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How Long Do You Need to Study for the GRE?

If you’re considering applying to grad school, then there’s a good chance you’re going to have to contend with the GRE. The GRE—more fully known as the Graduate Record Exam—is used as an admissions test by many graduate schools in the US and Canada, for a variety of academic disciplines. The GRE’s wide applicability has to do with the fact that it measures a broad and general range of skills, including verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking.

Presuming that you’ll have to tackle the GRE in order to gain admission to the schools of your dreams, you’re probably already aware that you’ll have to invest some time prepping for the test in order to maximize your score. But just how much time will it take to prep for the GRE? The true answer, of course, varies from student to student. In this article, we’ll offer some guidelines for determining just how much time you should expect to give to GRE prep before you’re ready.

Identify Your Target GRE Score

The first step in figuring out how long you need to study for the GRE is nailing down your scoring goals. Each student’s scoring goals will be different based on their unique backgrounds and aspirations. Some lucky students may already have the skills required to score well enough on the test to get into their dream schools. But the vast majority of students need significant time in order to earn the best GRE scores possible. And if you’re assuming that you’re already equipped to achieve your target GRE score, chances are you’re either being overly confident, or else you may not be aiming high enough in your educational goals.

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Start By Taking a Practice GRE Exam

You can’t assess how far you need to go in your GRE prep until you have a sense of where you’re beginning. Every journey depends not only on the destination, but the point of origin.

Luckily, ETS—the organization that produces the GRE—offers the ability to take free online practice tests through their POWERPREP program. Note: the free practice tests available only provide results for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test, and not the Analytical Writing portion. However, there are paid options for taking additional practice tests and obtaining results for every section. When you take your practice GRE, you should be sure to simulate actual testing conditions and stick to the timing restrictions as strictly as possible. This is the only way to accurately gauge your true scoring capacity as you begin your GRE prep journey.

Next, Research Your Target Schools 

After determining your initial GRE scoring capacity through taking a practice test, you should begin researching the actual programs you’re thinking of applying to. This will help you determine the range of GRE scores earned by admitted students, so you can truly assess how far you need to go in your GRE prep. The safety schools and reach schools you apply to should be selected within the realm of scores that are possible for you.

Make a GRE Prep Timeline 

After mapping how far you need to go in order to obtain your ideal GRE score, you can start to build a timeline.

Most students who commit sufficient time and resources to their GRE prep can expect to increase their scores by 10-20 points, but greater increases are also possible. At MyGuru, our GRE tutors have helped countless students increase their GRE scores by 30+ points, but this doesn’t just happen overnight. Obviously, the more you want to increase your GRE score, the more prep you’ll have to put in. As a general rule, you can anticipate each 5-point scoring increase requiring about 40 hours of prep time. So if you want to improve your score by, say, 20 points, then you should expect to put in 160 hours of prep time.

How Much Regular Time Do You Have to Prep?

Some students have the luxury of prepping for the GRE more or less full-time. Other students have to balance their GRE prep with full-time jobs, education, and family care. Each student’s availability for GRE prep is different, and it’s important that you take a realistic assessment of yours.

Ideally, you would be able to incorporate a balanced schedule with regular & rigorous prep time. 10-15 hours a week of GRE prep would allow you to continue building on your progress. We do not advise cramming for the GRE. It may sound efficient to invest 30-40 hours a week on your GRE prep, but studying at this pace can actually hinder your progress, because you’re likely to be working too hard and fast to integrate your learning. Conversely, investing too little time—say, less than 2-4 hours a week—runs the risk of losing progress in between sessions.

What’s Your GRE Study Plan?

You should also determine what kind of study plan you’re able to implement. While it can be tempting to go it alone on your GRE prep journey, it’s far more beneficial to seek other resources. There are many self-guided prep programs and even group GRE prep courses out there, and these can all be helpful. However, the absolute gold standard for GRE prep is one-on-one tutoring. Working one-on-one with an expert tutor will allow you to get personalized attention and oversight from someone who knows the test inside and out.

MyGuru’s GRE tutors all have a demonstrated expertise of the test, generally scoring in the 98th percentile or above. They’ve also all had at least five years of experience in helping students achieve their scoring ambitions. They’ll work alongside you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, to devise a customized study plan, and to work closely with you to make sure you’re learning the material as deeply as possible. They’ll also help you refine your scoring goals and build a realistic timeline for achieving them

While GRE tutoring does require a financial investment, it doesn’t have to break the bank. MyGuru’s innovative, low-overhead business model means we’re able to offer industry-leading quality at a fraction of our competitors’ prices. Further, our one-on-one tutoring promises to make your GRE prep not only more effective but more efficient, saving you time in the long run. And because all of our tutors have learned how to use digital tools to make the most of online tutoring, we can offer world-class online GRE tutoring to students regardless of their location and schedule.

Choose a GRE Test Date

After determining how much time you’ll need to invest in order to achieve your target GRE score, you’ll want to choose a date for taking the GRE. The GRE is offered year-round, so you should be able to pick a date that works for you. However, you’ll also want to look into the application deadlines for the schools you’re applying to. And, depending on how much time you have and how much you want to improve your GRE score, you may want to leave time for taking the test a second time, in case you don’t achieve your desired results the first time.

Interested in a Free Intro Discussion with an Expert GRE Tutor?


The GRE is a major hurdle you’ll have to clear in your educational and professional goals. Performing well can mean getting into the school of your dreams as you launch a successful career in your chosen field. Therefore, you should treat this stage of your educational journey with the respect it’s due. Don’t just plan to rush or breeze through your GRE prep. We advise investing significant time, energy, and resources into your GRE prep. We also advise working with one of our expert GRE tutors to make your GRE prep journey as efficient and effective as possible.