Chapter 3

GRE 30 Day Study Plan: 30 Days to 320+ on the GRE

While we know that some students have only a couple of weeks of time, and some have quite a few months on their clocks, a vast majority of them have about a month to study for the GRE. Which is why, we have given a 30-day schedule since most students fall under this category.

If, however, you have a different schedule in mind, feel free to make changes to this study plan, and add or delete at your will, depending on what you think is important for you. But, it is strongly recommended that you spend at least 30 days studying for the GRE. Any less than that will only mean you will have to sacrifice a few topics, which is not ideal for someone looking to score a 320+ on the GRE.

Should you be lucky enough to have more than 30 days to study for the GRE, try to expand this study plan accordingly, and allocate more number of days per topic, or you can also use the additional time to repeat some of the topics that you are not very confident about.

In order to make it easy for everyone, and also in order to cater to a larger audience, we have made this 30-day study plan. If you make sure to follow this plan without fail, there is no doubt in getting a great score on the GRE.

Material Required:

Given the wealth of information available online and offline, and given the range of choices that students have when it comes to picking a prep course for the GRE, it is understandable that there is a lot of confusion. Here is a detailed recommendation on what you should be studying, if you want a high score on the GRE. Keep in mind that this is just a recommendation from us, so feel free to make changes as you see fit.

  1. ETS Official Guide
  2. ETS Math and Verbal Guides
  3. ETS PowerPrep Software
  4. The Ultimate Guide to Destroy GRE Reading Comprehension
  5. The Advanced Guide to Analytical Writing on the GRE
  6. CrunchPrep 101 High Frequency GRE Words
  7. Free GRE Practice Tests
  8. Quality Study Material

Important Things to Remember:

1. Plan to Prep Smart

if you are planning to learn 3500 vocab words in the next 30 days, you cannot be more ambitious.

It is nearly impossible for the human brain to remember so many words in such a short time. Moreover, we advise that you learn the contextual usage of the words rather than just the dictionary definitions, since a lot of words have different meanings in different contexts. Most words in English basically have two meanings: the popular, and the unpopular meaning. The test makers essentially test you on the unpopular definitions, and very rarely do you see them testing on the popular definitions. This is what makes the verbal section a lot trickier than what most students anticipate.

For example, going by the dictionary meaning, the word ‘involved’ has two meanings. The first one, albeit the most popular one, means ‘connected or concerned with someone’. But ‘involved’ also means ‘difficult to comprehend’ and this definition is ever so rarely used. But, the GRE tests you on such secondary, unpopular meanings. So, the bottom line is, to do well on the verbal section, you will need to know both the primary meaning and the connotation of every word. And to learn them properly and remember them longer, you will have to learn the contextual usage of words.

2. Stick to the Schedule

You must stick to the schedule no matter what. Most students prepare great study plans, but do not follow them perfectly. If you really want to improve, it is important that you stick to the schedule right till the end.

3. Sleep Really Well

It is very important that you sleep well. Sleeping for eight hours a day is a must since you need plenty of concentration while you study. Sleep helps you keep your mind relaxed and sharp. Sacrificing sleep in the name of study is nothing but sacrificing your score.

4. Announce Your Plans

As soon as you book your slot, tell as many people as you can that you are writing the GRE. Put up statuses on social networks and let your friends know. This will serve as a motivation whenever you need it most. You would not want to disappoint your family, or be embarrassed in front of your friends and colleagues, and you would certainly want to exceed all expectations. Which is exactly why this strategy will work in the end and will give you the necessary boost to study harder.

Alright. Now that you are eager and ready, let us devise a perfect GRE 30 day study plan that suits your requirements.

GRE 30 Day Study Plan Outline

Since this is a 30-day study plan, in order to make it easy for you, we have divided the entire plan into 4 weeks. Following are detailed plans that you can easily adapt every week.

Week 1:

Day 1 – Day 4:

Familiarize yourself with the GRE exam. Learn more about the GRE format, the types of questions you should expect to see on test day, and other important details concerning the test. Also, go through the first few pages of the ETS Official Guide (pages 1 – 6) to get a solid overview of what the GRE is all about. If you haven’t booked your GRE test slot already, register yourself on the ETS website and book your slot on Day 1 itself. Once you’re done with that, you should start preparing for the GRE. Start off with math, and the topic that you are least confident about.

Once you have decided what to start your prep with, dedicate 2 hours to study and 3 hours to practice every day. Sometimes it may not be possible to dedicate 5 hours a day, and if that’s the case, you will have to compensate on another day.

