offers hundreds of GRE video lessons and practice questions. Go there now.
Sign up or log in to Magoosh GRE Prep.

How Long Should I Study for the GRE?

How long you should study for the GRE is an important consideration. However, there is no one pat answer. You could be a quantum physicist with a penchant for vocab, one who enjoys spending his or her time solving really convoluted math problems (while penning purple poetry). Clearly this person could cram for the GRE by whipping through the 2nd Edition Official Guide.

On the other hand, there are many who take the GRE for whom English is not a first language. There are others for whom the only thing that comes to mind when they hear π is apple (usually the last time they opened up a textbook on math, bell-bottom jeans were in). Clearly, cramming is not a viable option for them.

Can I cram for the GRE?

If cramming means two to three weeks, then you don’t have to be our aforementioned quantum physicist. For those that are relatively adept at math, you can score well with little preparation. Many of these same people are looking to enter a program that is quant-heavy, so their verbal scores do not need to be very high. A few weeks and they can get the scores they need (and thus focus on other important parts of their applications!).

Regardless of your aptitude you will need to do a couple of practice tests, just to test your mettle. So even if you believe that you are capable of cramming for the GRE, the very nature of the word cramming implies that you are going to sit down and do some serious studying (just not for a very long time).

So yes: you can cram for the GRE, but you better have a pretty good reason: Rhodes scholar, non-competitive programs, major procrastination. Regardless, you should keep in mind the following:

That said, I only recommend cramming if you can’t avoid it. And even for the most gifted amongst us, I recommend more than just a lazy Sunday afternoon with the GRE 2nd edition propped open on your lap.

 

How long SHOULD I study for the GRE?

Again, the answer to this question depends on a lot of factors. But I can give a range: you should study for the GRE for one to six months. Below are some of the factors to consider.

How long have you been out of school?

If you are fresh out of an undergraduate program, you have been around academic jargon and, presumably, you’ve been studying diligently for four or more years. Your brain is most likely pretty sharp. That, of course, is not to denigrate those who’ve been out of school for years. However, when the “study part” of your brain has not gotten a workout for a while, it takes some time to get back into learning word lists, memorizing math formulas, and reading dense passages.

How much do you read (and what do you read)?

I don’t mean to imply that after graduating people become glaze-eyed zombies incapable of fathoming even basic prose. Much to the contrary our adult brains become more adept at sifting through a morass of words and gleaning the overall meaning…if we continue to read diligently. And I don’t mean the last gossip column. Read literary works, essays on current events, or even a best-seller (provided it has some challenging words in it). If you have been reading diligently over the years, it is very likely that you’ve developed a strong sense of how vocabulary works in context. And hence, you will need as much time prepping for the GRE.

Are you a math-y person?

If you are the person everybody turns to when it comes time to figure out the tip on a bill, then you likely very good with numbers. You will likely to be able to navigate the GRE math section without too much prep.

Which program do you hope to get into?

There is a big difference between the state college down the road from your house and a Harvard Ph.D. program. Most likely, your choices will fall somewhere in between. The more competitive the school, the more you will have to prep.

Are you “good” at taking tests?

I’ve tutored standardized tests for a while now. Some of my students seem to have a sense of how the tests are put together and how the answers are meant to trick you. Others are simply good at focusing for four hours at a time. None of this is a bad thing. If you are good at taking tests (scored well on your SATs, AP tests, etc. in high school), you should not have to study for more than a few months.

Are you a non-native English speaker?

Simply put, the GRE verbal is insanely difficult for non-native English speakers. If you fall into this camp, do not despair. You can still do well on the GRE verbal. But you may have to study for six months, or even longer (depending on your answers to the questions above).

