How to Decide If You Should Retake the GRE

By Elana Goodwin on December 19, 2016

Taking the GRE is an important and necessary step when you’re planning to apply to grad schools and a lot of studying and preparation goes into getting ready to take the GRE. But once you’ve taken the GRE for the first time and gotten your scores back, you may be faced with a decision — whether to take the GRE again.

Here are some factors to consider that may help you decide if you should retake the GRE.

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1. Look at your score. The good thing is, you can take the GRE as many times as you like and it won’t hurt your chances of being admitted into grad school. That being said, just because you CAN take the GRE multiple times, doesn’t mean you have to or even should. If you scored within the 90th percentile or higher on your first try or a retake, you probably shouldn’t take the GRE again as it’ll just be a waste of money and instead should focus your energy and resources on other parts of grad school applications.

If you’re not in the 90th percentile, your score still might be good enough to get you into the program you want. Do some research and find out what the minimum GRE score the program you’re going to apply to will accept and compare it to your own scores. Your admission into grad schools isn’t solely based on your scores, so if your scores are above their minimum (even if they’re barely above it), but you have strong work and research experience, you may be able to forgo retaking the GRE.

2. Think about timing. Typically, you can take the GRE every 21 days. But after your first test, if you plan to take the GRE again, you want to have enough time to study and go over materials so your next time can be your last as you’ll get the score you want. Don’t just sign up for the next date you can and commit to cramming.

You’re bound to have other things going on in your life that will take up time as well so consider your schedule and think realistically about how much time you’ll actually be able to devote to test prep. Then make your decision about when and if you should retake the GRE.

3. Reflect on your mistakes. The GRE consists of Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytic sections — and your first GRE score may show you need to spend more time prepping for a specific section. Consider the factors that may have led to you scoring poorly on that section — did you not devote enough studying to that part of the test? Were you unable to answer all the questions and complete all the parts in the time allotted?

Try to figure out whatever may have caused you to not score as well as you’d have liked or expected on that section, then give yourself some time to do more practice tests and study more for that part of the GRE. That being said, even if you did very well on the other two parts, don’t gloss over studying them again for your retake – you can’t assume you’ll do as well on them the second or third time around without more prep so make sure you study those too.

4. Consider possible scholarships. Some programs will give scholarships to those with higher GRE scores, so if the school you’re considering does so, it may be worthwhile to retake the test, especially if you’re going to need financial help to make grad school a possibility.

If the program you’re hoping to get into doesn’t offer a scholarship for a higher score, then as long as you’re above the minimum score the school requires, you can probably forget retaking the GRE and just focus on other parts of the application.

5. Check your bank account. GRE tests aren’t free — so if you’re going to take the test again or multiple times, you want to be sure each of those times really count. That means if you decide to retake the GRE, you need to pick a date that’ll give you ample time to study and take practice tests so you can score better in all sections on this time around.

If you don’t think you’re going to be able to devote the necessary time to studying for the GRE and get a better score, take it again at a later date and don’t rush it. As long as you’re shelling out the money to take the test again, you want it to be worth it and yield you a more useable score.

All in all, there’s no right answer as to whether you should retake the GRE — but considering the above factors may help you decide if you should take the GRE again and when to do so.

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