The Blog Guide
A student recently had a great idea for an article: how to use the blog as a study guide. There are so many articles “ where should you start and what should you do? This article contains a lot of practical advice along with many links to additional resources. Follow the links!
Just Starting Out
Start with a practice test, taken under 100% official conditions (in other words, don’t skip those essays). You can take your first practice test with us for free; then, use the score report feature to analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
Pay attention not just to percentage correct but also to timing. If you’re having timing problems, it’s possible that some question types or content areas will show a lower percentage correct simply because you ran out of time before you could fully address those particular questions.
If you have any timing problems at all (and almost everyone does), dig into our Time Management article series. You may finish a section on time and yet still have serious “ even severe “ timing problems. Check the time for each question “ on vocab questions, you shouldn’t have very many that are faster than about 30 seconds or slower than 2 minutes. For passages, the timeframe should be about 1 minute minimum to 2.5 minutes maximum (note: for longer passages with multiple questions, the up-front reading time can be allocated across all questions for that passage). On quant, you shouldn’t have many that are faster than about 45 seconds or slower than about 2.5 minutes.
Get Into the Right Mindset
Read this: In It To Win It. Start doing what it says, today.
Also, check out these ideas for conducting a productive study session.
Put a Plan Together
Okay, you’ve taken the practice test, you’ve got the right mindset, you’re ready to go! Now what? You’ve got a few decisions to make
- Do you want to study on your own, with a friend, in a classroom, or with a tutor?
- What’s your goal score?
- How much time do you have?
I can’t answer those questions for you, but I can tell you what to think about in order to answer the questions for yourself.
Are you strongly motivated? Do you set schedules for yourself and stick to them? Are you able to analyze your own progress or performance and figure out where to go from there? Does the idea of constructing your own GRE study plan sound like a challenge, but a feasible one? Do you know others who are preparing for the GRE? If so, then working on your own might be the best decision for you.
Do you learn better in a group setting? Does setting up your own study plan sound like a chore, an added responsibility that you don’t need right now in your busy life? Do you know that you’ll likely procrastinate if no one’s checking to see whether you’ve completed your homework or asking you questions to see whether you’ve learned the material you were supposed to be studying? Would you like to have access to an instructor in order to ask questions and get help with problematic areas? If so, then taking a class or working with a tutor might be the best decision for you.
What about your goal score? If you’re not sure, start researching. Most graduate schools publish the average incoming GRE scores for the students admitted to their programs. Check out the web sites of the schools to which you’d like to apply. Ideally, you’d like to be at or above the average.
Finally, if you have a particular deadline, then that tells you how long you have to study and you’re stuck with that timeframe. If you have the flexibility to set your own schedule, keep in mind that most people study for 2 to 4 months, and the farther you are from your goal score, the longer you’ll need to get there.
How to Learn
First, you’ll need a couple of different kinds of study resources:
- Practice problems. The best source is the Official Guide, which contains real past test questions.
- Study materials. These will help you to get better at the material tested on the GRE. The practice problems themselves will not teach you how to get better. In general, study materials are published by test prep companies.
- Practice tests. The best source once again is the official practice test software (note: Macs are not supported), but most people want more than the 2 tests contained in this software. You can get additional tests from a test prep company.
Next, it’s crucially important to make sure that you are actually learning from every single problem that you do. You do not learn much while you are actually trying the problem. Most of what you learn comes afterwards, while you’re reviewing and analyzing both the problem itself and your own thinking.
Next, you’re going to make mistakes. This is good. (After all, if you’re not making any mistakes, then you’re not going to learn anything!) Here’s an article that will help you learn from your errors.
Finally, here are some additional ideas for studying from your Strategy Guides (if you use our GRE books).