Your GRE study guide is your roadmap to efficient, productive studying sessions and a strong test score. As the GRE is a common graduate program requirement and can help you get into grad school, earning a competitive score is ideal, and it starts with good GRE test prep and planning. Before you jump into studying for the GRE, learn how to make an effective game plan. In this blog, we’ll cover the steps you need to take to prepare your GRE study guide, what to think about when creating it, plus some samples of GRE study schedules so you can create a personalized one all your own. 

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GRE Study Guide: How to Prepare for the GRE How to Create Your GRE Study Guide GRE Study Guide Examples FAQs

GRE Study Guide: How to Prepare for the GRE

Creating the best personalized GRE study guide for you starts with planning. There are a few key steps you should take to plan your GRE study schedule and set yourself up for success. This includes choosing your GRE test date and deciding how long to study for the GRE, plus setting your study goals.

We’ll take you through the initial GRE preparation steps to get you started:

1. Choose a GRE test date

Choosing the best GRE test date can be tricky. The test is offered all year long, both in a digital format and in-person, so you can choose whether to take the GRE at home remotely or at the nearest testing centre. There’s plenty of flexibility in choosing a date, but you’ll need to keep in mind your grad school application timeline, deadlines and a few other things.

Ideally, plan for 3 months of study for the GRE, and leave at least a month or two between your GRE test date and your application deadlines. This is so you have some breathing room if you decide to retest. Your GRE scores are released between 8-10 business days after your test, but you won’t be able to retake until 21 days have passed, if you’re not happy with your score. You can also only take the GRE 5 times in a 12-month period. Of course, you’ll also want to avoid studying for and taking the GRE during a busy period in your own schedule.

2. Uncover what’s on the GRE

Before you jump into studying for the test, you need to know what’s on the GRE and what the GRE sections look like. In terms of standardized tests, the GRE will be somewhat familiar to those who have taken the SAT or ACT for college applications, just at a higher level of difficulty and different question types.

Take a quick review of each of the GRE’s 3 sections, its structure and how long the GRE is before you start studying in earnest.

3. Take a GRE diagnostic test

A first GRE practice test, also called a GRE diagnostic test, gives you a dry run of the exam, including an unofficial score. Taking a diagnostic test will tell you how hard the GRE is, which sections were the toughest for you, what parts of the exam’s content or structure was most difficult and where your current score is at.

It’s important to know what a good GRE score is so you can determine how many points you need to improve before the real test. This will better tell you how long to study for the GRE and how to craft your GRE study guide.

4. Settle on a study method

Everyone has their preferred studying methods and habits, and studying for the GRE is no different. While there are GRE prep courses and GRE tutors for those who want some expert help in their prep, you may decide that self-study works just fine for you. There is no one right way for how to study for the GRE in terms of method, but there are strategies that work better than others.

For instance, it’s best to take regular practice tests or complete practice questions to gauge whether your score is improving and to get more comfortable with the GRE’s format. You can find official practice tests offered through the ETS website, which administers the test.

5. Decide on a GRE study schedule

Once you have all the study materials you need, have settled on a method, booked your test and have your diagnostic scores to guide you, it’s time to create a personalized GRE study guide to keep you on track.

First, decide how long you’ll need to study. Most students take 2-3 months to study for the GRE, although some prefer more and others less. Less than 1 month to study for the GRE isn’t advisable, since you likely won’t see a big improvement in your score.

How long you study will depend on your diagnostic test score and how much you want your score to improve. It may also be influenced by how much time you have to study per week and how efficient your studying time is. 

How to Create Your GRE Study Guide

Once you’re ready to create a GRE study guide and start studying, it’s vital to create a personalized study schedule that works for YOU. It should be realistic and in line with your application timeline, but flexible and achievable.

Here’s a few tips on what to keep in mind to build your best personalized GRE study schedule.

1. Write down all your other commitments

Aside from studying for the GRE and preparing for grad school applications, you likely have social and work commitments, extracurriculars and hobbies already taking up room in your schedule. It can be helpful to create a “big picture” calendar and write down all the commitments you have. This will tell you where you have free time and how much, so you can start planning when and where you’re going to study for the test.

