I took the GRE a little over a month ago, and I was surprised at how few guides there were that offered simple tips for studying and taking the test. So I wrote my own. I hope this guide helps you if you're planning to take the GRE!
1. It's not the SAT or ACT.
While the content areas (verbal reasoning = reading and vocab, quantitative reasoning = math, analyze an issue/argument = writing) are the same for the GRE as they are for college entrance exams, the content itself is different. The GRE is difficult: it's meant for people who are finishing college, not for people who are finishing high school! If you know how to handle each type of question (and there aren't very many types) then you'll feel much more confident on test day.
2. Get the Kaplan review book.
I got this book after I saw my co-worker reading it. She's super smart, and I know she researched the book options before getting one. I really like the book, and I love that it comes with online resources, too. I did all of the book review questions, online review questions, and practice tests. The questions in the book are very similar to those on the test, if not a little bit harder. And that's a good thing: confidence is key!
3. Make a study schedule... and stick to it!
I started studying with the Kaplan review book in May, but I didn't seriously start studying until I finished school at the beginning of June. I made a study calendar that outlined what I would do each day leading up to the test on July 14. I studied for about 45 minutes on days when I had work (3 days a week), and 2-3 hours on days when I didn't have work. I took one day off from studying each week. I mostly stuck to my studying plan, but I know that if I didn't make one, I would not have studied as productively as I did.
4. Use the ETS online resources.
When you register for the GRE through ETS, you get access to two timed, scored practice tests. These practice tests are SO accurate at predicting your score, so take them as close as possible to test day. I took one on the Thursday before my Monday test, and another on the Friday before. I took a study break on Saturday and Sunday.
5. Don't worry about the writing sections.
I read some guides online about how to structure the essays (this one by ETS is great), but I didn't practice writing any. The essay sections are much less intimidating than you think, especially because you get to type your essays on the computer, making it much easier to write quickly. For the "Analyze an Argument" essay, my biggest tip is to literally rip the argument apart. The essay readers want you to think critically, and the arguments will be flawed, usually in many ways. Address everything that is wrong with the argument (in a polite way, of course) and you'll be fine!
5. Bring snacks and drinks to the test.
You can't eat or drink anything in the test room, but you do get a 10 minute break in the middle of the test. I brought water, orange Powerade Zero, a KIND bar, and multi-grain tortilla chips. I wasn't sure what I would be in the mood for, so I brought a lot! Don't be afraid to overpack your snack bag: bring plenty of options!
Have you taken the GRE? I'd love to hear your study tips, too!