Guest Post from Magoosh GRE.
You know the best books to use, and you’ve carved out three plus months to study, but now what? Do you spend six hours all day Sunday prepping, with a few days off during the week? Do you prep an hour a day? Or do you prep only in the mornings or evenings?
As you can see, dividing up your study time can bring a flurry of questions. But don’t be tempted to shrug off these questions, thinking: as long as I study hard, that is all that matters. When you study—and how often you study—can have a serious effect on your score, and your sanity. Below are some key points to keep in mind.
Math days and verbal days
I’ve never been a big proponent of separating math days and verbal days. Some argue that doing so allows you to focus on one section at a time.
This viewpoint has some merit, especially if you are squashed for time some days and trying to practice on both sections isn’t feasible.
But if you have more than an hour, flipping over to the math section for fifteen minutes to review what you did the day before is a great way to make sure you retain what you’ve learnt.
The power of multitasking
Recently a study came out reporting that when we multitask we learn far less effectively than when we focus on one task.
I think most of us can attest to this—even the most seasoned “multitaskers”.
Yet, these findings shouldn’t not dissuade you from ever multitasking. Reading on your smart phone as you walk to class or work doesn’t preclude learning; you just won’t learn as effectively.
But if you add up all the hours you were going through your GRE vocabulary lists while riding the bus, you get a sizable chunk of time in which you can prep.
Scatter throughout the day
First and foremost, you should have a dedicated GRE study time, in which you focus on nothing else but GRE for a minimum of 45 minutes.
For some of us, though, that is all we can get. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to squeeze in some learning throughout the day. Vocabulary flashcards
One good strategy is to start the day with GRE.
I know, you must think I’m crazy to suggest such a thing! But if you can reconfigure your day so that you can get 30 minutes of GRE prep—when your brain is nice and fresh—you will get out of a lot more out of your prep.
An added bonus is you will be more accustomed to doing GRE prep in the morning, which, depending on your schedule, is when you may end up taking the test. In fact, prepping in the morning may boost your GRE score percentiles up a few notches.
Don’t study at the end of the day
This is a piece of advice that should be both heeded, and to some extent, ignored.
See, our brains are sensitive to information we learn right before we go to sleep. At the same time, our brains can’t take too much in right before we go to bed.
So if the only time you are studying GRE is after a hard day at work (or class) and your brain simply needs to decompress, you aren’t going to retain much. But if you learn just a small amount—no more than 15 minutes shortly before you go to bed—your brain will be able to handle this small amount of information.
Waking up in the morning and refreshing what you learnt shortly before you went to bed is a great way to make information and concepts stick.
To cram or not to cram
If you have little time left to study and you have to put in four to five hour days, don’t spend all that time sitting in one place, taking very few breaks.
Take a small break every 90 minutes and review, in your head, what you just learned. If there is anything that doesn’t seem crystal sharp, review that area as soon as you sit back down.
Studying GRE an hour a day, as well as whenever you have a free moment, is draining.
Create mini-goals, such as memorizing 100 vocabulary words or writing three mock essays based on the ETS GRE essay topics pool.
Then, reward yourself with something you like (but not something that interferes with studying).