By Laura Morrison, August 2014
Nobody likes being tested, but for those applying to graduate school it's often an unavoidable reality. The majority of graduate programs require candidates to take the Graduate Record Examination as part of their application package. Standardized tests can be intimidating, but if you keep a few things in mind, the GRE doesn't have to be a barrier standing between you and your dream.
It's not the be-all end-all of your application
Tests are scary. All the numbers and grades and percentages can stick out like a sore thumb, and those who typically don't test well may worry that this one element may tank their otherwise well-crafted application. Fortunately, while the GRE is a factor that admissions boards will take into account, in the grand scheme of things it's actually not all that important.
According to graduate blog TheGradStudent.com, colleges put more weight on subjective factors, such as your personal statement. These elements do a much better job of showcasing what kind of person you are overall than a standardized test ever could. Of course, that's not to say that you should blow off the GRE entirely. After all, you need it to get into a program. But a lower score certainly isn't a death sentence for your graduate career.
You don't need to be an expert
Yes, the GRE has a math component and a verbal skills section, but don't feel that you need to memorize a dictionary and brush up on your calculus before heading to the testing center. The truth is that the test is designed to determine your critical thinking ability more than your expertise in any one area. According to student prep blog Magoosh, the difficulty in the math portion comes not from deciphering intense trigonometrical equations but simply reading the question to determine what is actually being asked. Most of the time, the actual concepts being evaluated should be review from your middle school or early high school math courses.
You have more than one shot
Even if you don't do as well as you'd have liked, there's no need to be pessimistic about your chances of admission. The GRE can be retaken, and the good news is doing so won't harm your chances of admission one bit. In fact, the Educational Testing Service recently amended the test to be even more flexible for candidates. If you take the test multiple times, you can choose which scores you'd like to send to schools.
Of course, retaking the test does cost money and time, so you should carefully consider if you actually need to get a higher score to be competitive, or if your current results will do the job.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.