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Preparing for the GRE: Best practices and best prep courses in 2023

The GRE requires a great deal of preparation in order to achieve a good score and get into your desired graduate school – especially with the upcoming reduced test time. Here are our tips for how to prepare – and which are the best online courses to give you a leg up.

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#1 GRE prep course for 2023:
Magoosh GRE® Prep



The Magoosh GRE Prep is our pick for 2023 for students aiming to improve their GRE score, especially if looking for a self-paced option. With a great app for reviewing on the go, a large question bank with high-quality explanations, and video lessons, Magoosh provides resources that makes your desired GRE score much more achievable, with a reasonable price tag. The recently added score guarantee is a nice bonus.




Self-paced – access either 1 or 6 months


4.6 / 5


The first time I took the GRE, I did not do well. With all of the material to cover and the pressure to perform well, I felt overwhelmed and stressed and ended up not really prepared at all. However, after careful reflection on what did not work for me and what has worked for others, I have several tips to share that have helped me and others succeed on the GRE.

Note that most of our recommended online courses integrate many of these tips and best practices, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to our course recommendations.

Table of Contents

What is the GRE?

Before diving into the test preparation, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam. The GRE – short for Graduate Record Examinations – is a standardized test that is a requirement for graduate schools in the United States and Canada, but the test is also accepted at many schools in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere.

The test is broken down into three sections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Quantitative Reasoning
  3. Analytical Writing.

Each section has its own unique format and time constraints, so it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with what to expect and how to approach each section. The Verbal Reasoning portion of the exam aims to evaluate your proficiency in comprehending and interpreting written material. This section typically includes passages from a variety of sources and will require you to answer questions based on those passages. The Quantitative Reasoning section aims to evaluate your mathematical aptitude and skill in applying mathematical concepts. This section typically includes problems that require you to use mathematical concepts, such as algebra and geometry, to solve. The Analytical Writing section aims to gauge your ability to express yourself in writing and your critical thinking skills. You will be presented with a topic and asked to compose an essay in response to it.

Strengthening your Verbal Reasoning

Knowing the format and what to expect in each section can help you to better prepare and focus your studying. To improve your score in the Verbal Reasoning section, for example, it’s important to work on increasing your reading speed. You can master this skill by utilizing strategies like skimming and scanning. Skimming involves quickly reading through a passage to get the main idea while scanning involves searching for specific keywords or phrases. By using these techniques, you can quickly identify important information and improve your overall reading speed.

It is also important for the Verbal Reasoning section that you build a large vocabulary. The GRE tests your knowledge of words and their meanings, so it’s important to build your vocabulary as much as possible. This can be done through reading, flashcards, and online vocabulary quizzes. By expanding your vocabulary, you will be better prepared to understand the passages in the Verbal Reasoning section.

Enhancing my vocabulary skills was a crucial component of studying for the GRE, particularly for the Verbal Reasoning section of the exam. Here are three best practices for enhancing your vocabulary skills:

  1. Reading: One of the most effective methods for expanding your vocabulary is reading a wide range of materials. This can include novels, newspapers, and magazines. By reading, you are exposed to new words and phrases that you can then add to your vocabulary. Additionally, reading will also help you to improve your overall reading speed, which is important for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE.
  2. Flashcards: Using flashcards to memorize new words and their meanings can be an effective way to review and retain new vocabulary. These flashcards can be easily carried with you and reviewed on the go, whether it’s during your commute or while waiting in line. For a more organized approach, use the Active Recall method.
  3. Vocabulary Quizzes: Vocabulary quizzes available online or in mobile apps – such as vocabulary.com –  can be a useful tool for assessing your knowledge and identifying areas where you need to improve. These quizzes typically include a variety of words and their meanings and will test your ability to understand and use them in context.

In addition to these three best practices, also try to incorporate new words into your everyday conversation. It’s important to remember that building vocabulary requires consistent effort and practice. By incorporating these best practices into your study routine, you can improve your vocabulary skills and be better prepared for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE.