For example, if you are sure that Algebra is your weakest topic, dedicate the entire four days to algebra and nothing else. The point is, you need to stay as focused as possible on one particular topic so you can maximize your learning in as little time as possible. Any other distractions, including other GRE topics, should be avoided.

It is recommended that you design the study plan in such a way that the weakest topics are studied towards the end of the week, so there’s extra time to practice lots of questions. Since you already have the Official Guide and other material with you, you should practice all the questions available, because those are questions from previous years’ GRE tests, which is why they best represent the real GRE exam.

Remember that the golden rule to score higher on the GRE is ‘Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More!’

Day 5 – Day 8:

To mix things up a bit, let us now shift our focus to the verbal section. Again, you must start with your weakest area. Of Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, and Reading Comprehension, a lot of students find the latter the most difficult. In fact, many students find RC the hardest topic to crack on the GRE. If that is the case with you, you’re lucky we have a fantastic RC guide that discusses all answering strategies comprehensively. It’s filled with proven techniques on increasing your reading speed, while not compromising on your comprehension. Next, practice all the RC questions on the Official Guide, and then once you are done with that, move on to RC questions from the other material that you have.

It is important to make reading a habit if you want to do well on this section. And if understanding long essays or articles doesn’t come naturally to you, it is better if you start reading articles right from Day 1. There are plenty of resources online, where you will find numerous articles from different niches, like science, history, philosophy, literature, etc. You don’t have to limit yourself to these resources, but it is recommended that you use them to the fullest. Also, while you are reading articles, understand their structure and argument styles, so you can use them while practicing AWA questions.

Week 2:

Day 9 – Day 12:

Repeat the process you have followed from Days 1 to 4, with another topic that keeps you awake at night.

Sometimes when you practice, you will get a lot of questions wrong. This is where the error log comes into play. It keeps you from repeating the same mistakes. What is an error log? It is a tracker for all mistakes you commit while solving problems during practice and in full length tests. When you come across a question during practice, ideally your error log should capture these details so you can review them easily in the future. Learn more about error logs before you put them to use.

Once you have noted down all the errors, make sure you examine where you went wrong and what is the right way to solve the question. Promise yourself that you are not going to sleep until you straighten out all your mistakes. As soon as you wake up the next morning, review the error log once again. This repetitious process helps you consolidate the learnings into your long term memory.

Congratulations! You have done a great job! You have now conquered two of your weakest areas. Now, we know how tedious it could be to study for marathon sessions. So, you should probably take a break. During the break, instead of going out or watching TV, put this time to good use. Why not study GRE Vocab? We have curated a list of the high frequency GRE words. But then, don’t learn these words by heart. The point here is to improve your comprehension and also to understand the contextual usage of words. When closely examined, it can be understood that the GRE gets its uncommon words from these web articles and news resources.

It is also recommended that you read some good quality magazines and newspapers like The Atlantic, New Yorker, The Economist, Scientific American, etc. As you read these, you will come across several words you won’t know the meanings to. Make a note of all such words, and make your own vocabulary flashcards.

the most effective way to learn vocabulary is to immediately look up for the meaning of words you don’t know.

Day 13 – Day 15:

You’ve now reached a topic that you are neither too confident of, nor too weak at, meaning you will need to brush up your fundamentals with the Math Review Official Guide. Do not leave out any of the relevant questions from the easy, medium and hard sample questions at the end of the guide. If you still need more practice, you can always rely on a good quality material, like the 5 lb Manhattan book. It has topic wise questions, so you can directly jump to the topic you want, and practice every question while updating the error log. By this time, your error log should have a lot of entries, which is sign that you are on the right track.

the more mistakes you make, the fewer mistakes there are to be made.

Depending on your schedule, pick what works best for you to study over the four days. You can go full on some days and work moderately on the others. Do whatever works best for you, and see that you stay on schedule. Four days are sufficient to get through without any hustle. But, never procrastinate.

the moment you procrastinate is the moment you start losing.

Week 3:

Day 16 – Day 17

Now that you have conquered all the weak areas, start with a math topic that you are comfortable with, and spend two full days mastering what you already know. Schedule this at the beginning of the week, so you can start off the week with confidence. Again, a 2 hour study and 3 hour practice per day is a good workout.

