Curious about how to study for the GRE? You’re not alone. The GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is an important part of , and before you can figure out how to study for the test, you need to know what it is and what’s on it. Knowing how to prepare for the GRE’s unique content, format and timing is as crucial as what kind of GRE questions to expect and how to approach them. In this blog, we’ll cover all the steps you need to take before you start studying for the GRE, plus detail the different and question types with strategies and sample questions for each one.
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Before you learn the nitty gritty of how to study for the GRE, such as the best test strategies and tips for acing the exam, it’s important to cover the necessary steps. Checking off these pre-study GRE prep steps is more of a reconnaissance mission, but it’s for first-time test-takers (or re-takers), they can be critically important.
Following these steps can mean you are better prepared for the test and can even help you achieve a higher than you previously thought. Even if you’ve heard that the GRE is easier than say, the GMAT or the LSAT, and you’re not too worried about your test prep, these steps are still vital information you don’t want to miss.
We’ll list the pre-study GRE test tips below. If you’ve already checked these off your list, feel free to skip to the next section, where we’ll cover in-depth how to study for the GRE!
Step 1 – Review what the GRE is and what’s on it
The first step to conquering the GRE is to know what’s on it. Review the GRE sections and check out so you know what kind of time pressure to expect during the real exam. The short answer is, there are 3 GRE sections testing your reading comprehension, mathematical skills and writing ability. Each section gives you about 30-35 minutes to answers around 40 questions or write a short essay.
Step 2 – Learn how the GRE is scored
Understanding how the GRE is scored and what is a good GRE score will be beneficial for test-takers. It’s important to understand how you’re being evaluated and how the scoring system works. You can then set a target score for yourself based on grad school admission requirements or what a competitive score is for your chosen program.
In general, the GRE includes a scaled score for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections between 130-170. The Analytical Writing section has a score between 0-6, with half points given. The GRE is also an adaptive test, which means that for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections, which have 2 parts each, the second part will be either easier or more difficult depending on your performance in the first part.
Step 3 – Choose a GRE test date
Your will determine how long you study for the GRE and how much time you have to prepare. It’s better to choose your date early on so you know it will fit into your and give you some breathing room for a retake test, if you don’t get the score you want. If you’re uncertain how much time you’ll need to effectively study for the GRE, allow yourself 3 months, and adjust this timeline as needed once you take an initial practice test.
Step 4 – Create your GRE study schedule and timeline
Now that you’re familiar with the test and have chosen a date, you can create a studying plan that works for you. This can be as detailed as you like, from how long you’ll study to how many hours a week you want to study to what you’re going to do for each of those hours. Again, it’s important to make sure your schedule fits with any other commitments you have during this time, and gives you some time before your grad school application is due to submit your scores and complete the rest of your application materials.
Step 5 – Decide what study resources you’re going to use
It’s better to gather all your intended study resources for the GRE now so you don’t use up studying time later. Some students may already know what studying methods and resources work best for them, whether this is flashcards, videos, prep books or hiring a for some one-on-one help. If you want a comprehensive, organized guide to the test, a might be your best option, or you may prefer self-studying techniques. If you’re using a or have an advisor, they might have GRE study resources available to you as well.
Step 6 – Take a GRE diagnostic test
Your last step before you get started on studying should be to take a GRE diagnostic test. This means writing a complete GRE practice test. This will tell you what your score is currently at and how much you need to improve it to achieve the score you want. It will also give you a dry run of the real test and tell you which sections or question types give you the most trouble. This way, you’ll be able to focus your studying efforts on your weak points and make the most of your time. You can find official GRE practice tests on the ETS website.
Once you’re familiar with the general content, timing and scoring of the GRE and you’ve prepped your study plan, you’re ready to get started. In this section, we’ll look at test-taking strategies for the GRE, including an in-depth look at the different GRE sections, question types and how to approach each one.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover in this section:
GRE Question Types
- Single-answer multiple-choice questions (Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning)
- Multiple-choice questions with multiple correct answers (Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning)
- Select in passage (Verbal Reasoning only)
- Text completion (Verbal Reasoning only)
- Sentence equivalency (Verbal Reasoning only)
- Quantitative comparison (Quantitative Reasoning only)
- Numeric entry questions (Quantitative Reasoning only)
- Data interpretation (Quantitative Reasoning only)
- Analyze an issue (Analytical Writing only)
- Analyze an argument (Analytical Writing only)
GRE Question Type 1: Single-Answer Multiple Choice Samples and Strategy
- Verbal Reasoning section
- Quantitative Reasoning section
GRE Question Type 2: Multiple-Answer Multiple Choice Samples and Strategy
- Verbal Reasoning section
- Quantitative Reasoning section
GRE Question Type 3: Select a Sentence Sample Question and Strategy
Select-in-passage questions in the Verbal Reasoning section ask you to click on a specific sentence in a text that matches the question description. You’ll be able to click on a word in a chose sentence or highlight the sentence with your mouse and keyboard to select it. For longer passages, you’ll only be able to select sentences from relevant paragraphs.
