My GRE tips!

You want to go to graduate school? Awesome! Good for you!! (Make sure to grab a grad school planner to stay organized) But if you live in the United States, the GRE will stand in the way of you and your higher education goals.

Being completely honest here, its a load of crap that we still have to take this test. I think many professors also share this sentiment. Until there is a better system in place to analyze the general preparedness of college graduates, however, the GRE remains.

I tutor SAT and ACT prep, as well as all levels of math up to advanced college courses. Although I am not a GRE specific tutor, I believe the same testing strategies I have learned for the SAT and ACT apply well to this test with some small modifications

What you will need:

  • A fat book of GRE problems. I used this one
  • At least 2-3 months
  • $209 (I know, outrageous right?!)

How to get started:

  • Find a guide on the actual format and purpose of the GRE and its sections. This one is from ETS. Formats of tests can change from year to year so it’s important you find the most up to date information. Also important to note- this test is almost completely administered on computers now. 
  • Make a study schedule. Block out a couple of hours a week to dig into that massive book you bought. If an hour a day feels like too much, start with an hour every two days or four hours every Sunday. It is really important that you start studying three months out. I started studying in August with a ~5 hour a week schedule, worked my way up to ~7 hours a week in September, and took the test in October.
  • Take a practice test FIRST. This will allow you to know what sections you should spend the most time studying. This is also including the writing sections! Write an intro, outline your argument, and write your conclusion.
  • Churn and burn through that practice book. I suggest doing 20-30 questions from each section, moving from section to section while you are studying. DONT spend one-month doing math, the next doing English. The test itself (as of 2018) alternated between sections of writing, language, reading, and math, so your studying should mimic this as well.
  • Register for the test two months to a month in advance. Make sure you have a seat! Having a hard deadline will keep you motivated to continue studying. ETS gives you two practice tests when you register that you are able to do on the computer. THIS IS A GREAT TOOL. Take one of them about a month before, the other about two weeks before. Warm yourself up! You got this.
  • Finish that damn book.

Section specific tips

  • Vocabulary: I would circle the words I did not know and write the definitions in the book as I was correcting my answers. I dont know how much it helped, but after finishing all of the questions I can say that I saw some repeat terms.
  • Math: The math is very basic algebraically. Honestly, not far off from the SAT. Take a second to watch a tutorial or two on Khan academy if it’s been a long time since you’ve seen this stuff.
  • Reading: Read the questions before reading the passage. You are likely going to have to identify the validity of arguments, so pay attention to assumptions made by the author. Think of the intended audience of the text when it was initially written.
  • Writing: ALWAYS START WITH AN OUTLINE. Be creative, but have a logical flow. Graders dont have time to break down your artistic ability. Theyre looking for a definitive answer. Don’t hide it!

Day of

  • The basics: sleep well, eat a good breakfast, don’t forget a legal ID, pack a snack, know where your testing center is… you should know all of this stuff by now if you’re old enough to take a GRE. Remember that although this is a test that seems unnecessary, you spent OVER $200 TO TAKE IT. Do it once and make it count!
  • Keep moving!! You can return to questions at any time. Keep the momentum going and pass the questions you do not know.
  • (if you’re taking the computer version) feel free to skip to the next section if you are really truly done! Double check your answers of course. 
  • Pump yourself up!! You are going to GRADUATE SCHOOL! That’s pretty cool in my book. Plan a celebration for after you finish this test. You’re one step closer to being a graduate student and you deserve to celebrate.


  • Put your phone on airplane mode the morning of. No distractions here!!
  • Get very hydrated before! Many testing centers do not allow water or coffee into the room where you test. If you are a notorious pee-er maybe this is not a good strategy…
  • DONT WEAR PJS FOR HEAVENS SAKE. Dress well test well. 

Good luck guys! Have more stress about graduate school? No worries! Check out some of my other grad school related posts and shoot me a comment!

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