Mine is a pretty oddball kind of story so I am not sure it’s the best example to follow. Nonetheless, here goes.
I initially planned on giving my GRE in the spring semester of my senior year. But I ended up taking on too much on my plate. Eventually I dropped the idea of applying in that cycle anyway. But I did buy the Barrons book, did its diagnostic test. I believe I got early 160s for quant and mid 150s for my verbal score. I did some reading of a few chapters of the Barrons book as well. I also coached GRE to an Instructor at LUMS who was taking her GRE again for her PhD applications.
I didn’t fully prepare for it, but I got some confidence, and a clear idea of what the test looked like. I have a general knack for aptitude tests so I was confident I could give it on two weeks notice.
I ended up giving my GRE 2 years later.
In the meantime I did keep the book. I would open it, say, once a month and do some practice and scanning of the book. I had identified my weak areas (Geometry in Quant, Vocabulary in English) and I was confident I could cover them in a two week period.
I ended up registering for a date of one month later. I had a month, but really I spent in total not more than five days of effort into it. I did it for a couple of days, dropped it, then picked it up 3 days before the actual test. I ended up doing a run through of all maths content chapters, including all the rules (with special focus on my weak areas), around 200 words, and two online practice tests in real time. I got 166 in my Quant in my practice test, and that was my focus, so I went in to the GRE with some confidence.
The test went more or less smooth. The Math section was easier than the practice tests I had done. Though the last section was significantly more difficult than the first section. Verbal was exactly as difficult as I had expected it to be, but I gave it a good shot.
I ended up getting 168 Quant, 161 Verbal and 4.5 Analytical Writing.
There’s probably just one lesson I can draw from my experience (and no more!):
Prepare smart: get a sense of where you stand straightaway. Do the diagnostic, do a couple of practice sets, skim the contents of all sections, familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the test, identify your weak areas, and then focus on your weak areas. Do real-time practice tests. Half the game is in identifying what to focus on based on where YOU stand.