Many students every year face the dilemma whether they should retake the GRE or not. There is no standardized answer to this question. But one must consider different factors to decide if retaking is in their interest or not.
First of all, one must understand the admission process. Independent of what school or what program you are applying, your application is evaluated considering many of your qualifications. GRE is only one of them. Not necessarily, the most important by any means. A typical admission committee consists of three or four professors, who independently evaluate all the applications. A complete application consists of GPA, reputation of a student’s university, letters of recommendation, research or extracurricular activities, leadership skills, work experience, essays, and test scores – i.e. GRE and/or subject GREs. Lesser than desired GRE score can be compensated by strengths in other application materials. A less than expected GRE score with lack of research experience, or for that matter any other weakness compounded with not-so-good GRE score adversely affects an applicant’s chances of admission.
Bottom Line: You should retake GRE, if a better score can improve your chances of admission.
What is considered “a better score”? This depends on what is considered a solid score for the field you are applying. You must also realistically evaluate your chances of beating your previous score. If it is possible to drastically improve your score, it’s worth retaking GRE. For example, if you are a physical science aspirant and your math score is 160/170. It is no brainer. You must retake the GRE, because you have a very good chance of improving your score to 170/170. However, this choice becomes difficult if your first attempt math score is 167 or 168. Obtaining guidance can definitely help your situation. Therefore, you must explore all available resources.
Talk to your Professors!
You have received your GRE scores. Now you are wondering whether you will get into a specific program or not. Your best resources are your professors. For example, if you are a PhD aspirant in physics, nobody can help you better than a physics professor. The physics professor will be able to evaluate your application before you apply. You must present your situation to your professors, and communicate your concerns. You will obtain useful guidelines and help. If your professors strictly advise against retaking, then you are set. No need to retake the test.
Remember! Your home institution professors do actively recruit students all the time. They have practice in reading and evaluating many applications, and selecting the best ones for admission.
What is an acceptable score for the program you are applying?
Again, you should consult your professors. But it is equally important to consult your prospective institutions. Write to them. Politely ask if they have a minimum cut-off for GRE scores.
Other methods for finding an answer: looking on the web and talking to your colleagues.
Don’t forget to study the ETS website, as it is the ultimate authority in providing authentic information about GRE.
Question of money
Retaking will cost money. It is your prerogative to decide, whether you should spend the money again or not. If graduate school is a priority for you, then you should plan on budgeting the money required for tests. GRE cost is not only an expense, but is an investment in education.
Similar entry: Preparing for GRE.