How to Study for the GRE

A comprehensive guide on GRE prep test with learning strategies, studying tips, identifying your weak points, and increasing the chances of getting admission at your desired university by improving your GRE score.

The GRE is a challenging test that requires practice and strategies to successfully complete it. It is used as a predictor of how well you will do in graduate school. Most schools will ask for your GRE test scores and depending on your chosen field of study, they place more importance in any of the three sections of the test.

When you realize or decide that you will have to take the test, you immediately start thinking about how to study for the GRE or what the best way to study for the GRE is. It can be overwhelming, but with some organization and a few tips on our part you will learn how to prepare for the GRE and the best way to study for the GRE.

Studying for the GRE involves committing yourself to spend time reading prep books, doing some GRE prep online, and taking practice tests. You can choose to take a GRE prep course, but if those do not fit you or they seem too expensive, we will show you how to study for the GRE on your own and ace it.


It is usually recommended to study for the GRE 3 months before taking the test so most resources will give you a GRE study plan for 3 months, but you can also try to crunch everything and get a GRE study plan for 2 months or a GRE study plan for 1 month.

The  on how to study for the GRE make up the best GRE study guide and if you use them you will enter the GRE center on test day feeling confident that you will get the scores you are aiming for.

  • If you want to do a Master’s Degree in a math intensive program your graduate admissions officers will look at only your Quantitative Reasoning scores.
  • On the other hand, if you decide to go to a humanities oriented graduate school, they will most likely look at your Verbal Reasoning scores.
  • Universities do look at your Analytical Writing scores to set apart students, but they don’t place great importance on it.

Tips on How to Study for the GRE

Understand what you have to study

The first step to studying for the GRE is to understand what the GRE is. You should know the details of the test such that it is a computer adaptive test, that sections are scored differently, and that you will have a limited time to complete it. Learn the structure as best you can so you will not be caught off guard on test day.

Know the different types of questions that each section has and what skills are being tested for them.

Verbal Reasoning Section

The Verbal Reasoning section has three types of multiple choice questions:

  • Sentence Equivalence – requires you to choose two words or phrases that complete a sentence so that both of them have the same meaning.
  • Reading Comprehension – requires you to read ten passages and answer around six questions for each passage to test how much you understood the text. You might be asked what a word meant on the text or what the the text was about.
  • Text Completion – is similar to sentence equivalence, but a lot more difficult. Instead of identifying two words or phrases that complete the sentence, you will be given a passage where words and phrases are missing. By understanding the text you have to provide the correct words that complete its meaning.

The Verbal section tests the following skills:

  • Analysis of sentences and texts
  • Ability to draw conclusions from reading passages and summarize them
  • Understand the meaning of words, sentences, and passages
  • Be able to identify and distinguish between literal, figurative, and intended meaning

Quantitative Reasoning Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section has these types of questions:

  • Multiple choice questions – one set will ask you to select only one option and the other will be to select one or more options
  • Numeric Entry – will give you a problem and you will have to compute the answer. These questions are more difficult because you do not have any multiple choices to try to figure them out or make an educated guess.
  • Quantitative Comparison – requires you to determine whether two quantities are equal, one is larger than the other, or that there is not enough information to compare them. You will have to compute these quantities and find their values to be able to decide.

The Quantitative section will test you on these skills:

  • Solving mathematical problems
  • Using mathematical concepts and systems
  • Interpreting data and information to come to a conclusion

Note that during this section you will be provided with an on-screen calculator to help you with computations.

Analytical Writing Assessment Section

The Analytical Writing Assessment section will require you to write two types of essays:

  • Analyze an Issue – where you will present your opinion on an issue and your recommendations on how to respond to it.
  • Analyze an Argument – where you will read an argument and try to assess its logic and flow. You will determine whether the argument is making sense or not based on the information provided.

The Writing section will test these skills:

  • Ability to explain and articulate ideas
  • Being able to support ideas
  • Analysis of arguments

Both essays are evaluated on whether they are clear, cogent, and coherent.

Only when you understand the parts of the GRE test and what you will be tested on, you will be able to start studying for the GRE and creating a GRE study schedule.

Assess your current level of knowledge

The second step for the best way to study for the GRE is to assess yourself and your initial skills. By doing this you can see the level you are in now and how much you need to improve to get the scores you need to get admitted to graduate school.

Assessment can be done by using online GRE prep tests such as those from ETS, Princeton, or from other online resources which you can find in the Best GRE Prep Books. These tests will simulate the real GRE and you will know what score you can get without any preparation at all.

If it is not in the range you are aiming to get then you should definitely study.

Make a study plan

Having a clear plan of what you have to study and when, is the best way to study for GRE. Based on your schedule of work and other obligations try to come up with a schedule and hour plan of when and what to study.

It is advisable to have at least three hours per day to dedicate to studying for the GRE. For each day make a detailed plan of what you will study, so what section and concept you will focus on and from what materials you will learn. Research the preparation materials and based on your weaknesses decide which ones best fit your needs.

If you make a good study plan, you will notice that your progress and improvement will be much faster and you can even surpass the three month mark and prepare to take the test earlier.

If you cannot make a good study plan, you can find different online services which will sell you one, but the downside of that is that they might not be tailored to your needs.

Practice Practice Practice

After you have learned the strategies necessary for taking the GRE test, the best way to study for GRE is to then practice. The materials you have chosen will all have practice questions on them and the more you do, the better your score will be.

You can take specific section practice tests or full length GRE tests which will look much like the official one. Use the strategies you have learned and you will do just fine. Take one last full length online test that simulates the real GRE just like the one you took in the beginning of your preparation. Compare the scores so as to see how much you improved from when you first started studying.

