Should I take the GRE again? Tips on How to Decide

hand writing on test

Can You Retake the GRE?

First of all, you can retake the GRE up to 4 times within a 12-month continuous rolling period, starting with the original test. There is no lifetime limit for the test. Furthermore, you can take the test once every 21 days.

Now you might be wondering, “Should I take the GRE again?” Consider these factors when deciding whether to retake the GRE (and click the button below to get a handy flowchart to help you decide)!

Download the free GRE retake flowchart

Deciding If You Should Take the GRE Again

1. Time

You may have been in a rush to take the GRE for the first time, and now you regret speeding into things. To be honest, it’s okay to take it again! In fact, consider the first test to be a test run in which you learned valuable lessons about how you work under test and pressure.

How to improve: you need to scrutinize areas that you believe can be improved again. Did you arrive at the test center slightly late? Did you run out of snacks? (Did you eat too many snacks?) Was the test center check-in procedure tense? Whatever it is, contemplate ways to avoid this during your retake.

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

What was the toughest question for you in the content of the exam? Was it the math section? Opening essay? The length of the exam? Your pace of any section? All of these? The minimum time before you can retake the exam for at least 3 weeks. Therefore, focus on these areas and spend your time wisely before retaking the exam.

2. Prep

Preparing for the GRE is not an easy task. To make matters worse, the Web is a serious barrage of quick fixes and “ultimate” vocabulary lists. Researching offline is not so helpful, either. Many GRE prep books give the unfounded impression that a simple read will automatically increase your score.

The actuality is much more complicated. To reach your full potential, you need to prepare with a variety of resources, both online and paper-based. Still, some sources are useful and some are harmful. So if you’re using a Kaplan GRE book (or Princeton Review, or Barron’s), and you’re shocked by both the test content and the final score, you’re not alone. There are better ways to prepare. Therefore, if you did not utilize the optimal combination of preparation resources the first time, you should certainly consider retaking the GRE.

With a qualified tutor, a reliable online forum, and top-notch self-study materials (such as the Magoosh GRE), it’s worth retaking the GRE.

3. Score

If you’re scoring above the 90th percentile and you’re shooting for a perfect score when you’re already qualified for the program you’re most interested in, you’re better off spending that time on the rest of your application, especially if you’re strapped for time as deadlines approach!

If your test scores are significantly lower than your mock exam scores and there is plenty of room for improvement, you should always try the retest if you have time to meet the school deadline(s). You should focus on acquiring a strong grasp of the material, but also work on pace and other GRE strategies to maximize your exam day potential.

You may have already taken the exam again, but you are not at your desired score. If you have enough time and your first retake improved your score by 5-10 points, you should consider retaking the GRE again. This may develop you into a competitive candidate (especially for those whose transcript might feel lacking in certain areas).

4. Test Day Performance

If your test day performance did not meet mock score-based expectations, retaking the GRE may be beneficial.

We recommend that you first take the PowerPrep tests created by ETS to set your baseline score. If you took both PowerPrep tests, and your score on test day was much lower than your practice test performance, there are a few possible interpretations of this result.

Most likely, you were stressed out and got flustered. It might have been running out of time; it might have been sheer nerves. Another common cause of not doing well on test day is fatigue.

You may have just been nervous. Another common cause of doing poorly on test day is fatigue.

The worst thing is to simply decide that you are bad at testing. It is critical for us to conceive of our abilities as more similar to “states” (qualities that are relatively consistent over time) rather than “traits” (qualities that are more short-term). I like to advise that people are never “bad” at something; they just haven’t become good at it yet, and they absolutely can be.

In Conclusion

Overall, is it worth retaking the GRE? For many, the GRE feels like the most significant piece of a graduate application.

Yes, the GRE is necessary (if your preferred school(s) still accepts it), but it’s only a fraction of the application. When it comes to admission to graduate school, focusing on the GRE at the expense of your application can undermine your chances. After all, there are essays and letters of recommendation to organize.

Get more of your top GRE questions answered in our GRE FAQ!

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  • Taryn Conyers

    Taryn is a UCSD graduate with a degree in Developmental Psychology, and she plans to study Biology in graduate school. She has over a decade of experience tutoring both high school and college students. Some of her favorite topics are math, science, writing, and music!