As you look at the challenging content of the GRE exam, it’s hard to know where to begin. How do you start studying for your GRE prep? In this article, we’ll look at the first few steps you should take to get your GRE prep started on the right foot.
How to Start Studying for the GRE
by David Recine
Step # 1: Before you do any GRE Prep, get some idea of your target score
Before you do anything else to start studying for the GRE, you should know what score you need… or at least what score you might need. Check the GRE requirements for programs you want to apply to.
If you already have one specific graduate program in mind, you may be able to set your sights on one exact target score. But even if you haven’t narrowed your choices down to one program, get a feel for your ideal score range.
Step # 2: Go through some official GRE prep
I can’t emphasize this enough: to know how to study for the GRE, you need to look at authentic exam materials made by ETS, the makers of the actual test.
This can be done easily and quickly. The GRE’s official website has a page to help you prepare for the exam. It includes links to free online PDFs that are full of questions and advice from the people who make the test.
ETS’s GRE prep page also includes a link to PowerPrep, ETS’s free GRE prep software. In addition, ETS offers some affordably-priced prep books, specifically The Official Guide to the GRE and books of official practice questions for GRE Verbal Reasoning and GRE Quantitative Reasoning.
Answer official GRE practice questions to assess your strengths, weaknesses, and test-readiness.
How close are you to your target score? What parts of the GRE are the hardest for you, and which aspects of the test do you feel confident in?
Assessing your performance with real GRE materials helps you know how much you need to improve, which weaknesses to address, and which strengths to build on as you study for the exam.
Step # 3: Find some additional unofficial materials
The more prep materials you have for your GRE studies, the better. Provided, of course, that the prep materials are true to the real test.
Obviously, the official ETS materials I mentioned above will be very true to the actual GRE. But lots of third-party materials match up well to the real thing, even if the match isn’t 100% perfect.
Read reviews of third-party GRE prep books and websites, and find some extra questions and tutorials to supplement your ETS study materials.
Step # 4: Create a good study schedule
Once you know your target score, assess your current ability level, and gather GRE prep materials, you’ll be ready to create and begin a long-term GRE prep schedule.
Your schedule should be based partly on your abilities—look at the GRE skills that you need to improve and include appropriate skill-building activities in your study schedule.
Your schedule also needs to accommodate your timeline. You want to make sure you can do all the needed study in time for your school application deadlines and your scheduled test day.
Of course, a good study schedule should also be based on the materials you’re using. Plan to go through a specific amount of practice material and activities over the course of your GRE prep.
In fact, publishers of third-party materials will sometimes offer study schedules as part of their prep package; such as one month study schedule from Magoosh designed to optimize your GRE prep.
Once you’ve settled on your schedule you’re finally ready to get started studying!
And just in case GRE still makes you nervous, read about GRE Waiver from top universities for schools that allow a GRE concession.
Author Bio: David Recine is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.