Retaking the GRE to Raise Your Score: Top 5 Tips

If you’re not completely satisfied with your GRE score—verbal or quantitative—you might consider taking the GRE again after some additional practice.

While GRE practice is usually recommended, people often wonder if retaking the GRE after receiving a less-than-stellar score is really the best idea. While every applicant is unique and every grad school program has its own particular guidelines and preferences, there are a number of general factors to consider before deciding to test again and shoot for a higher GRE score.


  • Taking the GRE multiple times will not harm your chances of admission.

    Last year, the ETS (Educational Testing Service—the makers of the GRE) introduced a new feature for test-takers applying to grad school called ScoreSelect.

    The introduction of this option allows you to decide which test scores you’d like to send to schools. In other words, if you take the test three times, you can choose which of those three test scores you’d like to send to the individual program or programs of your choice.

  • It is only advisable to retake the GRE if you are confident you will score higher.

    For most students, the process of taking the GRE—including GRE practice, enrollment, and completion—costs money ($205), takes energy (all those hours studying), and can spell s-t-r-e-s-s (at least on Test Day). Why put yourself through the ringer if you’re not entirely sure that you’re going to beat your last GRE score?

    While many students simply hope that taking the GRE a second or third time will lead to a score increase, don’t leave your performance to chance. Instead, prepare for the test thoroughly and take a number of practice tests to gauge your ability. You should expect your GRE score to roughly match your practice test scores.

  • Is your current score good enough to get you into the program of your choice?

    If so, you might want to forego retaking the test. Let’s say you’re looking to get into a program that requires a minimum GRE score of 150 in both the verbal and quantitative sections. If your current scores are in the mid-150s, consider what benefit there would be in retaking the test. Many programs with minimum GRE scores will ultimately look to other factors, like research interests and work experience, to determine admission.

  • Consider scholarships!

    If the programs you are interested in offer scholarships to students with high GRE scores, then it may be worthwhile to retake the test. Otherwise, a score that is even a little bit above a school’s requirement is probably sufficient. Use the time you would have spent preparing for the test to do other things, like working on research projects or crafting a really fantastic personal statement.

  • If you choose to retake the GRE multiple times, be sure to take both sections seriously every time.

    While the new ScoreSelect option offered by ETS is a great way to send only your best test scores to schools, be aware that you cannot send only the GRE verbal score or the GRE quantitative score for a particular test.

    For example, let’s say you take the test for the first time and discover that, while your quantitative score is outstanding, your verbal score is lackluster. If you decide to take it again, it would be extremely unwise to disregard the quantitative section altogether and focus only on the verbal, thereby risking an opposite outcome. Schools will see the entire GRE score for a single test date, so it’s not a good idea to sacrifice one section to the other.

These are just a few general factors to keep in mind as you decide whether or not to retake the GRE. However, remember that every applicant, school, and program is unique. As always, thoroughly research the programs you’re interested in attending.