Congratulations, you have decided to continue with your education! Deciding to attend graduate school is a big step. It will open up doors to further opportunities for you, both intellectually and professionally. Having a master’s degree under your belt can help you earn that promotion you have always wanted or allow you to pivot your post-undergrad career into an area you are super passionate about! Regardless of why you are deciding to attend graduate school, one large hurdle stands in your way: the Graduate Record Examination or GRE for short.
For many, the GRE can seem like a daunting task. Especially for those individuals who are returning to school years after completing their undergrad. But the task of successfully studying for and taking the GRE is doable. As long as you are driven, determined, and willing to set a strict study schedule, your graduate school dreams are within your grasp.
Here at ApexGRE, we have created the perfect GRE calendar preparation for future GRE test takers. By following the simple steps we have laid out, you can get the most out of your GRE preparation and ace your exam!
Steps to your Perfect GRE Prep Calendar
First, grab a calendar, yearly planner, or your phone. You will need to mark the dates and times necessary for studying.
1. Figure out when you want to take the GRE
Once you have figured out what you want to study, you need to find the perfect graduate school programs. For most graduate schools, a GRE entrance exam is required. Some schools offer GRE waivers, however, these are rare and are usually offered on a case-by-case basis. Once you have found the programs you are applying to, check out their application deadlines. Based on these deadlines, you can figure out when you need to take the GRE. It would be suggested to take the GRE well before the admissions deadlines. Often, your GRE scores last at least 5-years, meaning you could technically take the GRE a few years before you apply to graduate school. However, here at Apex, we suggest you take the GRE at least a couple of months before the admissions deadline. This is because, if you happen to get a score lower than expected, you will have time to retake the test and aim for a one.
Count back 3 months from the test date. THIS is the day you will begin your official GRE test prep.
2. Take a free practice test
Before you even begin studying for the GRE, you need to take a practice exam. By taking a practice exam, you will know right away where your strengths and weaknesses are. It will also give you a baseline to know how to study and which parts of the exam require the most effort and attention. By keeping track of your score, you will also see your progress as you go along your test prep journey.
Determine Strengths and Weaknesses
3. Capitalizing on when you can best prep.
Are you a morning bird? A night owl? Do you find your brain works best during the afternoon? Knowing this about yourself can help you set your daily study schedule. If you find that your brain works best bright and early, then try to carve out an hour or two each morning to study before heading off to work or going to class. If you enjoy studying late at night, then find time after work or after dinner where you can spend two hours preparing. Once you have decided what time of day you want to study, it is important to keep a daily schedule. It is best to find a rhythm that you work best with so that your mind and body are prepared to study each day.
Are you a Morning Bird? A Night Owl?
4. Week 1 – GRE Basics
Great. You have decided on your test date, you have counted backward by 3 months, and you have determined what time of day you wish to study. Pull out your calendar, yearly planner, or phone and mark out the first week. Putting aside 1 or 2 hours each day in either the morning or the night where you study for the GRE. During this first week, you will get acquainted with the GRE Test Basics.
– Become familiar with the GRE format and content. Prepare yourself for what you are about to encounter during the next 3 months and on the day of your GRE exam. A good start is reading articles that introduce you to GRE’s structure, sections, timing, and scoring.
– Analyze the results from your practice test. As you are in the process of reviewing the results of your practice test, it would be helpful to ask yourself some questions to better understand the difficulties you encountered. When analyzing the solutions of some questions you got wrong or maybe you weren’t totally confident about, take note of any patterns. What section/s did you find most challenging? Which types of questions within each section were you struggling most with? Also, don’t forget to ask yourself questions about the “bigger picture” like: Were you able to finish every section? Did you feel anxious? How did you feel at the end of the test?
5. Week 2 – Quant Section
Great, it’s week two! During your first week, you have overviewed what to expect on the GRE overall. Now it is time to get a little bit more specific. Keeping your same daily schedule (whether you study in the AM or PM), change your study content to familiarize yourself with the GRE quant section. Read about which types of quantitative questions and content that you are most likely to come across during your 3 months of preparation, mock tests, and the GRE test.
Review GRE Math. Before diving deeper into preparing for this section, take some time to brush up on some of the formulas, definitions, and topics of the Maths section. Make flashcards with the necessary formulas so you can memorize which formula should be used for which problem(s). If you found that during the practice test the quantitative section was easy-breezy, consider studying exceptionally difficult problems. Since the GRE is a computer adaptive test, your questions will get exceedingly harder the more right answers you give. The more questions you answer correctly, the more difficult they will become, and thus the more likely you are to receive a higher score.
Learn the underlying concepts related to each topic (percents, ratios, exponents, statistics, etc). In this section, you will come across some specific wording that can be fundamental to finding the solution to the problems. In order to not get stuck during the exam and waste your precious time, learning about the most frequently used concepts is helpful.
