Can You Retake The GRE? Review Of The GRE Retake Policy

by Maximilian Claessens
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Can You Retake The GRE - Review Of The GRE Retake Policy

Can you retake the GRE? More importantly, should you? It can be disheartening to sit this grueling test and fail to get the result you want. It may leave you thinking that you’re simply not cut out for it, and consequently you might end up abandoning your aspirations.

It’s important not to fall into this mentality. The GRE is a standardized test, and as with any standardized test, your methodology and mindset is just as important as the actual knowledge you bring to the test. With sufficient preparation and strong test-taking methodology, you can bump your score up to higher levels – even if you did poorly the first time around.

So yes – you should probably retake the GRE. Which answers the other question: you can retake it. But what is the GRE retake policy? Can you take it as many times as you want? Is there a mandatory waiting period between retakes? And what’s the best way to prepare for the GRE retake?

During the course of this article, we plan on presenting the answers to these questions. We’ll also outline some tips on preparing for the GRE retake.

Can You Retake The GRE?

Yes, you can – and an astonishing number of people choose to do so. It’s estimated that around a quarter of GRE candidates actually end up retaking the GRE. If you end up re-sitting the test, then, know that you’re not alone.

There are stipulations, of course, on a re-test – you can’t just book 12 tests over a month and pick the one you do best on. But what are those stipulations?

How Many Times Can You Re-Sit?

There is no limit on how many times you can retake the test. However, you can only take it a maximum of five times over a 12-month period.

How Often Can You Retake It?

There is also a stipulation on the frequency of GRE takes. It’s not possible to sit another test within 21 days of a previous test – so no spamming tests as often as possible.

Do You Need To Re-Register For A Second Test?

Yes – but you’ll already have an ETS account. Aside from this, you’ll still need to register and pay for the test as if it were your first.

Should I Retake The GRE?

Now that we’ve established that it’s perfectly possible to do the GRE again, it’s time to consider if you should. There are, of course, reasons not to: it’s not an inexpensive test, for one, and you may well have driven yourself to the point of burnout the first time. In addition, the GRE is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to business and grad school admissions; many other factors are taken into account, so does your GRE score matter all that much?

In addition, making that decision to retake means committing to a lot more study time – and all the stress that goes with it. This alone is enough for many people to pass on a second test and opting instead just to take their chances with the scores they have.

Retaking the GRE is very much a personal decision, and though we can’t make that call for you, we can help you make up your mind. Here are some considerations when thinking about re-sitting the GRE.

6 Considerations If Your Consider Retaking the GRE
6 Considerations If Your Consider Retaking the GRE

Why Are You Retaking The GRE? 

Before deciding anything, it’s a good idea to sit down and examine your own motivations for sitting a GRE retake. It’s going to be a lot more time and effort preparing for the GRE retake (not to mention the cost), so you need to be very clear on why it is you’re putting yourself through that.

Firstly, you need to look at the schools you’re applying to and their requirements for GRE scores. Do you fall short of those? Or are you simply falling short of your own expectations? While it’s nice to have GRE scores that exceed the expectations of admissions officers, it’s not essential. If you have already have scores that pass muster, it might be a good idea to leave things as they are and focus on other parts of your application.

On the other hand, if your scores fall short of those required by your desired school, then you’re almost certainly going to want to take the test again.

Is The Cost Worth It?

At present, the GRE costs $220. If you’ve not got the result you wanted, that means you’re sinking $440 into the GRE at least. It’s not a life-changing amount of money, but it’s not nothing, either. It’s a pretty expensive test to have to keep re-taking, so you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

However: weigh the cost of taking the GRE again versus the financial benefits that will come with getting an MBA (or any other postgrad degree). In the long run, won’t the career opportunities afforded by a postgraduate qualification outweigh the cost of taking the GRE twice or even three times?

Again, this is very much a personal decision. But quite often, the value of having a Master’s degree will far outstrip the temporary financial setback of a re-sit.  

What Are Your Expectations Of A Retake?

It’s a good idea to take stock of your own expectations when considering whether or not to put yourself through a GRE retake. As you should have done with your first test, you need to look at the gap between your desired scores, and the score you got on your previous attempt. Did you fall below expectations in all sections? Was it only Quant where you fell down? What are the scores you need for your business or grad school?

If you failed to get the Quant score that you wanted, then it stands to reason that you need to focus mostly on preparing for that section. You should not, however, entirely neglect Verbal in this instance – it won’t do you much good if you get the Quant score you need but fail to hit the requisite Verbal one because you didn’t study for it.  

The GRE Diagnostic Service can be of use in figuring out where you went wrong, too. By analyzing your test performance, you can see where you did well, where you fell down, and which easy/medium/difficult questions you correctly answered. It can be a great use in structuring your study plan for test #2.

Do You Have Time To Retake It?

As we’ve already established, you have to wait 21 days before you can retake the GRE. But this isn’t the only consideration; when is your school’s application deadline? In addition, your scores won’t be available for reporting to schools until around 10-15 days after you’ve taken the test, even though you can immediately view your scores after finishing the test.

This means that you realistically need to re-sit the test about 5 weeks before the closure of admissions at your chosen school(s). If you’ve already budgeted time for that in your overall GRE study plan, good job! If not, you need to think about whether or not you have enough time to actually take the GRE again.

This is, of course, not accounting for the 3-4 weeks that you’ll need to brush up on your studies before retaking. It’s a lengthy period of time – and you need to be sure that you have it before committing to a re-sit.

