How Many Times Can I Take the GRE?


You can sit for the GRE General Test once every twenty one days–not exceeding five times within any continuous rolling twelve-month period. Even if you choose to cancel your scores on test day, this rule still applies. For the paper-delivered GRE, you can take the test as often as it is offered. 

Now that you know how many times you can take the GRE, you should ask yourself how many times you should take the GRE? This article will help you determine how many times you should consider sitting for the exam. 

Should I Take the Official GRE for Practice? 

Sometimes I will have a student who wants to take the GRE as many times as possible, concluding that it will be good practice. I would advise against viewing an official GRE test day as an exercise. 

Why Not?

For starters, the GRE is not free. The exam costs $205.00. This might not seem like much money, but when you consider the cost of submitting applications and future graduate school/MBA tuition, it adds up. If you do have the finances to spare, the money that you would spend to take the GRE five times in a year can be better spent on working with a test prep instructor, enrolling in a GRE prep class, or working with an admissions counselor. 

Also, despite the fact ETS provides test-takers with ScoreSelect–which allows them to send recipients their most recent test scores and not all of their past test scores–some graduate and MBA programs require students send all their past GRE scores. You want to be mindful of the potential scores recipients may see. Graduate schools and MBA admissions officers want to see improvement between exams because this reflects the applicants dedication. If you are taking the GRE as practice, with little score improvement between tests, graduate schools could interpret this as a lazy work ethic. 

How to Practice for the GRE

There are plenty of full-length exams offered by tutoring companies and ETS that will allow you to get the practice you need. I highly encourage you utilize them since this is one of the best ways to increase your GRE score. This article will provide you a list of the best full-length GRE exams and when you should be taking them. 

How Many Times Should I Take the GRE? 

I have had students take the GRE five times in a year. Their scores were improving with each official test date and they were working to score in the 90th, or more, percentile. If you are wanting to achieve a near perfect score, taking the test five times in a year may be required. 

However, the vast majority of us are not seeking to get an almost perfect score on the GRE. Personally, I find that if my students study properly, use the appropriate prep materials, take three to four full-length GRE exams before sitting for their first official test, they usually have to take the Official GRE no more than three times. If you have taken the GRE two or more times with little improvement, it is probably because you are not using good study materials, you’re not studying properly, or you’re not taking full advantage of practice GRE exams. 

Steps to Figuring Out How Many Times to Take the GRE 

If you take the time to create a target score, you will have a better understanding of how long you will need to spend studying and about how many times you will need to plan on taking the GRE. If you do not have an efficient timeline, you could wind up having no choice but to submit GRE scores you are not happy with. 

Step 1: Create a Target Score

Most graduate programs will either provide the average GRE scores for their admitted students or tell you what their requirements are. A competitive score will be two or three points higher than the program’s average. This should be your target score. 

With that said, if your GPA far exceeds the program’s average admitted students’ GPA, you might be just fine having a GRE score that is not higher than their average. On the other hand, if your GPA is lower than the program’s average, you might want a GRE score much higher than their average scores. In summary, always remember your GRE scores are but one element of your application. Ask yourself, “How competitive are the other elements of my application?” 

Step 2: Take a Practice GRE Test

Now that you have an idea of the GRE score you will need to obtain, take a practice GRE or diagnostic test in order to figure out how close, or how far, you are from that score. 

If you are twenty or twenty three points away from your target score, I recommend spending about three months preparing for the GRE before you take the exam for the first time. I would plan on taking the GRE twice. On average, this is what most students need before they hit their target score. 

If you are less than twenty points away from your target score, you might not have to spend three months preparing. In contrast, if you are over twenty three points from your target score, then you might need to spend more than three months studying and take the official GRE three times. 

At the end of the day, you know your schedule and capabilities more than I do (or anyone else). Always use your own judgement when deciding how long you should spend studying for the GRE and how many times you should take the exam. 

Step 3: Create a Timeline

You will need to give your program about three weeks to receive your official GRE scores. Hence, take the date you want your recipients to receive your score report, then backtrack three weeks. This is the latest date you should be taking your GRE for the last time. 

Keep in mind you must wait twenty one days between GRE test dates. You also want to make sure you have sufficient time to study and raise your score between exams. Therefore, I tell my students to wait a month before retaking the GRE. Hence, no matter how many times you are planning to take the GRE, schedule a month between tests. 

In summary, when you create your GRE timeline, work backwards from the date you want your recipients to receive your score report. Let’s work through a hypothetical timeline for someone who would want to give themselves enough time to take the GRE three times. 

The date I want admissions to receive my GRE score: November 1st

The date I should be taking the GRE for the last time: 1st week of October

The date I should take the GRE for the 2nd time: 1st week of September

The date I should take the GRE for the 1st time: 1st week of August

The date I should start studying for the GRE:  April or beginning of May 

As you can see, preparing for the GRE takes time! For a more in depth article on how long to prepare for the GRE and recommended study materials, click here. Also, three months is plenty of time to complete a GRE prep class. Here is a list of the ones I highly recommend. 

How Many Times Can I Take the GRE? Summary 

Just because you can sit for the computer-delivered GRE General Test once every twenty one days–not exceeding five times within any continuous rolling twelve-month period–that does not mean you necessarily should. You need to make sure your score is increasing between official test dates. Some programs will require you submit all past GRE scores, and they will want to see progress. Take your time to create an efficient timeline that will enable you to submit a competitive GRE score.