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When Should I Take the GRE?

At some point you need to ask yourself “When should I take the GRE?” Well…when to take the GRE varies for everyone.

Today, I’ll help you figure out the individual factors that determine when you personally should take the test. We’ll also look at a few general things that anyone keep in mind when deciding on their test date.

when to take the GRE calendar

Your application deadline: The most important factor in deciding when to take the GRE

Your top consideration is the admissions timeline for the schools you’re applying to. If you don’t have your GRE ready by the time your schools want to see it, then you could delay your chances of admission by at least one academic term… or even a year!

Be sure to check just how far in advance you need to apply. This really can vary a lot. Programs that are both traditional and highly competitive are much more likely to ask you for your GRE score far in advance. It’s quite common for top schools to ask for your GRE scores almost a year in advance of your possible start date. However, other grad programs– especially ones at mid-tier schools– may only require you submit your GRE scores 3 to 6 months before you might start your studies.

Consider your windows of opportunity for submitting scores when deciding when you should take the GRE

Maybe you want to meet an upcoming application deadline, but you’re worried you won’t be able to prepare for adequately for the test. Sometimes it can be good to skip an application deadline and spend some extra time studying for the GRE.

If you are thinking of delaying your test date and missing a deadline, know how many chances you have to apply in a year. For some grad programs, you can only apply once a year. Other grad programs may let you apply twice a year, for acceptance in either the Spring or Fall semesters. And still other grad programs permit you to apply 4 times a year, for a start in Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter term.

Some programs even set new admission deadlines on a bimonthly or monthly basis. These kinds of “rolling admissions” policies are especially common with degrees designed for working adult professionals. You’ll see these frequent chances to apply and submit GRE scores in a lot of MBA programs and online graduate degrees.

The more times you can apply per year, the more you can afford to miss an application deadline and spend some extra time improving your GRE skills. If you can apply to a program 4 or more times per year, you have a lot of freedom to miss application deadlines and prep freely for the GRE. But if you can only apply to a program once or twice a year, it’s worth your while to try to take the GRE in time for the program’s next application deadline.

What if you need to take the GRE a second time? Allow for a retake

Not giving yourself enough time to retake the test can be catastrophic for your grad school plans. Nowhere is this truer than in late summer and fall season, when applications are most often due.

According to ETS’s page for test centers and dates to take the GRE, “You can take the computer-delivered GRE General Test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days).”

Because you must wait 21 full days to retake the GRE, you should take your first attempt at least more than 21 days before your app is due. But giving yourself a longer lead time than just 21 days is a plus. With many students scrambling to retake the test, oftentimes you will not even be able to find a testing time, without having to drive several hours to a testing center.

Additionally, consider that you won’t see your official GRE General Test scores until 10-15 days after you sit for the exam. So you might not even know if you need a retake until about 2 weeks after the test. This means that ideally you should actually take the GRE at least 36 days (15 days to get your score + 21 days to schedule a retake) before your app is due.

Take the GRE at a time that works for your personal schedule

How much spare time do you have for GRE study? This is another important consideration. Some test-takers are able to set aside a month or two where all they do is prep for the exam. Other test-takers may have a day job, family obligations, current coursework, and other responsibilities in addition to GRE prep.

The way you fit test prep into your schedule determines the days, weeks, or months you’ll need in order to reach your target score. Here are some possible GRE study plans that can help you think about when to take the GRE.

“When should I take the GRE?” A focused approach vs. a 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, so be realistic about how long you can study for.

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

55 Responses to When Should I Take the GRE?

  1. shraddha November 23, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi,
    I took GRE on 15nov and scored 295. I am planning to retake GRE on December 7 and wish to target Fall17. Will it work?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 24, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

      Hi Shraddha,

      Please note that if you’re looking for significant increases, I would typically recommend more time for your studies. However, it will have to be a balance of your application deadlines, and your flexibility to devote to your studies.

  2. Lediona October 22, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    Hello,

    I wanted to retake my GRE on November 14 and my application deadlines are December 1st, 15, and 18. Do you think this is cutting it close? Should I retake it?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 23, 2016 at 7:19 am #

      Hi Lediona,

      The best approach will be to contact your target schools. Every program is different. In fact, some programs only require that the test be taken prior to the application deadline. This may be your case. Once you have your confirmation from your target programs, you can decide what will be the best next steps. If you want to retake the GRE and have the flexibility to do so, I think it’s a great idea.

