How to prepare for the GRE test?

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In this post, I will share some tips and resources to prepare for the GRE examinations. I appeared for the GRE test on August 22nd, 2018, and scored 322(V: 155, Q: 167, AWA: 4.5).

General Tips

  • Giving a lot of practice tests is very important. Make it a habit to give one test every week.
  • Be consistent with your preparations. Try to sit for a couple of hours daily rather than stacking everything up for the weekend.
  • Set a realistic target for yourself. From the onset, if you have a clear goal in mind, then you can plan your preparations accordingly.
  • It is essential to spend some time going over the mistakes you made. Make a written note of the mistakes that you make while solving problems. Over time you can analyze if you are improving on your mistakes or not — Time yourself while solving any set of problems so that you get a sense of your speed.


Let me answer the most commonly asked questions by students who have just begun their preparations.

If you have any other questions, please ask in the comments. I will answer it and probably update the post with a detailed answer.

When should I appear for the GRE?

You should finish off your GRE and TOEFL examinations at least one month before the applications open for the term that you are targeting. For fall, most of the colleges start accepting applications by August or September. So its best to give the GRE by June or July. Don’t worry if you aren’t ready by June-July. It is best to take the test once you feel confident so that you can avoid making a second attempt.

How much time is needed for preparation?

Based on my experience, 2–3 months is quite sufficient to prepare well for the GRE. I was working full time as a Software Engineer while preparing for the examinations and had to manage my time accordingly. IMO, if you are diligent, it is easy to manage your schedule and give ample time for the preparations along with job/college studies.

I usually gave a couple of hours in the morning before office and 2–3 hours after office. At the weekends, you can reserve one day for writing practice tests.

What should be the first step of preparation?

The first step of preparation is to find any free practice test and write it. You will get some score, and it will give you an idea of where do you stand currently and what should you be targeting. In general, you can improve your score by 10–15 points from the first test that you write. In my first test, I scored 310. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t score highly in the first few practice tests. For the first few tests, my scores didn’t improve much, but after around two months, I started scoring 315–330.

What is a good score?

In my opinion, any score above 320 is a good score. For most of the colleges, GRE is just a parameter for elimination. So if you score more than 320, then you will probably clear the elimination criteria for most of the colleges.


Here’s are some resources that I found useful while preparing for the exams.

Recommended Books

I would suggest not to buy a lot of books and instead stick with just one book as more or less most of the books have a similar set of problems.

5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems

Highly recommended book for Quant practice problems. The book has ~1000 math problems, so I set a target of solving 25–30 questions every day. Solving 25–30 problems shouldn’t take more than an hour. With this schedule, I was able to finish off the book in around 45 days.

The Official Guide to the GRE General Test

I used this book just for general guidance and to get clarity on the examination pattern. I also found the set of problems quite useful for revision. The book also has a couple of full tests that you can use as a practice test.

My GRE Notes

Quant: As and when I was solving the 5lb book, I kept preparing short notes for each of the topics, focusing on formulas, tips, and tricks. These notes proved to be super useful. Before every practice test, I used to quickly revise my notes to refresh all the concepts in my mind. Eventually, I was able to revise the whole notes in 30–40 minutes.

Verbal: For verbal, I made a note of the possible meanings of a word that I used to find difficult to remember. A lot of words have quite a few definitions, and having all the meanings in one place proved to be quite useful for revision. After each practice test, I updated my notes with the words that I didn’t know. In my GRE test, a lot of words came from the notes that I prepared. It wasn’t shocking as these words kept reoccurring in practice tests, as well.

Here’s a link to my Quant and Verbal notes.

Free Practice tests

The most important aspect of preparation is to give practice tests consistently. I gave one full practice test every week without fail for ten weeks. It is easy to get tempted to study or revise something instead of taking the full tests, but I made sure to give the test no matter what. Also, you don’t need to wait till you finish your entire syllabus before you start giving the tests.

  • 2 Full practice tests from ETS. I would recommend saving this test for the end. I gave the ETS test 1 week and two days before the actual GRE. The score that I got in the last test was the same as my actual GRE score.
  • 1 Full practice test from Crunch Prep.
  • One test from Manhatten Prep.
  • 1 test from Kaplan. If you google, you will find a lot of other free practice material from Kaplan.
  • Four tests from Princeton. Just 1 test is free, but if you google, then you will find a coupon code that can be used to get a total of tests.

Stay tuned for more articles about my MS journey.

Written by

Grad Student at ASU | Student Researcher at The Luminosity Lab | Ex Senior Software Engineer, Zeta | Volunteer, Wikimedia Foundation

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