When thinking about when to take the GRE , you first need to think about when you intend to go to graduate school.

There are three distinct periods to consider when going to graduate school:

GRE exampl building blocks
  1. immediately after graduating from college
  2. within 5 years of graduating from college
  3. more than 5 years after graduating from college

GRE scores are valid for 5 years, so if you’re not planning to apply within that time, you’ll want to wait to take the GRE until you are closer to attending graduate school.

If you are planning to go to graduate school within 5 years of graduating from college, you have three options for when you could take the GRE:

  1. while still in college
  2. shortly after graduating from college
  3. a few months before you plan to apply to graduate school

Here are some considerations for each of these time frames.

When to Take the GRE While Still in College

If you are planning to go straight to graduate school after you graduate college, you’ll need to prepare and take the GRE before you graduate. Other advantages include:

1. You may still be in “study mode.”

Many GRE test-takers find it easier to prepare for the GRE while they are still used to studying, doing homework, and taking tests.

2. You may remember more of the math that is tested

The math in the Quantitative section of the GRE is mostly high school math. The more recently you’ve used that math, whether in high school or in a college course, the more likely you are to remember it.

3. You’ll have increased flexibility.

By knowing your GRE scores and options while still an undergraduate, you can start preparing for graduate or business school even if you aren’t yet fully committed to doing so as part of your career path.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to consider.

1. You need to find time to prepare.

Most test-takers find that they need to study vocabulary, review math formulas, do drill problems, and take practice tests to get their best score on the GRE. You’ll need to balance that work with the work for your courses.

2. You may feel less motivated.

If you aren’t sure that graduate school is in your future, the lack of a goal might affect your motivation to take the GRE.

When to Take the GRE Shortly After College

Many GRE test-takers choose to take the GRE shortly after they graduate, either before they take a job or a few months after doing so.

Some of the same advantages and disadvantages apply to taking the GRE shortly after college.

  • Advantages include still being mostly in “study mode” and being less removed from the math in the Quantitative section.
  • Disadvantages include still needing to find time to prepare.

Finding time to prepare can be particularly challenging if you’ve just started a new job, as trying to prepare after work or only on weekends can be difficult. You may find that late night study sessions have lost their appeal!

When to Take the GRE Closer to Application Deadlines

If you decide to go graduate school more than 5 years after graduation—or if you didn’t take the GRE while in college or shortly after graduation—you'll need to take the GRE closer to your application deadlines.

  • Plan to set aside additional time to get back into “study mode.” You may need to shake the rust off your math and/or test-taking skills with some extra practice.
  • The further you get from graduation, the more likely you are to have other obligations—work, family, and life in general—that make it harder to carve out the time to prepare for the GRE.
  • Don’t give up or be deterred. Many people successfully take the GRE and go to graduate school after their college days are well behind them.

It’s best to start preparing for the GRE six to eight months before your first application deadline. This gives you enough time to prepare and to take the GRE a second time if you deem that necessary.

So, When Should I Take the GRE?

There’s no best answer to that question!

However, if you weigh the pros and cons discussed above, you can find the answer that works best for you!