Retaking the GRE may be your best strategy

Retake GRE

Licensed under creative commons courtesy of peretzpup.

Are you concerned about your GRE score? If you are, there is a pretty good chance the admissions committee will be too. This post isn’t about what score you need to have, but about when it is appropriate to retake it.

Did you perform at your full potential?

If you are satisfied that your GRE scores represent your full potential, there is no debate and you should not retake the exam.  If you feel that you could possibly have done better, then you should seriously consider the option of retesting.  This is your first decision because to retest, you have to be optimistic that there is some room for improvement and therefore that you will put in the effort needed to improve the test score.

When is the admissions deadline?

If the admissions deadline is more than two months away, and especially if it is three or more, there is enough time for additional test preparation and a new exam date. The question about why your GRE is lower than YOU think is appropriate is an unescapable question – if you get far enough in the admissions process to earn an interview or a discussion with the program administration.

If the deadline is soon and you do not have enough time to retest, you have to make a decision about the gamble.  Your applications will go to committee as is, with the low scores, and you have to be ready for the consequences.  Instead of waiting for the results to decide if you need to retest, start studying and register for a test date.  This lets you confidently tell the admissions committee you were not happy with the test scores and think you can do better.  They may even allow you to substitute the new scores for the old ones and could reconsider the application in this year’s batch in cast the first scores were too low. Ask the program representative or admissions officer what the policy is for reconsidering an application in the same cycle.

Are you weaker in the GRE verbal or GRE quantitative sections?

Weak GRE quantitative section

As a general rule, it takes less time to learn math than language.  If you are dissatisfied with your GRE quant section and think there is room for improvement, then retest. A GRE quantitative score can be improved with relatively little additional time and preparation.  Your preparation should be intensive, but it takes less time than learning to write better or to improve reading comprehension, for example.

Weak GRE verbal section

This one is a little less straightforward.  If the GRE verbal section was disappointing to you and you feel like you should have scored higher, then retest.  Don’t rush into the test however.  Allocate generous time to practice this content thoroughly.  It takes practice to truly develop strong communication skills – and longer than learning new math rules.  If you are happy with your GRE quant score and retest because of your verbal section, then take the test again as late as possible without jeopardizing your ability to meet the deadlines.  Use the added time to focus on this area and truly become proficient with the test.