Tips for the Quantitative Reasoning

Sharpening my mathematical abilities was crucial when preparing for the GRE, especially for the Quantitative Reasoning segment of the test. Here are three best practices for enhancing your math skills:


  1. Practice: The most important aspect of improving your math skills is to practice as much as possible. Utilize practice tests and math tutorials to review and practice concepts such as algebra, geometry, and data analysis. This will acclimate you to the kinds of questions that typically appear on the GRE exam.
  2. Mastery of Basic Math Skills: Before attempting more advanced math problems, it’s important to make sure you have a strong foundation in basic math skills. Reviewing arithmetic, algebra, and geometry concepts can help you to understand more complex problems. A great online resource for building math skills is James Sousa’s collection of video lessons.
  3. Identify Weaknesses: Take practice tests and identify the areas where you are struggling. This will enable you to target your study sessions and enhance your performance in those particular areas.


Aside from these effective methods, you may also want to consider seeking additional help through a math tutor or taking a math class to complement your studies. Remember, having a strong grasp of the foundational concepts is vital for success on the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GRE. By implementing these strategies and techniques, you can enhance your math abilities and feel more prepared for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE.

Ways to improve your Analytical Writing

Enhancing my writing skills was an important aspect of studying for the GRE, particularly for the Analytical Writing section of the exam. Apart from the tips for Verbal Reasoning, which also apply for this section, here are three best practices for enhancing your writing skills:

  1. Practice Writing: The most important aspect of improving your writing skills is to practice writing as much as possible. Practice composing essays and responses to prompts to enhance your ability to articulate your thoughts clearly and effectively.
  2. Read and Analyze Writing Samples: Reading and analyzing writing samples from other writers can help you to identify and understand the elements of good writing, such as clear structure, logical flow, and effective use of evidence.
  3. Get Feedback: Seek feedback on your writing from teachers, tutors, or writing centers. This will allow you to pinpoint areas that need improvement and make changes to your writing approach.

In addition to following the aforementioned strategies, you might also want to consider expanding your writing skills by taking a writing class or working one-on-one with a writing tutor. Another helpful option is using an online writing aid like Grammarly to help point out weaknesses in your writing in real time. Keep in mind, writing is an art that gets refined with practice, and the capability to write in a clear and analytical way is crucial for acing the Analytical Writing section of the GRE. By adhering to these best practices and incorporating them into your study schedule, you can sharpen your writing skills and feel more confident in tackling the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.

Simulating Test-Day Conditions

Simulating test-day conditions is an important aspect of studying for the GRE, as it can help you become more familiar with the format of the exam and the time constraints. Here are three best practices for simulating test-day conditions:

  1. Timed Practice Tests: Take timed practice tests to simulate the actual test-day experience. Familiarizing yourself with the format and time limits of the exam through timed practice tests will aid you in identifying areas that need improvement and keeping track of your progress over time.
  2. Test-taking Strategies: Create techniques for taking exams such as managing time effectively, and then practice eliminating incorrect options to enhance your chances of answering questions correctly. It’s important to practice these strategies while taking practice tests to make them second nature on test day.
  3. Test-like Environment: Create a test-like environment when you take your practice tests. This means finding a quiet and comfortable place where you can focus, and making sure that you have all the materials you need, such as a calculator and a timer.

Along with these effective methods, you should also consider taking at least one full-length practice test under identical conditions to the actual test day, including the same time of the day and location. Later in this article, I’ll review a variety of online sources that offer simulated GRE exams, and I’ve provided citations to find those resources. This will assist you in getting used to the format of the exam and determining areas that require further attention. By implementing these strategies and techniques, you can create a test-like environment and improve your readiness for the GRE.

Finally, think about getting assistance from a tutor or participating in a study group to go over important ideas and techniques. A tutor can help you identify areas of weakness and provide you with personalized feedback and guidance. Joining a study group can also be helpful because it allows you to review and practice with other students and to work together to identify and overcome areas of difficulty.

Recommended GRE prep courses

When I first took the GRE, I did not follow any test prep courses, but I wish I would have. I spent time researching and trying out the leading online GRE prep resources: Magoosh, Kaplan, Princeton Review, Manhattan Prep, Prepscholar, and Varsity Tutors. The following is my advice to those looking to take the GRE.

