With 2 months to prepare a study plan for the GRE, you can think about dividing your GRE study time into two parts. During the first month of your GRE study plan, 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 second month of your GRE study plan, focus on answering questions more quickly by doing timed practice. Also, challenge yourself with tougher questions.
Before you can know exactly what to spend the most time studying for the GRE, 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 GRE 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 on their website. Kaplan Test Prep offers proctored free GRE practice tests online; you can sign up anytime to get your initial score. 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 your GRE is 2 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. 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. 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 four more full-length practice tests. Take a practice test a month before your GRE and then each week after that, taking the 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 GRE prep 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! Focus mostly on material that is (a) difficult for you and (b) most often tested. On the Quantitative section, for example, many questions require you to solve for the value of a variable, so if you are uncomfortable manipulating equations and inequalities to isolate a variable, you will have trouble throughout the section. Combinatorics questions may be tough for you, too, but combinations and permutations do not appear on the test nearly as often as algebraic manipulation, 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 questions about geometry correct, then practice geometry questions several times this week to boost your confidence and ensure that you can count on this skill.
GRE Two Month Study Plan Samples
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.|
|Baseline scores:||148 Quantitative, 150 Verbal||148 Quantitative, 150 Verbal|
|Week 1||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 2 GRE prep classes x 2.5 hours (5 hours), 2 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (3 hours)|
|Week 2||5 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (7.5 hours)||2 GRE prep classes x 2.5 hours (5 hours), 3 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 3||5 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (7.5 hours)||2 GRE prep classes x 2.5 hours (5 hours), 3 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 4||Very busy at work! 2 days studying x 1.0 hours per day (2 hours)||2 GRE prep classes x 2.5 hours (5 hours), 3 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 5||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Family Vacation!|
|Week 6||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)|
|Week 7||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)|
|Week 8||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), 4 days studying x 1.5 hours per day (6 hours)|
|Day Before the GRE||Nothing!||Nothing!|
|Total Study Time||79.5 Hours, 5 Practice Tests||87 Hours, 8 GRE prep classes, 5 Practice Exams|
Feel nervous? Just remind yourself that thanks to all the hard work you’ve put in, you are ready for the GRE. Make sure to read our last-minute tips before taking the GRE and learn more about how to interpret your GRE score.