Trevor Klee, Tutor

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How to prep for the GRE

How to prep for the GRE

This post written by Kiran Nasim for 21st Night. 21st Night is an error log app I developed to help people master their exams, including the GRE.

How to prep for the GRE while working 

Start Early: 

Define the time required to go from your current position to your target score, and make a realistic study-plan of at least a month long.

Stick to a schedule: 

Make at least a weekly if not daily schedule and mark your progress. All questions you do go into an error log, like the one created by 21st Night. This will provide you with self-study discipline giving you the opportunity to measure your progress.

Identify dead-time and make use of it: 

Even if you are at work you can get few pieces of spare time here and there; stuck in traffic, waiting in a line, friend late, lunchtime. If you are on the train, make notes and review, or review vocabulary, memorize formulas and equations through 21st night. Listen to audio tapes while commuting back and forth to work. Download apps on your phone. 

Study before leaving for work: 

Studying in the evening can be hard when you are too tired to retain information. Try going to bed early and rising early to have at least 2 hours in the morning for your study. Don’t go into the habit of studying over theweekends only; if you go five-day stretches without practicing, your progress will slow down.

Exercise routines: 

Have an evening exercise routine to get a good night rest. Evening exercise is a great way to de-stress, leave the day behind and get ready for a new day.

Garg scored 325/340 with 60 days of preparation while working full time. She recommends giving as much attention to the AWA section as you give to other sections. You may want to have a look at her 60-day study-plan as a guide for your plan but keep in mind you should have a personal plan according to your strengths and weaknesses. 

How to study for the GRE 


Have a clear learning objective in mind. Quickly go through fundamentals of math and verbal, take a practice test to decide how much you need to study and which areas you need to focus on. Make a study plan accordingly and use 21st Night to follow it consistently. Two. You can get a 13-week study plan here by Trevor and couple of day-to-day sample plans are provided here by students who spend 2 months on the preparation. These sample plans should serve you as a guide but we emphasize again that an effective study-plan should be designed individually according to one’s ability.

Chose the prep-material and stick to it:

There are four approaches to study for GRE commonly used by most test-takers separately or a combination of these methods; self-prep, online-prep, in-person course and private tutoring. A large number of top-scorers sign up for online courses to save time searching for material every now and then by their own. No matter what method you choose, stick to it. Rethinking your choices will only create more confusion and waste precious time.

Study smart by effectively using the available resources. A 5000 pages book will be of no use to you if you are short on time. Jitta states: If you do what the average student does, you’ll end up with an average score. Research your options and read reviews by test-takers.

Practice and revise:

The best way to improve your test-skills is to repeat and review your work. As the cliché goes ‘Practice makes perfect’. Only reviewing the questions you got wrong is a bad strategy: 21st Night will review everything for you. We recommend making use of official ETS practice tests. Learn shortcuts and strategies using Magoosh to be quick and fluent. 21st Night delivers fluency so that you can identify similarities between what you practiced and what you are attempting in the exam.

Move-on strategy:

Don’t get attached to a question. If you can’t solve it in one minute, skip it and move on. You may have time later to re-try that question.

Study Consistently:

You can’t afford distractions. 21st Night will encourage you to study consistently by keeping your motivation high. Prabhu scored 334/340 in GRE after studying for a month. His strategy is simple; be motivated, design a wise study-plan, choose the right study material and practice. 21st Night provides a streak system to encourage the uninterrupted study and keep you motivated.


Mimic real-test day conditions while practicing. Make sure to leave the day before the test free so that you can relax. Sleep, healthy eating and exercise routines are not to be taken casually, as a relaxed mind can do wonders.

Mihir scored 330 with 20 days of preparation, he emphasizes to focus on quant and verbal equally and improve your weak areas. 

How much time to take to study for the GRE

You need to realize that the GRE is not a walk in a garden, the test is designed to differentiate between 98th and 99th percentile’ ability. So the question is how long to study for the test? There can be no one answer to this question as it depends entirely on an individual’s aptitude and ability. A realistic timeline depending on the target is needed; the higher you are aiming for the more hours it will take to get those last few points. 

