How Top Scorers Study for The GRE

GRE Prep Best Practices 

Whether you are still preparing to take your first GRE exam or aiming to get a higher score than on your previous one, you need a certain routine or a study plan and a determination to invest your full capacity into diligent and dedicated hard work. The top graduate school programs usually require a GRE score of cumulative 320 or above. Spending your time and energy inefficiently or not investing in proper preparation, may significantly, if not completely, reduce the chances of pursuing your graduate school aspirations. In this article, we will explore some of the effective methods you can integrate into your prep to get a score on the GRE of a cumulative 320 or above.

The Fundamentals

Firstly, let’s settle the most fundamental requirements that you need to make sure are inherently engraved into your approach. Those are unshakable dedication, efficient time management, wise prioritization, hard work, and diligence. While some of these can be considered common sense, in the long run, many students usually get distracted and forget about those. More commonly, the accumulated stress from the GRE prep can shatter the pillars that these students have once so proudly built to hold the weight. 

Figure Out Your Learning Style and Find a Fitting Resource

After you’ve set your graduate school goals and feel determined to start preparing for the GRE, it’s now time to figure out your learning style and find a resource that fits. Nowadays, there are far more resources available than ever before. As such, it can be quite overwhelming to make a detailed choice. One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is what is your current or potential score? If you haven’t taken a GRE test yet, maybe you should first find resources that start with the basics. Alternatively, if you’re aiming to get your current score to the top, you may also consider taking a one-on-one GRE tutoring course. There are a myriad of companies that offer private GRE tutoring services both online and in-person. ApexGRE, for example, is more focused on increasing your current score to a cumulative 328+. Once you’ve set your current level you can then start working on that and find the best method for your preparation, given the abundance of resources available.

Manage Your Time Efficiently

Another, not less of an important aspect you should consider is time management. How much time can you dedicate to your prep daily? Many top graduate school schools prefer a cumulative 328+ GRE score, which, in turn, requires a minimum of 100 hours of productive study in total. The word productive is essential here, as it is sometimes rather easy to mistake your activity for achievement. It’s not the matter of how many hours you can sit in front of your desk with an open book, but how much of it you can absorb, understand, and actually prepare for during that time. Too little time devoted will never be enough, while too much study can cause severe stress, and in fact, the next day you may not remember half of what you’ve learned. So, be realistic and honest with yourself, find that sweet daily time slot when you can prepare for the GRE, having enough energy and no external distractions, be consistent, strategic, and habitual, and, overall, manage your time efficiently during the day, prioritizing your studies.

Focus on Weak Areas and Improving Your Strengths

Start with a diagnostic test to figure out areas that need improvement first. It would be especially helpful if you’re just starting, as it may let you understand your weaknesses and strengths, and therefore what route you should take further. It will also give you a picture of how the actual exam will look like quite early in your preparation creed. After you’ve identified your weak points, it’s time to address those. If you seem weak, for example, in the quantitative section, then it’s a good indicator that you should put much more focus on that. That being said, you should not neglect the sections and types of problems that you do well on. One of the reasons the GRE is challenging is its time pressure. The more you can nourish your strengths, the better you’ll be able to deal with the time pressure. Not only that, the GRE test is adaptive, so the further you go with the streak, the harder the questions will get.

Get Plenty of Sleep and Try to Reduce Stress

Lack of sufficient and healthy sleep is probably the number one obstacle standing in most students’ way of effective GRE preparations and, consequently, top GRE performance. Your sleep hygiene plays a key role in allowing the brain to absorb what’s been learned during the day, as well as preparing it for the prep of the arriving day. As such, one of the best practices the top scorers integrate into their preparation is a good 8 hours of sleep every night. In turn, not only will this benefit your GRE prep, but also your overall and mental health. Even if it will take you away from GRE exam studies, it’s still worth it. You can learn more about how sleep helps you improve your standardized exam prep time in this youtube video.

Start and Plan Early

As for the final tips, there are a few things you can do to eliminate a huge portion of stress from your test preparation studies and, in fact, significantly contribute to your preparations. Firstly, make sure you start as early as possible. Just as soon as you decide on your graduate school goals, if possible, start figuring out your study plan immediately. Even if it may seem that there’s no need to rush just yet, in the long run, it will prove worthy and will increasingly boost your confidence before your exam day. Secondly, plan on the date early. Test centers may just have very limited spaces, and if you won’t be able to reserve your desired date, it may become a heavy burden. And lastly, make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself the day before your GRE exam. Grant yourself a good resting day in a calm, positive, and stressless environment.


Contributor: Narek Petrosyan

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