Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.
More than half a million people take the GRE each year. The admissions committees for hundreds of grad schools and thousands of grad programs accept the GRE.
However, sometimes you end up with a lower score than the mean of the program to which you’re applying. In cases like these there are still things you can do. Of course, the natural advice is to study harder, consider tutoring, and to retake the exam. However, there are other things you can do that can help counteract a lower score.
- GPA: The GPA and the GRE test score combine to create something called your academic index. Your academic index or (AI) is one of the main components of your application. Certainly, it is important and you want the highest number you can achieve—so if you have a lower GRE score, try to improve your GPA. Focus on course selection, class participation and extra study sessions—whatever you can do to improve your GPA. Raising your GPA will help raise your overall AI, and reduce the effect of a lower GRE score on your apps.
- Extra courses: Similarly, to the GPA method, but slightly more targeted. You can take extra courses in the specific area of study you would like to pursue or closely related areas. Doing well in these courses can demonstrate academic strength in spite of lower exam scores. Often, these courses are even available online, but make sure they are from an accredited institution.
- Strong Recommendations: You want to identify professors who have witnessed you perform very well academically to write your recommendations. Whether you did well in their class or while assisting them with their research—you will want them to be able to speak to your academic abilities. When you ask them formally to write on your behalf you should be certain to remind them of titles of projects or papers on which you got high grades, so they have the specific information to include in the recommendation letter if they so choose.
- Extracurriculars: You can also highlight your academic abilities via extra curricular work. You can show your academic strengths through projects, subject-area clubs or internships that you have worked on successfully and in a meaningful way.
- Split the difference: Remember that not every program needs each section of the exam to be perfect. For instance, if you are applying to a graduate art school or certain liberal arts programs, you might still be very competitive despite a lower Quant score. Similarly, STEM and business programs are going to focus more on the Quant and less on the verbal score.
In addition to these steps, you can also write an addendum to your application describing any valid reasons for the lower score. Often people discuss health issues or other extenuating circumstances. However, this must be well worded and not seem as though you are simply making an excuse. Using these options, in addition to retaking the GRE, will help you offset a lower GRE score and put your graduate school application in the best light. 📝
Laurie Martin is the Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Consulting at Stratus Prep. She she has ten years of experience in admissions consulting, including work at one of the country’s top college preparatory schools. She has her B.A. from Columbia and a master’s degree from NYU. A former journalist and published author; Laurie is also a former All-American athlete who understands the most important aspects of the college process and how to get an edge on the competition. Learn more about Stratus Prep’s Graduate School Admissions Consulting here.