When to Take the GRE: 4 Tips for Choosing GRE Test Dates

Earning a good GRE score can set you up for success in graduate school and beyond. Find out when to take the GRE for best results.
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  • Studying for the GRE is a key step in grad school preparation for many students.
  • Take the test early enough so you can meet application deadlines.
  • Most test-takers spend an average of 1-3 months preparing for GRE testing.
  • Consider whether you may need additional time to retake the GRE.

Many graduate programs in the U.S. require applicants to submit scores from the GRE, a standard graduate school entrance exam. The nearly four-hour test allows students to demonstrate competency in critical skills that contribute to academic and professional success.

Grad school applicants should schedule the test so that they have enough prep time and can meet all application deadlines. Where you're currently scoring, your target score, and your everyday commitments will all affect how long it takes you to prepare for GRE testing.

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Keep reading to learn more about GRE test dates and how to pick the best GRE test date for you.

GRE Test Dates: When Can You Take the Exam?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, is extremely flexible with GRE test dates. ETS administers GRE tests throughout the year at both Prometric testing centers and online through an at-home GRE.

At-home testing is available around the clock, seven days a week. Test-takers can usually schedule at-home tests within 24 hours.

For those who'd rather take the GRE at a testing center, GRE exam date availability can vary depending on your location and the time of year.

Make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare for the GRE and to send your scores to graduate schools by their application deadlines. This could mean choosing GRE dates several months in advance.

How Many Times Can You Take the GRE?

You can sit for the GRE once every 21 days, up to five times a year.

Someone might choose to retake the GRE if they're unhappy with their scores on one or more sections or if they failed to meet a program's minimum GRE score requirement.

Some students choose to take the GRE for the first time as a diagnostic test to show them where they're currently scoring and where their biggest weaknesses lie.

Keep in mind, however, that the GRE isn't cheap: It costs anywhere from $205-$231.30, depending on the testing location.

You'll need to pay the full testing cost each time you sit for the GRE. That means taking the GRE five times a year would cost you a minimum of $1,025 — and that doesn't guarantee an improved score.

If you're looking to take a diagnostic test, it's best to use an official GRE practice test.

When to Take the GRE: 4 Helpful Tips

Rather than planning to take the GRE five times, students can coordinate test prep and make their own GRE schedule. Test-takers should leave enough time to retake the GRE at least once, if necessary.

Be sure to consider the final dates to submit GRE scores for your grad school applications.

1. Figure Out How Much Time You Need to Study

Select a GRE test date by working backward with how much time you'll need to study. Usually, 1-3 months should suffice. Avoid trying to cram for the GRE in two weeks.

Most test-takers benefit from a regular study schedule and taking several timed practice tests before the actual GRE.

People who score higher on initial practice tests may need less time to study than those who aim to make larger gains to hit their target GRE scores. How much time you're able to dedicate to studying each week will also affect your total preparation time.

Many GRE prep books compile questions from previous GRE exams to help familiarize test-takers with the exam format and the types of questions they'll face. ETS also provides two free online practice tests and subject-specific review materials.

2. Know Your Grad School Application Deadlines

While grad school deadlines vary, most are similar to those for first-year applicants. In other words, expect to submit your grad school application in the late fall or early winter for admission the following fall.

Be sure to confirm application deadlines with each graduate school you're applying to. Then, work backward to select a GRE test date.

ETS typically sends GRE scores to designated schools 10-15 days after your test date. So, at a minimum, you'll want to select a date at least 15-20 days before your earliest application deadline.

3. Consider Your Day-to-Day Commitments

Preparing for the GRE takes time. As such, you'll need to consider your day-to-day commitments like childcare, work, and school before you look at GRE exam dates. How much time you can spend preparing daily or weekly will influence how soon you'll be ready to take the GRE.

Building in regular study sessions can help prevent other obligations from cutting into your GRE prep. What test date you select will also depend on your schedule and commitments.

Think about whether you can take time off from work or school to take the GRE or whether you can take the exam on a weekend. If you have a quiet space at home you can sit in without interruption, opting for the at-home GRE may be a better choice for you.

4. Ask Yourself Whether You May Want a Retake

Even test-takers who are confident they can hit their target GRE scores can benefit from the flexibility of extra time. ETS allows you to retake the GRE after 21 days, up to five times a year.

Timing your test 36 days or more before your grad school applications are due affords you the extra time you may need to retake the GRE, if desired, while still ensuring your scores get to schools on time.

If you think you'll likely want to retake the exam, start studying at least 2-4 months before your grad school application deadlines.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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