gre-study-plan-schedule-guide-3-months

How to Study for the GRE in 3 Months

By allowing yourself 3 months to study for the GRE, you have an excellent opportunity to put in the time necessary to get your best possible score. Your biggest challenge may be maintaining your motivation and momentum over this period. Think now about possible disruptions to your study schedule, such as busy periods at work or school or family commitments, and plan accordingly.

[ RELATED: When is the right time to take the GRE? ]

With 3 months to prepare, you can think about dividing your study time into two parts. During the first two months, focus on mastering the strategic approaches to each type of question on the GRE, as well as the vocabulary and math content knowledge you’ll need to get questions correct. During the last month, build up to maximum performance on Test Day: focus on answering questions more quickly by doing timed practice and challenge yourself with tougher questions.

Get your own copy of Kaplan’s 3-Month Study Plan for the GRE>

GRE Study Essentials

Before you get started, you’ll need to identify and gather your study materials. Here are some we recommend:

  • POWERPREP Test Preview Tool

    The POWERPREP Test Preview Tool is a free overview of the GRE, accessible through your ETS account. You’ll be given information about the structure of the GRE, question types you’ll see, and tools available to you on test day.

  • Full-Length Practice Tests

    ETS’ POWERPREP Online provides two free practice tests that simulate the actual GRE, including time limits, navigation from page to page, using the on-screen calculator, and changing answers within a question. POWERPREP Online also includes one free untimed practice test. 

    Taking a practice test at the beginning of your GRE prep is an excellent way to gauge what you need to work on. Kaplan has a free 4-hour GRE practice test that comes with a score analysis and answers and explanations for every question. Manhattan Prep has a free full-length GRE Practice Exam as well. 

  • ScoreItNow! Online Writing Practice

    The ScoreItNow! Online Writing Practice is an ETS tool providing immediate essay scoring using ETS e-rater technology. You’ll have initial access to 2 writing topics, and then an additional 6. 

  • Practice Questions

    Kaplan’s Adaptive GRE Qbank saves you time with targeted questions (over 2500) and adjusts to your skill level as you work. With in-depth explanations, you’ll learn from your mistakes and raise your score.

  • Online calendar

    An online calendar can be a great tool for keeping track of and accessing your personal study plan from anywhere. Plus, you can share your calendar with others so they know your schedule and can help you stay on track.

  • Take a Class

    If the idea of studying and making a schedule completely on your own seems daunting, consider signing up for a class. Working with a set schedule and expert instructors can help you stay focused and keep you motivated. Kaplan offers a variety of GRE Courses to fit your schedule and learning style. Both In Person and Live Online class sessions cover the strategies and skills needed to succeed on the GRE, and the courses’ study plans help you decide what you should study, when to take practice tests, and how to pull it all together for Test Day.

Before you can know exactly what to spend the most time studying, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then, you can target your weaknesses while also building on your strengths.

Step 1: Take a Diagnostic Test

Take a full-length, realistic practice test to find out what your Quantitative and Verbal scores are now. Ideally, the test results will include not just your scores but also information about what types of questions you did well on and which ones gave you trouble. This information will help you design your study plan.

Another benefit of taking a practice test is that you will become familiar with the test’s format and timing. Then as you study, you will know exactly how you’ll use what you’re learning to ace test questions. This is highly motivating!

You will also be able to review the test, and reading the explanations of every question will reinforce what you did right and help you understand your mistakes. Research shows  that being tested on material not only measures your performance but actually helps you learn.

Take the practice test under conditions as similar as possible to those you will experience on Test Day, without distractions or interruptions. Schedule 4 hours to take the test if you write the essays and 3 hours if you choose to skip the essays. Also plan to invest at least 1.5 hours in reviewing the test later the same day or in the next day or two.

The GRE testmaker, ETS, offers two free practice tests with its POWERPREP® II software at www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep/.

