woman preparing for GRE in front of a laptop

GRE Prep Time: How Long Should You Prepare Before Taking the GRE?

Owen Markham
5 min readJan 16, 2021


If you are considering applying to graduate school, you might have already started studying for the GRE. But how long should you study before you take the test?

This guide will give you the key factors that should determine how you make your GRE study schedule. Studying for the GRE can be a long and arduous process, but with these tips, we’re sure you will be able to narrow down a timeline and hit your target GRE score.

6 Key Factors to Consider

woman writing

1. Find Your Baseline

The first thing you should do when preparing to study for the GRE is to take a practice test to gauge your baseline score. This should be done without studying at all. You should do it under timed conditions similar to the real GRE. Free practice tests can help you determine your current baseline score and how much you need to increase your score to get into your dream school.

We recommend using one of the free GRE practice tests available online from trusted test prep companies. A baseline score will help you determine the amount of time you should spend on each section and how you can best reach your score goal. Your baseline is critical to helping you study for the GRE.

2. Set Up a Target GRE Score

Another way to determine the amount of time you should study is to set your target GRE score goal. Your target goal should be set based on the admissions requirements of the schools you wish to attend.

You should look at all of the school’s websites and see what the minimum and average GRE scores are for admitted applicants. You want your application to be competitive, so we recommend aiming slightly higher than the GRE scores on their website.

Once you set up a target score, you need to figure out how best to reach it in the amount of time you have to prepare.

3. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

One key factor in raising your GRE score is to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a math whiz? Or are you an avid reader with a mind towards literature? When you take your first practice GRE test, you should be able to determine your weak areas. Those weak areas are where you should focus a lot of your GRE studying time since they are the outlier holding you back from a great score.

If you are not very great at math since you haven’t studied it since high school, we recommend practice questions. If you are not much for reading, then we recommend boosting your vocabulary with flashcards. Once you figure out where you struggle, you can determine the amount of time you need to study.

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4. Determine How Much Time You Have to Dedicate to GRE Study

We understand that everyone has a life outside of studying and GRE prep. To get ready for the GRE, you need to determine how many hours per day you are available to study.

If you are still finishing up your undergraduate studies while working a nighttime job, you might only have 1 or 2 hours a day dedicated to GRE study. That means the number of months you need to study will increase.

We currently recommend a 3, 6, or 12-month study calendar for students depending on their needs. You should plan to study for a minimum of three months. If you have time to study, about 4 or 5 hours per day, you can utilize the 3-month study schedule. It would help if you made time for one practice test per week.

Recommended Article: One Month GRE Study Plan

5. Test Yourself Under Real GRE Conditions

One of the most important ways to determine how many months of GRE study you will have to do is take free GRE tests under timed conditions. A big part of studying for the exam is determining how well you can handle the test technique under time constraints.

To prepare for the GRE, you need to understand how the exam is testing you.

Many of the questions test your ability to eliminate specific answers, work under pressure, and use logical guessing. How good you are at those tactics will determine the number of months you need to spend studying for the GRE.

6. Make a Study Plan

Now that you’ve put in a lot of the prep of figuring out what you should do to determine how much time you have to study, you can create a study schedule. We recommend a 3, 6, or 12-month schedule based on your baseline scores, target score, university admissions, and study time.

If there is not much of a gap between your baseline score and your target scores, you can probably stick to a 3-month plan. You should consider the test prep resources you want to use.

We recommend one of the top-rated GRE prep courses, Magoosh, to help you achieve your target score. They have 3-month packages. You should also supplement the course with self-study before test day. It would help if you also took some days off per week to ensure you don’t get burnt out before the big day.

If you have a moderate or large gap between your baseline and target score, then you might want to use the six or 12-month study plan, depending on how many hours you can dedicate.

We also recommend using every resource available to raise your GRE score. Students should be prepared to take weeks to study one section of the exam.

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Length of Time to Prepare for the GRE: The Bottom Line

boy reading with timer

We have given you all the information you need to determine how long you should study for the GRE. These are all based on research and interviews with previous test-takers.

Since there are several factors involved in determining how long you should study, we recommend following our tips to create the best study calendar for you.

The bottom line is you should study for a minimum of 3 months before the test day.

To raise your score significantly, we suggest you take a comprehensive GRE prep course. Magoosh offers flexible plans based on your availability and budget.

Magoosh Highlights:

  • Easy-to-use dashboard
  • Easy to follow written and video instruction
  • Offers a score predictor
  • Good for both comprehensive and last-minute study
  • Structured with clear and flexible lesson plans



Owen Markham

An education specialist that likes to review prep courses, books, and any education related material to help students achieve their dreams.