Will A Re-Sit Affect Your Chances Of Admission?

This one is quite straightforward: no, it won’t. There’s no indication to admissions officers how many times you’ve taken the GRE, and as far as they’re concerned it could be your first time or your thirtieth. You don’t need to worry about GRE re-sits creating a negative impression of you.

In fact, if you’ve taken the GRE multiple times, you can actually choose which scores you want to have reported to schools. Obviously, this opens up the possibility that your initial score will be more desirable than your second; try to make sure this doesn’t happen!

How Were Things On Test Day?

We all have bad days, and sometimes those bad days just happen to be important days, too. Did heavy traffic getting to the test center lead to your being unusually stressed? Were you sick? Did you just receive some personal news that left you distracted and unable to focus? Maybe it was something as simple as another test-taker continuously coughing or sneezing, and it threw you off your game.

Whatever the reason, if something happened that could have negatively impacted your performance on test day, it might be worth sitting the test again simply to give yourself the chance to perform to the limits of your potential. You don’t want to lose a shot at your dream grad school because someone two rows over had a cold.

Tips For Retaking The GRE

So you’ve weighed up the pros and cons, you’ve made sure you have enough time to study and get your new results reported to schools, and you’ve come up with a solid study plan to shore up the things that let you down. What now?

Here are our top tips for making sure you ace the test your second time out.

Create A Study Plan

This is something that, one would hope, you did your first time around. Your study plan needs to be structured around identifying the deficit between your current scores and your desired ones. This is made particularly easy in the event of a re-sit, because you have actual, official scores from ETS. With the Diagnostic Service, you have a particularly clear idea of the areas you need to work on.

As mentioned previously, make sure your studies focus mostly (but not exclusively) on the areas in which you struggled last time. It could be that you struggled on a particular type of Verbal Reasoning question, rather than Verbal Reasoning in general. If that’s the case, make sure that you get plenty of practice with those types of questions before re-sitting. There is a reason the old adage “practice makes perfect” made it to cliché status.

If you’re having trouble with a particular concept or type of question, try to come at it from a different angle. Different people learn in different ways; you may respond better to a video explaining the topic rather than an article, for instance. Making questions flashcards that you review on a daily/weekly/monthly basis can also help with retention.

Create A Study Schedule – And Stick To It

Related to – but not identical to – your study plan is your study schedule. Where your study plan is what you’re going to study, your schedule is when you’re going to study it.

This might not immediately seem important, but it’s actually vital that you structure your study schedule well. You need to make sure that you’re studying in a sustainable way that works around you and your lifestyle. It’s no good allotting four hours of study a night if you’re going to get burned out and abandon that within two weeks. Similarly, cramming everything into the weekend and not studying throughout the week is a surefire recipe for poor retention.

It’s a good idea to space your studies with regular breaks. Two days on, one day off is a simple but effective structure that strikes a good balance between regular study and downtime. As for how long you should study: never more than two hours at a time. In fact, it’s a good idea to take a short break once an hour, to maximize your chances of retaining new knowledge.

Another useful tip is to set a goal for yourself at the start of every study week. This could be something like “I want to correctly answer 75% of all reading comprehension questions in my end-of-week practice test.” Make sure that your goal is something specific and measureable, and that it’s something you can realistically accomplish within the timeframe. Such goals can give you a sense of achievement and progression.

Use New Or Supplemental Prep Materials 

Reusing the same prep materials from your previous attempt may be helpful to an extent, but it can also be detrimental – particularly if you didn’t find them useful or engaging the last time around. There’s no sense in reading practice tips that you found dull or difficult to retain last time. Find new ways to learn the same information, even if that means splurging out on new materials.

As mentioned above, different people learn in different ways. Consider podcasts or YouTube tutorials if you’re not a book person. The way in which you absorb knowledge really can make a huge difference in retention, so switch it up if you need to.

Focus On Your Mistakes

We all learn from our mistakes (or we should), and one of the most useful things about having already taken the GRE is that you can see exactly where you made those mistakes.

Go through your previous GRE score (again, the Diagnostic Service is great for this) and isolate every question you answered incorrectly. Do you notice any patterns? Did you do worse in Verbal or Quant? Within those two sections, was there any particular type of question that you did poorly on? Did you struggle with reading comprehension questions in particular? Perhaps you repeatedly fell down on geometry questions?

By focusing on your weaknesses and isolating your mistakes, you can ensure that your study plan accounts for those and that you spend an appropriate amount of time getting ready for them.

Consider Hiring A Tutor

Even when switching up your study methodology, it could be that you’re still not taking anything onboard. This may be because you’re the kind of student that requires interaction in order to learn, and there’s simply no interaction in passive studying such as reading an article or listening to a podcast.

The best way to get that kind of interaction is to hire a tutor, whether as part of a larger class or simply in a one-to-one setting. Both have their advantages and drawbacks; in a classroom environment, you have the opportunity to engage with your peers and learn together in a stimulating and interactive way, but at the cost of more personalized feedback. With a one-on-one tutor, you’ll get that focused feedback, but at the expense of interaction with a wider group and the sense of shared struggle that goes with that.


As we have seen, there are plenty of compelling reasons to retake the GRE – and more than one reason why maybe you should wait before pulling the trigger on a re-sit.

If you do decide to go through with a retake, it’s crucial that you take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes – and that you ensure you don’t make those mistakes again. If you can learn those lessons and go back into the test room with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose, you’ll be walking out with the scores you want.

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