Kaplan Test Prep offers free proctored practice tests online. Kaplan’s Smart Reports provide you with detailed breakdowns of your strengths and opportunities for improvement, as well as comprehensive answer explanations.

Step 2: Set Your Study Schedule

When Test Day is 3 months away, there is a danger of procrastinating. After all, you probably have a lot of things that need to get done today, so it can be hard to carve out the time and energy to study for the GRE. However, the days and weeks will slip by faster than seems possible, and before you know it, the test will be a week away—and then tomorrow! Don’t let Test Day take you by surprise.

Studying most days of the week will improve your score more than studying one or two days a week. Because you will be studying for 3 months, you want to set a reasonable pace and not burn yourself out. Many students find that studying for 4 days a week in three 30-minute segments, for an hour and a half each day, helps them make significant progress. In addition, if the vocabulary is an area you have targeted for improvement, plan to carry flashcards (physical cards or a phone app) with you and work on GRE vocab throughout the day.

Block out time to take six more full-length practice tests. Take a practice test after 1 month of studying, another one at the 6-week point, and then one a week for the 4 weeks leading up to the GRE. You will take your last practice test 1 week before Test Day. Take practice tests to measure your progress, become more familiar with the test’s timing and format, and build your mental endurance. After each test, invest at least 1.5 hours in reviewing the answer explanations.

Schedule your study time and practice tests on your calendar and then keep those appointments with yourself. The same way you show up for class or work on time, you are going to “show up” for GRE studying on time.

Step 3: Develop Your Study Plan

How should you study? An effective approach is to first use a resource such as a GRE book or class to learn some strategies or content and then follow up by practicing what you just learned with test-like questions. Applying what you learn right away to the types of questions you’ll see on Test Day will help you solidify your knowledge so it sticks with you. Kaplan’s Premier book includes a 500-question Quiz Bank, and the full Quiz Bank contains over 2,500 test-like questions for GRE practice. You can use it to target specific content areas and question types at the right difficulty level for you.

What should you study? That depends on the results of your practice test! Focus mostly on material that is (a) difficult for you and (b) most often tested. On the Quantitative section, for example, many arithmetic, algebra, and geometry questions require you to work with proportions, so if you are uncomfortable working with ratios and percentages, you will have trouble throughout the section. Coordinate geometry questions may be tough for you, too, but coordinate geometry does not appear on the test nearly as often as proportions, so you should focus on the content with the higher payoff.

During the last week before your test, emphasize your strengths. For example, if you get most vocabulary-based questions (Text Completion and Sentence Completion questions) correct, then practice those questions several times this week to boost your confidence and ensure that you can count on this skill.

Here are two sample study plans:

StudentJessicaMichael
SituationWants to earn a master’s degree in nursing from a major public university. Her target scores are 154 Quantitative, 154 Verbal. Wants to earn a PhD in economics from a top national program. His target scores are 166 Quantitative, 158 Verbal.
Week 1Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Class – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 2 days x 1.5 hours – 3 hours

Week 2Study 4 days × 1.5 hours/day – 6 hoursClass – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 3Study 4 days × 1.5 hours/day – 6 hoursClass – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 4Very busy at work! – 0 hoursClass – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 5Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Class – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 2 days x 1.5 hours – 3 hours

Week 6Study 4 days × 1.5 hours/day – 6 hoursClass – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 7Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Class – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 2 days x 1.5 hours – 3 hours

Week 8Study 4 days × 1.5 hours/day – 6 hoursClass – 1 day x 2.5 hours – 2.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 9Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Family vacation! – 0 hours

Week 10Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 11Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Week 12Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study 3 x 1.5 hours/day – 4.5 hours

Practice Test and Review – 6.5 hours

Study – 3 days x 1.5 hours – 4.5 hours

Day before the GRENothing!Nothing!
Total101 hours110 hours

Step 4: Rock That Test!

Feel nervous? Just remind yourself that thanks to all the hard work you’ve put in, you are ready for the GRE.

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