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How Important is the GRE for Grad School?
5 Things You Should Know

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: June 5, 2021

Not all schools demand that you take the GRE, so it’s reasonable to doubt if you should do so at all. Why waste your energy on tests that don’t affect your admissions, right?

But the GRE and your GRE scores do matter in several situations. We’ll discuss them here to help you make your decision.

When is the GRE Important?

The logo of GRE with a woman taking an exam as background

The GRE is a standardized test developed by the educational testing service (ETS). This means it objectively evaluates how well you compare to other school applicants.

The GRE General Test is important when students have similar applications and GPAs (grade-point-average).[1]

Your GRE scores are also used when determining which students deserve funding.

In essence, a GRE score answers three questions:

  • How much does a student understand certain subject areas?
  • Is a student ready for graduate school?
  • How well will he do in school?

These answers are important to schools because they have to make their decision without knowing you. The GRE helps them get a glimpse of who you are.

5 Situations In Which You Should Take the GRE

A table with a test paper and a blue pen on top

1. Your grad school requires (or recommends) the GRE.

A graduate school that requires you to take the test will probably use your GRE score to compare you to other applicants. This is because the GRE provides insights into your academic aptitude and potential.

In essence, it tells graduate schools if you’ll be a good student or not. Some programs may only strongly recommend taking the GRE but don’t really treat it as optional.

Former test-takers found that it was their score that ultimately got them admitted. That’s a chance you don’t want to miss.

2. You have a weak school application.

High GRE scores can compensate for a below-average application. (And get you admitted even if other students rocked theirs.)

How to know if you have a weak application? Check if it contains these “gaps”:

  • Low undergraduate GPA. What’s considered a low undergraduate GPA depends on the graduate school you apply for. Competitive programs may consider anything below 3.0 a low GPA, while other schools may treat anything above 2.5 good.
  • No letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation help grad schools determine if you’d be a good fit as a student. If you’ve never worked before, you can ask your professors to write you a letter.
  • No relevant work experience.

If you have one or more gaps in your application, then a test like the GRE could help schools determine your potential for academic success—and help you with your admissions.

3. You will apply to grad schools in the future.

Your GRE scores will be valid for the next five years. If you plan to apply for graduate programs during that time, take the exam now.

Your memory of what you’ve learned in high school is still fresh. As each year passes, you’ll slowly start forgetting more and more.

If you decide to take the exam in a year or two from now, you’ll have to spend much more time studying and practicing. You could also lose your study habits and discipline, which will ultimately get you a lower GRE score.

4. You wonder if you’re ready for grad school.

Some students wonder if they’re truly ready for a graduate program… and that’s O.K.  That’s part of the reason why a test like the GRE exists. You shouldn’t treat it only as a way to get admitted.

If you’re having second thoughts or bouts of self-doubt, the GRE could give you some clarity. A low GRE score could indicate that you aren’t ready for a grad school or university, which is also O.K. Not everyone is meant to go. At least you’ll know where you stand from the very beginning.

5. You’re applying for merit-based funding.

Finally, your GRE scores aren’t only important for admissions, but also for merit-based fellowships. Your admission to a university or grad school still doesn’t guarantee that you’re eligible for funding.

To determine which applicants deserve funding, schools use factors like GPA, research experience, and—you guessed it—GRE scores. The best way to boost your chances is to take the test.

"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet."

 

Aristotle

When isn’t the GRE important?

A female student shrugging her shoulders

There are at least two situations in which the GRE really isn’t important:

  • Your grad school doesn’t require the GRE.

Not one school on your list requires or recommends taking the test? Then skip it. Improve other parts of your application instead of wasting your energy on things that don’t matter.

  • You don’t want to go to grad school.

The GRE test isn’t easy, nor cheap. Why waste hours on end on studying or over $200 on the test if you’re not sure that your GRE score will ever even matter? Your money would be much better spent elsewhere.

How important are GRE scores?

It depends on the program you’re applying for. Some programs put more emphasis on your GRE score than others.

Also, a program might only care about one of your scores.  The GRE has three sections—verbal, quantitative, writing.

You’ll get separate test scores for each:

  1. Verbal reasoning - score reported on a 130-170 scale
  2. Quantitative reasoning - score reported on a 130-170 scale
  3. Analytical writing - score reported on a 0-6 scale

A graduate school might not look at all of your GRE scores but only one. The score that matters depends on their graduate program.

Say you’re applying for a program in mathematics. The graduate school will then likely look at your quantitative reasoning score but not your other scores.

3 Expert Tips for Rocking your GRE

student studying while writing on a notebook and a laptop on display

1. Plan your test prep. 

First, determine what you need to study. Then, decide how much you should study for GRE and split your sessions across a few weeks or, better yet, a few months. This will give you enough room to take it all in.

2. Solve practice tests. 

Practice tests will help you mentally prepare for the actual GRE. You can find tons of free GRE example tests online or ask your teachers to equip you with some. You could also try timing yourself so that you know how to manage your time on the test.

3. Practice, revise, practice.

While studying is important, it means little without regular practice and revision. Dedicate the last week of your prep to revision only. This will help you retain and make sense of the information you learn.

The Takeaway

Your GRE score won’t make or break your application. But many test-takers found that the test helped them in more ways than one.

Good GRE scores help you minimize the stress, lock in your admissions, and make up for the weak spots in your application. From our experience, you should use every opportunity you have to ensure you get into your dream university or grad school.

Otherwise, you risk losing your spot to other applicants who simply put in more effort. All it takes is a bit of organized GRE prep. Start today and seal your success.

Reference:

  1. https://www.ets.org/gre

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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