In order to study for the GRE in a month and see a significant score improvement, you will need to use your time very efficiently. Studying for the GRE in a month requires commitment and concentration. First, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are on the GRE. Then, you need to target your weaknesses while also building on your strengths.
Step 1: Take a Free Practice 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 proctored free practice tests online as well. 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 GRE Study Schedule
Studying most days of the week will improve your score more than studying one or two days a week. Many students find that studying for 5 days a week in three 30-minute segments, for an hour and a half each day, helps them make significant progress. Because your GRE is in a month, try to study for five 30-minute segments, or two and a half hours a day, to maximize your score gain. In addition, if 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 two more full-length practice tests, 2 weeks and 1 week before the GRE. 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 GRE 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 Prep Plus 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! For the next three weeks, focus on material that is (a) difficult for you and (b) most often tested. On the Quantitative section, for example, exponents and radicals appear in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry questions, so if you are not sure how to work with these numbers, you will have trouble throughout the section. Probability questions may be tough for you, too, but probability does not appear on the test nearly as often as exponents and radicals, 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 Reading Comprehension questions correct, then practice Reading Comp several times this week to boost your confidence and ensure that you can count on this skill.
Sample Study Plans for the GRE
Here are two sample study plans:
|Goals||Wants 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.|
|Diagnostic Scores||148 Quantitative, 150 Verbal||155 Quantitative, 152 Verbal|
|Week 1||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Study 4 Days × 1.5 Hours/Day (6 Hours)||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Class 2 days × 2.5 hours (5 Hours), Study 3 days × 2.5 hr/day (7.5 Hours)|
|Week 2||Study 5 Days × 1.5 Hours/Day (7.5 Hours)||Class 2 days × 2.5 hours (5 Hours), Study 3 days × 2.5 hr/day (7.5 Hours)|
|Week 3||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Study 4 days × 1.5 Hour/Day (6 Hours)||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Class 2 Days × 2.5 Hours (5 Hours), Study 3 Days × 2.5 Hours/Day (7.5 Hours)|
|Week 4||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Study 4 Days × 1.5 Hour/Day (6.0 Hours)||Practice Test + Review (6.5 Hours), Class 2 Days × 2.5 Hours (5 Hours), Study 3 Days × 2.5 Hours/Day (7.5 Hours)|
|Day Before the Test||Nothing!||Nothing!|
Feel nervous? Just remind yourself that thanks to all the hard work you’ve put in, you are ready for the GRE. Need more last-minute tips before your GRE? We’ve got you covered. And don’t forget to learn more about the GRE Analytical Writing Assessment.