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

40 Responses to How Long Should I Study for the GRE?

  1. DnO June 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    Hi,
    I took the GRE for the third time (I took the GRE twice two years ago), and didn’t got the score I wanted. I want to apply to a quant oriented program and they ask for a minimum of Q164 and got Q162. I studied 3 hours daily for the last month (last time I scored Q770). I think this time I got a little weaker because the adaptative section was also about math, and I got tired by the end of the exam. I scored a little higher on my practice tests (Manhattan Prep, Q 163 – 164). When is too much GRE studying? At what point should you say that you are will not score higher? If it is not the time yet, what kind of plan would you suggest me?
    Depressed student.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Dno,

      It’s tough to say. I’d look at it from a standpoint of pacing and careless errors. Perhaps you are continuing to make certain errors that you are not really aware of–or as aware of as you should be. By anticipating reasons you get questions wrong you’ll be more on guard during the test (the reason I say this is because you’ve studied a lot–gotten 770–so basically know most of the concepts). Sometimes slowing down and being more on guard against subtle tricks can net you those extra few points.

      So don’t get depressed. Get a better sense of what you’re doing wrong, and use that knowledge to your advantage :).

  2. Alex April 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Hi Chris and Margarette,

    I recently took the GRE about two weeks ago and I received my scores today and I not reach my target score ( I started to prepare 2 1/2 months before the test ) ; the deadline for the universities that I’m applying to is July 1st, and after communicating with ETS and the universities back and forward , I have till the first week of June to take the exam again so I can summit my scores in time, and based on the availability of test centers, I have 3-6 weeks to prepare for the next exam; but I don’t feel comfortable taking exam so close to the deadline so my actual time frame to prepare is 3-4 weeks. my question is the following:

    Can 3-4 weeks of preparation make a difference in improving my score??
    ( I’m in a position where I can devote day and night to study, ranging from 6-10 hours per day inclusively to studding )

  3. haris February 14, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Hi Chris,

    i just now started my preparation and want to take my gre test on or before march 31st, so can you please suggest me the studying tips as i am working and unable to go for any class room trainings.
    Thanks for your information

    Haris

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Haris,

      Well you’ve come to the right place :). So we’ve come up with these pretty helpful e-books, which we offer for free:

      http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-ebook/

      Those guides will offer many study tips, everything from how to take apart a 3-blank Text Completion to the best study materials. Once you’ve gone through the book, let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to answer them :)!

  4. Charu February 2, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I am currently pursuing Msc degree and am planning to take up GRE on August 2014,I really have ample time to prepare but a lot scared to balance between academics and GRE.I have lost touch in Math as am basically from Computer science background, and am not that frequent reader too.Still, am very keen on learning and aiming for 320 or above.
    Could you suggest a way to kick start my preparation from fundamentals?

    Thanks.

  5. Nelson January 12, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    Hey Chrie, I am really stressed out because I just finished a heavy fall semester and I plan to enter graduate school for 2014. Their is no deadline for the admission but i want to send it in as soon as possible. If I register to take the exam in February, how do you think i will work out for me? I would like to take it later but then i dont want to complete my application late. Please help me in what you believe I should do.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele February 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Sorry Nelson :(,

      This comment somehow got lost in the shuffle. But better late than never, hopefully :). So I say go ahead and register for the test this month. Just learning to prepare for the test and become more skilled at it will help, even if you don’t end up scoring that well (remember, you don’t have to send your scores to the schools). Of course if you do well, then you can apply this year. If you don’t do well, you’ll already have some GRE experience under your belt so you can retake the test and reapply next year.

      Good luck, and hope that helps!

  6. Abisha January 3, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    Hi,

    I am very confused on which study plan to follow. I gave a practice GRE test from Manhattan Prep Blog simulating actual test conditions and I have scored 155 in Quants and 152 in verbal . Will 3 month study plan be helpful for me to prepare for GRE? I haven’t booked my GRE dates yet .But I want to give my test by mid May 2014.

    Please help !!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 3, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      Hi Abisha,

      Yes, the three-month study plan should work well for you, given how much time you have. If you find you are completing it before your test day, just take more practice tests. You can even repeat practice tests, esp. if there is a few months in between them. Just sitting through an ETS again is very helpful. If you need some other possible sources/problem sets you can “pick at” the 6-month plan for stuff you haven’t yet covered.

