Last Updated On December 31, 2020

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for the GRE? 7 Essential Things You Need

I learned that you need months of effort to get your target GRE score, which dictates the university you can enter. I know it is not an easy task, so my team and I have researched a list of highly practical and best tips you can do as you prepare yourself for the test. We’ll give you the best ways to study for the GRE and take that step into getting your Masteral title.

What is the GRE General Test?

preparing for GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized exam that will determine your ability to survive in higher learning institutions.

It is the one last big hurdle you have to overcome before starting your life as a graduate student.

The GRE is an expensive test that costs several bucks, and it is where your dream of getting into Ivy League business schools for graduate studies lies.

You have to get a good score for this test, and the only way to do so is by preparing well [1].

How Should I Plan for My Preparation for the GRE?

Unlike your college exams, the GRE is a kind of test that you should never cram. It tests not just your ability to give information (i.e., identification, true or false, and the other high school-level types of questions), but rather measures how capable you are in answering critical thinking questions.

Yes, IQ is a huge factor to keep in mind, but you also have to prepare by answering some official GRE practice questions. Thus, it is empirical for you not to cram your review to give your brain some time to adjust, and this is the best way to prep for GRE.

If you give yourself much time to prepare well, your thinking process will not easily fuse out, resulting in the best results during the GRE test day. Not cramming your study for the GRE means you have time to relax and recuperate before bombarding yourself with practice tests once again.

A majority of those who have good GRE scores stated that the best way to prepare for the GRE is implementing a good study plan right away.

7 GRE Study Essentials

ballpen and sticky notes

Test takers say liken devising a study plan for GRE prep to strategic planning in battle; you have to have the right tools to survive and overcome. The following are seven essential materials you should have to better your GRE preparation.

1. Good Diagnostic Test

To have a certain baseline for where you should focus your review, take a short GRE diagnostic practice test. Your score for this practice test can tell you where you are at, and from there, you can draft your study schedule.

2. Reputable review institution

Although your future GRE score has everything to do with your effort rather than how famous your review center is, enrolling in a reputable institute like Princeton Review is one way to study and review for the test.

That way, you can eliminate factors like not having access to different test question types. The practice problems you need to finish in these GRE prep courses help sharpen your test-taking abilities. Check out UTSA GRE Course and Princeton GRE Prep Course for more options.

3. Comprehensive GRE prep practice tests

The practice test truly matters when preparing for the GRE because you have to have skills and techniques rather than memorizing information. You learn these by spending hours per test process to come up with the answer. To improve your score in both the quantitative section and the reading comprehension question types, you need more practice exams.

4. Flashcards for vocabulary practice

One of the sections of the GRE tests your verbal aptitude, hence the need to spend hours per day to have an extensive vocabulary to get a good score. Tools such as flashcards can help you quickly study the hundreds or perhaps thousands of words you have to use in the GRE.

5. Calendar

Being aware of the number of days you have left before the actual test day is essential. It helps you plan your remaining review courses of action, mainly how many hours per day you can spend on a test prep section to ensure that you can cover as much base as possible before the test day.

6. Progress Tracker

Like the calendar, you should also have a tracker of how much progress you have made in your review. The tracker serves as a constant reminder of how much you have left to study. Your study plan can adjust the number of hours per remaining practice test before moving on to learn other test-taking strategies.

7. Support Group

Preparing for the GRE test can take a toll on your well-being, hence the importance of having people willing to ground you back to reality. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the GRE pressure, but your support group should gently point you towards your goals. An effective way to study is through answering your practice tests with friends and classmates going through the same struggle.

"We like to call it, when we get dramatic, 'crisis prevention,' and so what it comes down to is a student's ability to perform to their level when the pressure is on when the time constraints are real."

- Dennis Yim, Director of Academics in Kaplan.

Steps to Prepare for the GRE

scheduling for GRE

1. Enroll yourself in the right GRE prep course

Choose your test prep course partner from Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review, GRE Prep Books from the Educational Testing Service, and other GRE test prep institutions. GRE preparation in these facilities involves hours of answering the free online GRE practice test. Many students fail to see the need to study for a test, but this is the only proven way to overcome the GRE test.

Check out these GRE programs:

2. Set a target GRE score

After convincing yourself of the merits of preparing months before taking the GRE, you need to know how to take the test a minimum number of times as possible. Set your target GRE score and work on achieving that in one try. Having a target score will give a tangible goal you need to focus on, rather than blindly preparing for the exam.

A set mindset can save you from burning out later on as your plan can be your motivation source when hit by anxiety and laziness during the review.

3. Draft a study schedule

Draft a schedule for the months you will spend answering test questions and practice exams in hopes of improving your score. Incorporate disciplines like what time you will be waking up, what activities you will do before sitting down and studying for the test, what sections you will learn for the day, etc.

Having a schedule might sound old-school, but it helps keep yourself organized and prevents side-tracking whenever you take quick breaks.

4. Select the right study tools

You can then select the right test study tools you would like to partner with to achieve your goal. According to friends and family who have taken the GRE test, the materials they used to prepare for the exam helped them get the test score they needed.

