While preparing for the GRE exam, one of the most important aspects is to precisely and realistically judge the amount of time that would be required for the preparation. This helps in planning a disciplined schedule and scoring closer to your expectations.
While talking about timelines, it is important to understand which group of aspirants do you fall into – ones who are currently in their college (graduation or post-graduation), working professionals or the ones who are waiting for their first job to start.
Answer questions like these – what is the best time to start the GRE preparation? If you belong to the first group, i.e. you are currently studying, you might also be one of those who wonder whether they should opt for a graduate program immediately after their bachelor degree, or gain some work experience to improve their profile.
The ideal way is to set your own deadlines. With applications for programs opening as early as August, the funding opportunities in top programs are sliding further up the months. Why do programs offer funding to early applicants? A credible theory is that this is one way for the programs to check how diligently you have been preparing for the GRE exam. Waiting for the deadlines and pulling it off at the last minute is really not advisable. In a simple statement, better planning is the key.
So how should one plan in an efficient manner?
- Where are you right now?
- Do you want to start with the target score in mind?
- How much does it take in terms of number of days, weeks or months?
If you decide to eventually go to a GRE Coaching Institute for your aptitude preparation, ask them to prepare a plan for you.
If you plan to go for self-prep:
Considering you start at a zero level (which means if you take the free test available on the official GRE website to assess your level and realize that your score is between 270 and 290, take that as a zero level), you will need another 300 hours to get a decent score (in the range of 305-315).
How do you plan the road ahead?
Consider you will solve at least 2 reference books (usually 3 – not including The Official Guide to the GRE General Test, 3rd edition, which is an amazing mix of concepts and questions, but by count, there are still not hundreds of questions to practice). If you finish one book in a month, sparing around 16-20 hours a week, that is around 80 hours a month and between 200-240 hours for overall solving. And you would go for some online practice also – even if you appear for barely 5 full length practice tests, that adds up to 20 hours. Online tests affect the confidence significantly. If we consider all the types of questions and test formats, the time would come to 260-300 hours. Most of you will dedicate more time to this as it takes more to achieve an overall self convincing accuracy of 75-80%, especially when you realize that an 80% accuracy in Quantitative Reasoning is only worth a 160 out of 170!
With 300 hours, plus or minus 20%, now calculate backwards.
How many hours can you spare a day? That will help you decide your tentative date of GRE.
Or if you have a reverse case, and have an application deadline approaching, you might not have that flexibility to choose a date beyond the deadline. In this case, you can divide the number of hours with available number of days. Programs accept applications till the midnight of the deadline, by Eastern Standard Time, which is a good 9 hours behind India, and so, you can take the test on the application deadline itself as well! And no, it is not a recommendation. It is just a survival trick for the hopelessly delayed instances.
If you are a working professional and intend to work for a year or two before you apply, you can still consider. ‘What is the harm in starting early?’ The more experience you get, the more involved you are, the more projects come your way, and two years down the line, you might not have enough time to spare for your GRE preparation. Look at your schedule and identify that one hour that you can spare consistently. The word is discipline!
And yes, we acknowledge the presence of confounding factors viz. the phobia of math, the dislike for vocabulary, the confusion of passages, and the eternal anxiety that is dormant when you are practicing but suddenly jumps on your nerves when you sit for a test. We sincerely wish you luck in overcoming these avoidable distractions.
Besides the GRE preparation plan, for all your queries related to applications, and their processes, check out our video on the same topic.