The importance of practicing for the test cannot be stressed enough, as the scores you will get on these practice tests will most likely be the ones you will get on the official GRE test.

Identify your weak points

Based on the preliminary test and your current level of knowledge, you can identify where you need to work on most. The scores on each section will indicate in what level you are which can help you know how to study for the GRE.

If you scored low in the Quantitative Reasoning section then you need to focus your energy in studying for that section, and if you did not do well in the other sections then you focus on them. In addition, you will be able to see specifically where you need to improve within a section such as geometry or algebra.

Your ability to identify your weaknesses will determine how well you will do in the next steps and ultimately your final score in the GRE.

Learn different strategies

Follow your study plan and the materials you have chosen and every book will have a few strategies it will teach you. These strategies will make it easier for you to navigate the test and not get stuck in particular questions.

The books will all have strategies on how to find the right answer for the shortest amount of time, how to guess in a more educated way even when you don’t know the right answer, and how to make the most of the given time.

Strategies are key in the GRE. It is not enough to just know how to do the problems, but how you go about completing the test and using the time you have been given determines your ultimate score.

Don’t stress too much

The GRE is a key test to getting admitted in graduate school, but it is not the only component. The graduate admissions officers will evaluate your essays, undergraduate performance, and your interview together with the GRE score to make a decision. So don’t think that the GRE is the most important part.

Many students make the mistake of stressing too much, especially during the test and they lose points on questions that they knew. This is also due to the time constraint, but you should try to remain as calm as possible on test day.

Take time off the day before the test and do an activity that is completely unrelated to the GRE. Let your brain take a break and you will be more refreshed and concentrated on the test when you take it.

By the time the test day comes around you will have followed all the steps and practiced enough for the GRE, that stressing will only harm your chances of getting the score you want.

Ace the GRE

Before going into the test try to have slept well the night before.

Go to the test center relaxed and calm, follow the procedures to enter and start the test. You will have practiced enough that nothing will take you by surprise and you will answer each question.

If you get stuck in one question, skip it. You have the possibility of going back to it at the end of each section, so in case you have time left try to make an educated guess.

Manage your time so that you don’t leave any unanswered question, but if you just guess one, move on and don’t think about it in the next questions.

How to Prepare for Each Section of the GRE?

Besides taking your practice tests, you should definitely plan to spend some time studying in each of the three sections of the GRE. Here are some simple ways to get in study time in these sections:

Quantitative Section

This section mainly tests your ability to answer high school level math problems. This section will not delve into advanced maths like calculus.

So, spend some time brushing up on your algebra equations, geometry, and basic arithmetic. If you still have some of your high school math books these will serve you really well here.

Set a number of practice problems for yourself that you will complete each day, just like your old high school algebra teacher used to give you for homework.

If you don’t love math and just barely made it through high school mathematics, the good news for you is that you can use a calculator on this section!

Analytical Writing Section

You may find it useful to spend some time reading editorials in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. You can spend some time thinking critically about what you read.

Can you identify significant points in the argument that the writer is making? See if you can identify which way the author is leaning and what conclusions they want you to draw. Can you take the concepts and ideas presented and explain them in your own words?

Verbal Reasoning Section

A helpful tip to practice for this section may be to challenge yourself with different vocabulary words. This is a nice one to do on the go and practice throughout your day.

Choose some difficult words that may appear on the exam from one of your practice books.

Make yourself flashcards with the definitions and usages on the back and quiz yourself throughout the day.

For all of the sections

Practice completing the questions within the amount of time allotted. Regularly practicing under time constraints will get you used to doing so, and you will not feel so pressured on the day of the test. You will more easily be able to relax, and recall what you need to succeed.

There you have it! Your dream to attend graduate school is well within your grasp!

Study hard, apply these keys, and soon you will be achieving the score that you need to get into the graduate school of your choice.

More About GRE

Now that you have the essential information on how to study for the GRE, what is left is the quite crucial information regarding GRE fees, fee reduction, score distribution, and test retake. 


The registration fee to take the GRE differs slightly in different areas of the world. Administration fees are also subject to change at any time, without notice. Find the cost listed below:

Where?How Much?

Fee Reduction 

Some applicants may also receive fee reduction if they belong to certain categories and are facing financial difficulties. Some of the categories who are eligible for the GRE Fee Reduction Program are listed below: 

  • Individuals with Financial Need: Applicants who demonstrate financial need, meet the eligibility requirements and plan on taking the GRE test in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam or U.S. Virgin Islands. 
  • Unemployed Individuals: Applicants who demonstrate they are unemployed and receiving unemployment compensation and are planning to take the GRE in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam or U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Programs Supporting Underrepresented Groups: Fee reduction vouchers are also available for programs that work with underrepresented groups, students with financial difficulties, and first-generation college students.

Test Duration

The overall test duration for the GRE test is three hours and 45 minutes, including the time allocated for breaks and providing biographical information. The time allotted for each section individually is as follows: 

Analytical Writing (2 essays)30 minutes/essay
Verbal Reasoning (20 questions in 2 sections)30 minutes/section
Quantitative Reasoning (20 questions in 2 sections)35 minutes/section

Score Distribution 

The GRE test is composed of three individual sections, each of which comprising of their own scores. Find the score distribution in each section below: 

SectionScore Distribution
Verbal Reasoning130–170 (in 1-point increments)
Quantitative Reasoning130–170 (in 1-point increments)
Analytical Writing0–6 (in half-point increments)

Test Retake 

The option of retaking the GRE General Test is possible once every 21 days, up to five times in a 12-month period (365 days). You can retake the test even if you have cancelled your scores in a previous GRE General Test.