Take the GRE in your junior year of high school or prior.

The GRE is one of several important parts of a graduate school application, along with your statement of purpose and research experience, letters of recommendation, and your GPA. In order to maximize your likelihood of being admitted to graduate programs, you should do your best on the test.  Many students wait until Fall of their Senior Year to take the GRE – and this is a mistake!  The concepts included in the General GRE are things you learned in high school or at least in your Freshman and Sophomore year. While it will definitely take some preparation to perform well on the test, there is no reason to wait for your Senior Year to take the GRE, but many reasons to take it sooner!

  • Your senior year will be busy enough, especially if you are applying for graduate school in the Fall.  This will limit the time that you have available to concentrate on preparing for the GRE and maximizing your score.
  • You can focus on your Subject GRE if your field requires you taking that test. The Subject tests are only offered 3 times a year – April, October, and November – so plan accordingly if you need to take a Subject test to meet department requirements.
  • Your scores last for 5 years.  Even if you are thinking about waiting to apply for graduate school, your scores will still be valid.
  • Reduce your stress levels. Taking the test your Junior Year will allow you to know what your GRE scores are as you prepare to apply for graduate schools.  And it gives you time if you have a bad day to take the test again BEFORE you start applying for graduate school.
  • If you qualify for undergraduate financial aid, apply for the GRE fee reduction voucher before taking the test. This same fee waiver can be used to waive graduate school application fees at many universities.

If you are concerned about your preparation, there are steps that you can take:

  1. Find out what scores you need to be competitive for the programs that interest you.
  2. Find out how you would score RIGHT NOW so you can design the proper preparation strategy for YOU. Take a couple of hours and complete a practice test from one of these sources:
    • Go to either Princeton Review or Kaplan for a free full-length diagnostic General GRE.
    • Download a paper GRE and follow the links to “Preparing for the General GRE.”
    • Stop by the Center for the Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test, 2nd Edition, and use one of the paper exams or one of the computer exams as your diagnostic exam.
    • Remember that all diagnostic and practice test scores are approximate and tentative estimates of how you would score on the actual exam.
  3.  Use these resources to prepare for the General GRE:
    • Educational Testing Service’s PowerPrep II software contains two practice computer GREs of verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections with sample essays. Save for use as test day approaches.
    • Both Kaplan and Princeton Review publish excellent books on preparation for the GRE. Get both books/CDROMs and you will have seven practice computer GRE’s; add Powerprep and you will have nine.
    • For more actual paper GRE items to practice on, there is the out of print GRE: Practicing to Take the General Test Big Book, that contains 27 previous paper exams, over 5,000 actual GRE test questions and answers. You’ll find that there are many copies of this book available, for $195 and up.
    • Free GRE practice materials are available at Number2.com and at Varsity Tutors.
    • If you need more math review, consider Princeton Review’s book Math Smart.
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