Bombed the GRE? The Show Must Go On

Didn't do so great on the GRE? Don't let your score get you down! You don't have to give up on your dreams of grad school.

You wake up at three in the morning, the word "infinitesimal" pulling you from a deep sleep. Your very dreams are in the form of endless test questions containing byzantine math formulas that would confound even Einstein. Your mind, for lack of a better GRE vocabulary word, is mush.

Hopefully your post-GRE life is not quite this traumatic. Yet if you were rejected from all grad schools, then you may be losing sleep over what your next career move should be. Instead of being plagued by vocab words, you are most likely asking yourself, “Should I retake the GRE?

You may even be wondering if it's possible for you to get into grad school at all. The answer to this question differs for each person, but barring those with a 2.0 undergraduate GPA, grad school is still most likely in reach. Here are some important points to keep in mind now that the test is over and you didn’t do as well as you'd hoped.

Did it even matter?

Is the GRE even important? Was I just wasting my time? The GRE is only a small part of your application. Unlike, the GMAT and the LSAT, which both weigh a lot more in the consideration of an applicant, the GRE is often not as heavily weighed as relevant work/research experience. Throw in other important factors such as letters of recommendation, essays, and undergraduate GPA, and it becomes obvious that the GRE is but a single part of your overall application. It typically won’t make or break you, but a good score can, in some cases, definitely nudge you ahead of other applicants.

Do I really need to get into my dream school?

The answer depends on the person. In many cases, the surprising answer is maybe not. Though you may have slaved away all those hours just to get into one program, you should seriously consider the programs that did accept you.

At any rate, there is no guarantee that a drastic GRE score increase would have made the difference. If you really want to find out, look at the average GRE scores for your dream school. Were you within the 25-75% range? If so, then perhaps the GRE score wasn’t the deciding factor. That is, the school is not going to accept you just because you scored higher on the GRE than 90% of the other applicants.

What about an average GRE score?

Perhaps you didn’t exactly bomb the test. You scored around 150 on each section. You have a pretty decent score—definitely not a Harvard GRE score, but respectable enough. But you know you can do better. After all, you didn’t sleep well the night before and you weren’t used to the testing center (and you definitely didn’t anticipate the guy at the next computer vigorously blowing his nose every two minutes).

If the above describes you and you didn’t get into the program of your choice despite your otherwise solid application, you should definitely consider retaking the test. That average GRE score may be holding you back. And there is definitely no reason to loose sleep wishing you’d taken the test again.

What if I really was rejected from all grad schools?

If your GRE score was abysmally low and the rest of your application was decent, then your score most likely factored into the decisions of schools not to accept you. Significantly boosting your GRE score may be the only way to turn some of those rejections into acceptances. I say get your hands on the best GRE books and resources out there and give it another shot!

The takeaway

Taking the GRE again may be a wise decision, especially if the rest of your application is strong and your GRE score is lower than that of a majority of the students at the school you hope to attend. I know, the whole process just isn’t that fun, but it’s only the rest of your life we’re talking about, right?

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About Chris Lele

For the last 10 years, Chris has been helping students excel on the SAT, ACT, and GRE. In this time, he’s coached five students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.


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