ETS, after amassing copious data, has made an interesting discovery, which they released in the form of a recent infographic: the majority of those who retake the test tend to do better (this doesn’t apply as much as AWA, which, given its small score increment, is more difficult to improve at). Therefore, ETS is urging students to consider retaking the test.
The cynic in me just wants to quip that ETS is finding more ways to make money and is sugarcoating this in avuncular bromides: “It’s about making students feel good”.
While this very well may be true, what is more important—at least for you, the test taker—is whether a retake (indeed many retakes) is in your best interest. After all, if you can afford to do so, taking the test several times a year might be in your best interest. Though ETS didn’t release any data on third-time takers (perhaps these results don’t gibe well with ETS’s peppy “you-can-do-it”-isms).
Now that I’m allowed my inner curmudgeon to speak, I’d say that, on balance, these are pretty encouraging results. First off, the test does not have to be as stress inducing and as do-or-die as many students often make it. You can take the test again—and even again—and you’ll likely do better. Colleges won’t have to know about it, as long as you slip ETS a little money (shh, curmudgeon!). Secondly, you have the knowledge that you’re likely to improve the second time. You won’t see a retake as a failure but as a savvy opportunity—one that many others embrace.
Now I’m not encouraging you to become a GRE junkie, but you can think of your “GRE journey” as one that includes several sittings for the actual exam. In fact, I’ve known a few of my previous students who have done a “trial run test”, just to get a feel for what it’s like and their current score. This is an excellent way to find out how effective your prep has so far been and to adjust your prep strategy as need be.
Perhaps, another thing we’ve learned from this press release—and even my inner curmudgeon agrees—is that ETS is good at making an infographic, or an easy pictorial representation of all the information it gleaned from the data. So if you’re still on the fence about whether to retake the test, you might want to check out the ETS infographic yourself.