Five Ways to Fix a Lower GRE Score on Your Application


Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Five Ways to Balance a Lower GRE Score on Your Application by Laurie Martin of Stratus PrepDid 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, Stratus Prep - HeadshotLaurie 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.

  1. Manhattan Prep September 21, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Hi, Razin! For the best answer to your question, feel free to e-mail Stratus Prep’s director of candidate strategy, Matt Ford, at

  2. Razin September 19, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Well while perusing the content on this page a question just aroused as an ambitious higher study seeking person and couldn’t help writing here which i would be highly glad to have found answer of

    BTW I am Razin from Bangladesh. unfortunately I came by the GRE and all the advantageous higher study scopes a bit late and by the time I was familiar with GRE and what it opens to us I’d lagged behind in my studies and I am gonna be needing one extra year to finish my graduation.

    Here’s my question

    1 How can I balance my low GPA?
    2 Can I apply to grad schools prior to actual graduation?

    I will be looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

  3. Manhattan Prep September 7, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Hi, Shavaynk!

    First, it sounds like you’re a little unsure of whether your score is good enough. The safest way to figure this out is to actually research the GRE scores of applicants admitted to the programs you’re interested in. Not every program publishes these scores, but you may be able to find that information online or by contacting the admissions committee for your program.

    As for studying – in a perfect world, you’d have more than just a month to study for the GRE. But you can still improve substantially in a month. The first step is to take a practice test, analyze it carefully, and spend some time working on the specific issues you identify. (I know you’ve already taken an official test, but the advantage of taking a practice test is that you can analyze your performance in depth and save the questions to try again later). Check out this blog series on analyzing your practice test:

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

    Aim to spend about 1.5-2 weeks working on a few major issues you identify on this practice test, and then take a second practice test to check your progress. And keep reading this blog, especially once you know more about what you need to focus on most. You’ll want to spend your study time as efficiently as possible, and you can learn a lot about that here. You should also check out our GRE Crunch Time workshops, which help you brush up on your areas of need when you’re in a time crunch.

    Manhattan Prep

  4. Shayank Kar September 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    I appeared for the GRE exam on 6th Sept 2016 and scored 308 overall (149-V and 159-Q).My AWA score is yet to come.I want to apply for the Masters program in engineering( Embedded electronics).I have completed my Bachelors program in electronics and telecommunication with a CGPA of 9.46/10 and I have been working in a electronics manufacturing company from the past 15 months.I am planning for Fall 2017.I want to improve my score as I don’t think it is good enough to get a good university so I am thinking of again appearing on 17 October.What steps should I follow to improve my score?Or will it be too late to give the exam?If it will be late can I get a good university on this score?

  5. Manhattan Prep August 24, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Hi, Yeahia! For the best answer to your question, feel free to e-mail Stratus Prep’s director of candidate strategy, Matt Ford, at

  6. Yeahia August 24, 2016 at 6:11 pm


    Here is my profile-

    CGPA-3.29 (Last 60 credit hour CGPA is 3.7)
    GRE-308 (V-153.Q-155,AWA-3.00)
    TOEFL- will appear soon

    I want to pursue higher education in Biomedical Engineering, obviously, I am not targeting the high-rank universities. Can you suggest me a university list so that I can get funding as well as admission? If you want to give any advice, please feel free.

    I have completed some extra courses in Biomedical engineering field and also attended a workshop which was held in an international conference.