In 2014, 1 in 4 GRE test-takers retook the test. That isn’t very encouraging, is it?
Perhaps not, but it’s very real. That’s why it’s crucial you know how retakes work in advance. I spent 10+ hours researching everything about retaking the GRE and finally have the answers.
How Many Times Can You Take the Exam In a Year?
You can take the GRE up to 5 times a year, i.e. “within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days)” .
This means you shouldn’t plan your retakings according to the year we’re in.
You should plan them with a 365-days-period in mind.
If you took 5 exams in 2020, for example, you may not be able to take any in 2021 because the 365-days-period didn’t end yet.
Also, note that you can take the GRE as many times as you want during your life. There’s no limit, as long as you follow the 365-days-rule.
In general, you can take the GRE once every 21 days. But this doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to take it immediately after this period expires.
This depends on the next available GRE test date.
Where and When Can You Take the GRE?
You can take the GRE in a test center or at home.
However, students are only allowed to take the test at home if their closest test center isn’t able to administer it for some reason.
The GRE General Test is available in more than 1,000 test centers in over 160 countries.
In most places, the ETS (Educational Testing Service) offers the GRE once a month. All test centers and dates are available on their website .
Again, make sure there’s a time space of at least three weeks between your new date and the last time you’ve taken the GRE.
Related Article: When to Take the GRE?
Should You Plan to Retake the GRE?
You should do your best to get a high GRE score on the first try, but it could be useful to plan on retaking the exam early on.
The first reason is that you’ll need to set some money aside. If you're not sure how much does the GRE cost, the standard test fee is $205 in most areas of the world.
Expect to pay the same fee even if you’re not taking the exam for the first time.
Another reason is that you’ll need to decide if you want to retake the GRE when your score report arrives.
To be able to do that, you must know what GRE score you need for grad school admissions. Planning to retake the test will force you to define your target score early on.
The last and most important reason is this: you won’t know what the average score looks like until you see what everyone else scored.
You might have a vague idea of what is a good GRE score for your chosen schools. But you won’t know for sure until you see other students’ test scores.
You never know what can happen. Planning on taking the GRE again from the beginning will save you possible disappointment.
Why Students Retake the Test?
Of course, the biggest reason why most students take the GRE multiple times is that they want to improve their overall GRE score.
It makes sense, right? The higher score you get, the likelier you are to get admitted into competitive grad schools.
But besides improving all their test scores to get into their chosen graduate school, some students retake the GRE because:
- Their GRE scores expired. A GRE score is only valid for 5 years. After that, graduate schools won’t accept them.
- They want a perfect score. Some students retake the GRE because they want to prove to themselves that they can do better.
- They want to improve one score. Some applicants want to improve only their math or verbal score. Still, they have to retake the entire GRE.
So, while you definitely want to take the GRE again if you missed your overall target score, there are other reasons that could make you retake it.
For example, if you’re not planning to apply to grad schools any time soon, you should definitely consider retaking the GRE in the future. Or not taking it in the first place, at least for now.
Will You Still Be Able to Apply to a Grad Program?
This depends on two things. When will you retake the GRE and when does your grad program close admissions?
You should take the GRE at least 15 days before you have to submit your score. Even though you can send it immediately after taking the GRE, some schools may want to wait for the official scores.
These will be available on your ETS account 10-15 days after you’ve taken the GRE.
When You Shouldn’t Retake the GRE
Sometimes, retakes are nothing but a waste of your money and time. And sometimes enough is enough -- you need to know when to hit the brakes and reroute.
You probably shouldn’t retake the GRE if:
- You’re not applying to competitive graduate and/or MBA programs
- You have a good score and you’re just trying to achieve perfection
- You’ve taken the GRE numerous times before, with little or no signs of improvement
If you recognize yourself in any of these four scenarios, ask yourself: Is it time to hit the brakes?
Of course, you have another option. Maybe you haven’t had a good support system before, which is what GRE prep classes help with tremendously.
Will Retaking the GRE Hurt Your Chances of Admission?
Taking the GRE multiple times won’t affect your GRE score. Let’s take it a step further: schools won’t care if you’ve taken the GRE a hundred times. They only care about your score.
What’s more, you can now choose to send only your best scores to schools thanks to the ETS program called ScoreSelect.
Let’s say you took the GRE 3 times. You had the highest verbal and quantitative scores on the second try, and you know your school only cares about these two sections.
With ScoreSelect, you can send scores from this particular test date. No one will ever know that you’ve taken the GRE more than once or that you sent scores from a particular test day.
With that said, a few schools might require you to submit your GRE scores from all tests you’ve taken. In that case, you should follow their rules. But that doesn’t mean they’ll interpret your retakes in a bad way. They just might interpret them as effort.
How to Nail Your Test Prep and Get High GRE Scores
While you should always prepare for the worst -- in this case, for taking the GRE again -- you should still try to achieve your target score from the first try. This won’t happen by accident.
In fact, it will only happen with a solid GRE prep. Here are my expert tips on getting ready for the test day:
- Set a target score. First things first, define what score you want to get on the GRE. This will help you come up with an efficient study plan.
- Gather your GRE prep materials. It’s not necessary that you purchase a GRE prep book, though it helps. You can study from your old notebooks, books, and self-made notes. Make sure you also dig up a few practice tests.
- Create a custom study schedule. Spread your test prep across at least 2 months if possible, so you have sufficient time to study and revise. Allot a time slot each day that you’ll dedicate to your test prep. Lastly, be disciplined and stick to your study schedule.
- Identify your weak spots. What are you worst at? Quantitative reasoning? Or verbal reasoning? Whatever it is, focus on the weaker area during your prep.
- Take a GRE prep class. If all else fails and you realize you still don’t feel prepared for your test day, enroll in a good prep class where you’ll get the feedback you need.
How Many Times Can You Take the GRE: The Bottom Line
You can take the GRE as many times as you want during your lifetime. But I doubt you see yourself retaking it for the rest of your life, right?
I wouldn’t advise you to do so. Sure, you may have had a bad day on your first try and got a low score. But getting the same score on the fifth try isn’t a coincidence.
Try to pinpoint the problem in your prep. Maybe you overlooked something, or you didn’t study hard enough. Also, make sure you find your reason to stay motivated.