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Last time, we discussed how to learn more about the GRE and how to prepare yourself to study efficiently during your first two weeks. Now, let’s look at a few more sample study sessions. How you study matters—and that can make the difference between an okay GRE score and a great one.
Sample Session 2: Vocabulary Flashcards
In order to conquer the GRE, you’ll need to learn some new vocabulary. If you’re taking a Manhattan Prep GRE course, start with the vocabulary list that you get each week in your syllabus. If you aren’t, you could pick up the Essential GRE Vocabulary flashcards, or you could even begin by jotting down unfamiliar vocabulary words from practice problems.
For each of the words on your list, make a high-quality flashcard. This article will teach you how to make a flashcard really memorable by using colorful imagery. Try it out! Take your time while making your flashcards—being thorough now will save you time later.
Once you’ve made your flashcards, don’t just read them and try to remember them one by one. Instead, take advantage of the way that your brain naturally prefers to learn. For instance, here’s a great rundown of a sample study session using vocab flashcards. And here’s a primer on spaced retrieval, which is an efficient technique for learning lots of new vocabulary quickly.
Followup: Spaced Retrieval
Spaced retrieval is the process of coming back to each vocabulary word multiple times, trying to remember it for longer and longer periods each time. Never completely set aside words that you’ve studied in the past. When you’re first learning a new word, look at your flashcard frequently. But when you think you’ve completely memorized the word, don’t just set it aside. Instead, put it in a special set of flashcards that you only check every couple of weeks. Put a note on your calendar to remind yourself to look at those cards periodically and test your memory.
Sample Session 3: Building Your Math Foundations
It might have been years, or even decades, since your last math class. If that’s the case, you’ll need to rebuild your “math sense” from the ground up. Here are some study sessions that will help you do that.
If you only have a little time, try one or two of these basic exercises. They might seem simple, but they’ll only take a few minutes and will help you get used to working with numbers again.
- Write out your times tables (from 2 up to 12) as quickly as possible. Time yourself, then do it again and try to beat your time.
- Write down the numbers from 1 to 100 on a sheet of paper, then list the factors and prime factors of each number.
- Play a few rounds of the Zetamac Arithmetic Game, or the games at mental-math-trainer.com.
- You can even search online for middle school math worksheets—these will have the types of content that you’ll need to be very comfortable with on the GRE.
If you have a little more time to work, focus on the GRE Strategy Guides. Don’t just read the math guides passively, though. Try making “when I see this, do this” flashcards as you read. A good target is to make at least five of these flashcards per chapter, although some chapters will have many more!
Followup: Cheat Sheets
When you finish a chapter of one of the GRE Strategy Guides, you aren’t done with that topic! Wait a week or two, then revisit that chapter. This time, create a cheat sheet that summarizes the most important points.
Sample Session 4: Using the 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems
When you took your first practice GRE, or as you started studying, you probably noticed weaknesses in some areas. The 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems is a great resource for addressing weaknesses. However, you should be thoughtful about how you use it. It’s tempting to do each problem, then read the explanation, then do the next problem, then read the next explanation, and so on. However, that’s not the most efficient use of your time. Instead, when you do problems out of the 5lb. Book, do three things. One, always do sets of problems with a timer, rather than doing a single problem at a time. Two, when you review the problems, use the method described in this article rather than just reading the explanations. Three, put every single problem, right or wrong, into your problem log.
Followup: Reviewing Your Problem Log
Set aside one study session every week just to review the problems you’ve done over the previous week. Get in the habit of marking (in your problem log) interesting problems that you’d like to redo. When you redo them, try to do them faster than you did previously, or try to avoid whatever mistake you made the first time. If you get a problem right the second time, nice work! You’ve learned something useful. If you get it wrong again, that may indicate that you need more work on that problem type.
Use any or all of these study sessions as you start preparing for the GRE. Once you’ve spent the first two weeks reviewing the basics, you’ll be ready to take your second practice test. You probably won’t do as well on the second practice test as you will on your official GRE—but it can provide you with extremely useful information. Next time, we’ll take a look at how to approach that practice test, and how to review it afterwards. 📝
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Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.