How long should I study for the GRE

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How long should I study for the GRE

A popular question on the lips of many preparing for the graduate record Examination GRE is ‘How long should I study for GRE’? Will a fire brigade all-nighter for a week suffice? Or do you need to block out almost half a year to hit top points? How much preparation would be sufficient to pass this standardized exam that is a major eligibility requirement for many graduate programs in Canada and the U.S.A?

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On average, most people spend between one to three months preparing a few hours weekly, with professionals recommending three months. But this totally depends on you (some people take up to six months). This is because everybody’s preparation need is not the same. A more definitive measure of how much time to put into your GRE study would be in hours, not months.

The hours of effective study you can put into your budgeted timeframe is the key. An eight hours per week study-schedule spread over two months is almost equivalent to a five hours’ weekly study-schedule done over three months. There are, however, factors you should consider to decide just how long enough you would need to study to hit your GRE score goals;

1.What Are Your Target Scores For GRE?

Depending on the competitiveness of the school you are applying to, you might need to target a higher GRE score than your friend next-door. How do you know which GRE target score will be high enough?  It is always a smart decision to check out the GRE requirements of the program you are applying to. Research the average GRE scores for the grad schools you are applying to and just in case you are not able to find this information on their admissions page, you can contact them.

You then should make your target GRE score a few points higher than the average score you’ve researched, the best way to do this s by allotting the extra points to the verbal and quantitative aspects of the exam. The trick behind this is, reaching your target score puts you right ahead of the average score, and if you fall just a point or two short, you might very well still be in the qualification range.

You should, however, set high target scores, not unreasonable ones, which may cause you to burnout in your preparation and eventually reduce your performance in the long term. GRE, although an important part of your application process is not the only parameter that determines your admission.

2.Your Current Preparation Level

How prepared are you at the present moment? The best way to easily determine this is to take a few GRE practice tests. This will help you to assess where you currently stand regarding your quantitative and verbal reasoning abilities. With this at the back of your mind, you can now choose to allot more time to the areas you are weaker in. If you’re significantly weak in any area, this might extend your time of preparation to more than three months as opposed to you having considerable strength in both aspects.  You should also compare the scores you’re getting in your practice tests in light of the target score you are trying to reach. Having practice scores that are far off from your target scores means you need to allot more time to study.

3.Your Personal Schedule

How much time can you devote to studying per week? If you are a fulltime student or an actively employed professional, your study hours can be comfortably spread over the weeks in the recommended three months’ frame, but if you are on time-off to focus solely on GRE, you might be able to hit your target scores a lot sooner than this, because you can afford to put in more study time per week.

4.Your Preparation Materials

The quality of your preparation materials for GRE is also an important determiner of how much time you might end up using to study. Poor teaching will take a toll on your study because it will take you longer to grasp important concepts. At the same time, unrealistic practice questions will lead you into unnecessary detours that will not only have a negative impact on improving your actual GRE performance but also eat considerably into your preparation time. On the other end, using top-notch preparation materials will allow you to focus on crucial concepts, streamline your learning process and generally speed up your study timeframe.

5.How Acquainted are you with the English Language?

The verbal reasoning aspect of GRE may prove to be a more than formidable opponent if you are not bilingual and from a country where the English language is not the language of first choice (a non-native speaker). If this is the case, you will need to put in a considerable amount of time to work on your English skills before scheduling your GRE. You might consider writing TOEFL first, as this will give you more confidence in your English language.

6.How Competitive are the Grad Schools you’re Applying For?

A simple truth here is; the more competitive the grad schools, the more time you should block to prepare adequately. Getting an Ivy League-level program like that of Harvard, Stanford or MIT will require higher scores than if you’re trying for a state college program. Another thing you should note is, depending on your grad school, some programs will only care about your score in one aspect while others will care about your performance both in the verbal and quantitative aspects.  Just to be sure and not build your study framework on assumptions, you should check with your prospective grad school to understand their preferred system.


An important fact to remember is, the GRE tests your cumulative knowledge from over a decade of school and simply planning to “CRAM” that amount of information in a very short time frame is neither feasible nor advisable.

Apart from considering the above-listed factors, you also need to understand that, although your study-schedule should be flexible enough to accommodate unexpected life contingencies that might come up, you must also commit to consistency. The higher your target score, the consistent you’ll need to be into cinch those last few points that can make all the difference, you’ll be better off building your knowledge based on a six hours per week study-schedule spread across months than trying to pull an 18 hours’ all-nighter two days to your exam. The more structured and flexible your study-schedule is, the more consistent you can be and the faster you can effectively prepare. The cumulative effect of which will allow you to smash your GRE goals with confidence and within manageable stress limits. I hope this article answered your question of “how long should I study for the GRE”.

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Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.