  3. Sukriti October 20, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    Hi
    I took my GRE and scored 317 and now I am planning to retake it. The deadlines are 1 dec and 15 Dec. So if I retake my gre on 20 nov will it help?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 21, 2016 at 9:20 am #

      Hi Sukriti,

      November 20th is probably too late to take the test again. It needs at least 10-15 business days to be officially scored, and then there is still time to send scores and have them processed by universities. I would focus on other parts of your profile instead! 🙂

  4. vikram October 4, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    I am currently in 7th sem computer science (just one semester to go for completion of my bachelors)and want to do MS from a good US university so when should i take gre which also would help me in availing any scholarship?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

      Hi Vikram,

      Out expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so I’m afraid I don’t have the best answer for you! We generally recommend that you finish all of your standardized tests at least a month before your first application deadline. You can search the websites for your target schools to find information on application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, and average GRE scores. You should also consider how long you should study if you are looking for a top score. This blog post might help you out: http://magoosh.com/gre/2012/how-long-should-i-study-for-the-gre/

  5. Vasundhara September 30, 2016 at 2:39 am #

    Hi! So I am currently working in a job that requires me to travel a lot. As a result of this, I have not been able to take my GRE in August and September as I had planned. I am applying for my PhD for Fall 2017 and the deadlines are December 8th, December 15th and January 15th. I was wondering if October 28th would be cutting it too close to give the GRE?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 30, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

      Hi Vasundhara,

      A October 28th deadline for a Dec 8th application should be OK. We generally recommend that a student finishes all standardized tests at least 4-6 weeks before their first deadline, so this is right in that range. You just need to make sure that you dedicate enough time to crafting a strong application, especially if you work schedule makes consistent focus on application prep difficult!

  6. yuv sinha September 23, 2016 at 1:00 am #

    hi, now i m in 4th yr of b.tech, want to give gre exam but not decide when to give.
    so please tell me which is best time to give the exam.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

      Hi Yuv,

      This depends on when you want to begin graduate school! Depending on how much natural affinity you have for the GRE, you should study for around three months before taking the GRE. You should also finish the GRE and any other standardized test at least a month before your first grad school deadline so that you have time to concentrate on crafting a strong application. This blog post might be helpful: http://magoosh.com/gre/2012/how-long-should-i-study-for-the-gre/

  7. Sandy September 13, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi, iam in my final year btech & will be done with the exams by june 2017, can I apply for fall 2018 post gre?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

      Hi Sandy,

      Yes, you can apply for graduate school while you are still in undergrad! Sometimes your admission will be contingent upon graduation, but by the time you apply you are basically done anyway 🙂 You will need to apply during this application cycle. You can check your target school’s website for more information, but most applications to start fall 2018 are due in late 2017 or early 2018, so you will want to make sure that you are done with the GRE with enough time to create a strong application before your deadlines.

  8. Ry August 2, 2016 at 1:52 am #

    Hello Chris,
    Your post was really very helpful specially keeping the 21 days in hand if there is a chance for a retake. But i am a bit confused about the application date itself.
    Well i am on my last year of BSc in engineering and it will be completed on the july-august of 2017.
    So it seems i cant apply for the fall as i heard the uni office need to have my documents around 6 months before the class starting date. Then i what should i target ? Fall of 2018 or other terms? I am actually targeting some above average universities

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 2, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

      When a grad school applicant is expecting to receive their four year diploma after the application deadline, they can usually be accepted conditionally. Most graduate programs will be willing to accept your application materials without your Bachelor diploma or final undergraduate transcripts. If you’re accepted,t he acceptance will be conditional on successfully completing your degree before you begin your grad studies.

      • Ry August 2, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

        I was totally ignorant of that type of conditional acceptance.. As a result i didn’t register for the GRE or started preparing for it seriously. So i dont think i will be able to apply for the Fall of 2017..
        To apply for the Spring of 2018 when should i take the GRE? around March -April?
        And will it affect getting accepted into a uni if i have one year absence as a student if i apply for the Fall 2018?

