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When Should You Take the GRE? Guide to GRE Test Dates (2017-2018)

If you’re pulling out your hair wondering when to take the GRE, don’t get out the calendar, blindfold, and darts just yet. Yes, you do have a ton of options when it comes to picking the best GRE test dates, especially because many test centers offer GRE exam dates almost every day of the year. And then there are time slots and test centers to choose from…you might be feeling like you’re spending more time trying to pick a test date than you are actually studying for the test.

Nobody wants that.

Luckily for you, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to GRE test dates. Here, you’ll find everything you need to narrow down the best GRE dates, times, and test centers for you (not to mention some soothing mantras…some of you may want to check those out first, actually).

Speaking of soothing, maybe you just need to listen to Magoosh GRE & GMAT Expert Mike McGarry’s voice as you study…

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…Thanks, Emily! 🙂

So, if you’re searching for the perfect GRE test date 2017-2018, look no further!

Table of Contents

Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:

Intro to the GRE Video

Before we talk about all the ways in which finding the right GRE test date can significantly improve your chances of scoring well on the exam, let’s answer some basic questions.

In the following lesson video, Magoosh GRE Expert Chris Lele explains who takes the GRE, what the GRE evaluates, and how anyone can learn to take the GRE. Click the image below to watch the video!

magoosh intro to the gre lesson video
 

GRE Test Dates: When is the GRE offered?

This is the first big question you need to ask when choosing your GRE exam dates. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if decision-making isn’t one of your strong suits), the GRE exam schedule is pretty wide open. If you’re taking the computer-based GRE, which most people do, you choose your own test date, with the exception of Sundays and holidays.

What this means for you, as a test-taker, is that you’ll need to be canny about choosing your test date. There’s a huge value to being able to pick it, so don’t squander the opportunity!

First of all, remember that although those dates are technically available, there may not be seats at a testing center near you that are actually available. Most medium-sized cities only have one test center; larger cities may have more, but also more candidates angling to take the test at the same time.

Second of all, keep in mind that while there are still a lot of dates left to choose from, you need to evaluate your own circumstances to pick the perfect one for you. We’ll get into this a little later, but factors from application deadlines to your distance from the nearest testing center come into play.

And if you’re taking the paper-based test, forget (almost) everything I just said. Paper-based testing is still available, as ETS, the test-maker, writes, in “areas of the world where computer-delivered testing is not available.” If this applies to you, it’s absolutely vital that you choose a date and register ASAP.

There are only three annual GRE exam dates for paper-based tests, in October, November, and February—far, far fewer than the flexible computer-based dates. Take a look at the tables below to see when the test is offered in your area.

Paper-Delivered Test Dates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico (2017-2018)

Test DateRegistration DeadlineLate Registration DeadlineScores Available OnlineScore Reports Mailed
10/07/1709/01/1709/08/1711/06/1711/17/17
11/04/17 09/29/1710/06/1712/04/1712/15/17
02/03/1812/29/1701/05/1803/05/1803/16/18

Paper-Delivered Test Dates in All Other Locations (2017-2018)

Test DateRegistration DeadlineLate Registration DeadlineScores Available OnlineScore Reports Mailed
10/07/1708/25/1709/01/17 11/06/1711/17/17
11/04/1709/22/1709/29/1712/04/1712/15/17
02/03/1812/22/1712/29/1703/05/1803/16/18

Popular GRE Exam Dates: When’s the Most Popular Time to Take the Test?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the most popular times of year to take the GRE are late summer and fall. After all, many graduate programs have application deadlines towards the end of the year. If you’re among this cohort, book your slot as soon as you know you want to take the test! Seats at GRE test centers fill up really quickly as application deadlines approach. Keep in mind that most testing centers offer many different tests at the same time, so you won’t just be competing with fellow GRE-takers for a spot—you’re probably also competing against GMAT and medical board takers, among others!

