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When Should I Take the GRE?

This question is a very difficult one to answer for any one person. After all, everyone has different schedules, deadlines, and goals. However, there are a few general things you want to keep in mind when trying to determine your test date.

 

Allow for a Retake

Not giving yourself enough time to retake the test can be catastrophic for your grad school plans. Nowhere is this more true then in late summer and fall season, when applications are due. Because you must wait 30 full days to retake the GRE, you should take your first attempt at least more than 30 days before your app is due. And with many students scrambling to retake the test, oftentimes you will not even be able to find a testing time, without having to drive six hours to a testing center.

 

An Increased Question Pool

ETS has just released a new paper-based test. But that’s not all! This August ETS will be releasing the second edition of the Official Guide. Inside: two new tests (unless one of those tests is the same one as the test in the first edition).

Fresh practice questions won’t necessarily improve your score overnight. They will allow you to experience the rigors of taking a full-length test. An increased number of questions will also give you greater exposure to the range of questions ETS asks, and thus better prepare you for test day.

If you are reading this post-August 2012, this point will not be as relevant. I doubt the GRE will release any fresh questions before the year is up. Indeed we may have to wait till next summer to see any new questions.

 

Focused Approach vs. Long Term Approach

Many want to clear up months on their calendar for the GRE. While doing so makes sense from a learning perspective (hey, that’s more time to learn all that vocab), students oftentimes have difficulty sustaining an intense prep plan for more than six weeks.

Let’s say you are able to dedicate a few hours each day over the next six weeks to studying GRE. Sticking to such a plan, you should see incremental improvements each week leading up to your exam. Ideally, you’ll be taking your exam on an upward trajectory.

What can often happen after six week are life’s inevitable intrusions. Quite likely, you’ll be distracted and lose that upward growth. Oftentimes students spend months in unfocused prep, and their net improvement in that time does not change much. Sometimes students are unable to get back to where they were before their studying became inconsistent.

So I recommend an intense six-weeks vs. a somewhat intense, on and off, three months. This is especially true if you are working on a deadline and need to give yourself enough time to retake the test.

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

24 Responses to When Should I Take the GRE?

  1. Dawn September 28, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    Hi Chris –

    So my exam is booked for October 16, 2014 but i definitely don’t feel ready right now… most of my deadlines are Dec 1 (for psych phd programs). I am around 82 percentile for both, and am hoping to get it up to 92.

    Question: If I delay it to early-November or late-October, do you think that will still be ample time to send in scores? (My thoughts are yes, since they get reported 15 days after), but ETS seems to recommend taking it 6 weeks prior……..

    Thank you so much!!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 2, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

      Dawn,

      That’s a good question–and honestly, I’m not sure why ETS recommends that six weeks buffer (maybe in case it loses your essay scores). I’d say you should postpone your test by a little. Three or four weeks before the deadlines should be fine. Again, I’m not 100% sure of this, but in all my years doing this, I’ve yet to hear any horror stories about sending in their scores two weeks beforehand and not having the colleges receive/consider them.

      Hope that (somewhat) helps :)

  2. Kush June 5, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    Hey Chris!
    I needed a bit of help regarding booking my date for gre.I am planning to give my exam on 21st october this year..but i am worried about the application deadlines.Should i go on with it..or should i reschedule it?
    Please Help.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      Hi Kush,

      I think it is a good idea to book about a month beforehand. That way you can retake the test if you have to. The only problem with this approach is you may not get any testing windows in Oct., since they tend to get filled up. Perhaps, taking the GRE in Aug. will allow you to still get a testing appt. in Oct. if you don’t do well.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Karishma April 25, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    HI Chris,
    I have practised vocab and honed my math skills for 2 months. But I am lacking verbal practise (i.e RC, SC, AW). How much time does it take usually for these topics? I want to give GRE as soon as possible without retakes.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Karishma,

      The three sections you named take a bit longer, esp. if English is not your native language. First off, there is a lot of vocabulary to learn. Secondly, getting used to the type of passages on the GRE requires lots or reading. I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic, and I have seen students do well with only a month of prep. But you’ll have a long road ahead of you. With hard-work and the right material, you should be able to see a significant score increase test day.

      Good luck!

  4. Emmett November 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Hello,

    I’m preparing for a graduate program that begins in August of 2014 and I want to start preparing for the GRE exam. I would like to spend maybe four to five months preparing to give myself a better chance of achieving a 320 or higher. I’m also a little nervous about the whole exam but feel somewhat better after finding your website. Is there a study program available that will get me on track or any valuable advise? Thank you in advance.

  5. Apoorv July 28, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I am retaking GRE and have signed up for the magoosh premium. I have been simulating the magoosh tests with the time limits as that of GRE . Below are my performance in magoosh tests:

    Quant : 18 to 20 correct question in test of 20 questions with 35 mins time limit .

    Verbal : 13-15 Correct questions in test of 20 question with 30 mins time limit.

    I am not sure how to interpret these results. M i on the right track ? I still have almost a month time for my GRE .Though magoosh dashboard shows the predicted range of score, i cant rely on those as they are based on total questions attemted so far.

