Studying for a test is easy. Right? You burn the midnight oil, pouring through a textbook, your class notes by your side. As long as you get a pint-sized cup of coffee in the morning, you should probably knock out a ‘B+’—before crashing a few hours later.
The GRE is very different. Achieving a high score is far more elusive than merely flipping through a book. You will surely require more than one night of preparation—regardless of how many cups of coffee you quaff.
Knowing how long to study for the GRE and how much to study are important questions to consider. In regards to the first question there is no easy answer. Two weeks to six-months is a range that will accommodate 99% of test takers. How hard the GRE is for you (basically your baseline score), how much time you can study each day, and the competitiveness of the program you are applying to are just a few of the other important factors to consider.
The GRE is important so regardless of the amount of time you study, you want to use the best resources. Below is a list of the best GRE books and resources, which will sustain you, whether during a two-week study tornado, or on your six-month quest to become a GRE guru and get you that hard earned and well-above average GRE score.
Manhattan 5 lbs. Book
This massive trove of questions will definitely keep you busy for a while. The quant is especially excellent, with each of the concepts given its own chapter and dozens of practice questions (if combinations have got you down, the practice in this book will bring you out of the quant doldrums).
The Official Guide to the GRE
No one quite writes GRE questions the way ETS does, the company responsible for creating the test. The official guide not only gives you plenty of practice questions, but you also get access to four full-length tests. Simply put, there is no better way to prepare for the test than this book.
GRE word lists
Don’t waste your time on a GRE word list with vocabulary randomly thrown together (or worse, in alphabetical order), with vague definitions to boot. Using a word list that places words into useful categories, offers memorable example sentence(s) for each word, or chooses words likely to show up on the test is the way to go.
Barron’s 1100 Words has most of the above, and more. Of course, it’s not a traditional word list, but more of a vocabulary exercise book replete with quizzes, crosswords, and context identification exercises.
To be fair, some of the definitions are vague and you’ll need more elaboration. That allows me to segue to my next recommendation: wordnik.com. It is not a word list per se, but rather a website that provides not only definitions drawn from a variety of dictionaries but also example sentences from a wide variety of sources. Anytime you need more clarification on a word, look no further than wordnik.com.
Manhattan GRE (MGRE) guides
If you are starting out, and want to feel as though a patient, adept tutor is walking you through the fundamentals of the GRE, look no further than the MGRE guides, which are a collection of eight books, broken down by math and verbal concepts. Purchase of any one book will also give you access to MGRE 6 on-line tests, a great way to prepare for test day.
For those who learn best online—or who are simply on-the-go and/or can’t afford a class—Magoosh provides the same comprehensive, robust prep as Manhattan GRE, but all in one tidy, easy-to-use website. A dashboard allows you to track your progress and pinpoint your weak areas. Magoosh is a veritable virtual tutor at your fingertips.
This post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh. For more advice on taking the GRE, check out Magoosh’s GRE blog.