How to Create a GRE Prep Plan

gray clock icon
3 min read

If you’re applying to graduate school and need to take the GRE, it’s time to create a plan. With a plethora of advice and study material available, the choices can be overwhelming. 

Which books should you purchase? How long should you review questions for each section? When should you take the official exam? The first step in answering these questions is to create a GRE prep plan. To establish a study plan, take GRE practice tests, identify your goals, and create a prep schedule. 

Hoping to make the most of your GRE test date? Keep reading to learn how to create a GRE prep plan. 

GRE prep plan tip #1: take a full-length GRE practice test

The best way to know how to start studying for the GRE is to sit for a practice GRE exam. The official test takes three hours and 45 minutes. Therefore, your practice exam should take the same length of time. When taking a practice test, don’t skip the Analytical Writing section. Complete both the Issue essay and the Argument essay. Then, go through the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Once you’ve finished, write down your score, and then review your exam results to determine your strengths and weaknesses. 

GRE prep plan tip #2: identify your GRE goals 

Based on the results of your practice exam, as well as the requirements of the graduate program you’re applying to, choose your priorities for your GRE preparation. When pinpointing your GRE goals, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Should I focus on writing?
  • Do I need to improve my verbal skills? 
  • Do my quantitative skills need assistance? 

If you’re entering a program based in mathematics, like engineering or finance, make sure that your performance on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE reflects your highest abilities. Conversely, if you’re applying to graduate school for programs like English or education, then the Writing and Verbal Reasoning sections will also be important. 

GRE prep plan tip #3: register for your GRE test date

Your official GRE exam date will give you a target to work toward. Depending on your application deadline, allow for sufficient time to prepare, as well as a cushion in case you need to take the exam again. If you’re a prudent planner who has six months to a year before your application is due, register for a GRE exam date two months from now, and forecast a backup GRE exam for three months from now. This will provide you with at least three months to work on the rest of your application after you’ve completed the GRE.

[RELATED: How is the GRE Scored?

GRE prep plan tip #4: create a study schedule

Consistency is key when preparing for the GRE. Block out times with specific topics to study throughout each week, broken down into separate question types. For example, for your Verbal Reasoning times, decide whether you’ll work on ‎reading comprehension, text completion, sentence equivalence, or general vocabulary memorization. On Quantitative Reasoning days, determine whether you want to focus on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, or data analysis. Additionally, include full practice GRE exams throughout your schedule so that you can monitor your progress.

GRE prep plan tip #5: keep your end goal in mind

Your GRE prep plan will help you succeed on the GRE only if you follow the plan. Remember why you’ve scheduled study time throughout the week and why you want to create the strongest application possible for graduate school. Also, if necessary, adjust the plan. As you prepare for the GRE, you may develop your skills in certain sections more easily than others. Update your plan accordingly.

Creating a GRE prep plan that addresses your needs requires focus and discipline. Establish your goals, and create a study schedule to support your GRE exam success. Following these steps can help make your GRE preparation process successful.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at