Things you need to know before you Retake the GRE

Last updated on October 27th, 2017

Reading Time: 4minutes

If you are looking at retaking the GRE because you either feel that the score doesn’t reflect your potential, or you messed up on your test for some reason, there are a few things you should take care of. Here are a few points to help you plan and approach your next GRE attempt better.



Booking your retake


The GRE can be taken every 21 days. You can take the GRE a maximum of five times in a 12-month period. We’re not suggesting that you should do this, though!


While taking the test twice will not have any negative impact on your chances for admission, becoming a serial test-taker will! 


Make sure that you realize the reasons behind your botched attempt; analyze and list out the areas in which you require improvement.


Plan your retake test date after considering the time you need to improve on these areas. Don’t just sign up for the next date you can and commit to cramming. You’re bound to have other things going on in your life that will take up time as well so consider your schedule and think realistically about how much time you’ll actually be able to devote to test preparation.


Typically, a time frame of one to three months is realistic.



Identifying Areas that Need Improvement


So, you took the test the first time and your scores were disappointing. Although the score report doesn’t really help with giving you specific perspectives on areas for improvement, ETS does provide a nifty tool: The GRE diagnostic service does exactly this.


This tool shows you your performance on each question type and helps you evaluate your areas of weakness. This diagnosis will help you plan an effective study plan, and schedule a test date, realistically.


To access your diagnostic service, you need to wait until you receive your official score report online, or by mail. You need to enter the ‘Registration Number’ listed on the score report along with your test date and date of birth, in order to access the report. This service is available for six months after you take your GRE. After that, you will not be able to access the diagnostic tool.


Following are the features provided in the diagnostic service:


  • Right/Wrong:  For each question, the diagnostic tool tells you whether your answer was correct, or incorrect.

  • Difficulty Level:  This is the best feature of the diagnostic tool. For each question, you are shown a difficulty from 1 (easy) to 5 (hard). You can see whether you got the hardest ones right!

  • Time Spent:  You can see how much time you spent on a particular question. This helps you identify your most time consuming question types and topics.

  • Topic:  Lists all the questions in each section and assigns topic categories to them, such as ‘Arithmetic’, ‘Algebra’, ‘Sentence Equivalence’, etc.



Here is a sample diagnostic report for both the quant and verbal sections





Reflect on your Mistakes and Weaknesses


Perhaps your key weakness is vocabulary, or maybe it has more to do with time management. Whichever it is, ensure that you identify your weakness by analyzing your diagnosis report.


If your core weakness is conceptual (perhaps the dreaded inequalities!), get your conceptual knowledge fixed through online content like blogs and eBooks.


Here are some great resources:


If your core weakness is time-management, plan to solve a mixed set of 20 questions at one go, keeping time a constant. Your goal must be to respond to as many questions accurately as possible. This sometimes means letting go of a few questions that might eat up too much of your time.


Depending on what your identified weakness is, plan a course of action to remedy it.



Try Out New Study Methods


If you studied a significant amount before your first GRE and didn’t get the score you wanted, you’ll likely also need to change your study methods before your retake the exam.


One of the most common mistakes people make while studying is that they study too passively. To avoid this, try different study methods such as using flashcards including more practice questions in your studying, and pausing every few pages to ensure that you’re actually retaining the information you’re reading.


Although you may be able to analyze and identify core weaknesses, and even evaluate effective plans of action, you may find yourself stuck at a particular score level – unable to jump beyond it.


The only way you can surpass the “wall” you’ve hit is by getting strategic guidance from a mentor. Having a fresh pair of eyes look at your test taking approach can help identify problem areas that you might not be able to identify on your own.



The Score Select Option


This option enables students to select the scores they want to send to the universities of their choice. This option is great if you’ve attempted the GRE multiple times and want to send a score that best represents your performance, or will fulfil the performance requirement that a university is looking for.


Right after the test has been taken, a student can decide to send either ALL scores, or the latest scores, to a maximum of four universities (for free). A student can also decide not to send the scores to the universities (scores can be sent at a later date for a fee). 


The Score Select option therefore gives students flexibility with respect to choosing the most pertinent set of scores to be sent to a university. For example, if a university requires a high quant score, you might want to report the test score with the highest quant score.


Visit the official GRE Score Select Option page for more information.