Another thing to keep in mind is that afternoon test times can also book up quickly. This actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it: how many graduate students do you know who are “morning people?” If you’re more of a night owl and need those A.M. hours to fuel yourself with coffee, you guessed it: make sure you book early, because afternoon slots can also be hard to come by. In the end, though, only you know the best time of the day to take GRE tests, based on your energy levels and daily routines.

GRE Registration: How to Register for the GRE

It should be pretty clear by now that if you’re going to take the GRE exam, you’re going to need to register for the GRE as far in advance as possible. How can you do this? The situation’s a little different, depending on whether you’re taking the computer- or the paper-based exam.

How to Register for the GRE Computer-Based Test

There’s no GRE exam eligibility criteria, so you can go ahead and register today if you want. The simplest way to register for the GRE computer-based test is to go to the ETS website registration portal. You can also register by phone, by calling your local test center, Prometric Services (1-443-751-4820/1-800-473-2255) at least two days before you hope to take the test.
 
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Of course, it’s not quite that simple. You’ll need to make an account on the ETS site before you can register for the test online. If you follow the link in the image above, you’ll end up here:
 
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Once you’ve created and verified your account, sign in. You’ll see this page, where you can get start your search.
 
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Next, enter your search criteria. First, you’ll want to select which test to take (GRE General Test):
 
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Then, pick your city. This gets weirdly specific (I never expected that the Amtrak station would be an option?! And, of course, it isn’t, just a search option), but usually just entering your city is enough.
 
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Beneath that, scroll through to the two-month window you’ve selected for testing (if you haven’t narrowed it down that far yet, you’ll need to do multiple searches).
 
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Now, you’ll see a screen that looks like this:
 
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It’s mid-June 2017 when I’m conducting this search. Let’s say I want a test date the first week of July. At first glance: awesome! There are so many dates to choose from in Milwaukee!!

Again…OR ARE THERE?

Being a bright prospective grad student, you’ve probably inferred by now that the answer’s no. There aren’t. Because look what happens when I click on July 3.
 
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So that’s how I would realize that if I wanted to take the GRE in Milwaukee within the next two months, my options are seriously limited. And Milwaukee’s a pretty big city!
 
Thank goodness, my hypothetical schedule allows me to take the GRE on the 5th or the 6th of July! I’m going to see what times are available by clicking on the calendar dates.
 
gre test dates magoosh 11gre test dates magoosh 12
 
…and that’s how I’d end up back at the first (and pretty much only) slot, on the 5th.
 
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As the French say, le sigh.

Then you’ll end up here, where you need to accept the terms to move forward. This is also the last point at which you can request accommodations before registering, so make sure you click through there if you need to.
 
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From there on out, it’s all pretty standard.

The GRE test cost isn’t cheap—$205, unless you live in China, where for what I’m sure is an excellent reason it costs $220.70—so be prepared to fork that over in the form of debit or credit card payment, though you can also arrange to make payment by e-check, PayPal, paper checks, or money orders, depending on where you live.

How to Register for the GRE Paper-Based Test

Registering for the GRE paper-based test isn’t that different from registering for the computer-based test. The main difference is that you won’t have the option to register by phone, but you will have the option to register by mail.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. You’ll also need to go to the ETS website, create an account, and fill out a bunch of information. Note that there are some country-specific guidelines for payment, as well. ETS can change these whenever they need to, so read them carefully as you register!

GRE Registration Tip: Have Your Passport Ready

Make sure you have your passport handy for ID, particularly if you are an international student. There are other forms of accepted ID if you’re a U.S. citizen testing in the United States, but a passport is the most universally accepted GRE ID (and sometimes the only accepted GRE ID, depending on where you are).

When to Register for the GRE

So you’ve picked a date for your test, you’ve scouted locations, you’ve even found a good time slot…what now? Is it time to bite the bullet and register?

