How to Study for the GRE
Your overall process when preparing for the GRE
a) Start with a diagnostic test. What are your specific strengths and weaknesses? Use the error log to discern the patterns.
b) Do questions to focus on your weaknesses. Really try to understand the process of how to solve questions: you’ll find a lot of examples online. Ask yourself why certain techniques are used, and why your initial instinct may be wrong.
Don’t worry about speed, that comes with being confident and fluent in the techniques. As the old Army saying goes, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Focus on being smooth in your application of techniques.
c) Once you feel like you’ve covered your initial weaknesses, or you feel confused about about what to do next, take another practice test. Then start with a) again.
d) There are two parts to studying for the GRE.
One part is like being a marathon runner. You need to put the miles in on the pavement to run a marathon. Anyone can do it, but it takes effort. Doing questions, getting them wrong, and then learning how to do them correctly is the equivalent of putting those miles in. It’s going to suck, but that’s how you learn.
The second part is like being your own coach. You need to reflect on your own progress and what you get wrong and right. What are the patterns in what you get wrong? What techniques do you have difficulty applying?
-Official GREPrep tests
-An error log.
-Error log helps you organize yourself, and show you what questions you still need to do, which questions you need to understand, and the patterns in what you’re getting wrong.
-The official GRE books (official guide, quant supplement, verbal supplement)
–Manhattan Prep 5 Lb GRE book, for extra quant questions (the official books don’t have enough)
-Strategy guides, for the necessary techniques
-My recommendations: my strategy guides
Your study plan
Plan for roughly 100 hours of hardcore studying to go up 10-15 points on quant or verbal.
So, if you’re starting at 150V/150Q and want to get to 165V/165Q, plan to spend 4 months spending 20 hours a week studying (to give yourself some wiggle room, if you have some unproductive days).
That’s 2 hours a day on weekdays, 5 hours a day on weekends.
It’s a lot! But packing it all into a few months is the best way to do it. People get discouraged when they spend months working on the GRE, especially when it’s hard to see yourself making improvements week by week. Packing it into a short time prevents that.
How to review the sections
This is both how you should approach the questions, and, more importantly, how to analyze a question you got incorrect.
Review through the error log is key to understanding. If you don’t review your incorrect questions, you’ll never understand them.
Vocabulary: how can we break down the sentence to tell us what goes in the blank, especially key sign posts (like but, likewise, etc.)? Is what we missed simply not knowing the word, or was our comprehension off?
Reading Comprehension: what precise part of the passage did I need to read to get the correct answer?
Critical Reasoning: how does the argument work (premise, reasoning, conclusion)? how does the correct answer fit into the argument?
Quant: what equations do I need to start with? how do I get from there to the answers?
Data interpretation: where’s the trick in the graph?
When to look for a tutor
You might expect a tutor to say, “Seek out tutoring, all the time, for as many hours as possible, no matter what”. As my Dad says, “Don’t ask the barber when you should get a haircut”.
But, this isn’t the case. Or, at least, it’s not what I recommend.
You should seek out tutoring in two cases:
- You took a practice GRE or a real GRE, and it didn’t go the way you expected or wanted
- You’ve been studying for a while, and you’re overwhelmed
In either case, you shouldn’t seek out tutoring until you’ve put in some serious effort on your own. It’ll save your wallet, and give you a better idea of what you can get out of tutoring.
In that case, you can start your GRE tutoring journey by emailing me at [email protected] .