study gre test prep guide plan

GRE Prep: How to Study for the GRE


Studying for the GRE? To do your best on the GRE, research shows that you’re likely to need to study about 10 hours per week for up to 3 months. How do you know how to spend that time? Preparing for the GRE will likely be keeping you quite busy for a few months, which is not an easy prospect when you’re likely busy with other schoolwork or a job.

Take a Practice Test

It’s essential to take a practice test early on. Doing so will give you the initial feedback and diagnostic information that you need to achieve your maximum score. Our practice test for the GRE is a multi-stage test, which is the same format as the actual GRE. The multi-stage test format feels different from a paper-based test and is scored differently, so the more you practice with MSTs, the better off you’ll be. This practice test, which includes full-length Analytical Writing, Verbal, and Quantitative sections, will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the various question types. It also allows you to accurately gauge the content you know and identify areas for practice and review.

Review the detailed answer explanations to better understand your performance. Look for patterns in the questions you answered correctly and incorrectly. Were you stronger in some areas than others? This analysis will help you target your practice time to specific concepts.

Laura Aitcheson

Don’t cram your studying into full-day weekend sessions; you’ll burn out if you try. You need to give yourself enough time to learn, practice, assess, and learn again. Also, Set a target score for the GRE. If you’ve got a target score, you’re more likely to monitor your own progress and stay motivated to follow your plan.

Laura AitchesonKaplan GRE Instructor

Create a Study Plan

Use what you’ve learned from your diagnostic test to identify areas for closer study and practice.  Think about how many hours you can consistently devote to GRE study. We have found that most students have success with about three months of committed preparation before Test Day. Schedule time for study, practice, and review. One of the most frequent mistakes in approaching study is to take practice tests and not review them thoroughly—review time is your best chance to gain points. It works best for many people to block out short, frequent periods of study time throughout the week. Check in with yourself frequently to make sure you’re not falling behind your plan or forgetting about any of your resources.

[Watch: Instructor Lucia Goin explains top tips to remember when building your study plan >]

Learn and Practice

Further study will come with many opportunities to develop and practice the skills you’ll need on Test Day. Depending on how much time you have to study, you can work methodically, covering every topic, or you can focus your study on those question types and content areas that are most challenging for you. You will inevitably need more work in some areas than in others, but know that the more thoroughly you prepare, the better your score will be.

As you practice questions, review the explanations closely. Initially, your practice should focus on mastering the needed skills and not on timing. Add timing to your practice as you improve fundamental proficiency. As soon as you are comfortable with the question types and the recommended approaches, take and review additional full-length practice tests. If you find that you would like access to more of Kaplan’s practice tests and quizzes, as well as in-depth instruction on the question types and strategies, look into the variety of course options available at Kaplan.