Let’s put it this way: you can’t register too early. As soon as you’ve determined the date that you want to take the GRE exam, go ahead and register. To get your preferred test center, date, and time, three to four months ahead, minimum is a good rule of thumb.

If, however, you want to take the GRE test at a particularly popular time, like a Saturday afternoon in August, six months or even longer is best to ensure you get the exact slot you want, where you want it. You can register for the test up to a year in advance, FYI.

But if you need to take the GRE ASAP, don’t freak out! You can usually find a test date in the next month, especially if you’re willing to travel a bit and you’re not picky about dates or times. It’s not ideal—after all, you want testing conditions to support you scoring as high as possible—but yes, it is possible.

All that, of course, assumes that you know when you want to take the test in the first place! It can be difficult to sift through all those dates and times, so let’s dive in and look at some factors that can help you pick the best GRE test date for you.

grelearnmore

When Should You Take the GRE?

When should you take the GRE? It’s up to you, of course, but there are some guidelines that can help you narrow down the seemingly endless possibilities, particularly if you’re taking the computer-based test.

Application Deadlines and the GRE

The first question you need to ask is a biggie: “When are grad school applications due?” And this varies immensely by program and start date. We can’t list every possible application date, of course, but we can give you some general guidelines to help you decide when to take the GRE!

When to Take the GRE for Fall 2017 Deadlines

Take it ASAP. Give yourself time to prepare—at least a month— and then register for a test date that is at least two weeks before your programs’ deadlines. Six weeks is better. Basically, maximize your prep time, but don’t forget to leave yourself that cushion.

Why? It takes 10-15 days from your test date for ETS to deliver scores to your institutions. And that’s if you use the score reports included with your registration. If time allows, it’s a good idea to review your scores first, decide whether you want to retake the exam, and then have them sent out. It costs a little more, but it can be worth it for the boost to your application that a higher GRE score can give you after a retake.

And if you do decide to retake the GRE, you’ll have to wait 21 days from your first test date (and you can’t take it more than five times in a year). Even if you’re completely convinced right now that you won’t retake the test, it’s still better to leave yourself the option. Remember, it’ll take another 10-15 days after the retake for scores to reach your programs!

When to Take the GRE for Spring 2018 Deadlines

A good goal for spring 2018 deadlines would be to take the GRE towards the end of 2017. That allows you a good amount of time to prep, some flexibility with that GRE prep, and (most likely) time for at least one retake before your programs’ deadlines. With all that said, skip down a section and take a look at some more guidelines to choosing the best date for you.

When to Take the GRE for Fall 2018 Deadlines

You have a ton of flexibility here. The same principles that apply to other deadlines apply here, too: maximize your prep time, but don’t forget to leave yourself a cushion.

Be honest with yourself: will you actually prep for the GRE for six months? No matter how long you have to prep, when’s the best time over the next year for you to get that work in?

If you’re raring to go right now, six months of prep would give you a January test date. That’s more than enough time for all the retakes you’re allowed, and then some!

Of course, very few candidates applying in fall 2018 will be ready to start prepping right now, which makes narrowing down test dates a bit trickier. But for all of you out there (and for other test-takers who are still having trouble narrowing the dates down), here are some factors that can help you choose the best date and time.

Other GRE Exam Registration Factors to Consider

Once you’ve taken your application deadlines into consideration, three other factors come into play:

  • How does your personal life fit in with your prep and possible test date? What work, family, stress levels, and other considerations are you dealing with?
  • If you need to retake the test, when could you do that and still have your scores ready in time for your application deadlines?
  • Have you started to prep? Are you happy with the general direction the prep is going?

This last factor leads us to an incredibly common concern, so let’s take a look at GRE test prep and how you can make it work for you.

How Long to Prep for the GRE

If you’re like a lot of future grad students, you might take one look at GRE problems and ask, “Do I have to take the GRE to get into grad school? Really?”

You probably do. Some schools don’t require the GRE, but it does broaden your options. Sorry.

