After your “big day” when you take the GRE, you may have doubts. Could you have done better? Should you go back and try to do better?
If you’re considering a GRE retake, think about the time and expense of taking the exam a second time. You’ll need to do more studying, pay more fees, and work another test session into your schedule? Is this worth it. Let’s look at when it’s worthwhile to retake the GRE.
Retaking the GRE if You Are Below the Minimum Score for Your School
This sounds like a no-brainer. If you didn’t meet your school’s GRE requirements, of course you should retake the GRE, right?
Well… maybe. Some schools have hard and fast requirements. Other schools just post GRE scores they recommend that you have, or the average GRE scores of the students they accept.
If you’re below the recommended or average score, do you really need to retake the GRE? If you are far below a school’s “soft requirement” for the GRE, then you probably should go for a retake. However, if you’re just a point or two short of the recommendation, a retake might not be necessary. This is especially true if the rest of your application packet is strong.
If you’re only a little bit under a school’s recommended score, contact the admissions office. Ask an them if they can give you advice on whether a GRE retake is a good idea.
Retaking the GRE to Be More Competitive
I’ve spoken with a lot of students who did meet the GRE requirements for their target schools, but were still considering a retake. Why would you consider a retake if you already got the GRE score your school has asked for? One word: competitiveness.
You see, a lot of top schools recommend a certain GRE score range, but still like to see the highest GRE score possible. At competitive schools, the higher your GRE score is, the better your chances are. When applying to a really prestigious program, a retake just might be worth your time.
Still, be careful. While most top schools only want to see your best GRE score on record, a few schools will ask for all of your GRE scores. Double check with your school to see if they look at all GRE scores, or just your best score on record. If you get a bad score on the retake, you don’t want it to actually damage your chances.
Also make sure that studying for a retake won’t interfere with other responsibilities or goals. Additional GRE prep leaves you with less time to finish any current studies, work on other parts of your grad school application, and so on.
Ultimately, it’s good to think of your score both in terms of school requirements and in terms of percentiles. Magoosh has a good guide to GRE score percentile and school requirements. And in case you also need the GMAT (or are taking it instead of the GRE), we offer a similar GMAT score guide as well.
David Recine is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent.