Retaking GRE: What should I do differently?
I know how you feel.
You’re confused. How could this happen? I did everything right!
But also know this, you are not alone.
The GRE is serious business. It is the master key that unlocks the door to your dreams – Masters’ and beyond.
For the very same reason, it is also a challenging experience because the future you want for yourself depends on it.
If you are reluctant to give GRE again, don’t be. All you need is a plan – a strategy for tackling GRE and emerge victoriously the second time around.
Should you retake GRE?
If you aren’t sure, this question is probably the only thought in your mind right now. Don’t worry though. A ‘good score’ is a relative term. It depends on what universities you are planning to apply to and what programs you want to apply for. From an admission point of view:
If you have scored a 300 or below:
Retaking the GRE is an absolute necessity. The average score for Verbal and Quant is 150 each, making the 50 percentile score 300.
If you have scored between 310 – 320:
Scores between 310 and 320 are accepted if you have a good admission profile with a smashing SOP and LORs that praise you to the moon and back. Having relevant work/research experience including paper publications are a major plus.
If you have scored 320 or above:
Anything above 320 is an obvious guess. You needn’t bother unless you enjoy the thrill of taking exhausting and time-consuming standardized tests!
But again, if you truly believe that your score is not a true reflection of your full potential, by all means, you should take GRE again and redeem yourself.
If you are chasing 320 as a goal in itself, you may wonder why there is such a high stress on scoring above 320.
FUN FACT: According to ETS, the number of GRE test takers between July 2014 and June 2015 was a massive 5,76,220. Differentiating yourself in this massive horde of people means you have to be extremely well-qualified to enter, develop and flourish in the field of your choice.
The logic is this:
Higher the GRE score, better the chance of getting into top universities.
Higher the GRE score, better the chance of getting into top universities WITH a scholarship.
So, essentially maximising your GRE score is a relatively simpler way into your dream university, especially if you are a late bloomer like me who did not know what to pursue until the very end of 3rd year.
Now, let’s get some things straight. Don’t listen to that aunt of yours who says the universities don’t accept scores the second time around.
ETS offers a ScoreSelect option, that allows you to send the scores you want to 4 universities of your choice. BUT, the catch is this that you cannot pick your best verbal score from one attempt and quant score from another.
Also, you can take the GRE up to 5 times a year i.e in a continuous 365 day period, once every 21 days.
But before you rush off to book your GRE date, WAIT.
For you to be successful the second time around, you need to first analyze why you couldn’t perform your best in the first place.
Problem #1: Nerves!
This turns out to be the most common reason why GRE aspirants miss out on their big score even though their mock test scores could put others to shame.
Our expert SFA says:
- Relax. It may be the biggest exam of your life, but it is just an exam after all.
- You have done all that you can. Last minute preparation will only stress you out.
One day before the D-Day:
- Listen to music that you love. Treat yourself to the food you love.
- Don’t learn any new concepts on this day.
- Give a mock test at the same time as your GRE exam time.
- Get a good night’s sleep. You will need it the next day.
In the exam:
- Stay alert. Your presence of mind will help you more than what you have prepared. Pay attention to the questions. Tune out disturbances because there will be people typing frantically into their keyboard, coughing, fidgeting etc.
- Remember to believe in your preparation and your capability.
- A common problem people face is that because they know GRE is an adaptive test, as soon as the questions start getting easier, they start panicking and free-fall their way to a disappointing score.
- Don’t be anxious when the questions get easier. Regroup your mind and focus on the question at hand.
- Leave questions that you are unsure of for verification so that you can get back to them.
Problem #2: Lack of time/Don’t know how to pace yourself
Many students end up cancelling their scores because they run out of time at the end of the quants section especially. [How can I manage my time?]
Our expert SFA says:
- a) In a GRE exam, time is both your best friend and worst enemy. Learn how to manage time for a maximum score.
- Give as many mock tests as you can.
- Familiarity with the questions as well the practice of solving questions within a stipulated time cannot be taught, but it can be learnt by putting yourself in a GRE setting as often as possible.
GREedge Pro Tip: Give a mock test every weekend. Don’t spend more than a minute on a question.
Problem #3: Lack of proper prep materials
Without adequate guidance and resources, most GRE aspirants often feel lost while preparing for the exam. They miss out on the opportunity to receive feedback when they land up on the wrong solution.
Our expert SFA says:
Enquire about GRE prep courses (What are some of the best prep courses?) that allow you to prepare comfortably whilst also maintaining a cycle of learning and feedback that will help you realize where you go wrong. It could be a conceptual error or a calculation mistake.
GREedge Pro Tip: Practice similar questions when you receive feedback about where you go wrong in your approach to solving the problem. This will help cement new techniques in your mind.
Problem #4: Lack of clarity in preparation
The GRE has three sections, Quants, Verbal and Analytical Writing. If you don’t know what to prioritize, you are going to lose out on valuable time that you could have spent boosting your weak points and thereby increasing your overall score. This can be clearly seen in those students who have an excellent score in either Quants or Verbal but a passable score in the other.
Our expert SFA says:
- A Diagnostic Test is a must before you begin preparing for GRE. (Where can I take a Diagnostic test?)
- Don’t follow the ‘One Size Fits All’ option while choosing GRE prep courses. Ask for a study plan that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses but also budgets the time you have to dedicate to this process.
- So, now that you know where you might have gone wrong the first time, never repeat them again.
Focal Points for your second attempt:
- Set a specific target score in your mind.
- Book your GRE date at least 1-3 months from the date of preparation depending on how much time you can allot every day.
- Take a diagnostic test to find out where you stand and areas you have to improve.
- Make a personalized study plan that takes into account your strengths, weakness and also the time available and convenience.
- Practice harder ever. The sheer volume of questions you do will ensure that you may already know the questions you see on your test.
That’s it! You are all ready for taking your GRE again.