GRE Study Plan for Beginners: Check Section-wise Tips and Study Material

GRE

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Aprant
Aprant Agarwal
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Apr 26, 2022 18:42 IST

GRE is a standardized test conducted by ETS. GRE scores are accepted by universities for Master’s Degree programs such as the MS. There is an overwhelming amount of information available on the internet telling you how to study for the GRE. However, those who are beginning their preparation should not get overwhelmed by the deluge of information available in the market and online. While preparing for the GRE, your focus should be on understanding the pattern of the exam and practicing as much as possible.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Without a plan, you will be like a traveler without a destination. Thus, the candidates should prepare a plan, which should include proper resources, mock tests, and a schedule.

GRE Exam Pattern

On the GRE, you are tested on three sections; Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The total time for the computer-delivered test is around 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Sections

Questions

Time

Analytical Writing (2 Tasks)

  • Task 1: Analyze an issue
  • Task 2: Analyze an argument

30 minutes per task

Verbal Reasoning (2 Sections)

20 Questions per Sections

30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning (2 Sections)

20 Questions per Section

35 minutes per section

Unscored

Varies

Varies

Research

Varies

Varies

  • There will be a 10-minute break after the third section.
  • Unscored Section: It is an experimental section and its score will not be counted in your final GRE score. However, the test takers will not get to know which section is actually an unscored one, so, they must attempt all the sections with same focus and care. The unscored section will either be a Verbal Reasoning section or a Quantitative Aptitude section, and will appear at any time after the Analytical Writing section.
  • Research Section: This section is also not a part of your final score. The Research Section will always appear at the end of the test. It may be included in place of the Unscored Section.
  • You will either get an Unscored Section or a Research Section, and not both.

Resources for GRE Preparation

Make sure to go through the entire website, understand the pattern of the test, and study all the official material that is available. Any official resource has to be the starting point of your preparation.

  • The Official Guide to the GRE:

You must have the latest Official Guide. Your preparation must be based on this book. It has authentic GRE test questions, test-taking strategies, practice tests, etc. Irrespective of what study material you choose, the official guide must form the base of your preparation.

  • Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides:

These guides cover the entire syllabus of the GRE. After the official material, you can refer to these guides.

  • Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems:

This book has more than 1800 practice problems across all the sections of the test. The explanations are easy to understand, and the structure of the content is coherent.

  • Mock Test:

You can take mock tests from any test prep provider, such as Magoosh, Kaplan, etc. Mocks are extremely essential to evaluate your progress. After every mock test, you must assess your performance and try to improve on your weak areas.

Tips for the AWA Section

On the AWA section, you are evaluated on your ability analyze facts, break-down arguments, judge the evidences, and put forth your views in a coherent and structured manner.

In most cases, the AWA score may be a tad less important than your Verbal and Quant scores unless you are looking for courses in English Literature, Journalism, etc. However, a below-average score in the AWA section may be detrimental to your admission prospect for any course whatsoever. On the other hand, a good AWA score will certainly be impressive, and you should try to do your best on the AWA section too.

This is also the first section of your test. Your performance on this section can psychologically affect your performance in the subsequent sections. You should not struggle to write your AWA essays so that you have enough energy in store to give your best in the following Verbal and Quant sections. Here are your tips:

  1. Note that your AWA tasks will be selected from the pool of tasks published by ETS at www.ets.org/gre/awtopics. However, you do not have to practice all the topics and tasks. Writing your responses while taking the full-length practice tests should be enough, but do get the essays scored and reviewed.
  2. Refer to the Official Guide to know the specific instructions one of which will accompany each AWA task. There are only six instructions relating to the issue task and eight instructions relating to the argument task. You must address the issue and the argument according to the specific instructions accompanying each task.
  3. Do practice writing the AWA responses in every practice test.
  4. Have a template in mind for writing your AWA responses; this will help you sail through the AWA section with ease so that you can tackle the subsequent verbal and quant sections with full energy and zeal.
  5. Do not forget that in the argument task you are not supposed to comment or discuss whether the statements in the argument are true or not. You should not state whether you agree or disagree with the position stated. In other words, you must not express your views on the subject. You are just required to evaluate the soundness of the argument according to the specific instructions accompanying the argument.