Most people study from one to six months. Stewart calculated a timeline for a student studying 16 hours per week for GRE. Required study time against the points required to reach a target score is given below:

  •       10-15 points to reach 317 = 3 months
  •       10-15 points to score greater than 317 = 4 months
  •       15-25 points to achieve less than 323 = 5 months
  •       20-30 points to score greater than 325 = 6 months

The above-listed timeline provides only average numbers in a certain scenario. One may be able to study more than 16 hours per week and one may be capable to digest more material in less time. So the time required to study depends entirely on an individual.

Many test-takers recommend 100 to 120 hours of effective learning. But it can be concentrated together in terms of weeks or over the months. The human brain operates on ‘use it or lose it’ principle; therefore a relatively long study-plan will need a lot of revisions. If you do have a long preparation period, 21st Night will help you keep your memory fresh by providing continuous revisions.

Skelly suggests setting aside two to three months for intensive GRE study. But she emphasizes that those who are still in academics may require less preparation, compared to those who have been out of school for some time and will need more time to fill the gap.

Best book to prep for the GRE

The material you use for preparation can serve as assets or liabilities. Make sure to choose books that line up with your timeline. If you are preparing in just a week you can’t go through many books. 

The most famous book among the test-takers is Official GRE ​Super ​Power ​Pack consisting of three books:

o   Official guide to the GRE general test (3rd edition):

o   Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions

o   Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions

Consider it holy-grail of GRE. This should be the starting point of preparation for all beginners as it provides official guidelines and questions some of which will appear exactly on the test. It is probably the only book you will need to get a decent score.

Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides series is the second best for students as it provides basic concepts, comprehensive aver 150 practice test but the main attraction it has for students is the expert advice, tips, and tricks and in-depth details. The books dig into each topic so if you are having trouble with your concepts, this should be your ‘go-to book’. 

Another important thing to consider is your weak subjects, as some books provide detailed study and practice on specific topics. We recommend taking a test before to point out the areas you need to spend more time. Jain provided a section-wise prep-material recommendation which people found really helpful. 

Mihir used Manhattan’s 5Lb for quant and, Magoosh and Barron for verbal practice and he got away with 330 with 20 days of preparation.

Best video course to prep for the GRE

The best way is to practice computer-adaptive tests so that you can familiarize yourself with the test-center environment, but you need to be comfortable so chose the learning style that suits you best. If you are a visual learner, go for a course that comes with a CD or has online video resources available.

Magoosh offers budget-friendly over 250 prep videos taught by experts. The tests can be accessed via web or mobile. We recommend Magoosh for easy to understand methodology and strategies from GRE veterans but encourage you to use Magoosh, alongside Princeton, which is best for

Live-Online courses. It provides video tutorials from expert Princeton instructors and offers satisfaction guarantee and refunds in case you don’t achieve a higher score.

Less used but beneficial courses include Greenlight: providing free you-tube videos, reported to be good for the analytical writing section and Khan Academy: offering videos for the quantitative section.

Best way to prep for the GRE online

The most important thing to consider while choosing a course is the sections you need to work on, and also your schedule, learning style, and budget. Laura has a detailed list of the courses you mostly will come around while searching for preparation material. 

Magoosh’s Free GRE eBooks are probably the most popular resource available on the internet. We recommend Magoosh if you are looking for online self-paced lessons. Rabia reported Magoosh app and online services as her primary source of study to achieve 330.

If you are not short on time and actually wants a big improvement, Manhattan Prep should be your best online choice. It offers a wide variety of preparations to fit your needs, including; private tutoring, live online and in-person courses, self-study video instructions and live expert instructions. Thousands of practice questions and free trial classes are also offered so that you can check before making a commitment.

Kaplan Test Prep is another proven resource offering 150 hours of instructions from experts. It is equipped with printed workbook and pocket reference with online support. So if you are not a big fan of online, and want to study old way printed material Kaplan is for you. There is another less famous online test material Target Test Prep, and it focuses on section-specific prep for those who want to improve sections they struggle with.

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