But the good news is that you can absolutely create a GRE prep program, based on your goals and program requirements, that fits in your schedule and plays to your strengths while working on your weaknesses.

So what do you do, once you have your schedule set?

Take a Diagnostic Test

The very first thing you’ll need to do is know your baseline score. The only way to get this is to take a practice test. And luckily, Magoosh has you covered! Use a Magoosh GRE practice test to get your “diagnostic,” or baseline score to know where you’re starting and how far away you are from your goal scores.

Work Backwards

After that, start from your test date, if you have one, and work backwards. It’s a good idea to print out a free online calendar for this task. First, enter in any time you regularly devote to work or school, including commute times. Subtract time for sleep and getting ready in the morning (yes, really!) Cross out any days on which you’ve already made commitments that are, for you, non-negotiable (this can be anything from camping to binge-watching The Walking Dead. If you know you’re going to do it, you won’t be using that time to study).

Count the remaining hours you have left each week. That’s your potential study time.

Be Realistic

Now, be realistic about how much of that time you’re actually going to use to study. Maybe you don’t have a weekly commitment to rewatch old episodes of Gilmore Girls, per se, but you find an episode or two helps you unwind after a long day at work. (Just me? That’s cool).

Commit to a Study Schedule

Finally, go ahead and check out a free Magoosh GRE schedule. One week or six months (or anything in between), we’ve got you covered. With your personal schedule in mind, choose the free plan that best suits you. Then, find out how to make the most of the plan given your schedule.

Take Our GRE Test Dates Quiz

Need more help figuring out how long you need to study for the GRE?

Take our GRE Test Dates Quiz and find out just how much studying you need to do before taking the GRE:

gre test dates quiz

When in Your Prep Should You Register for the Test?

Because it can be tricky to get the seat you want at the test center you want on the day you want at the time you want (you get the picture), register as soon as you have a sense of when you should take the exam, and work backwards from there with your GRE scheduling.

However, if you’re prepping months in advance, it’s not a bad idea get your GRE test registration out of the way once you start scoring within 5 points of where you want to be on each section. Assuming your test date is at least two months in the future, that gives you plenty of time to make up the difference, yet you’ll be close enough to your goal to make sure that you’re not wasting that test fee.

GRE Test Day

It’s finally here! The big day!

So, uh…what do you do?

First of all, arrive early. It’s a good idea (sounds a little nerdy, but it is a good idea!) to drive out to the test center on a day before the exam to see how long it’ll take you. Google Maps is the shortcut here, but add in some time for traffic, just in case. On test day, aim to arrive at the test center at least half an hour before the start of your exam. If you can get there earlier, all the better.

Bring your ID with you, and make sure it’s in-date and acceptable, as outlined above. You’ll also need to bring the confirmation email that ETS sent you when you registered. Finally, bring some number 2 pencils and a good eraser. No mechanical pencils, no pens (are you having SAT flashbacks yet?) Be prepared, though: some test centers won’t let you bring anything into the room. However, they are prepared to give you pencils, scratch paper, and tissues. It’s a good idea to check with your chosen test center before test day to see what their policies are.

You do get a break after your second essay, so it’s best to bring some water and a snack, even though you won’t be allowed to take it into the testing room. Bring a sweater, too—even better, dress in layers. The last thing you want is a lower score on the GRE because of the temperature!

As you take the test, stay confident. Keep breathing. Use a mantra (I know, I’m obsessed–but it really can help!)

And then…you’re done! How long does it take to get GRE scores after test day? About as long as it takes to send them to schools, sadly. Expect to wait 10-15 days to see how you did. If you start to get impatient, just think about the essay graders and cut them a little slack.

What’s Next?

So you know how to register for the GRE, you know how to pick a test date, you know how to prep…the next step is to dive in and start preparing for your best possible score! Sign up for Magoosh’s GRE prep now!

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