All of these test review companies have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. However, based on my personal experience, I found Magoosh to be the most comprehensive and user-friendly, with Kaplan being a close second. Princeton Review was also very helpful in addressing my specific areas of weakness, but it was quite expensive. Both Manhattan Prep and Prepscholar had very helpful resources, but they didn’t stand out as much as the others. Each platform offers a unique approach to learning and provides a range of resources to help students succeed. In the end, the platform that suits you best will be determined by your learning style and preferences.

Best Overall: Magoosh GRE® Prep

Magoosh GRE Prep

  • Impressive study resources and features
  • Best mobile app
  • Live classes
  • Reasonable price point
  • Score guarantee
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Offers low-cost admission support


  • No tutoring option
  • Limited personalization options

I’ll start by discussing my experience with Magoosh. One of the standout features of Magoosh for me was its targeted study schedules. I found this to be an extremely effective way to stay focused and improve my performance in all three parts of the exam. Furthermore, using resources such as Magoosh, with its diverse selection of practice questions and tests, enabled me to assess my progress and pinpoint areas where I had to enhance my skills. The online platform is user-friendly, available on your mobile, and the video explanations were helpful and easy to understand. To learn more about Magoosh and its overall features, see our review of the platform.

The amount of content offered – with 1,600 practice questions, video lessons for all three sections, and three practice tests – is comparable to the other major providers but is a much better value at $179 for six months of access (you can also purchase one month at $149, but given the small price difference, I would only recommend that if you are close to your test date and wouldn’t have use for more than one month). If you want overall support with your graduate admissions process, they also provide a useful add-on package for just $20 more.

Note also that if you only want to improve on specific sections, you can save a bit by only purchasing access to those – but I wouldn’t recommend it as the savings are not that great, and it does not give you access to full practice tests.

And the recent addition of a score guarantee of +5 points makes this a particularly good option for anyone retaking their GRE.

Overall, Magoosh is my number one recommendation for a GRE prep course due to its content, ease of use, and value for money.

Best Live Classes: Kaplan GRE Prep

Kaplan GRE Prep

  • Impressive test bank and practice tests
  • Great live classes
  • Includes physical books
  • Free trial class


  • On the expensive end
  • The wealth of options can be confusing
  • Limited score gurarantees given the price point

Kaplan is one of the biggest names in test prep (for more info, read our review of their overall offerings), and consequently has a solid set of offerings also for the GRE. Their three main offerings are their On-Demand Course ($449) and Live Online Course ($999) but they also offer in-person courses and 1-on-1 tutoring, as well as various add-on packages. Given the relatively high cost of the courses, I appreciate that they offer a free test class so you can test out their offerings.

For those who like live classes, Kaplan’s Live Online Course is a particularly good option – they have perfected a straightforward format that can accommodate a large number of learners engaging actively. While you have a main presenter, there is a whole team of teachers available who can respond to your questions quickly via chat. The live classes also help with keeping the focus and momentum going with your prep studies, as it can often be difficult to keep going with only recorded on-demand material.

On the negative side, apart from the higher cost, I found the explanations of Kaplan’s practice questions to be less clear and more difficult to understand compared to Magoosh and the platform a bit more clunky overall. But overall, Kaplan is an excellent choice, especially for live classes.

Best Score Guarantee: The Princeton Review GRE Prep

The Princeton Review GRE Prep

  • Impressive test bank and practice tests
  • Best score guarantee
  • Targeted courses depending on ambition level


  • Expensive
  • The wealth of options can be confusing

Princeton Review is right up there with Kaplan when it comes to established actors for GRE prep and they offer an array of classes and tutorial opportunities. While they offer similar products as Kaplan, where they really shine is in their score guarantees and offering different levels of products depending on your aims. The GRE 10 Points+ ($899) is a more straightforward online course for a quick increase in your score. For a more comprehensive program for those looking for a higher score, the GRE 162+, while expensive at $2,399, is a solid option. For those looking for top scores, they also offer the GRE 165+ personal tutoring at $156 per hour.

However, if you don’t need a score guarantee, I find their more affordable self-paced option ($499) to be a great option. Among the tools included, I particularly found the “DrillSmart” question bank review system that adapts practice questions to your skill level to be a wonderfully effective way to study. While the self-paced option does not include a score guarantee, it has a very straightforward satisfaction guarantee – if you are not happy with your GRE results after following the course, you can repeat the course at no charge.

