We take systematic preparation for this test seriously because it can be an important variable in many admissions committees’ decisions about your graduate application. Many of our students come to us after a gap in their schooling, and studying for the GRE frequently requires reinforcing math and English fundamentals, while learning how to apply your knowledge to the particular requirements of the test. Below, you’ll find a summary of the GRE process specifically, which can help you gain some familiarity with it, as you think about the best preparation program for you. Remember that we are available to you to help craft the right GRE process for you. Feel free to contact us about any question, no matter how small.
Determine when you need to take the test and plan your preparation schedule
The GRE is administered year-round in the computer-based format. Most programs require that applicants report only unofficial results in their application, so in theory you could take the exam on the day your application was due. However, achieving your best score on the GRE takes time and it's nice to have the test out of the way by the time your graduate program application process is in full swing. In addition, while the vast majority of our students are satisfied with their scores after taking the test for the first time, it is good to give yourself another opportunity in case you are unhappy with your first score. Because applicants may only take the GRE once within any calendar month, we advise our students to schedule an exam date at least six weeks in advance of the earliest application submission deadline.
Starting your preparation earlier is obviously better. The GRE is highly coachable, patterned, and predictable. Familiarity through repetition leads to dramatically superior outcomes. We recommend a minimum of 16 sessions to cover the entirety of the test. Most of our students space these sessions out over the course of two to four months in a Comprehensive Package.
Students who have more time or feel that they would benefit from additional preparation often choose the Planning Ahead Package which includes 20 sessions. Generally, the Planning Ahead Package allows for additional focus on advanced problem types and more extended coaching on full length exams.
Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam
ETS provides this summary of the GRE format. In addition to understanding the different question types and familiarizing yourself with the timing requirements, we recommend that you complete the sample questions provided on the GRE website.
Establish a baseline on a practice test
Establishing a baseline is a critical step in the process of studying for the GRE. We highly recommend taking a full-length practice exam as your diagnostic. To date, ETS has only released two official practice tests for the revised exam. Because we believe that these official exams should be used to confirm preparedness and simulate real testing conditions just prior to the exam, we would be happy to direct you to several unofficial exams that we have found to be useful indicators of student strengths and weaknesses.
Take the diagnostic exam under timed conditions and complete it in one sitting. Sustained focus over a long stretch of time are primary challenges associated with the GRE. Give yourself three hours and forty-five minutes to complete the test, including a ten minute break. Follow the scoring instructions at the end of the booklet to see how you did.
Remember that your score on this diagnostic exam is not particularly important. Your correct and incorrect answers serve as a starting point for your tutor, allowing us to build a syllabus customized to your strengths and weaknesses.
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Once you have a score from your diagnostic, we can advise you more specifically on what kind of preparation program makes sense. The more information you provide the better. If possible, please summarize your performance on each section of the exam, your goals, your schedule, and any specific concerns you have about your preparation. One of our tutors would be happy to discuss a preparation schedule that suits your needs.
Tutoring & Practice Testing
Once we’ve matched you with tutor, the real work begins! You’ll meet with your tutor regularly (ideally, at least once or twice per week), complete homework in between sessions, and take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way for you and your tutor to to gauge your progress during the course of tutoring. Based on the results of your practice tests, your tutor will adjust his or her approach, and make sure you are getting as much out of the process as possible.