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The seven steps to building your own GRE study plan

03 February, 2024 By Parthiva Mewawala, IMS India

Scoring 320+ in the GRE is a herculean achievement that requires many hours of preparation. But even with unwavering dedication to your goal of a good score, the absence of a smart GRE study plan will leave your efforts scattered, wasting precious time and energy. The right plan will streamline your GRE prep and help you address key topics strategically while keeping you accountable till the end. 

We collaborated with our top mentors to design this seven-step guide that will help you build your own comprehensive GRE study plan. And fret not, we’ve also included an optional 8th step for candidates who prefer a more guided approach to their GRE test prep. 

Read more: How Important Are GRE Mock Tests To Scoring 320+?

Here’s what you need before you set up your study plan

Answer these questions before you start setting up your study plan. 

Which section do you want to focus on? 

Based on the program you’re applying for, you might need to choose a section to focus on. 

For instance, most engineering and sciences programs will demand a higher quant score whereas programs in the arts and humanities subjects will prefer a better score on the verbal section. 

Some programs, like business, have equal weightage for both the sections, so your effort needs to be divided equally between the two. 

What is your target score? 

Many students get hung up on the topic of a ‘good’ GRE score. But, according to experts, chasing a randomly picked score isn’t the right approach. 

Instead, research your selected programs and the universities offering them. What is the median GRE score of the applicants getting selected? 

Remember, GRE is just one part of a well-rounded application and there will be other factors affecting final admission calls. But a GRE score that matches the requirements of your program will boost your overall profile. 

Read more: 8 Ways To Increase Your GRE Score – 8+ Tips On How To Improve Your GRE Score?

How many weeks do you have until your GRE exam? 

Depending on the date of your exam, you’ll need to divide the total number of hours required to reach your target score with the weeks left, to find out how much weekly study time you need to block out. 

If you haven’t registered for the GRE test yet, you can map out your target score with the hours required and spread them out comfortably over a few weeks. But don’t push the exam date too far, lest you don’t get a second attempt to improve your score. 

Seven steps to the perfect GRE study plan

The goal is to build a schedule you’re comfortable following. Don’t push yourself too hard. 

Choose your target score

Using the steps mentioned above, pick a target score that puts you above the average GRE score of the applicant pool. 

Here’s a table of the top universities, corresponding programs and the average scores for you to look up. 

S. No.  University  MS in Engineering MBA
1. Harvard 325 330
2. Stanford  330 330
3. MIT 329 330
4. UCB 322 323
5. UPenn 321 324
6. Columbia 321 324
7. Yale 322 331

Read more: What GRE Scores Do You Need To Get Into The Top Universities?

Take GRE mock test

Now that you have your target score, it’s time to find out what your baseline is. Your baseline score will determine where you stand right now in terms of preparedness. Taking a GRE mock test in proper testing conditions is the best way to identify how good you are and how much better you need to be. 

Determine the total hours you need to put in

What’s the difference between your baseline score and target score? We’ll be using this difference as a marker to find out how much work you need to log. 

A good rule of thumb to follow is that for every 5 points, you’ll need to put in a corresponding 40 hours of work. 

So, your total hours should look something like this:

  1. 5 points – 40 hours
  2. 10 points – 80 hours
  3. 20 points – 160 hours
  4. 25 points – 200 hours

Divide the total hours between sections 

Now that we have a fair idea of how many hours of study will get you to your target score, let’s first work out how to divide the hours between weeks left. 

Ideally, you can target 20 hours of GRE prep every week. A 20 point increase in your score will need 8 weeks or two months. 

Next, allocate 60% of the total hours to the section you need to focus on. And the remaining 40% for the other one. After all, your prep needs to be directed towards the end goal of getting an admit from your chosen program. 

Collect all the GRE study material 

Now we’re armed with the skeleton of your study plan. We need to flesh it out. For that, you’ll need to gather all relevant GRE prep materials. 

Your prep should include the GRE Official Guide by ETS along with a few of their GRE practice papers. 

You can also choose to take up an online GRE coaching program, such as the one offered by IMS, that will provide you with video as well as written material. 

Create a list of all the topics and allocate all the hours between them. Then add the material you will be reviewing next to the topics. 

Create a calendar 

Congrats! Most of your work is done. All we need to do now is create a calendar, sync your schedule, and block out time beforehand to keep you accountable. Don’t forget to add GRE mock tests to your calendar too.

Get. Set. Go!!! 

You’re all set to start your GRE prep armed with a smart GRE study plan that’s geared towards your specific goals. Continuously monitor your progress and make changes in the schedule, if necessary. Be flexible with your schedule and make up for lost hours whenever you can.

Optional 8th step

This is an optional step for all those who want an intelligent study plan and calendar, replete with comprehensive study materials and access to experienced mentors to amplify their efforts to score well. At IMS, we’ve designed an intensive GRE classroom program with 50+ hours of teaching, 30+ hours of videos, 2000+ practice questions, and 10 full-length mocks. Additionally, you also get one-on-one strategy sessions with our mentors to help you hone your test-taking approach. Talk to our consultants today to see how you can cross the 320+ barrier in the GRE test.