1. So… you want to take the GRE three months from now. It’s still a ways off, but you figure you might as well start. The more studying, the merrier – right?

    Your motivation is impressive – but hold off for a second before you start solving that practice test. Three months of study time is quite a lot – in fact, it may be too much. The worry is that by the time the test rolls around, you will have forgotten some of what you studied at the start. Another concern is that after a certain point, studying will simply stop being effective: you’ll be exhausted and won’t gain much from additional work. We recommend a total study time of 100-120 hours: in a 3-month period, this is hardly an hour a day on average. What all this goes to say is that a 90-day plan is for you only if you’re very busy, and have few hours to spare during the week for your studies. If this is not the case, we recommend going for a 60-day study plan – an optimal amount of time (even if this means postponing your studies by a month).

    The 90-day plan is also relevant if you need to work on your English. If you are a non-native English speaker or if your vocabulary or grammar just needs some brushing up, it’s worth taking a month to work on these skills prior to embarking on your study plan. Spend the next 30 days reading quality magazines – preferably ones you find interesting! – and working on your vocabulary (using the Vocabulary and Memorization section). If you only have 90 days, spend this month and then begin a 60 day study plan.

     

    Still reading? Great! If you are going for the 90-day plan, we recommend finding a study buddy, someone to either sit and study with or meet up with once a week to discuss progress, share study tips, and complain to.

     

    Alright, let’s start studying!

     

    Starting From Scratch

    Before you hit the books, a reality check is in order:

    • First time taking the GRE? You want to make sure you know what it’s all about: read about it what the GRE is and is not.
    • Doing it again? Start by studying what you’ve done so far. Analyze your last study effort, looking to pin down what went right. More importantly, ask yourself what you need to improve:
      • Did you run out of time in the test? Sounds like you may need to change up your answer strategies – you’re in luck, this is what examPAL is all about! In addition, it is important to build a detailed “game plan” for the test: how many questions you are going for and how many you will skip in each section.
      • Did the material confuse you? You may need to go back to to basics, and relearn it. This study pan gives you the chance to do just that.
      • Did you know the material and understand the questions, but just make “silly’ mistakes which made you pick the wrong answer? Despair not. The important thing now is to find the recurring mistake reasons, and think of habits or techniques which can eliminate them going forward. Small things – such as taking care to write all your calculations down so you can recheck them – can make a big difference.

     

    The important thing to remember is this: the GRE is not about your knowledge – it’s about your cognitive flexibility. And that’s what we’re going to work on!  

     

    3 Months Study Plan

    Time to build your study plan. The more detailed, the better! The goal is to know as much as possible about what your next three months are going to look like.

     

    This is the outline:

     

    Days 1 -77: Topic Review

    During this period, you are going to study each of the following subjects, preferably by this order:

    • PAL 101
    • Integers
    • Geometry Basics
    • Vocabulary and Memorization
    • Algebra Basics
    • Text Completion
    • Fractions and Percent
    • Analytical Writing
    • Interest
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Triangles
    • Powers and Roots
    • Ratio and Proportions
    • Sentence Equivalence
    • Quadrilaterals
    • Expressions and Equations
    • Rate and Work
    • Circles
    • Sets
    • Positive and Negative numbers
    • Polygons
    • Counting Methods and Probability
    • Coordinate Geometry
    • Descriptive Statistics
    • Data Interpretation Set
    • Solids

     

    How to study these?

    For each subject, devote three days of study. These should be structured like this:

     

    • First Day: learn the basics! On examPAL, this means watching the Intro and Lesson videos. While you do so, maintain the following lists:

     

        • Concise summary – in your own words, in a way you will have an easy time remembering.
        • Tips list – things you notice along the way that are important to notice: what is particularly confusing about this topic? What is important for you to remember?

     

    • Second Day: practice! Time to solve some problems on this topic. On examPAL, do the entire Practice phase: Diagnostic, Improvement and Optimization.
    • Third Day: review! Do the following:

     

      • Analyze your mistakes in the practice the day before. What confused you? Was it the material itself? If so – go back and review it. Something about the question’s phrasing, or a mix-up in your solving process? Think about how you can get it right next time.
        • Based on this analysis, keep a running list of mistake types and practical conclusions on how to avoid them.
      • Go over parts of the material you may have found confusing.
      • Seek out and solve additional problems (in the Official Guide).

     

    Don’t Forget the Verbal!

    While you are carrying out this study plan, you need to continuously work on verbal skills as well. The GRE expects a very high level of vocabulary (one that is challenging even if you are a native English speaker!). Spend an hour and half a day, preferable in the morning and/or evening before and after the rest of your study, doing two things:

      • Reading. It’s that simple, and it’s that important. Read quality magazines (the Economist, Forbes, the Atlantic, New Yorker, Sports Illustrated) on a topic you find interesting.

     

    • Honing your Vocabulary. Review a list of words, taken from the Vocabulary and Memorization section. Do it till it’s boring.

     

     

    One more thing – one day off a week! Trust us, it’s important.

     

    Days 78-80: Unscheduled

    77 days is a lot to predict: a lot of things may come up during this time. Hence, it’s a good idea to leave a couple of days open, to where you can reschedule topics and material you ended up not having time for before.

     

    Days 81-88: Final Stretch

    These days are divided into two:

     

    • Practice tests: every other day, take an ETS POWERPREP test. No distractions, no breaks – and if you can, take it at the same time of day as the actual test.

     

        • After completing the test, take a short break. Right after it, analyze your performance: what were you strong at? What do you need to work on, in terms of material, question type, recurring mistakes or time management? Maintain and consult your running mistakes list.

     

    • Review: the next day after a test day will be devoted to going over the material you need to work on most. This includes whatever the practice test revealed to be a problem spot. If there’s nothing like that in particular, simply review major topics, two or three a day. Go over your material summary, practical tips list, and seek out additional questions for the relevant topic (from examPAL or the OG).

     

    Day 89: Take a Deep Breath

    It’s a good idea to take the day before the test off: you deserve it, and one more day of studying will help less than some much needed relaxation.

    Day 90: Time to Shine

    Nothing left to say. Ace the test! You’re certainly prepared.

     

    What More to Know before you start Studying

     

    • Keep a clear head: your phone, TV and browser should be set aside, silenced and/or disconnected to avoid distractions.
    • Having trouble with something? First, ask yourself – what is the issue?
      • Is it a technical issue, or a small part of the material? Don’t let it sidestrack you. Set it aside and keep working, and get back to it in the review days.
      • A more fundamental issue – a topic you’re just not getting? Give it more time: rewatch the videos, ask the examPAL tutors some questions, review your summary carefully. The time you have taken will be subtracted from some other, easier topic – but make sure not to take all its time!
    • Learn from your mistakes, always and always. Continuously update your running mistakes list, and keep asking yourself: what sent me down the wrong path, and how can I prevent it?
    • Make sure you give yourself 8 hours of sleep. Exercising is also an excellent idea.

    One last thing

    Three months is no sprint; it’s a marathon. The more detailed your plan will be, the less you’ll have to think about it later. That being said, there will always be surprises and hitches along the way. A flexible study plan will allow you to move things around and adapt to whatever comes your way. What’s important is to keep running!

    mm
    Dave Green
    Senior tutor and professional test-prep writer. Interdisciplinary wizard, with Master’s degrees in economics, philosophy, and political science at HUJI.

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