One of the most difficult things to decide when beginning your GRE test prep is deciding when to actually take the GRE. Most students find it difficult to pinpoint the right moment as they never quite feel ready for it, and that is totally normal.
This is a major test that is going to majorly affect the next couple of years of your life, so you want to make sure that you don’t rush into anything.
When To Take The GRE
Of course, you also don’t want to keep putting it off due to the illusion of more time meaning you’re more prepared. So how do you actually know when to commit and sit for the GRE? Here are a few ideas:
#1 – What Is Your Final Application Deadline?
This is one of the most concrete ways to determine when you need to take the GRE. Every school you’re applying to will have an admissions timeline, so you need to make sure that you have time to study, take the exam, and get the scores before that deadline hits.
Most top programs will ask for your GRE score up to a year in advance of your possible start date. Make sure to factor this in when writing out your study schedule to give yourself enough time.
#2 – Can You Wait For The Next Deadline?
While option #1 has you focused on that final application deadline, maybe you aren’t really committed to your deadline yet. Sometimes skipping an application deadline can be a good thing, as it gives you some much needed time to continue studying for the GRE.
This will completely depend on the program you are applying to and how long you will have to wait for the next admission date if you skip. Some schools will only let you apply once a year, in which case you may not want to have to wait a whole year for another opportunity. However, some schools allow admissions 2-4 times a year depending on their system, which would make skipping your next deadline easier.
Just make sure that you aren’t postponing your exam date due to test anxiety or lack of confidence. At some point, you will need to make that leap. It is up to you to determine if that extra time will really be useful to you. If you aren’t sure, try talking to a GRE tutor to help you assess your current skills and determine if that extra time is really what you need.
#3 – Are You Allowing For A Retake?
Unfortunately, sometimes students don’t get the scores they were hoping for after taking the GRE. However, if you didn’t give yourself enough time to factor in retakes, you may find yourself forced to submit an application that you aren’t happy with.
You will receive your official GRE test scores 10-15 days after you take the exam, and you will need to wait at least 21 full days before you are allowed to retake the GRE after you sit for it.
In a perfect world, you want to give yourself around 36 days before your application is due to take your exam. That way you will have enough time to get your score and schedule a retake (plus study for the retake) before you need to submit your application.
#4 – What Does Your Personal Schedule Allow?
Every student is different with different commitments that affect their GRE study prep. If you are able to take a couple of months off to focus solely on test prep, then you can schedule your exam sooner.
If you are a student with work or family commitments, you may want to give yourself a little bit longer to properly prepare for the exam. If you’re working with a GRE tutor, try asking them what they think a good time is for you to schedule your exam.