GRE Prep Tip: Study Session Length

It’s easy to underestimate the effect that seemingly minute logistical factors can have on your GREperformance. I like to ask my class, “When you sit down to study, what’s the longest amount of time you should study for?” My students invariably provide a comical range of answers all the way from “no more than an hour” to “as long as my lungs draw breath.” While my question may seem like one of those friendly, “no wrong answers” types, it isn’t. As far as the GRE is concerned, there is in fact one right answer and a pile of wrong ones.
Let me ask you this: how long is the real GRE?
You’ll spend an hour on the essays, an hour on the verbal sections, and an hour and ten minutes on the math sections. There may be an experimental section thrown in, and if it’s a math section (the longer of the two), your total testing time will brush against four hours, with the breaks.
So that’s the maximum amount of time you should ever study for the GRE, at a stretch: four hours. If your study sessions are always shorter, consider throwing in a few max-length sessions as a kind of endurance training for the real GRE. However, if you routinely study longer than four hours at a stretch, you may actively harm yourself by exposing your stamina to greater strain than what you’ll ever experience on Test Day. This isn’t to say you can never spend a whole a day pile driving the GRE — just if you do, take long breaks and break up your efforts into four-hour chunks!