Related to GRE Eligibility 2022

GRE Important Dates GRE Syllabus
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Tips for the Verbal Reasoning Section

  1. Appreciate the importance of vocabulary in the verbal section of the GRE. Keep improving your vocabulary until the day you take the GRE exam. Learn the secondary meanings of the words as well.
  2. Maintain a vocab journal (register), use flashcards, use etymology, use mnemonics, use vocab games, and take the help of online apps.
  3. Along with words, learn how to answer the Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions. Just learning words will not suffice; you must also know the techniques of solving the Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions.
  4. Never plug in the answer choices in the blanks to solve Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions. Focus on clues and triggers (if any) to come up with your word or phrase and then use the process of elimination.
  5. Remember that the two credited responses in a sentence equivalence question need not necessarily be synonyms.
  6. Remember that in a multiple blank text completion question, it may often be difficult to come up with your word or phrase for the first blank without considering the second or the third blank.
  7. Develop the skill to understand complex sentence structures. Of late we find that a difficult Sentence Equivalence or Text Completion question is difficult not because of difficult words but because of intricate sentence structure.
  8. A good reading habit is always useful for GRE Reading Comprehension. Keep reading good material (preferably non-fiction) that deals with history, sociology, economics, commerce, natural sciences and the like.
  9. Learn how to get to the GIST (General Idea, Structure, and Tone) of a passage. This will enable you to answer the general questions that often ask the main idea, the primary purpose or the organization/structure of the passages.
  10. Remember that the answer to every specific question (except the critical reasoning questions based on reading comprehension passages) will be supported by the passage. Do not use your external knowledge to answer any reading comprehension question.
  11. Learn the tricks to solve critical reasoning questions. Remember that critical reasoning questions are of limited types and arguments often (but not always) fall under a few limited patterns. Although you must have a basic approach to solve the critical reasoning questions, learn to fine-tune your approach according to the question type and the argument pattern.

Tips for the Quantitative Reasoning Section

  1. Do not ignore math fundamentals. Although there may be very few questions solely based on math fundamentals, it may be impossible for you to solve several math questions unless you are thorough with math fundamentals.
  2. Give due importance to the math topics that are tested more extensively on the GRE rather than the topics from which there are likely to be fewer questions. For example, give more importance to the number system, averages, percentages, ratio-proportion, etc. rather than to permutation-combination and probability. You can start paying more attention to the latter topics after you have mastered the former ones.
  3. GRE questions are often tricky. Therefore, you should learn to identify and avoid trap answers.
  4. While you do have a (drop-down) calculator to use in the quant section, remember that it provides you only basic mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (and square-root). Further, the calculator is not very easy to use, but you must use it when necessary. Therefore, start using the calculator from the very beginning. It is critical for you to understand when to use the calculator and when to leave it. 
  5. Note that there is a 'Transfer Display' feature available along with the calculator and you may use it in juxtaposition with numeric entry math questions (with single answer boxes). Use it whenever necessary.
  6. One area of concern for most of us is charts. However, you do not need to learn any new concepts to solve chart questions. Many of us find the chart questions very time-consuming because we want to do the complete calculation while it may not be necessary to do so.
  7. Another topic that many of us find very challenging is geometry because there are several geometry related formulas and concepts that you need to remember. However, here too, give more importance to the more frequently tested topics such as triangles and circles. Pay deeper attention to the other topics after you have mastered the more commonly tested topics. Do take note that even within these topics there are concepts such as special triangles and Pythagorean triplets that are more frequently tested on the GRE.
  8. Some test-takers also often struggle with "word problems". The way to become comfortable with such questions is extensive practice. That way you will become familiar with the various common expressions and that will help you understand the problems better. Another way to cope with word problems is to translate English into Mathematics. Do not read a question completely and then come back and read it once again and start taking notes. Start taking notes from the very beginning.
  9. Students usually find Permutation-Combination and Probability difficult and end up investing a lot of time into these topics. It is not that these topics are not important, but topics such as averages, percentages, etc. contribute more to the quant section. Focus on what matters the most and whatever is easier to handle, although your ultimate aim should be to get all the questions right and get a 170 in the quant section.
  10. It is essential that you review your performance on every mock test. Work a little extra on the areas where you are lagging behind.

GRE Study Material 2022

When you're preparing for the GRE, it can feel like you're awash in a sea of advice. Some of it is good, some of it's bad, and some of it's just plain unhelpful. So, let's narrow it down. What can you do now to ensure you get the best score before your exam? Here we have provided section-wise GRE preparation tips and tricks for our readers. 

When to start preparing for GRE? 

GRE prep tips: Analytical Writing

GRE prep tips: Quantitative section

GRE prep tips: Verbal Reasoning section

General Test-Taking Tips

It is just not enough to know how to approach each section; the overall test-taking strategy is equally important. Here are a few tips for your overall test-taking strategy.