      Good luck!

  7. siddharth December 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi ,

    Please let me know is it possible to get a good score in GRE just by preparing for 3 months.
    Am planning to give the exam by mid April 2014.

    sorry to post for the second time.(Am Freaking out T_T because of this limited time to prepare).

    Thanks and Regards,
    Siddharth

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 12, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      Hi Siddharth,

      3 months is definitely enough time to improve by a significant number of points. A “good score” depends on the program. But as long as you can get close to 155 in both quant and verbal, you are in a good spot.

      This 3-month study guide should definitely help. It will tell you which resources to use and how to use them.

      http://magoosh.com/gre/2011/2-3-month-gre-study-guide/

      Good luck!

      • Adam December 16, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

        Hi,

        I have been studying on and off for the past 2 months for the GRE. I scored 148 on the verbal and 143 on the Quantitative on the practice test on ETS. I am taking my actual test mid January and I was wondering if I could improve my score by 5 points each by that time. I have decided to use the Magoosh Prep and can spare up 6 hours a day on studying. Is this a realistic goal within this short time?
        Thanks

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele December 17, 2013 at 10:39 am #

          Hi Adam,

          I think that is definitely a realistic goal.

          At the same time the points won’t magically come just by following the path mentioned above. Make sure–in those 6 hours–to learn from your mistakes, and work at ways to constantly improve those areas in which you are struggling. That level of self-reflection is important. Some students will just watch hours of lesson videos, then do hundreds of questions, and never really look at where they are going wrong.

          Also, make sure that you do a few practice tests along the way to make sure you are increasing by a few points each time.

          Good luck!

  8. Hala November 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    My Gre test is in 2 weeks from now and I’ve been studying for GRE for 3 months about 2 hrs every other day. the last time I did the ets exam i got 161 on the math section ( however when I attempt to solve the challenging questions you post i score around 60% but it takes me time to solve them). In addition to that I didn’t even attempt to take the English at that time ( since im not a native english speaker) ever since then I’ve been memorizing words and up till now they count to 300 words ( i heard its too little little)

    My concern is that I don’t feel ready at all for the exam I’m very scared of it( I tend to get really nervous in exams) , I heard once you score low on your first test it will effect your university acceptance even if you do well the second time, would you advice me to reschedule my test or should I give it a shot regardless.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Hi Hala,

      Let me start off with the important part first: The first time you take the test–even if you decide to submit your score–does not have a greater weight than subsequent test scores. You can decide not to submit scores to a school, and submit only after the test. Basically, there is nothing to lose by taking the test once, but a lot to lose if you are worried about taking the test and keep pushing it out.

      So take the test once and think of it as a practice run. If you feel you’ve done well, accept your scores. Even if the scores aren’t great, don’t send them.

      As for vocab, I’d recommend about a 1,000 words. Have you seen our flashcards? Or our flashcard app?

      Finally, the math questions I write tend to be on the hard to the very hard side. So don’t feel discouraged :).

      Good luck!

      • Hala December 1, 2013 at 12:12 am #

        Thank you Chris :) I needed a push !! I saw the flashcards they are very helpful indeed.

        My exam is in a day ( to my bad luck I just caught the flu) so I’m just going to take the test if I scored well then great if not then no big deal Ill just study harder for a month and repeat it (studying and helping out with a 2 year old and a newborn baby isn’t the easiest thing lol )

        Wish me luck :)

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele December 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

          Good luck Hala!

          Sorry you got the flu–but think of this as a trial run, one in which you get to see what it is like to take the test.

          And yes, I know how much time little ones can take up :).

  9. Jason November 5, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    Hi,

    I’ve been out of school for about 10 years now. I’m planning to do my Masters in Information Systems, but don’t know yet at which school.

    I’m a non-native English speaker, but completed my undergraduate program in the United States.