    My prev score is 316 . I want to acheive at least 10 points increament . Will you recomend having manhattan GRE verbal series books to get more questions to practice ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Apoorv,

      You seem on the right track. You have to continue working on questions. Make sure to do both PowerPrep tests. You may even want to pick up the second edition of the Official GRE guide. Constantly work at vocab and understanding complex sentences. Thus read Atlantic, NYTimes, or books with difficult vocabulary.

      Hope that helps :).

  6. Craig July 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    What would you say are the most important posts on the site in terms of what are the most important concepts for math and verbal. I have both ebooks. Thanks.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

      Hi Craig,

      The GRE is such a sprawling, multi-faceted test that it is difficult to say any one concept is the most important for either section. Therefore, I can’t say which posts are the most important. Really I think the answer depends on the user. Where are you struggling most and could use a boost.

  7. Mohit Koladia July 25, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Hi,

    I am really having a tough time with GRE.I have given Gre twice.First time i did not get the right direction to work and my maths is horrible.I had even joined classes for GRE but that did not help me out .I ended up with 291.And then again i started working with great hopes,i started with Nova maths bible.I did both the old and new edition .Then i did new barrons which has both english and maths.Then i did manhattan word problems,algebra,geometry,and sentence equivalence and text completion and reading comprehension.I even did princeton verbal workout,i have done ETS official guide twice and i even did all the 3500 words of barrons six to seven times and i even did MAGOOSH videos twice for maths and once for english,i have seen and done lessons once. i have given all the kaplan MST tests and given all manhattan tests given the powerprep exam .In all the exams i used to get between 300 and 310,in powerprep i got 315 in first exam then when i gave my real GRE exam i ended with 299.I
    am not understanding what should i do.I am having real tough time with maths.I am not able to get through it.Even after so much practice i ended up with 152 in maths not more.In english i got 147 even thats not a good score.I am not understanding wat to do.In maths i am not able to get through the problem though i try hard and my most weakest area is quant comparison,word problems .In tricky sums i always get entangled very badly.I have a huge problem of making silly mistakes now and then though i try hard to avoid them.In english i have problem in tackling text completions and reading comprehension .Please help me out i am in a big trouble.I need to get 310 and thats around 1200 according to new gre for my Phd course.1200 is the minimum requirement for Phd and i am not even getting around it.Please help me out i am determined to get it and i am ready to work for it.I was really satisfied with Magoosh material its really very good the way each and every sum is being explained and all engish practice sums are explained.I need more help for maths and for english both. i hope u can give me a solution .I m planning to give my exam again in September first week so i have one month with me.Nothing is there which i have left to work out .I read all your blogs and i try to apply the tricks which you have mentioned ,but i m not getting where i am lagging behind.Please show me the direction .I will be waiting for your reply.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Mohit,

      Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to score as well as you’d hope your last time around. Perhaps your performance is a case of test anxiety. It is very rare to fall by more than 15 points from your Powerprep test.

      Perhaps understanding the type of mistakes you make in math will be instructive. There are careless errors (we all make those :)), errors in which you rush (which can def. happen test day), errors of interpretation (which can often happen because you rush), and conceptual errors (there was something about the problem that confused you).

      Except for the latter category, you can work to improve in the other areas, so that test day you will able to score closer to 320. So the key is identifying the type of errors you make in quant and fixing them.

      Hope that helps!

      • Mohit Koladia July 28, 2012 at 9:28 am #

        Hey Chris,
        Thanks for the comment atlast i am able to get in touch with u directly… Well i ‘ld be more than happy if u can give me a designed plan for my gre study if i plan to give the same in September first week… Please do help me…

  8. Erica July 25, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Hi! I’m new, but thanks for all your help on the GRE so far. I’m excited to use all the resources Magoosh can provide us.

    I wanted to add two things I noted. As of July 2012, we can take the GRE once every 30 days (thank goodness). Also, based on the sneak peek preview of the ETS’s 2nd edition on Amazon, at least one of their tests is the same as the one in their 1st edition. If not completely the same, then at least with similar questions (which is already no good if one has already taken the other test). I was extremely disappointed by this. Oh well.

    Hope that helps. Thanks again!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks Erica!

      We just made the changes to the post to update the switch back to the 30-day policy. I got the 2nd. edition yesterday and can confirm what you are saying. Too bad we only get one new test :(.

  9. Simrit July 24, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Could you please confirm whether it is 30 days or 60 days that you have to wait to retake the test.

    Thanks.

    • Denis July 25, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Simrit,

      Scroll down the following URL to the paragraph titled ‘Retaking the GRE Revised General Test;’ you’ll notice a bolded portion stating the test can now be taken once every 30 days.

      http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register

      Best regards,
      Denis

      • Chris Lele
        Chris July 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

        Thanks for the update Denis :).

    • Margarette
      Margarette July 25, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      Hi, Simrit

      Yes, Denis is completely right, and we’ve fixed the mistake in the post. We apologize for the confusion!

      Best,
      Margarette

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      It is now 30 days :).

  10. Pemdas@BTG July 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Chris, now this re-take time shifted from 60 to 30 days :) So planing needs to be effected with 30 days in reserve?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

      Yes, that is correct :).


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