How to Budget Your Study Time Before the GRE
As an undergrad, you may have mastered the fine art of cramming the night before an exam, but that doesn’t work on the GRE. This test is based less on memorization and more on skills, which take time to develop. Give yourself plenty of time to absorb all the material you need to study.
Here are some useful guidelines in terms of total time, the amount of that time you spend working through a study guide, and the amount of time to set aside per day:
Six to 12 weeks of total preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to work through a study guide dedicated to the test (GRE For Dummies, 8th Edition from Wiley is recommended); this will give you time to take practice tests and review areas where you need extra preparation. Six to eight weeks works well for most people, but more time is generally better. At 12 weeks, you can do extremely well, but after 12 weeks, most people get burned out or lose interest, and they forget things they learned early on.
Three to four weeks using the study guide. Working through a guide should take about three weeks, not including practice tests. For example, the practice tests in GRE For Dummies, 8th Edition should each take 2-1/2 hours (no essays) or 3-1/2 hours (with essays), plus another hour or two to review the answer explanations.
One to three hours per day, five or six days per week. Pace yourself. Too many students burn themselves out from trying to master the whole test in three days. Your brain needs time to process all this new information and be ready to absorb more.
If you have only a couple weeks to study, mark your weakest subject areas in the table of contents at the beginning of your study guide and work through those chapters or sections first. If you’re not sure about your weakest subject areas, take one of the practice tests in the guide to find out.
A study guide should provide broad coverage of everything you’re likely to encounter on the test, but if taking the practice tests reveals weaknesses in certain areas, you may need to consult additional resources to improve your understanding and skills.
Prioritize your study time and schedule daily review sessions. Otherwise, other activities and responsibilities are likely to clutter your day and push study time off your to-do list.