6. Week 3 – Verbal Section
It’s week three! Bearing in mind how you have been studying for the past two weeks, be sure to maintain your same study schedule for this week. During this week it is time to get acquainted with the GRE verbal section. A great way to start working with the verbal section is to become familiar with the overall structure of this section. To learn more about this section, how it is scored, and some insights about its subsections click here.
Learn how to tackle each type of question. There are three types of questions in the verbal section (Reading Comprehension, Sentence Completion, and Sentence Equivalence) and their purpose is to test certain skills. This means that for each of them you have to use particular strategies.
Tip. It’s more effective to concentrate on one area at a time. So, while preparing for this section, choose one subsection and stick with it for a couple of days. For example, your third week could look something like this: Monday & Tuesday Reading Comprehension, Wednesday & Thursday Sentence Completion, and Friday & Saturday Sentence Equivalence, with Sunday being a rest day.
7. Week 4 – Monthly check-in
It has been a month since you started studying. If you have stuck to your study schedule, you have most definitely made progress. Now it is time to put that progress to the test!
Take your second practice test. As the saying goes “Practice makes perfect.” The more you get yourself exposed to GRE practice exams, the more likely you are to achieve your desired score.
Review your results. While looking at the answer explanations, pay attention to the solutions of the questions you got incorrectly.
Practice the type of questions you are having difficulties with. Identify the questions where you are spending more time than you should. Read some articles that recommend tips, strategies, and tactics that can assist in solving them faster.
8. Week 5 – Quant Review
It is week five, and you now have two practice tests under your belt. You should be seeing progress in your ability to take the exam. Time to refine your reviewing and fortify your strengths while strengthening your weaknesses in the Quant section.
Practice and enhance your knowledge of data analysis, Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic questions. Now that you are familiar with these terms it’s a good time to start reading some strategies on how to tackle these types of questions. After doing that, practicing what you just learned by solving problems focused particularly on these types of questions is extremely beneficial to your progress.
Practice and enhance your knowledge of quantitative question types. There are four types of quant questions. These are Quantitative Comparison Questions, Multiple Choice (one answer), Multiple Choice (one or more answers), and Numeric Entry Questions. Memorize how these question types look so that you are prepared for the official exam.
9. Week 6 – Verbal Review
Practice and enhance your knowledge of Sentence Equivalence questions. You can find articles about tips specifically about these types of questions and while practicing you be sure to make use of them. Another practical thing to do is read about articles related to common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Practice and enhance your knowledge of Sentence Correction questions. Additionally, as was mentioned above, these types of questions concentrate on reviewing a few basic grammar concepts and skills.
Practice and enhance your knowledge of Reading Comprehension questions. Besides reading articles related to tips and common mistakes, reading Reading Comprehension-like writing is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the style and content of Reading Comprehension passages.
10. Week 7 – Analytical Writing Section
Make yourself acquainted with the GRE Analytical Writing section. This is the step that, as you have seen so far, applies to every section. You can’t anticipate doing well on a task without knowing what is expected from you.
Review sample Analytical Writing templates. This is something that might come in handy when you need to format your essays. With some modifications, these templates can be used on test day.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Writing a couple of essays in a day will help you master your timing and get used to the structure you may use on your GRE essay.
11. Week 8 – Monthly Progress Check
Time for another practice test! After studying for almost every section, taking some mock tests will assist in keeping track of your progress.
Review your results. This time try to identify the topics you are still not comfortable with. Solely taking mock tests without analyzing the explanations to questions is not going to be much help.
Practice the type of questions you are struggling with. After analyzing these practice tests and understanding the patterns of your weaknesses, working more on the questions you find challenging leads to score improvements.
12. Week 9 – Review your Weaknesses, solidify your strengths
You have been spending a lot of your time preparing for the GRE. It is an arduous journey, but you’re not alone! During week 9, it is best to spend time reviewing the parts of the exam that you are most struggling with. Whether it is quantitative or verbal, spend a few hours a day reviewing those parts of the exam that you are most worried about.
At the same time solidify your strengths. If you are a powerhouse on the verbal section, that doesn’t mean you should no longer study that portion. Switch between your strengths and weaknesses during this week in both the verbal and quantitative sections. If you know of someone else who is taking the GRE, get together with them and swap tips and tricks on how they are tackling studying. Finding a study buddy is especially helpful as you can both be emotional support from one another!
13. Week 10 – Time and Stress Management
Some other significant factors to consider while working on preparing for the GRE test are time and stress management. A good start is reading a handful of blogs and articles that suggest many tips and strategies that can help you improve your time and stress management skills.
14. Week 11 – Review and Relax
During the last week don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead, try to take care of your mind and body as much as you can. One last brief review focused primarily on the sections or type of questions you struggled most with is going to be enough. Finally, the most important tip, don’t forget to enjoy your GRE preparation journey.
We at the Apex team hope that you find this GRE study plan helpful. If you want to discuss your progress and possibly have some one-on-one preparation sessions with us, we would be happy to help, set up a complimentary consultation call with a GRE instructor here.