5 Key Considerations When Designing Your GRE Study Plan
As I’m sure you know, the GRE consists of three sections: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing. And, if you want to go to graduate school, you have to take it. Of course, depending on the field you’re going into, you might feel like this test is an unfair assessment of your skills. What does quantitative reasoning have to do with your ability to write poetry? Of course, not every program weights the different sections equally. But no matter how a specific program may view the sections in comparison to one another, the GRE serves as one metric by which admissions decisions are made. That means that if you want the best shot of getting into your dream grad school, you’ll want to make a GRE study plan.
The right GRE study plan will give you the best strategy for improving your score in the most important areas. It will also give you a timetable to ensure you put in the right number of consistent hours between the day you start prepping and the day you actually take the GRE.
5 Key Considerations
1 and 2: How Much Do You Want to Raise Your Score?
You can actually interpret this question in two ways.
The answer to this question will also tell you how much time you’ll need to allot for studying between now and the test day. Every student is different, but as a ballpark estimate you can assume that every 5 points of improvement on test scores requires about 40 hours of studying.
3: Which Section Matters Most
Many graduate programs pay far more attention to one section of the GRE than the other. Often this is fairly straightforward—mathematics departments are more interest in quantitative scores than verbal reasoning, as literature departments are more interested in verbal than quant. If your department is closely aligned with one section of the test, then you should consider this as you create your study plan. Aspiring engineers, for instance, will want to spend considerably more time on the quant section than the verbal, even if this is where they are naturally strong.
But don’t make the mistake of ignoring one section of the test if there’s a chance your department will pay some attention to the score. It might not seem obvious why an anthropologist would need quantitative reasoning skills, but a lot of an anthropologist’s research might actually involve some amount of statistical competence.
4: Where Do You Need the Most Improvement?
Many quality practice tests will enable you to assess your skills not just by section but by sub-section. For example, on the quantitative section, you might be strong in geometry but weak in interpreting graphs. Drilling down on your weaknesses is the most effective way to target your study efforts and improve your overall score.
The most reliable practice model follows a pattern of review, assess, review. You should be consistently doubling back to persistent areas of weakness, using the assessment portion to determine where you still need the most work.
5: When Do You Want to Take the Test?
We recommend signing up for an actual test as soon as you can determine the time you want to take it. Signing up early will ensure you have a spot available when you need it. It will also help you commit to a study plan. Without finalizing a date, it can be easy to postpone your goals indefinitely.
Once you know when you want to take the test, you’ll know how much time you have to put in the work of studying. Combine this information with the average rate of improvement (5 points/40 hours) as well as the appropriate section weights for the programs you’re applying to based on your field as well as your baseline skills. Synthesizing all this information, make a weekly study plan breaking down how much time you’ll devote to each section and how regularly.
Maybe you, like many students, found the standardized test process to be difficult and stressful when you were in high school. But you’ve had years of education and experience since then. The GRE does not have to feel like some insurmountable obstacle to achieving your goals. With an intelligent study plan and persistent effort, you can significantly improve the ease of the prepping process and you can increase your odds of getting the score you want.
About the Author
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of 1-1 and small group GRE test prep tutoring (and many other types of tutoring and test prep). MyGuru is also the official GRE Prep Club Test Editor.