Curious when you suggest you start the GRE - how many months in advance?
When should you start GRE prep?
I've been teaching GRE prep for about a year now. The answer to this question depends a lot on how many hours a week you're willing to put in, and by how much you're looking to improve. Generally speaking, I work with most of my students for 8 weeks at about 3 hours a week. Apart from these lessons, I expect them to put in about an hour a week per subject (reading, writing, math, and vocab). This is a lot of work, but my students generally start between 145-150 per subject with 4's on the writing, and end up at 160+ with at least a 5 on the writing section.
No matter what, the first thing you should do is download the GRE PowerPrep software (http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2/download) and take a pretest. Test prep is primarily about practicing the questions (and, in this case, learning tons of vocab!). The more you practice, the better you'll do! You should plan about 2-3 months to prep for the test, but make sure you'll really have enough time to devote to it.
If you're looking to apply to a graduate program this spring, you'll probably only have enough time to do some crash prep work in one section and study vocab. If you're planning on applying next fall, you'll have lots of time, so you can really focus on in-depth studying.
Feel free to contact me if you have any extra questions! Good luck!
I agree with the previous post. It will vary depending on the the student. I think it is far more important learning how to take the test. I do agree that you have to self-evaluate and see what is your current score. Say if you score X in the Math part, then take a bit off from X. I found that nothing compares to the real test, but it should be close enough. If English is your second language, you may need more time than other students.
I like Princeton Review books to study.
Colette N. is correct. Generally, my students come to me at the last minute and we'll study together about 4 hours a week (2 hours each session) and then they study on their own for about 5 to 10 hours (this depends on their comfort level of the information). Length of prep is all relative; if you have a knowledge of the material covered on the exam then all you need to study is "how to take the test" and this is all in practicing the test questions in a practice test scenario. The more you practice the better.
I just took the GRE this past December 8th, and I agree with Colette. I only had a month to prepare, so I made studying the prep books my 8 hour a day job. For best results, try to work on it about 8 hours a week for 3 months. You'll get a perfect score. And buy a test prep vocabulary book with at least 800 words, make flash cards, and memorize every one. Try to get them all memorized early in your prep period. As mentioned above, make sure you download the free GRE prep program that you receive upon registering for the GRE. They give you 3 tests for free that are extremely similar to the ones on test day. I would save these for your last 3 prep tests before the big day. (Those last 3 should span 3 weeks. Try to take the prep tests on the same day the real test will be.)
Let me know if you have any questions.