hours each and every day, even one month might be overkill.
Everybody’s prep needs are different
The problem lies in the implied assumption that GRE preparation can be measured in calendar days. It can’t—it’s measured in hours. The practical answer to this commonplace question that we usually give is that hitting your target score will take somewhere between 50 and 200 hours, depending on how efficient your GRE preparation is and how many points you need for your Quant and Verbal scores to go up.
An English major who doesn’t care about the Quant section and only needs about five more points on the Verbal section needs fewer hours than someone who got 140 on both sections of a practice test and seeks a 160. Regardless of many hours it’ll take you to reach your target scores, whether you spread those hours over one month or several is up to you.
Although you should be pragmatic about scheduling time to study for the GRE, hitting your best possible score on a test that could determine your future means finding as much prep time as you possibly can. The more hours you allot and the more you make prep a part of your routine, the easier it’ll eventually be to coast into the testing center with confidence.