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 8:04 am #

          Hi there 🙂

          As we’ve mentioned in another comment, when you should take the exam will depend on the application deadlines of the exact programs you apply to. I’d suggest looking up those programs and seeing when their deadlines are for Spring 2018 🙂 Then, when you know the deadlines, you should try to take your exam at least a month before these deadlines (and 2 months if you want to leave room for a retake!).

          Now, in terms of how much taking a “gap year” will impact your applications depends on what you do during that year. If you gain useful experience during that year, then having this year in between could work to your advantage. That said, unfortunately, we don’t have nearly as much expertise and experience in graduate school admissions as we do with GRE prep, so I’m afraid we can’t be of much more help in this regard. I’d recommend contacting the programs you’re interested in to see if they have any insight on the topic.

          Hope this helps, at least a little 🙂

  9. Raida May 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I’m an international student planning to apply for an MS program in a university preferably in the DC/ VA/ MD areas. I’m planning to apply for my MS as early as possible since I’ll be needing scholarship. I’ve started preparing for the GRE and was wondering what’d be the best time for me to take the GRE test?

    P.S. I’m looking forward to applying for the Fall 2017 session.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 31, 2016 at 3:26 am #

      Hi Raida,

      Happy to help! It’s hard to say when EXACTLY you should take the exam, because of the fact that different schools and programs have varying application deadlines. You may also need to submit your application before the general deadline to be considered for various scholarships or grants. So, I’d recommend researching the programs you’re interested in to see when their deadlines are.

      Once you know the application deadlines, then you should aim to take your test at least a month before these deadlines (and 2 months if you want to leave room for a retake!). Scores take about 10-15 days to arrive at universities after you take the test.

      I hope this helps 🙂

  10. Rahul May 22, 2016 at 3:59 am #

    Hey guys ,I plan to take the gre this september for fall 17′ admissions. Will this be too late?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 22, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

      Hi Rahul,

      That is typically a great time! You should be sure you know scholarship/funding deadlines, but in general, taking the test in September ’16 for a Fall ’17 entry would be perfect. 🙂

      • Bhanu prakash August 23, 2016 at 10:10 am #

        I have booked slot on october 21 for attending gre
        will this to be late for fall 17′ admissions.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 23, 2016 at 11:52 am #

          Hi Bhanu,

          There is not one unified timeline to follow for admissions, but there will be many schools that you can apply to with your test score. Keep in mind you won’t be guaranteed to have it for 10-15 business days and then it can take up to 4-6 weeks for ETS to deliver the scores to your schools. So as you investigate universities you want to attend, make sure they allow applications to be submitted by the end of January to make sure you are completely on track. Good luck! 🙂

  11. ria October 26, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    hi,

    How long to colleges keep GRE score . I am applying this november and wish to target fall 2017. will colleges keep my score( four colleges name which i will give on test day) if i begin application process next year.

  12. Rick September 16, 2015 at 3:03 am #

    Hi Chris, thanks for the tips. I have been planning on taking the GRE later this month but I do not feel ready yet. I am thinking of postponing the test to early-mid November, do you think that’s a good idea? The deadlines of the graduate programs that I am applying to are between 1 Dec and 1 Jan and all programs say it is okay if the GRE scores were a bit late. I guess one concern I have though is that I am taking the test in the UK, will that cause a delay/will the test scores by sent by mail? Or will leaving 15 days before the deadline okay? I don’t want to do it next month since I have the physics GRE that is happening next month.

    Thanks a lot in advance,
    Rick

    • Siddharth April 30, 2016 at 8:58 am #

      Yes the score is valid till 5 years

  13. Srushti August 24, 2015 at 4:36 am #

    I am planning for ms in September 2015…what is the ideal time i should take gre?

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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 :).

  19. 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.

  20. 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…

  21. Esteban July 25, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Hey Chris,

    Just to clarify, you can take the GRE every 30 days since the start of july!

    Regards,

  22. Gaia July 25, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    They have changed it to 30 days until you can retake the revised GRE. http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register/

  23. 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 :(.

  24. 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 Jung
      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 :).

      • Prasanna January 10, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

        Hi Chris,
        I am in 3rd year of my engineering, I am planning to take Gre exam this July. Is it fine, or did it become too early?

  25. 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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