GRE Study Tips for Educators

Whether you’ve already decided to go back to school to get an advanced degree or you’re just considering it, congrats! Wanting to further your education is a sign that you’re a great teacher—one who is truly dedicated to lifelong learning. When it’s time to get your master’s or doctorate, you may need to take one of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) tests. These tests are administered by Educational Testing Services (ETS), the same company that delivers the SAT. The GRE General Test is often the first step required by many schools to gain admissions to graduate programs. Whether you’re retaking the GRE or haven’t seen a standardized test since high school, you should prep yourself for the test. The more you know and the longer you give yourself to study, the more success you’ll have. 

About The GRE 

The entire GRE exam takes about four hours to complete. There are six sections total. There are two quantitative reasoning sections made up of twenty questions each. You are given thirty-five minutes to complete each quantitative reasoning section. The questions in these sections will cover mathematical topics such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. You’ll see multiple choice, multiple answer, fill-in-the-blank answers, and quantitative comparison question types.

There are two verbal reasoning sections on the GRE General Test. Each section is composed of twenty questions. You’re given thirty minutes to complete each section. You’ll find text completions, sentence equivalences, and reading comprehension questions in the verbal reasoning sections.

There is one section that is experimental. It won’t count toward your grade and will be either quantitative reasoning or verbal reasoning.

In addition, the test opens with two writing assignments: Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. Both essays are time for thirty minutes and require you to respond to information given.

The questions in each section are randomly leveled meaning a very difficult question might be followed by a very simple one. One interesting thing to note about the GRE General Test is that each question is weighted the same. So if you’re struggling, skip the hard question and go to an easier one, because they’re all worth the same.


The purpose of the GRE is to test advanced skills in writing, reading, and math to give universities an understanding of your readiness for graduate-level work. In order to prepare, you’ll need to spend time studying math and reading concepts you may not have had to think about in years. The GRE isn’t the kind of test that you can just show up for unprepared, so here are some tips to help you get ready and stay on track with your studying. 

Give yourself time. 

Don’t try to fit all of your studying in the week before the test. Sign up for a test date and then make a study schedule. Work on finding time in your schedule to study. It can be tough as a working teaching, so try to carve out chunks of time in the mornings, evening, and on weekends. Or try making time by commuting to work instead of driving—you can study flashcards, use apps, and read books on the bus.

Use tools that offer variety. 

There are tons of GRE study materials out there. Most of them offer practice tests, which are very helpful. But sometimes books aren’t enough especially if you like different types of input. You can use apps that are more visual. Some companies offer online instructional videos and flashcards.  Mix it up for success.

Take lots of practice tests.

Use the practice tests and software provided by ETS and other GRE study companies. These tests will give you actionable data to use in creating your study schedule. Keep notes about your performance and track your progress in problem areas. Just like you use data to inform your understanding of student progress, use it to manage your GRE study time.

Understand the learning curve and eventual plateau.

In the beginning, your studying will feel really fruitful. You’ll be learning new mathematical processes and vocabulary words. Eventually, though, that learning will slow and you’ll begin to plateau on your practice tests. This is normal. Don’t give up. Take a study break for a few days, change your study routine, and stick to reviewing material on what you don’t know.

Reward yourself along the way.

If you meet your study schedule for a week, it’s time to celebrate. If you get a better score on a practice test, acknowledge that. Rewarding yourself will keep you motivated all the way through to the test. And remember, getting a graduate degree can be a reward in and of itself. So, give yourself the praise you deserve. 

Be prepared the morning of the test.

The morning of the GRE, be sure to eat a protein-packed breakfast. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going, find a place to park, sign in, and get comfortable. Don’t forget to bring your ID, water, and snacks. You can take breaks and you’ll want to refuel to help your brain stay at its peak

Taking the GRE is a big step toward getting into the graduate program of your dreams. Whether you’re going for your master’s in teaching, social work, administration, school counseling or any education-related area, you need to give yourself time to study, use what you know about good learning habits, and be prepared to dominate the GRE.

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.

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