Strategic Success: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to prepare for the GRE general test

This blog will show a few tips and strategies for the GRE General Test prep

Let us start with a few tips that work for all the sections on the GRE General Test

1. Know the GRE General Test Syllabus and format

To score well on the GRE, we should know what skills get tested. The GRE General Test has three sections:

  • The Analytical Writing Assessment – tests your analytical skills wherein you have to write an issue-based essay. 
  • The Verbal Reasoning – tests your comprehension and vocabulary skills. 
  • The Quantitative Reasoning – tests the arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data interpretation skills. 

Let us look at the structure and the scoring on the GRE General Test. 


Section Time # of Questions Scoring
Analytical Writing 30 min 1 Essay 0-6
Verbal Reasoning 1 18 min 12  Combined score that ranges from 

130- 170

Verbal Reasoning 2 23 min 15
Quantitative Reasoning 1 21 min 12 Combined score that ranges from 

130- 170

Quantitative Reasoning 2 26 min 15


The AWA is the first section of the GRE General Test. There is no fixed order in which the remaining sections appear on the test. The GRE General Test is a section adaptive test. The performance on the first verbal section decides the difficulty level of the second section and, hence, the final score. The quant sections are also adaptive.

2. Set the Goal score

The universities specify their score requirements for the different programs on their websites. You should set your goal depending on the choice of universities and programs. To be on the safer side, make sure your target score is  1-2 points more than what the university requires. The universities may also specify the requirements for each section. For instance, if you are looking for STEM courses, the quant scores should be higher, and if you are looking for Arts and Humanities courses, the verbal score should be higher. Focus more on the section that matters to the grad school. 

3. Take a Mock Test

The GRE General Test prep should begin with a mock test. You can choose either the free test on the ETS website or one of the free unofficial tests from a test prep company. The mock test helps you understand the structure of the test and the GRE General Test Syllabus. The scores will help you prioritize your preparation for the test. 

mock test for GRE exam

4. Choose the right course and material

Your mock test score will help you decide how your GRE General Test prep should be. If the scores are low, you might have to enroll in a prep course that can be either offline or online. You can also choose books that cover the GRE General Test syllabus topics. The quality of the questions should match the actual GRE General Test. The strategies and techniques used should be effective for solving the questions correctly within the stipulated time. The GRE general test samples for drills and the full-length tests should match the quality of the actual GRE General Test. You can instead enroll for a course if you think professional help is needed to crack the test. 

5. Have a study plan

Make sure you chalk out a study plan. Ensure that you practice for at least an hour or two every day. Don’t try to cram during the last minute. All the topics should be revised. Some topics might be easy. You can spend less time on them. Others may be hard. Always make it a point to spend more time on the harder ones. Do not get disturbed by phone calls or social media during the preparation. Don’t boost your confidence levels by working only on areas where you score high. The study plan should be realistic so that you can adhere to it daily. 

strategies and shortcuts for GRE

6. Use strategies and shortcuts

Do not worry about how you solve the questions as long as you reach the right solution. Learn to work smarter. Do the easy questions first. Don’t hesitate to guess as there is no negative marking on the test. Remember to use the rough sheets provided during the GRE General Test for making relevant notes. Learn the directions of all the question types so that you do not have to waste time understanding them on the day of the test. 

7. Take tests regularly

The study plan should include full-length mock tests. Take these tests under real-time conditions. Ensure that the tests match the actual GRE General Test in content, difficulty levels, and scoring. You can use the ETS tests (2 free and 3 paid ones).  You can also buy test series from prep companies for additional practice. 

8. Review the tests

The mistakes you make on the practice test should be taken seriously. Every test performance should be reviewed. Find out why the mistakes happened. Work on the areas of weakness. The pacing should also be taken into account. Make sure that the errors do not get repeated in the next test. 

9. Should the tests be taken online or offline

The GRE General Test is delivered online. So, ensure that the majority of the practice happens online. The drills can be practiced using books. GRE general test papers are available in the Official Guide to the GRE, and they are close to the actual test in terms of content and difficulty level. 

10. Book the test dates

Once you are confident with your prep, register for the GRE General Test at ets.org. The GRE General Test fee is 275 dollars. Booking the test date will also give you the enthusiasm to continue with your preparation. The passport should be active on the day of the GRE General Test and the name and date of birth mentioned during the time of registration should match with the ones in the passport. On the day of test taking, you will be allowed to send the scores to four universities of your choice. Keep the list ready.

different sections for the GRE general test

Specific tips for the different sections of the GRE General Test:


  1. Review the basic concepts. The math concepts tested in the GRE General Test include Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis. You might have learnt them in high school, but during the prep ensure that you review them again. 
  2. Use the calculator wisely. Bigger numbers do not essentially mean you have to use calculators. Know when to use the in-built calculator.


  1. Learn Vocabulary in bite-sized pieces. Use mnemonics for retention. Regularly recap the words you have learnt. Use flashcards or apps to learn. Utilizing the words while speaking or writing will help you memorize the words easily. 
  2. Read what is needed- While working on the reading comprehension questions, find out the main claim that the author makes. Do not deviate from what the text says. Understand the questions and keep eliminating answers that are not consistent with the text. 


The ETS has released the GRE general test samples of essays with scoring. Go through them to get a fair idea about how the essays are to be structured. The topics that appear in the GRE General Test AWA section are available under the Issue Essay pool. 

What to do on the day of the GRE General Test:

  1. Do not learn anything new on the day before the  GRE General Test.
  2. Practice a few GRE general test samples as a warmup. Recap the concepts and difficult vocabulary. 
  3. Relax yourself by watching a movie or hanging out with friends. 
  4. Keep these things ready for the next day – printout of the confirmation email and passport. 
  5. Visit the test center a day or two before the D day so that you do not have to search for it on the day of the test. 
  6. Plan to reach the test center at least 30 minutes before the reporting time. 
  7. Do not panic during the GRE General Test. Work on the easy questions first. Complete the test and guess if need be.
  8. Accept the scores at the end of the GRE General test. There is an option of Score Select on the GRE that allows you to send the scores of your choice to the universities. 

The GRE General Test is one of the most competitive exams that one can take. However, meticulous planning will ensure you reach your desired scores.


The GRE General Test score is one of the deciding factors when you apply for Graduate studies. Meticulous planning and practice are the keys to success in the GRE.

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How many sections are there on the GRE General Test?

The first section of the test is the Analytical Writing Assessment. This is followed by two verbal and two quantitative sections in no particular order. 

How many scores are there on the GRE General test?

You will get a separate score for the quant and verbal sections that range between 130-170 each. The analytical section score ranges between 0- 6. The score report will also show the percentile scores. 

When does the GRE General Test happen?

The GRE happens throughout the calendar year. You can book the dates using your GRE account on the ETS website.

How often can I write the GRE General test?

You can write the GRE once in 21 days and up to 5 times in 12 months. 

How long is the GRE General test score valid?

The GRE is valid for 5 years.

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