How to Study for the GRE | Preparation Guide for the Top Score

The GRE or the Graduate Record Examination might seem like another standardized academic test but it can have a huge impact on your future. With how large a role it can play on the direction of your life track, it’s certainly something that you should take seriously. And because of this, you might just want to learn how to study for the GRE. Of course, you must be aware of the differences between GRE and other standardized tests, such as SAT, as explained here.

great gre score can have a huge impact on your future

While there are some who didn’t find this exam all too hard, it would still be best to err on the side of caution. Pursuing higher level education is a gamble with a promising pay off, so why not boost your odds at making it?

Getting the a great GRE study guide so you can boost your GRE score can help you do just that. And to get such, a good plan of attack would come in handy in addition to getting to know the GRE format.

Preparing well for this exam will help you gain more confidence in your skills and abilities that will be put to the test. This can lead you to successful results, so it would be beneficial for you to prepare effectively utilizing one of these renown GRE online preparation courses. To help you do this, we’ve created a quick guide on studying for the GRE. Check it out below.

5 Things to Keep in Mind for Your GRE Preparation

Before we start talking about planning your study strategies for the GRE, it would be very useful to know a few crucial things that you have to keep in mind when creating a study plan. Here are five things that a lot of people find difficult about the exam so you can accordingly address them on your GRE preparation efforts:

The Tricky Questions

test questions can be sometimes a bit tricky

If you’ll ask some folks just how difficult the GRE is, they’ll tell you that the said exam isn’t necessarily hard but it’s very tricky. We answered this question here. The test questions are phrased in a very clever manner that it can also effectively test your logic and reading comprehension while grilling you on the topic of the section you’re in.

In order to prepare for these types of questions, you should look up GRE sample questions and actual GRE test samples. Reading and practicing answering them can help you get sharper in spotting tricky phrases so you can more effectively handle them during the actual test.

The Complex Vocabulary

Another marker that the GRE is an advanced-level test is its use of complex vocabulary words. There are lots of difficult and unfamiliar terminologies that will make the test a lot more challenging so it’s crucial that you brush up in this area to ensure good scores.

The use of study tools like flashcards and the best GRE books Study Prep Lounge team has reviewed for you can help you build a stronger vocabulary for the test. These will seriously come in handy if you need to work on improving your word bank in a short period of time.

The Math Topics

Technically, the math concepts tested on the GRE are quite basic. It involves high school math and not the advanced types of mathematics taught in the university. Some experts even joke that the GRE is the answer to those who ask when they will use their geometry, algebra, and arithmetic knowledge in the real world.

What makes it challenging is the fact that a lot of people need to seriously study the concepts again because they’ve already forgotten what they are. So if you didn’t take math courses in college, there’s a good chance that you have to take extra measures in preparing for the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the exam.

The Essay Writing

analytical writing can be a bit frustrating

The Analytical Writing portion of the GRE can be one of the most frustrating parts of the exam. These two questions will only give you six points in total but it doesn’t mean that not answering it won’t affect your scores. Since the GRE is scored per section, opting not to answer the essay prompts will give you a big, fat zero on the portion and that will clearly show in the results.

As essay writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit, it’s easy to see why this can be one of the most challenging GRE sections for some. Luckily, you can always improve on this aspect with the help of the right tips and a good amount of practice. The best GRE prep book will contain tips and a lot of specific content about this portion of the exam, you just need to make sure to pore through those while you prepare for the big day.

The Time Pressure

Even if you’ve reviewed every topic and concept that will come out on the exam, if you can’t manage your time when answering the test questions, you still can’t get high scores. This is why you should also learn how to deal with the time pressure that comes with the GRE.

Keep in mind that you’ll only really have a minute or so to answer the modified multiple choice questions. You’ll also only get 60 minutes to understand, plan, and write 2 essays. So you have to be very efficient when taking the GRE.

Taking GRE sample tests will help you with this, however. Just make sure to allocate the same amount of time for each section as the actual exam so you can practice answering with the same kind of time crunch.

How to Study for the GRE

Now that you know which areas will prove to be challenging in the GRE, you can apply this knowledge in planning your preparations for the said exam. Take note of what you think you’ll need to focus on during your prep time and incorporate them to the tips we’ll be sharing below.

step-by-step guide in how to study for gre

These tips are the actual step-by-step guide in how to study for the GRE, so make sure to read all the way through so you can lay out a good approach to the big day.