The right tools did not just sharpen their minds into getting the correct answers during the exam but also boosted their confidence in taking the test. The right office table, chair, ballpen, and notebook- all these might seem trivial, but prepare them nonetheless to set the mood for our GRE study plan.

5. Know which sections to prioritize

Most good review courses and even the free GRE tests online replicate the actual exam questions. The practice is good because it gives you an idea of what to expect and will point you towards what topics you have to focus on learning.

There are three main sections in the GRE, namely the analytical writing section, the verbal reasoning section, and the quantitative reasoning section. You have to get good scores on all three areas to pass, hence the importance of knowing which portion your strengths and weaknesses lie.

6. Develop a good review tracker

You can use various tools to set your tracker; using whatever device you are convenient, as long as you have something visible to see. The schedule is there to remind you of the things that are your priorities and will help you properly fulfill the timeline that you have set for your review.

Successful GRE test-takers have long credited their comprehensive scheduling to be of utmost importance. It helps remind them of their priorities whenever they are in a stump while reviewing.

Recommended Article: Free Gre Prep (2020 Guide)

7. Practice makes perfect, but not all the time.

thumbs up

To get used to the skills needed to answer the GRE questions, you have to practice answering them. They say practice makes perfect, but there are essential considerations that you should note when practicing.

You must use the correct questions and review answers, so you do not waste your time learning the wrong information. ETS GRE Powerprep are quite good, and you can find our review of these tests on this link.

The goal of practicing is to condition your mind into thinking critically enough for the actual examination questions as it is detrimental to train yourself in the wrong way.

Ensuring that your practice is of high caliber is part of the many preparations you have to undergo before diving into a review routine you have set.

As already mentioned, choosing the right study tools can determine your success in this exam.

And taking the effort to practice will not betray you; those who have succeeded in getting good GRE scores are the ones who poured endless all-nighters to finish their practice tests.

8. Learn how to balance your study time and other activities

As much as you have to spend most of your hours studying for the GRE, delegating time for other responsibilities is also necessary. Giving yourself breaks will help you recharge your brain cells and, you should never halt all other activities just because you are reviewing.

Your life cannot fall apart just because you are busy working towards your target score. Study time and life balance are also essential skills that you have to master early on before enrolling in a graduate school.

Graduate students that we have interviewed have noted how important keeping a balance between life and studying is. The skills they have learned from preparing for the GRE are skills they are now using to survive in their various higher institutions.

Those who knew how to prioritize correctly are those who got good GRE scores and are now thriving in the Masteral courses.

9. Have a steady sleeping pattern

Again, as much as we want you to spend most of your hours studying, resting is equally important to make sure that you can last until the day the exams finished, without collapsing.

Being tired will significantly diminish your ability to process information, so even if you spend all night trying to cram every information that will come out of the exam, it will be for naught. You would probably end up blacking out when you least expect it, and this chooses no specific time.

To prevent untoward incidents from occurring, you should incorporate in your review schedule a steady sleeping pattern. You recharge your energy when you sleep, which gives your brain some time to replenish its neurons.

Being tired also considerably dampens your mood, which can further demotivate you in pursuing your GRE goals [2].

The happiest graduate students live a healthy lifestyle, which includes having a regular sleeping pattern. Practicing this lifestyle does not happen overnight, and a majority of them had started the discipline when they were reviewing for the GRE.

Not surprisingly, these were also the students who did well; they achieved their target scores while having clear skin and minimal eyebags because they knew how to take of themselves. All these they achieved just by sleeping well, so you should consider following this advice.

10. Take a break at least a week before the exam.

taking a break before the GRE

As has been heavily emphasized in the last two tips, relaxation is again the theme of our final recommendation for preparing for the GRE.

You cannot force yourself to take even more information on the last leg of preparation for the GRE.

You should have already finished studying the needed topics, and the final week is for giving yourself time to chill.

Recover the energy you have lost during the months you have spent cooped up to reach your target score.

You can welcome the actual test day with a healthier body and mindset that could mean the difference between breaking down during the exam or doing well.

Again, this advice has been proven effective by previous test-takers who achieved their target scores, which allowed them a chance to enter their dream graduate universities.

Some even went to the extreme of taking a vacation outside the country to give their minds and bodies time to let go of the anxiety building up as the exam day looms ahead.

Their efforts paid off well in the end, as now they are on their way to getting their dream diploma after working hard for so long.

Final Thoughts

Although you can take the GRE multiple times, as many times as you want or need to get a high score, it would be favorable for your wallet and degree to take it once. The best tips to prep for GRE we have given are a compilation of the many proven techniques from successful examinees.

However, they are not a one-size-fits-all concept; what worked for them may not work for you. The decision rests on your shoulders; we are here just to help. We hope that we see you as a fulfilled graduate student in the next semester, after acing the GRE with some, if not all, of our study tips.


[1] https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/what-the-gre-test-is-and-how-to-prepare

[2] https://www.manyagroup.com/blog/avoid-study-fatigue-when-preparing-for-gre/#:~:text=Do%20not%20keep%20awake%20till,getting%20a%20good%20night's%20sleep.

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.