Day 18 – Day 21

You have now arrived at a topic that you don’t have a perfect grasp on, but can easily master in a few days, if done in the right way. For many students, this could be either Text Completion or Sentence Equivalence. Both these topics require sound knowledge of contextual usage of words, or the connotation. You are now into your 19th day, so you must have already learned 800-900 words from various resources including our word list, your self-made flashcards, and online articles. Use these four days to the maximum extent, and practice diligently all the questions in the Official Guide and the 5 lb book. That should give you ample practice.

Also, since by now you have already warmed up your writing skills while summarizing random articles from The Atlantic, New Yorker, etc., it is time to shift gears. Learn everything you can about AWA, and put those strategies to good use. We’ve got you covered with our extensive AWA Guide. Go through each and every strategy that we have discussed there. For these four days, write one argument essay and one issue essay per day. ETS is gracious enough to put up all the essay questions that you will see on the real test, on their website, so you know what exactly to expect on the test day.

As soon as you read an article on the web, write a quick summary of it on your own, using relevant GRE vocab words that you have learnt recently. Doing this exercise repeatedly will help you get a better grip on writing essays and you will find the AWA section much easier.

Week 4:

Day 22 – Day 23

Alright, you are now one topic away from finishing your GRE prep. And since this will be topic you are very comfortable with, it shouldn’t stress you at all. Repeat the strategies discussed above, and practice questions from the Official Guide and the 5 lb Manhattan book, until you feel you need no more practice.

Day 24 – Day 26

Congratulations! You did a great job. Pat yourselves if you did everything right, because you are now very close to getting the score you wanted. But there is one more step left out, which is building your endurance. GRE doesn’t just test your intellect. It also tests your perseverance, and time management skills. To master these, you need sufficient timed practice under the real test environment. So you need to take full length practice tests. And thank heavens there are so many free practice tests out there already. You don’t have the time to take them all, but we recommend that you take at least three tests, one each in the next three days.

And make sure that one of the three tests is the PowerPrep test. Since PowerPrep is the closest of all to the real deal, you will get a clear idea of how much you will be scoring on test day.

Compare the results of each of these tests with that of the test you took on Day 1, and check how much you have improved. Update your error log with the learnings from this test and also identify the problem areas that you still have, so you can work on them over the next two days. If you did not improve by much, it’s okay. Don’t panic. Focus the next couple of days entirely on the weak areas you have identified so far.

The Right Way to Take A Practice Test

It is important to take these tests under test taking circumstances, meaning you should not talk to others, take unscheduled breaks, or waste time in other ways. Only then, will you get an accurate score. Many students tend to skip the AWA section during practice. This affects your overall score, because skipping the AWA section makes it a 3 hour exam as opposed to 4 hours, which definitely has an effect on your endurance during the real GRE. So, never skip any of the sections during practice.

Also, make sure you write all your practice tests at the same time as your real exam. This helps your mind to get used to the schedule, and you will be ready for the test on the D-day.

Review Error Log. Learn where you are going wrong, and what you need to do to prevent mistakes. If you don’t know how to review an error log, we have done an extensive post on performance reviewing and error logs.

Day 27:

Once you have reviewed the error log, it is time to take one last test. Again, since this is the final test you will be taking, take the second PowerPrep practice test. You will be more confident and even more experienced this time, since it will be your fifth test overall. Use the same strategies and take the same precautions, and you will see it through comfortably. Compare the scores again with the previous tests and see if you are learning from your mistakes. If you are repeating the same mistakes, don’t start getting nervous. Try and revisit the fundamentals once again, and you should do fine.

Day 28:

Review Error Log for one last time. Check whether you have improved from the last time. Learn where you are going wrong, and what you need to do to prevent mistakes.

Day 29:

You are now one day away from the real test. This is when you relax and not worry about the test. You have already given your best for 30 days and you deserve a full day’s break. Eat well, sleep well. Watch movies or TV. Don’t consume alcohol. Try to stay calm and composed, and don’t think too much about the test, your strategies, or mistakes.

Also, do not study on this day at all, since it will only make you more anxious and tensed. There isn’t much you can learn on a single day that you haven’t in the past 29 days. So, there’s no point in doing that. Alternatively, figure out some test day strategies and try to apply them on the test day.

Day 30:

Test Day.

Go out there and give your best. Put into practice all the test day strategies that you’ve learnt, and get the best score that you can achieve.

So, that’s about it. We have given you a solid 30-day GRE study plan that should get you a very good score on the GRE. And like we already mentioned in the beginning, this plan is not for everyone. If you have more time, feel free to expand this plan accordingly. It will produce much better results.

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