  1. The GRE is adaptive by section; you must, therefore, give importance to the first section of the test because depending on your performance in the first section your second section will be easy, medium, or hard. To get a high score on the GRE it's important to get a second hard section and for that, you must perform well in the first section. However, there is a possibility that the first section may be the unscored experimental section. For that reason, you should give your best to every section and avoid careless mistakes.
  2. Pace yourself wisely: do not get stuck on killer questions. Use the "mark and review" feature of the test even while taking practice tests so that you get used to it. Use it whenever necessary while taking the real GRE. All questions carry equal marks; it makes no sense to spend too much time on any particular question and run out of time.
  3. Since an unanswered question and a question that you get the wrong count the same, do not leave any question unanswered.
  4. Never try to guess which one is the unscored experimental section. Treat every section as a section that would count towards your overall score.
  5. Take a diagnostic test, in the beginning, to get familiar with the test format and the different quant and verbal question types. Take full-length practice tests during your GRE preparation but take care not to take all the tests in the beginning and also not to take all the tests near the end of your preparation - pace the tests over the entire duration of your preparation.

GRE Preparation plan for 4 weeks

Week 1

Primary Goals:
  • Start with the Official ETS GRE material and try to complete it.
  • Revisit the math fundamentals and learn how to approach the verbal section.

  • Start working on your vocabulary.

  • Appear for a full-lenght mock test by the end of the week.

Secondary Goals:

Math

  • Watch introductory videos on general math strategies.

  • Go through ‘Easy’ and ‘Medium’ question sections of Arithmetic, Percent, Ratio, Power and Root. If required, watch related videos.

  • Solve additional questions of these concepts from the GRE guide.

Verbal

  • Go through easy questions of the ‘Text Completions’ lessons.

  • Practice at least 30 Text Completion questions at easy and medium difficulty.

  • Go through the ‘Reading Comprehension lessons.

  • Practice at least 30 of the Reading Comp practice questions.

  • Go to Quizlet.com and make use of the available flashcards of words you did not know.

Supplemental/Optional:

  • Read two articles from a daily English newspaper every day. Find fifty new words and learn their meanings.

  • Write a summary of one of those two articles. Use the new words you learnt at appropriate places.

Week 2

Primary Goals:
  • Add 150 new words to your vocabulary, and review words from last week as well.

  • Revisit lessons learnt last week whenever you feel you need a refresher.

  • Revise the offical study material and start practicing from Manhattan Prep.

  • Appear for a full-length mock test. Your performance on this mock should be better than the previous one.
Secondary Goals:
  • Work through algebra, equations, and inequalities lessons.

  • Try 100 practice questions from these concepts.

  • Finish all Verbal lessons.

  • Complete 75+ questions from text completions, sentence equivalence, and reading comprehension.

  • Take Test from the PowerPrep 2.0

Supplemental/Optional:

  • Read two articles like last week. If you read something from the business section last week, try reading science articles this week. Similarly, write short summaries.

  • From the GRE Official Guide, take Practice Test 1. If you are very ambitious, take a Manhattan GRE online practice test.

Week 3

Primary Goals:
  • Complete all math modules

  • Learn 200 new words this week

  • Revisit lessons from last week in which you struggled

Secondary Goals:
  • Quiz yourself on the vocabulary learnt from the last two weeks.

  • Complete 150 math problems from sections you are weak in.

  • Complete 75+ verbal questions.

Supplemental/Optional:

  • Read three articles daily, and repeat the process from previous weeks.

  • Take Test 2 from PowerPrep.

  • Take a Manhattan GRE practice test.

Week 4

Primary Goals:
  • Start doing the hard questions of both the math and verbal section.

  • Do probability questions.

  • Try to attempt as many mock tests as possible.
  • Revise your notes.
Secondary Goals:
  • For math, you should do 20 questions, within a total of 35 minutes. You should do at least four such timed sections.

  • At the end of each section calculate your score to keep a track of your growth.

  • Learn 150 new words.

  • Keep reviewing the math flashcards from quizlet.com each day.

Supplemental/Optional:

  • For the high scorers: Take another Manhattan GRE test.

Solve GRE questions papers here:

GRE Practice Test

GRE Analytical Writing Practice Test

GRE Quantitative Practice Test

GRE Verbal Practice Test

About the Author
Aprant Agarwal
Study Abroad Expert

Aprant has been involved in the field of education and research for more than 5 years. He has done his B.Tech after which he has done research in Chemical Reactor Design. He scored 700 on the GMAT. He also co-author... Read Full Bio

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