GRE Prep Tips to Remain Sane — The Admit Lab

Philippe Barr, PhD
7 min readApr 3, 2023

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of studying for the GRE? Don’t worry — we’ve all been there! Preparing for standardized tests takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a miserable experience. With these GRE prep tips, you can learn how to approach test-taking with confidence and even manage to stay sane in the process! Read on for advice about how to prioritize and keep your stress levels low during this important period in your academic journey.

1. Become acquainted with the format

With modifications to the test’s length and content, as well as its shift towards online exams that are taken either in the comfort of your own home or at a testing center, it is essential to understand what you will be facing.

Taking the practice test is a great way to become familiar with the overall format of the test. Keep also in mind that some graduate programs also accept the GMAT and provide you with the autonomy to choose which exam is most suitable for your needs. To ensure you make an informed decision, consider taking a practice GMAT test to see which one aligns best with your personality and learning style.

When studying for the GRE, stress is often a major obstacle. Individually, each part of the test may not seem difficult; however, sitting through three hours and forty-five minutes in one go can be like running an entire marathon! To achieve success on the GRE, you must ready yourself for test day. Gradually ramp up your studying by exercising mentally and physically to build stamina; otherwise, low scores could be in your future. Make sure to incorporate stretching into your routine as well so that you can maximize performance when it counts most!

Developing a sense of pacing is essential for success on the GRE. Practice tests are an invaluable resource to establish benchmarks and will allow you to build up your stamina while taking this exam. Doing full practice runs frequently can help cultivate both the mental and physical strength needed, enabling you to approach the entire test with confidence and proficiency.

To become more familiar with the GRE, take your practice tests in a simulated environment that mimics an actual exam session. This will help condition your mind to perform optimally during the real test.

2. Manage your time right

Everyone’s experience with the GRE is unique, so it can be tricky to determine how much time one should devote to studying. Nevertheless, all students must comprehend the test in detail and this typically requires between three and five months of diligent practice. Investing a little more energy into your preparation will help you shine on exam day! The key to success is constructing and following an organized study routine.

Even if you have aced your math courses in high school and are an avid reader, there is no certainty that these skills alone will guarantee success on the test. At best, they can give you a head start to prepare for it! Exercise caution, and don’t make the mistake of underestimating the GRE.

Establish a practical daily plan that sets aside sufficient time for each GRE section to ensure you cover all topics.

3. Decide if you’ll do this alone or not

With roughly two-thirds of applicants reporting that they study independently, it is comforting to know that there are plenty of self-starters out there preparing for their upcoming exams.

Since there is no significant difference score-wise between self-preppers and those who decide to invest in a coach or test prep course, it’s important to quickly figure out if you possess the motivation and fortitude to commit yourself completely to test preparation on your own. While some people are highly organized and motivated and only need a study schedule to ace exams, others prefer having someone else calling them out — i.e., attending classes — as an extra form of accountability. We all learn differently. Stay true to your own learning style.

4. Stay focused

A lot of us are hardwired to take on multiple tasks simultaneously, and we may feel a sense of pride in being able to do so. Nevertheless, multitasking is detrimental to GRE preparation. Study sessions crammed into short time blocks within busy commutes or during lunch breaks while also juggling emails, dinner orders, and other interruptions are often not the best option. Unlocking your potential as a GRE test-taker requires an exclusive commitment to study. Dedicating thirty minutes to uninterrupted studying can be much more beneficial than two hours of dabbling with no distractions. As our the fourth of our GRE prep tips, please put away your phone and concentrate, and you’ll find yourself absorbing material more quickly and efficiently-ultimately helping you reach success in improving your test results.

5. Establish targeted and concrete objectives

Every time you settle in to study, set a learning goal; strive to reduce the time it takes to answer questions or to solve problems. Even if your objectives are as simple as refreshing sentence structure terminology, setting goals can help ensure that studying is effective and efficient. When you have a well-defined learning goal, it will help to organize and prioritize your work as well as provide ways for measuring progress. Plus, when the week has come to an end, you’ll be able to look back with pride at how many tasks were accomplished — these small victories will give you enough energy to keep going!

GRE preparation should be accompanied by concrete benchmarks of progress. Keeping up with your own performance is essential to gain an understanding of how much improvement you have made and assess the results of your studying strategies objectively.

For optimal results, you should create a set of metrics to evaluate your improvement and measure it frequently. Regular self-examination will point out the growth for each question type as well as section; by keeping track of progress made in studying, you’ll be able to correct any bad habits or patterns.

6. Allow yourself breathing time

Probably the most important of all GRE prep tips: Allow yourself a short break between sessions if you wish, but be mindful that the pause will be brief. Rehearse for your exam by setting up an alarm and going through all of the motions — grab a beverage, use the restroom, etc. You’ll notice how fast time passes before long. Remember that when it’s time to take your test, there is no wiggle room for tardiness; once you begin it’s on a tight schedule so don’t allow yourself to lose valuable minutes.

Commiserate with other candidates.

Misery certainly loves company and finding others who are going through the same issues as you can provide an incredible sense of community and accountability. There’s no lack of online communities or discussion boards available to assist with staying on track while discussing your struggles with one another.

It won’t be a task filled with joy, but you’ll likely be more determined when things become challenging if there are fellow peers by your side that share similar experiences. Furthermore, having fellow individuals who can relate to what you’re going through offers a sense of solace and brings some cheerfulness into the situation.

Parting words

Congratulations on taking the first step in pursuing your goals and embarking on this journey! Preparing for a test like the GRE is no easy feat, yet if you incorporate the GRE prep tips shared above into your study program, you can set yourself up for success. Make sure to take care of yourself during this time by taking breaks and joining online communities that can provide you with support and motivation. Throughout all the chaos and stress, just remember to keep trying your best. Think of it this way — each practice problem you solve is one step closer to achieving your dream score. With hard work and dedication, you can do it! Ready to start prepping? Don’t forget that The Admit Lab can help along your grad school application journey. Sign up for a free admissions consultation today!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Philippe has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on April 3, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/