The GRE is considered the most widely accepted test for admission into graduate school. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) handles the administration of the GRE. The test aims to gauge one’s skills in verbal reasoning, critical thinking, analytical writing, and quantitative reasoning. It contains sections to test vocabulary, arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. A big part of taking the GRE is finding the best possible time to take it. Let’s look at some factors that will influence such a decision. (1)
Grad school readiness.
Deciding whether you’ll go to grad school or not is a necessary first step. Many grad school applicants make their decision after spending some time out of the school system, working, and earning experience. Work and family obligations can make a GRE application inconvenient so postponing the test during a stressful time is a smart choice. It’s best to reflect on your situation and decide if the time required for the GRE is worth it at this moment in time.
The GRE can be taken on multiple occasions over the year. However, every test center will have its own unique standard operating procedure and scheduling system. Picking the right time to take the GRE then becomes a matter of picking the right day and when the grad school application is due.
It is best to verify the date of the test and try to adhere to the testing center’s schedule. A slip up could cost you your opportunity and then you’ll have to re-schedule the test. Some eliminate this by taking the test very early. Since GRE scores are valid for five years after their release, those who passed the test will have that much time to consider their options and make reasoned choices. However, if taken early during one’s time at college, that limits the amount of leeway available if you start to doubt this path, assuming one finishes college in 4 years.
Some grad schools have a rigid application deadline while others may be more flexible, affording 2 to 4 deadlines within a year. The more times available to apply, the more chances that gives you to improve your GRE scores. (2)
The time available to prepare for the GRE is also critical. If you are an undergraduate, the duress of your course load and other responsibilities will make this a tricky decision. Some good options will be during a semester when your course load is lighter, preparing during the summer and taking the test before the next semester begins, or 2 to 3 weeks after.
Adequate preparation is the key to ensure that you are relaxed and stress-free during the test. Many students find that working with a GRE tutoring service helps them stay on track and accountable during their preparation. This can also help if you’re working or still going to school as it helps relieve some of the burden of figuring your GRE prep out all on your own.
Re-taking the test.
It is best to give yourself a big enough window to take the test again, if necessary. ETS allows for a retake of the test 21 days after the initial attempt and five more times within a year after taking the first test. Your official score will be unavailable for 10 to 15 days after the test.
If you don’t feel confident about your performance during the test, the ETS allows you to cancel your scores immediately after taking the test. That is the only time the scores can be canceled. Do note that a record that you canceled your scores will be placed on the official GRE score report.
All in all, the biggest factor in determining the best time to take the test is you. The other factors can influence your decision, but it still comes down to you and what you want to do.