It’s not really about how many times you can take the GRE test—it’s more about if you should retake the GRE at all.
If you’re not satisfied with the score you get with the GRE, then you can always retake the test and try to do better.
Plenty of universities use the GRE for their MBA programs and law schools, and the best schools such as Harvard and Yale do tend to have rather higher GRE score standards. If you wish to get into these top-notch programs, then you can hunker down and try to improve your GRE score.
With the paper-based GRE, the answer is simple—you can take the test as often as it’s offered throughout the year.
It’s a bit more complicated with the computer-based version of the test. Here are the facts about how often you can take the computer-based GRE:
- If you take the GRE and then you cancel the scores (if you didn’t like them), then this still counts as an attempt.
- You can take the test once every 21 days, which means you have to let at least 21 days pass before your next attempt at the GRE.
- Within a 1-year period, you can take the test a maximum of 5 times. The year counts as the 365 days that follow your first attempt.
Should You Retake the GRE? Points to Ponder
This is actually the more pertinent question for most people. And like most good questions, there’s no easy answer.
Still, there are factors you need to keep in mind so that you can make a proper decision regarding the GRE retake.
Can You Afford It?
Retaking the GRE is a moot point if you don’t have the money to pay for the test. In most places, including the US, the cost of taking the test starts at $205.
But there are also additional costs for some scoring services, such as additional score reports, the Question-and-Answer review service, and the Score Review for Analytical Writing measure.
Don’t forget that if you’re retaking the test, there’s a good chance that you may spend more on additional review materials.
Were You Flustered During the Test?
If you were, then retaking the test may be a very good idea. Sometimes students just don’t do well on certain tests that they take for the first time, because they’re not used to the environment.
It’s easy enough to tell if you didn’t do as well as you should have done, if your GRE preparation involved taking realistic practice tests. The ETS (the organization that runs the actual GRE) even offers free PowerPrep review tools and 2 free practice tests, to familiarize you with the actual GRE.
These practice tests give you a reasonably accurate idea of how well you will do in the real GRE. If you did much worse than what the practice tests indicated, then you may have been too stressed at the time. But now that you’ve gone through the actual GRE, you should be calmer when you take the test a second time.
Were Your GRE Scores Almost (But Not Quite) the Needed Scores for Your Preferred Post-Grad Program?
If you prepared for the GRE properly, you then would have taken the time to research the GRE scores you need to get into the postgrad program you want. You would then know the average GRE scores obtained by the students who got accepted into that program.
Now if your scores were just 5 or 10 points under that average GRE score needed, then it may be a very good idea to retake the test. It’s pretty common to score a few points higher when you retake the GRE a second time. This is because you’re less flustered, plus you’re able to review more and prepare better for the GRE.
Did You Enlist in a Good GRE Online Prep Course?
If you didn’t, then retake the test after enlisting to a recommended GRE online prep course. While in most cases it’s commendable that you want to do many things on your own, it’s not really a good idea to go on a DIY GRE review study plan. Regardless of how smart you think you are, a superb GRE online prep course can help you perform even better on the GRE.
You can supplement the GRE online prep course with books and apps, but the online course must be your top priority. We can’t emphasize this enough.
What Do the Schools Know about Your GRE Retake?
It’s natural to worry about your school finding out that you retook the GRE 5 times—it doesn’t exactly give a good first impression of your abilities and your potential. But schools don’t have to know when you use the GRE ScoreSelect feature.
When you take the GRE, you have the choice of sending what scores to which schools you want. If you opt not to send any of the scores to your preferred schools, these schools won’t get those scores. They won’t even know you retook the GRE in the first place.
So, let’s say you took the GRE for the second time and got the scores you were aiming for. During the first time, you may have canceled the scores. That may have counted as an official attempt with the ETS, but it doesn’t count with the schools. When you send in the GRE scores for the 2nd time you took the exam, then the schools will assume that that was the only time you took the test (since that’s the only time you sent in the scores).
Useful Tips on Improving Your GRE Scores
If you’ve decided to retake the GRE, here are some useful tips that can help you boost your previous scores:
Take More Time
That means you shouldn’t really take the next available GRE after 21 days have passed. What you need is more time to study for the GRE properly.
Set a Schedule—and Stick to It
Now that you have enough time reserved for your GRE review, your next step is to set up a reasonable study schedule. That means you study enough to cover the entire coverage, with a particular emphasis on the topics and subjects which you find more difficult. But you shouldn’t overwork and overwhelm yourself either.
Take Lots of Practice Tests
Practice tests help to familiarize you with the real GRE, especially if you take the full-length practice tests. But then if you’re retaking the test then it’s safe to say that you already have a good idea of what you’ll face in the real test.
But the main point of a full-length test is diagnostic. That means it pinpoints the study areas and subjects in which you aren’t as hood as you ought to be. These are the areas that require further work.
That’s why, when you pick among the various available GRE online prep courses, one of the most crucial features is the number of full-length practice tests. You can take these tests at regular intervals during the course of your study schedule so that you can tweak your study plan and focus on the areas that need more work.
These tests can pinpoint these areas, but you should also make sure that the practice tests come with good analytics tools. These tests won’t do you much good if you just take them and then get the scores afterward.
Add to the GRE Online Prep Course
It is perfectly possible to have enlisted with a highly regarded GRE online prep course, and still get a lower score than you’d aimed for. In that case, you may want to supplement this course with some additional review materials.
Your options include:
- Books. It’s not surprising that plenty of people who want to get into business programs or law schools are those people who enjoy reading (and learning from) books. If you’ve relied solely on your online prep course, then you may want to add some extra reading materials. You can find lots of good GRE eBooks so that you won’t have to carry too many heavy books around.
- Apps. In addition to eBooks, you can use apps as well. Just about everyone these days carry a smartphone around, and an app is an easy (and often fun) way to get in some GRE review. Whenever you have a few minutes free, just take out your smartphone and tackle a practice question.
- Tutors. Yes, this can very well become rather expensive, but it can also pay high dividends. It depends if you’re the sort of person who does better when you have a tutor to guide you. Tutors can explain topics and concepts better than some books can, especially if the tutors have extensive tutoring experience. Also, these tutors can help motivate you to hunker down and study.
It’s basically all up to you if you want to retake the GRE or not. Just make sure that if you’re retaking the GRE, you’re actually doing something right to improve your scores the next time!