Best methods and guides for GRE self study preparations

On the one hand, preparing for Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no walk in the park. After all, it is a major exam you are appearing for in order to get admission to a reputed graduate or business school. On the other hand, making preparations for it is also not something to fear. There are plenty of avenues both offline and online to get you set. Two of the most common avenues are attending a coaching class and taking up an online preparatory course. While these are hugely advantageous, the downside is that they create a major dent in your wallet. To avoid this, the third avenue is self study. Yes! It is not as problematic as you think. All you need is a dedicated study plan with good time management, self discipline and a healthy dose of self-confidence.

General Guidelines for GRE Self Study
Before you begin self study, you should first acquire knowledge about the various sections of GRE. The revised GRE has 3 main sections. In the analytical writing section, you will be tested for your ability to express your views in a lucid manner with supporting details. The verbal reasoning section tests your grasp of words & concepts and understanding their place in a sentence through evaluation of written material. Finally there is the quantitative reasoning section which is basically math formulae along with data analysis.

The next stage of self study is to create a study plan, incorporating fixed times of study. Create a definite time table, deciding on the number of days you will dedicate to a particular section of GRE. On each of those days, keep a fixed time to start and end. Make sure that you also have dedicated hours for a break when you can read a book or take a short power nap. Try to keep at least 10-15 days aside doing self study for each section of GRE. Keep additional days after the study part to tackle mock tests and practice.

Next, you need to select a specific place to study. This is not necessarily a place of absolute quiet as much as a place where your attention is not diverted by external factors. After all, it is possible to study with pots and pans clanking in the background but practically impossible with people constantly coming and going in your field of vision. It is equally important to switch off your cell phone so that your self study is not disrupted by calls and text messages. In fact, it is a great idea to inform family members and friends about your GRE study hours beforehand. This way you are in no way side tracked.

Finally, you do need to empty your mind of all negative thoughts. Replace them with optimistic beliefs that you can and you will prepare well and get a good GRE score. A very basic simple technique to do this to take a number of deep, steady breaths with your eyes closed and your mind focused solely on something soothing and happy.

Detailed guidelines for GRE Self Study
Once you have your time table set, you can decide on the various methods of self study for GRE. The most obvious is to get hold of good reference books. You do not necessarily need to buy expensive books. Check out second hand book stores or go online and look for great discounted deals. Ask friends and acquaintances if they know anybody who appeared for GRE and would be willing to lend/sell their books. An absolute must-have is Barron's 'How to Prepare for the GRE: Graduate Record Examination'. Look for the latest edition.

You need this book especially to know the GRE word list. It also contains model tests. In fact, it is considered the Bible for all those hoping to score high in the verbal reasoning section. For this section, you also need to read up lengthy comprehension passages and be able to answer questions on it. Equally important is brushing up your knowledge of synonyms, antonyms and analogies. Also recommended are 2 books published by ETS: Complete Solutions to the ETS Official GRE Book "GRE: Practicing to Take the General Test" which contains the actual full tests administered to candidates; and the 'GRE Big Book' which it seems is not available now but you could check out sites like Amazon if it is available.

Useful tools for self study are videos as these are audio-visual tools which could help you learn better. Check out the Net for videos which are crisp and have clarity. Avoid videos which are long and rambling and more likely to make you doze off! Get hold of GRE CDs too to aid you in self study.

Last but not the least, your GRE self study should definitely include practice tests. Since you do not have a mentor to assess what you have grasped, you need self-monitoring & evaluation of your performance. Check out this one: Kaplan GRE Premier 2014 with 6 Practice Tests: Book + DVD + Online + Mobile (Kaplan Gre Exam Premier Live) - like this one, Kaplan computer tests are available in DVD format at online stores. You can also practice at online portals or download the tests from sites which may offer them for free or at a low cost.

Do not restrict yourself to one site’s tests, but try out different ones as you will then get a variation in the types of questions. Initially focus on getting an idea of how to tackle a question. Limit yourself to practicing each aspect of one GRE section on different days and not trying to cram them all in one or two days. 

Once you are familiar with the varied types of questions, you can shift your focus on the time. Time can especially go awry in the quantitative section, where you have to work on geometry, statistics and algebra formulae. Be updated about the time given for each section and accordingly practice the tests so as to finish within that time. Once your timer goes off, jot down notes about your practice session. Evaluate at which question you spent more time than necessary.

Time is of the essence not just for answering, but reading too. The verbal reasoning section could have a very lengthy essay so practice reading quickly with the ability to quickly grasp what is being conveyed. Accuracy is also a key to getting a good score since you won’t be able to go back in a computerized GRE. With constant practice, you will gain confidence to deal with each section as a whole within time and with accuracy.

At any point of time when you need some kind of support, join up at GRE online forums. Discussion of your problems with others can help you to tackle those times when your confidence levels may be low. 

As stated at the outset, GRE self study is no cakewalk. Yet, it is not something which is totally impossible. Keeping the above guidelines in mind, you can definitely make the impossible possible! 

Read More: How to prepare for GRE through online home study


  1. Thank you Rose and Nancy for dropping by and leaving your appreciative comments.


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