GRE is one of the major exams you will take, and you’re probably wondering when is the best time to take it.
Is there a best school year, or time of the year to attempt passing the exam?
The quick answer is that you should take it when:
- You’re absolutely sure you want to apply to a grad school.
- You’re not buried under other educational commitments (AKA exam season in college or an important professional project). That’s why summertime is best for the GRE.
- You feel prepared enough to crush it by scoring at least 320 out of 340. Most students need at least 2-4 months of solid prep to get ready for the exam.
The best time to take the GRE – things to consider
1. The validity of the exam
Remember that your GRE score is valid for five years. So in theory, you have the whole four years of undergrad study to crack it.
Many students give it a try during the first year in college. After crushing ACT or SAT, your knowledge of math will be still relevant and useful for GRE. Both exams are quite similar so you might as well pass the GRE with a good score in your first year.
2. Passing GRE in your first year of college
Actually, the exam costs $160 in the US so even if you’re not satisfied with your score, you can still re-take that sucker during later college years. In this way, you’ll already know how the exam looks like so this will give you a big advantage.
BUT, passing it in in your first year will make it valid for only one more year after your eventual graduation (assuming you’ll finish the undergrad courses in four years). This is not a bad option. If you stick to your studies and finish on time, you’ll still have an opportunity to take a beautiful gap year before getting into grad school.
Taking a gap year is highly recommended because it will give you an opportunity to see the world. In the future, you will reminisce about this time as the best one you ever had. The year of youth and freedom, and love.
3. It’s not easy to score high during your first attempt – maybe you’ll need more attempt
Your GRE score may not be great after the first attempt. The maximum score you can get is 340 (plus the independently scored writing section – 0-6). A “good score” which will get you into around 80% of schools is 320. If you landed way below this range, you may reconsider taking the test again during later years of college.
4. How much time will you need for the preparation?
You should also consider the amount of preparation you’ve done for the exam. Just because you passed the SAT or ACT, doesn’t mean you’ll get a good score on GRE. The average prep for GRE should take at least four solid months of your time, and for that, you can use a company like Princeton Review or Magoosh.
Most students say the exam is quite difficult and you’ll have only three hours and forty-five minutes to finish all of the sections. This includes verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and two essays. Your vocabulary must be at a really high level to pass the GRE, so make sure you have at least two or three months to prepare.
5. Taking the GRE during your senior year
The other strategy you could use is taking the test during your senior year. By this time you’ll be more mature and know if you really want to pursue a graduate degree.
You could also take the GRE, and go into the job market, work for a few years and come back to school if you so wish. It all depends on where you’re at in life right now and what are your plans for the future.
6. And when is the best time to take the GRE during the school year?
The good thing about the GRE is that it’s being offered all year round. This gives you a lot of flexibility and room to maneuver. The test is administered every 21 days, and you can always check the exact dates on the ETS website. You can take the test up to five times during any 12-month period. That’s more than enough opportunities to get it done.
7. What should you take into consideration before settling on a date?
Take it off the regular exam season in your college. This will give you a bit more peace of mind and the ability to spend more time on the preparation. You don’t want to study for too many exams at the same time because you’ll spread yourself too thin. It’s much better to block out a specific period when you’ll focus only on the GRE. One-shot, one kill.
Since you don’t need to sign up for the exam many months in advance, you can simply wait for the right moment. For many students, the summer season, when you have lots of time on your hands, presents a perfect opportunity for you to take the exam.
8. What about GRE and the application deadlines to graduate programs?
The deadline to apply to the majority of grad programs is in December and January. So just make sure you’ll have ample time to take the exam and receive your score before the end of the year.
Don’t leave, taking your exam until the last minute. Trying to pass it in October or November can cause you too much stress , and interfere with your regular course of study. As stated before, it’s better to get it over with during a calmer moment of the year (like summer).
Above all, learn about the exact application deadlines for each of the schools you apply to. The dates may differ, so check them out one by one. In the majority of cases, it’s late fall and early winter, so you should receive your score maximum by November 15th.
This will give you enough time to submit your applications. Just remember that it takes between 10 and 15 days for your scores to be ready.
Do it when you’ve prepped enough and feel comfortable with the material
In the end, the decision is up to you. As long as you’re well prepared, you should give GRE a try, and in case of utter failure, you can always retake the exam. Sometimes it’s great to just do it, see what happens, and familiarize yourself with the test center. The test costs between $160 and $190 so you won’t go broke by taking it more than once.
But you should always strive to give it your best and crush it the very first time. To do this, you’ll need some solid prep time under your belt. So go ahead, start cramming and never give up. Good luck with your exams!