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I get dozens of questions from students every week about when and how to schedule their tests. A lot of the basic information on scheduling your GRE can be found at the ETS website, but here’s all of the advice you won’t find there:
When should I schedule my GRE?
If you have no looming deadlines, schedule your test when you’re 2-3 points away from your target score in each section. If you have deadlines, plan to take your 1st test more than one month before the deadline, so you have the chance to take it a 2nd time.
How far in advance do I need to schedule it?
That depends on the time of year. Test dates in late August/September and November/December book up farther in advance because they’re near deadlines, so book those 4-6 weeks in advance. At other times of year, you’re probably fine booking 2-3 weeks in advance, especially in major cities with multiple test centers. It also depends on day of the week. Weekend slots tend to book up more quickly than weekday slots do.
Are there minimum scores that schools expect? What’s a good score?
That varies drastically from program to program. The best thing to do is call the admissions office at your target school and ask them what their average is. Then, aim to score at or above the average.
Should I move my test date back?
If your practice exam scores are still more than 3 points away from your target when you’re ~10 days away from test day, you should probably move it back if you can… unless you’re okay with treating it as a practice round, knowing that you’ll probably need to take it again.
Is there a rescheduling fee?
Yes. If you reschedule a test that’s more 4 days away, it’s $50 to reschedule. That’s worth it if you don’t think you’d be happy with your score. If the test is less than 4 days away, you’ll be charged charge the full fee to reschedule, so you might as well just take it.
How many times can I/should I take the GRE?
Graduate schools don’t really care. In fact, it can be a good idea to take it twice, to maximize the possibility of a top score. Three, four, or even five times would be fine. More than that might raise an eyebrow, since 5 times is the yearly maximum.
When can I retake the test?
You have to wait at least 21 days to retake it. If you were within 2-3 points of your target on each section, it’s reasonable to take it again as soon as possible. If you were still 4+ points away, give yourself more than just 21 days to raise that score.
Should I retake the test?
This one is harder to answer. Do you think you can realistically bring your score up? Do you have the time and energy to do so? If so, and if you’re below your school’s median or average score, consider retaking it. If you’re already at or above that median, you’re probably already a strong candidate.
When do I get my score?
Immediately! After your 5th section, you will be asked whether you want to submit your scores (and see them), or cancel your scores (and never see them). If you submit your scores, your Quant and Verbal 130-170 scores will pop up onscreen immediately. Your essay scores won’t appear until you get your Official Score Report, about 2 weeks after you take the test.
Do I have to wait for my Official Score Report before I apply?
Probably not. Most programs (especially MBA programs) don’t care much about your essay score, so they’ll allow you to take the GRE even the day before the application deadline. You’ll report your “unofficial” scores on the application, and schools will get the official report (just including essay—the other scores will not change) 2 weeks later. But check with your program first!!! There are some programs that do require the Official Score Report. Call the admissions department and ask.
Should I cancel my score?
NO!!! Never cancel your score!!! If you select “cancel,” you’ll never get to see what your score was, and it might be much better than you thought. It’s better to know that you got a bad score than to risk the possibility of canceling a good score.
Schools only look at your top score, so it doesn’t matter at all if you have lower scores before that. Keep the score so you can show progress.
Can I un-cancel later?
No! If you cancel, you will NEVER know what score you got. Seriously, NEVER cancel!
Can I select which scores schools get to see?
Yes. You can opt to show them only the scores that you want.
Can I get testing accommodations?
Read more about that here.
Should I select schools to send my scores to on test day?
Yes, if you know where you’ll be applying. It’s free to send the scores on the day you take the test, but it costs a fee if you do it later. Even if you’re not sure, pick a few schools that you think you might apply to.
Does it matter which test center I sign up for?
No, it shouldn’t matter. I’ve been to at least half a dozen, and found them all pretty similar in terms of temperature, noise, and comfort. I have heard stories from students about loud construction noises or pencil-tapping neighbors, though, so just anticipate a little bit of distraction.
Does it matter which time slot I sign up for?
Yes, this matters quite a lot. Are you a morning person? Take it at 8 a.m.—that’s when you’ll be most alert. If you’re not a morning person, it’s a bad idea to force yourself to take an early test. Your brain won’t be fully active yet.
If there are any other questions about scheduling that you’d like to see answered, let me know in the comments section.
Good luck! 📝
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Céilidh Erickson is a Manhattan Prep instructor based on New York City. When she tells people that her name is pronounced “kay-lee,” she often gets puzzled looks. Céilidh is a graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in comparative literature. After graduation, tutoring was always the job that bought her the greatest joy and challenge, so she decided to make it her full-time job. Check out Céilidh’s upcoming GMAT courses (she scored a 760, so you’re in great hands).