For example, maybe your afternoons are free, so you can set up a study space at home. Or you plan to squeeze in a few minutes of studying on your commute to work using flashcards or an audio reading. Knowing the where, when and how studying will fit into your schedule will help keep you organized, on track and eliminate any indecision or stumbling blocks.

2. Decide how many hours per week you have free

Be realistic about how many hours, or days per week, you can dedicate to studying. This may lengthen or shorten your GRE study guide, depending on what else is on your schedule. Everyone has different levels of focus for studying, too, and not everyone can sustain a 3-hour nonstop study block. Be honest with yourself about what time you can commit to studying, and how much. Also factor in any breaktime and how you can use those breaks to increase your productivity and focus, instead of procrastinating.

3. Set up your study space

Setting up your study space in advance ensures you have a quiet, distraction free place to study for the test. And, if you’re taking the GRE at home it means you’ll have to spend less time setting it up in the days before your test.

Knowing what physical space you’ll be using for studying can help inform your studying time and methods. For example, studying at home, you may have a block of 2 hours where you’ll be uninterrupted and free of distractions. If you’re going to spend some time studying at a library, coffee shop or other public place, you can plan to bring the necessary materials with you.

4. Divide your studying hours

It’s not enough to decide when and where you’ll be studying, or at what times or for how long. You want to divide your available studying hours for maximum effect. For instance, give yourself more time to prepare for your weakest GRE section versus your best section, but don’t neglect preparing for certain questions even if you find them easier.

Your study schedule should include plenty of practice GRE tests and GRE practice questions, followed by reviewing your answers. The best way to prepare for the GRE is practice, so regular practice tests are a must, but there are other easy ways to strengthen your score for the test. You may want to take some time to do a GRE content review at the start of your studying time to breakdown the test’s sections. Your studying should also include regular reading so you can improve your GRE vocabulary. And you may want to write some practice essays for the GRE’s Analytical Writing section.

Preparing for grad school interviews? Check out these grad school interview questions!

GRE Study Guide Examples

3-Month GRE Study Guide

Deciding whether to take the GMAT or GRE, or both? Here are the key differences:

2-Month GRE Study Guide

1-Month GRE Study Guide


1. How long should I study for the GRE?

How long you study for the GRE will depend on your own personal studying habits, the score you want to achieve and how much you need to improve your initial diagnostic test score. Most students spend between 100-200 hours studying for the GRE, but this can be adjusted to suit your needs. If you are confident in the test’s content and you are consistently scoring high on practice tests, 1 month might be enough. While if you are struggling to improve your score 3 months or more would be better to give you time to prepare.

2. How many hours should I study for the GRE?

Most students spend between 100-200 hours studying for the GRE, with some spending more time and others less depending on their studying habits. The number of hours you study will depend on how many hours per week you can dedicate to studying and how long you need to achieve the score you want.

3. Is 1 month enough to study for the GRE?

1 month is sufficient time to study for the GRE for some students. If you only need to improve your diagnostic test score by a few points and you are confident in the test’s format and content, 1 month might be enough studying time for you.

4. How do I choose a GRE test date?

The GRE is offered throughout the year, so your options for test dates are plentiful. When choosing a test date, keep in mind your grad school application deadline, all the application tasks you need to complete, your personal or professional commitments and how much time you realistically need to study for the test. You may also want to give yourself some room for a test retake if you don’t get the score you want.

5. How do I create my own GRE study guide?

To create your own personalized GRE study guide, determine how many hours per week you can devote to studying and how long you need to study to achieve your best score. Plan your study sessions around any personal or professional commitments, giving more time to the most difficult sections of the test for you. Write down what you will study and when, and what study methods you’ll use for that session. 

6. What’s on the GRE?

The GRE has 3 main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. 

7. What is GRE test day like?

The day of your test may be different if you choose to take the test at home or at a testing centre. At-home test-takers will need to set up their computers, log into the testing software and go through a check-in process, including showing their ID. If you take the GRE at a testing centre, you’ll also go through an ID check and check-in before entering the exam room.

8. How hard is the GRE?

The GRE is not an easy exam, and while it may have similar content to the SAT and ACT, it is much more difficult. The GRE tests you on a broad range of skills and content, and it is a fairly long test, which can increase the difficulty level. However, with enough practice and the right study strategies, it can be mastered.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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