I would recommend Princeton Review for those having clearly defined goals and who value a score guarantee. I found the classes to be quite expensive and not as comprehensive as the online resources offered by Magoosh and Kaplan.

Best for MBAs: Manhattan Prep

Manhattan Prep GRE

  • Outstanding expert tutors – both online and in-person
  • Small class size
  • Customized for business school


  • Relatively few start dates
  • Rigid schedule requiring considerable time commitment

If you are applying for an MBA, Manhattan Prep stands out as one of the best options out there. While the company was recently acquired by Kaplan, their signature GRE for MBA Course is offered as before (presumably as it does not compete with Kaplan’s more generic offerings). The course is offered both online and in person (in NYC, as you would expect from the company name), with 9 weekly classes (and a fair amount of homework in between) that take you through each part of the GRE, with content geared towards the requirements of business school. The online option is $1,599, while the in-person is $1,899.

While they offer generic prep material, I would recommend Kaplan instead if you are not looking to prepare for an MBA application and if you are not interested in live classes.

Best Budget Option: PrepScholar GRE

PrepScholar GRE

  • Best value self-paced course
  • High-quality material
  • Lifetime access option


  • Less impressive question banks and resources
  • No support to speak of

PrepScholar is a more recent addition to the field of GRE prep, offering a self-paced program. They offer a personalized study plan, which would be helpful in keeping me on track and focused as I study. The practice questions were also useful, but I found the explanations to be less clear compared to Magoosh and Kaplan.

The main draw of PrepScholar, however, is its price. For a relatively high-quality program, the $38 for a year of access is by far the most affordable option out there. PrepScholar even guarantees a 7-point increase in your score or your money back, so that’s worth looking into if finances are tight.

If you are not sure when you will sit for the GRE, PrepScholar offers an interesting option with unlimited lifetime access – which also includes four graded essays – for $345.

The lower cost does mean they cut some corners – fewer practice tests, fewer questions, question explanations not as good, and limited support. However, if you are looking for a place to start with your GRE prep without any specific targets in mind, this is a great option.

Best for 1-on-1 Tutoring: Varsity Tutors GRE Prep


  • Great pool of tutors
  • Good matching service
  • Intensive and extensive curriculum for the 1-on-1 mentoring


  • Limited options outside of tutoring

As the name implies, Varsity Tutors primarily offers 1-on-1 tutoring for GRE prep, and this is also where they excel. They have a great roster of tutors and have a matching process that helps ensure that you get a tutor who suits your learning style. Those interested in tutoring can pick from a large selection of tutors who all have their pictures and bios available to peruse so that you could the tutor you are most comfortable learning with and whose credentials match your needs.

They also offer GRE prep tools, including diagnostic tests and a question bank – but these are mainly geared towards being used alongside the tutoring. If you are looking for tutoring to help you prepare for the GRE, I would recommend starting with sending an inquiry to Varsity Tutors.

Reaching your dream GRE score

In conclusion, the GRE is a challenging exam that requires a great deal of preparation in order to achieve a good score. The format of the exam can be intimidating, but by understanding it and becoming familiar with the types of questions that will be asked, you can increase your chances of success. Improving your reading speed and vocabulary are also key components to doing well on the GRE. This can be done by reading extensively and actively working on expanding your vocabulary through flashcards or other methods. Additionally, practicing your math skills and taking practice tests can help you to become more comfortable with the material and identify areas where you need to improve.


Enrolling in an online GRE course can be a highly efficient means of getting ready for the exam. These courses offer a comprehensive and in-depth look into the exam, providing a thorough understanding of the format and types of questions that will be asked. Additionally, online courses provide a wealth of study materials and practice tests, as well as guidance from experienced educators, to ensure that you are well-prepared and confident on exam day.


It’s crucial to keep in mind that preparing for the GRE is not a singular event but rather an ongoing process. While preparing, it’s crucial to stay motivated and focused. This may entail setting attainable objectives, formulating a study plan, and adhering to it. Additionally, taking breaks and rewarding yourself for small accomplishments can help keep up that needed motivation. With the right preparation, dedication, and focus, you can increase your chances of success on the GRE and achieve your desired score.