    I’m planning to start studying for the GRE by joining Magoosh. However, before I do so, I would like to know my baseline prior to any studying, so I can know where I’m standing.

    To do that, what practice test do you recommend? How should I get started with measuring my baseline?

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 5, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Hi Jason,

      Good question!

      The best–and indeed some would say only–way to test your baseline is to use the PowerPrep tests. There are two of them. Use the first one for your baseline and the second one for right before you take the actual test.

      Good luck!

  10. JP September 10, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Hello Magoosh Community,

    I am a VERY average student (not a great test taker) who has not studied in 4-5 years and I have scheduled my GRE Test 3 months out (DECEMBER 7TH = D DAY,) will this be enough time to prepare thoroughly using the Magoosh 90 Day plan? Or should I keep in mind that I may have to retake the test. My goal is to get into a top tier school. However, I would like to take the test once and move on with my life.

    Thank you.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Hi JP,

      Thanks for reaching out to us :)!

      The key is how you progress over the next three months. The 90-day plan is a great place to start. As you do practice tests make sure that you are steadily improving. If for any reason you are not, you can always send us a “support ticket” and we can troubleshoot ways to optimize a study schedule for you. The goal, of course, is that you don’t have to take the test again in 3 months :). To prevent them from happening, communicate with us frequently and we’ll help you get that top-tiered score :).

  11. Hannah September 9, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Hi,
    I graduated from college a few months ago. I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, but I didn’t start looking at schools and GRE materials until recently. I have purchased the magoosh premium package and also have ordered a few of the recommended texts.
    Most of the deadlines for my program are at the beginning of December and January.
    I have not signed up for the GRE yet because I am afraid that I will pick a date too early/too soon. Some schools say take the GRE 6 weeks before the deadline, but that doesn’t leave me much study time.
    I know I can be dedicated to studying, I just don’t know how to pick the right date.
    I’m looking at taking it Nov 1, but I don’ know if that’s too late, or if I can push it back and study more.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks

  12. Sady May 16, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Hi Chris

    I have been out of school and studies for about 9 years now. My job consumes about 60 hours a week, have a kid to look after, am a non-native English speaker and am out of loop from maths since high school.

    Considering the goal of a Neuroscience PhD in an Ivy league; how much time (in months and number of hours to be required per weekday and weekend) do you think will I be requiring to prepare for the GRE from scratch?

    Thanks!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Sady,

      Well, you’ve come to the right place :). I commend your ambition (I have a little one at home too and know how much more difficult everything becomes :)). My advice is to definitely take it slow at first but be prepared for the long haul. In terms of hours a week, if you could squeeze in between 45 min to an hour a day, 4 days during the week, and about 4 hours scattered over the weekend, you’ll be in a good position. I discourage the weekend cram sessions, since you lose so much week to week.

      So let’s see…that works out to about 7-8 hours a week. At this pace, you should target anywhere between 3-6 months. That number depends on how quickly you get back into things after your study respite. Also, your baseline score is important. If you are already in the upper 150’s in both verbal and math, then getting to the mid-160’s (a good spot for an Ivy League Ph.D.) shouldn’t take too long.

      Check out our 3-month and our 6-month study plans. These will give you structure and guidance in the beginning–though you can tailor the plans to your needs once you’ve studied for awhile.

      http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-study-plans-and-guides/

      Hope that helps, and good luck!

      • Sady May 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

        Hi

        Thanks a lot for your detailed reply. This might sound dumb, but how can I know my baseline score?

        Thanks again and I really appreciate your help.

        Sady

  13. mitul February 28, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Hi Chris & Margarette,

    i am going to take GRE next week and i wanted to know how many question should i do correctly to get a score of 330+.

    thanks in advance..:)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Hi Mitul,

      That’s a laudable goal :). To get 330+, you can miss more questions on verbal than on quant, if you are going for a 165/165 split. I’d say you can miss about six questions on verbal and two questions on math and you should end up with a 330+.