1. Take a practice test.

Taking a GRE diagnostic test is a crucial first step that you need to take if you’re planning on taking the said exam. Diagnostic tests are practically the same as practice tests but if you’re taking it for the first time, it bears more weight. Why? Because you get to assess your current knowledge. The results will let you know your strong and weak points so you can take appropriate steps in dealing with them.

When taking a diagnostic test, it would be beneficial to recreate the conditions that come with the exam. This means that you should also follow the time limits and not use any kind of notes or reference in the process. This way, you can really test your abilities if you were to take the GRE at that very moment. It can also help you set a base score that you can use to monitor your progress.

You can use pretty much any practice test for your diagnostic exam. You can find them in GRE prep books (like the Princeton Review GRE), websites, and other sources. You can also download a few free sample tests from ETS.

practice test and get better results

If you want the best results and realistic simulation of the actual exam, look for high-quality practice tests.

Go for the ones that have the same nuance, styling, and even phrasing as the actual test. This way, you can really get a good idea of what the exam is like and you can thoroughly assess your ability in acing it.

After taking the diagnostic test, check your answers using the answers provided by the folks who made the practice test you took. They should come with explanations and that could be a good place for you to get started in your preparations. Take note of the areas where you didn’t do so well as you will need to pay more attention to those areas while you prep for the exam.

2. Create a study plan.

After gauging your current knowledge status and how capable you are right now in acing the GRE, the next thing you need to do is to create a plan to improve the situation. By creating a GRE study plan, you can lay out a systematic approach in addressing your weak points.

How do you create a study plan? It really depends on what and how strategies and techniques work for you. However, here are a few important points that can help you whip up a solid GRE test prep plan:

1. Lay out your goals.

Setting a target score is always a great way to start planning your attack on the GRE. It can help you determine how much time you should spend studying for the test and what kinds of measures you should take to boost your odds at getting your target score.

For example, you want to increase your GRE scores by 50 points from your diagnostic test, you should be ready to spend a good amount of time studying. Your target score should also prompt you to look for GRE tips and hacks that should help you score better on the actual exam.

2. Identify the areas that you have to pay more attention to.
identify which areas you need to work on more so you get better score

Using the diagnostic test, you can also identify which areas you need to work on more. If you didn’t score well on any section, make sure to take note of that. You can then use this information to help you create a more tailored plan in outlining your method of studying for the GRE.

The great thing about this standardized test is that you don’t have to wonder what is on the GRE because there are tons of information available about it.

By identifying the areas you need to pay closer attention to, you can further narrow down the topics that you need to cover in order to boost your score. You don’t really have to go in blind in this exam as every detail you need is readily available from various sources.

3. Create a study schedule that you can stick to.

A study schedule is possibly the most important part of the best GRE prep effort. You should create a good timetable to help you manage your time. It will also help you make sure that you’ll cover all of the areas that you need to cover so you can thoroughly get ready for the big day.

To create a study schedule, remember to align it with your grad school application timeline if you’re already applying for a program. This will help you become more efficient and ensure that your requirements will all get to the admissions committee of your desired program on time.

3. Get the best GRE prep books and other study materials to help you out.

While not everyone is fond of using commercial GRE study guides and other materials, they can still come in handy if you want a more streamlined approach in your prep efforts. The best GRE books and tools can help you go straight to the point when brushing up vital points and concepts.

get the best gre prep books and study materials

However, as not all GRE prep books are made equally, you should make sure to find the best ones available. Some titles like the official ETS study materials are generally considered to be superior to others like the Kaplan GRE prep books. However, it’s still up to you which one will prove to be more effective and useful to your study efforts. So make sure to look at different options to help you find your perfect match.

Aside from GRE study materials and books, you can also sign up for a GRE prep course. They’re conveniently offered online by several institutions that offer support services to those who are about to take a standardized exam. They’re perfect for those who don’t really find self-studying an effective way to get ready for an exam. With their interactive system, you might just be able to get all the support you need to get the best scores.


Studying for the GRE may seem like a daunting task but it’s definitely worth the effort. As this test can contribute a lot to your future, making an effort for it should prove to be beneficial for you. Besides, the tips we shared above should make the process go smoother and simpler. So make sure to keep them in mind and you might just find yourself having an easier time preparing for the GRE.

Leonard Haggin

I created this site to help students like you learn from the experiences my team had learned during our extensive academic careers. I am now studying Law at Stanford, but I also make time to write articles here in order to help all you fellow students advance in your academic careers and beyond. I hope our efforts on Study Prep Lounge will arm you with the knowledge you need to overcome whatever trial or test you find in front of you.

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