GRE Question Type 4: Text Completion Sample Questions and Strategy
This question type is a “fill in the blank”. You’ll be presented with a text passage with 1 to 5 sentences. Each sentence can have 1 to 3 blanks you need to fill in from various answers choices. Each blank space has a single correct answer, and you need to get ALL the blanks filled in correctly to score the full point for the question. The goal is to ensure the sentence makes logical and rhetorical sense with the rest of the passage and the author’s point.
GRE Question Type 5: Sentence Equivalence Sample Questions and Strategy
For sentence equivalency questions, you’ll be asked to choose two words to correctly fill in the blank. The correct result will be two complete, coherent sentences with the same meaning.
For all the Quantitative Reasoning section questions, it’s a good idea to refresh your memory on the mathematical concepts covered on the GRE. These include arithmetic, geometry, algebra and data analysis. Note that while you are permitted to use a calculator throughout the GRE, overusing it can cost you precious time, so perform equations in your head when you can.
The most important strategies for this section are the read carefully and make sure you understand the problem. It’s also wise to check your answers if you have time so you know it is correct. Each question may cover a different concept or require a different computation, so bust out your mathematical problem-solving strategies!
GRE Question Type 6: Quantitative Comparison Sample Question and Strategy
This question asks you to compare two quantities (Quantity A and Quantity B) and determine which of the following statements is correct. The answer choices are always the same 4 statements.
GRE Question Type 7: Numerical Entry Sample Question and Strategy
These questions ask you to compute your own answer and enter it into a text box on your computer during the test. The answer will either be an integer or decimal in a single text box, or expressed as a fraction in two text boxes: the first for the numerator and the second for the denominator.
GRE Question Type 8: Data Interpretation Sample Questions and Strategy
Data interpretation includes a group of questions all referring to the same graph, table or chart that you need to interpret. The questions may be either multiple-choice or numeric entry.
GRE Question Type 9: Analyze an Issue
The first writing task presents an issue or topic, an opinion on this issue and detailed instructions on how to respond in essay form. Your task is to analyze all sides of the issue, take a stance and develop your arguments in support of your point of view, with concrete examples.
GRE Question Type 10: Analyze an Argument
For the second essay task, you’ll need to evaluate someone else’s argument rather than forming your own. There will be detailed instructions on how to approach this task. The point here is not whether you agree or disagree with the point of view being argued, but to evaluate whether or not the argument being made is logically sound and well-developed.
As you start your GRE prep journey and learn how to study for the GRE, there are always official test prep resources you can take advantage of, along with the paid study prep services and free study help—like this blog!. You can also find resources that cover GRE prep and can offer personalized help in getting ready for graduate school.
1. How do you study for the GRE?
The best way to study for the GRE is to take regular practice tests. These help you become familiar with the test and is the best facsimile of the real thing. You can also learn and practice question and answer strategies for each section of the GRE and each question type. Other than these strategies, consistent practice and a little content review are the best way to study for the test.
2. How long do you need study for the GRE?
Generally, you should give yourself 2 or 3 months to study for the GRE. Some students may need less time, but this depends on how comfortable you are with the test’s format and content, or on what score you want to achieve. Try taking a scored practice test to gauge where you’re at and how far you are from your target GRE score.
3. Is the GRE hard?
? While the GRE might be considered easier than the GMAT or the LSAT, it is not an easy test. It is significantly harder than the SAT or ACT, for students who wrote these tests, since the GRE evaluates your readiness for study at the graduate level. Some students may also find the GRE harder than the GMAT due to its content or structure. Bottom line, it is not the easiest admission test to conquer.
4. What’s a good score on the GRE?
In general, a GRE scaled score in the high 150s and above is considered a good score. If a graduate program is especially competitive, a score above 160 might be better to stand out. Check the average GRE score of accepted applicants at your chosen program to see what to shoot for.
5. What kind of questions are on the GRE?
The GRE has many different question types across its sections, including multiple-choice, data interpretation, text completion and more. Here’s a complete list of the question types:
- Single-answer multiple-choice questions
- Multiple-choice questions with multiple correct answers
- Select sentence in passage
- Text completion
- Sentence equivalency
- Quantitative comparison
- Numeric entry questions
- Data interpretation using mathematical graphs or charts
6. Can you do well on the GRE without studying?
While it’s possible to score well on the GRE without previous studying, it is significantly harder. You should at the very least get familiar with what’s on the test, how it’s structured and what type of questions to expect. While the test content might not be as difficult for some test-takers, the testing experience may be new to you, and it’s always possible you will make an avoidable mistake without prior prep.
7. How many times can you take the GRE?
You can take the GRE once per 21-day period, a total of 5 times in any continuous 12-month period. This rule applies even if you cancelled your scores. If you take the test and are not satisfied with your scores, you’ll need to wait at least 21 days to retake it.
8. How do you score high on the GRE?
To achieve the best possible score on the GRE means investing your time in good preparation. This means taking the necessary steps before you even start studying to learn the ins and outs of the exam: its content, structure, timing and scoring system. You should also gather all the study materials you might need and create an ideal GRE study schedule. Lastly, you can learn the winning GRE test strategies that can help you tackle any of the question types and test sections.