      Hope that helps, and good luck!

  14. Sury October 15, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Helli Chris,

    I just took the GRE after 1 month of prep (very hard to prep while working). I got 143V and 148Q. I am not happy with my results but retaking the GRE is difficult for me since the test center is very far from my location (I guess this is why I had a bad score, I went for the test after traveling 8 hours to reach the place and I was super tired!!!). I am trying to decide whether I should apply even with this score or should I retake it and how long should I study to improve this score?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Sury,

      Just to be on the safe side, I would recommend that you study long enough so that you are comfortable scoring 150+V and 155+Q on an ETS practice test. That way, you can give yourself a little wiggle-room considering the lengthy travel time to the testing center.

      To get you started, you should look over our study guides. I’d recommend the 3-month plan, mainly because you have some experience with the test and it is a more sustainable plan than the 6-month plan (which takes an awful amount of commitment).

      http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-study-plans-and-guides/

      Don’t hesitate to ask any questions. I definitely want to help you break 300 test day :).

  15. D October 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I took the GRE back in January and scored a 330 (163Q, 167V) and 4.5 writing. Do you think retaking it would be at all worthwhile? I’m disappointed mostly with the 4.5, and raising that score seems possible as I took the test on three hours of nervous sleep and had hardly prepared for the AW section (and consequently got steamrolled by the time limit). The rest of my grad school application is of inconsistent strength. At this point, is a higher GRE score (in any section) even feasible, and if so would it be significant to adcoms? (A no to the latter wouldn’t necessarily be a dealbreaker, it’d just mean I’d have to admit I’d be retaking it entirely for my own ego. Which I’m not totally opposed to, as long it wouldn’t be futile. And I’m aware that I may be a gigantic tool for even asking this question.)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi D.,

      I would definitely retake it :). Even if your other scores tank, you don’t even have to submit them. The key is doing well on your AWA. For competitive programs a 4.5 just doesn’t cut it (esp., as you noted, the rest of your app is inconsistent).

      Basically go through the topic pool on Arguments and Issues on the ETS site. Practice brainstorming/outlining, plus actually writing the essay under time conditions. During the process let me know if you have any questions.

      As for the V and Q scores, I don’t think scoring even higher would make too much of a difference. That is not to say that a perfect score doesn’t have that wow factor. Still, you are a competitive candidate with your current scores.

  16. Rohit Chawda October 10, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I’ve already taken it 15 days ago scored just 301 (V139, Q162). Right now dedicated just for GRE, how soon do you think I should retake the test ?

    (I am planning to apply for Fall’13)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      Rohit,

      That depends on where you hope to score on the verbal section. If you want to score close to 150V that will take awhile of diligent and focused prep. You may want to take a look at our different study plans (I think that the 3-month plan–given you hope to apply in Fall–would probably suit you best).

      http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-study-guides-and-plans/

      Also, remember to take practice tests (pick up a copy of the 2nd. Edition Official Guide). This book offers 4 tests. Space them out and make sure you are improving and getting closer to the 150-level. It will be tough, but following a study guide should definitely help.

      Good luck!

  17. Craig October 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Chris. I take my test Friday. What is the most important things I should remembe for the test?

    1. Formulas?
    2. Time management strategies?
    3. When to skip and when to stop and think of the formula I know for a question?

    This is my last post possibly ever. Whatever my score, knowing I didn’t have to take the test. I felt it would have been a great idea to improve my score. Thanks for all the help. I have told people about your site and by telling them, You grade all of the books, and I have told people to just look at your blog. Keep up the good work for a future PHD such as myself. Regards, Craig.

  18. BBV October 3, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    What if you already took it but it’s been 9 months since you studied and haven’t cracked anything open since.

    • Margarette
      Margarette October 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      How did you do the first time? If you did okay and you just want to improve your score by a few points, 3 months or so should be sufficient! If you had a terrible time of it during your first try, then it may be worth studying for about 6 months.

      Does that help? :)


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply