A successful long-term study plan cannot be designed by anyone but you. It is your individual learning style and level of motivation that will assist you in determining the best schedule for your goals and needs.
With that in mind, here is a general timeline that you can build upon and alter as needed.
One Year Before the Exam
Use this stage to settle the details for your test prep. Purchase a review book or locate free materials online. Decide what “studying” means to you, as well as how often your schedule will allow you to review. Twenty minutes a week to read a difficult novel may initially be sufficient for you, and that is fine.
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Standardized tests involve specific skills that you must practice over time, not content that you can commit to memory the evening before. Complete a full-length mock exam, and time yourself. Your result will serve as your baseline score in your strategic plan.
Six Months Before the Exam
Now, turn your focus to readying for the test itself. Pay close attention to the particular skills that you struggled with on your first practice exam. This may include seeking additional resources in those areas.
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It may also involve contacting a tutor to ensure your studying remains on schedule and examine problematic sections in greater detail. Items like worksheets that review algebraic equations may also suit your needs. Gradually increase the number of minutes per week that you devote to studying.
Three Months Before the Exam
The three-month mark is an ideal moment to complete a different full-length mock test. Review every answer—both correct and incorrect. Diagnose your challenging areas, and update your plan with strategies to address them.
If you are still answering the same questions incorrectly, request additional academic support from a friend, parent, teacher or tutor.
Three months before the exam is also the perfect time to hone in on time management techniques. Ensure that not only are you selecting the right response, but also that you do so at an appropriate speed. Again, increase the period of time that you study each week.
One Week Before the Exam
Set your test material aside. As frightening as that piece of advice may seem, cramming is a disastrous practice. (And yes, cramming can take place more than one evening before the ACT or SAT.) It will not only hurt your long-term recall abilities—it also creates stress and sleeplessness that you simply do not need.
Some anxiety about your exam day is perfectly normal, but it should not be overwhelming. If you have been following a long-term review plan, you are likely very well prepared.
Use the remaining week to practice simple logic games that will keep your mind spry, read an interesting article or novel, and research the schools to which you would like to send your results.
Creating a long-term prep plan means far less stress, as well as the ability to approach your test day with confidence. Good luck!
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.