GRE test dates are not as important as the final application deadline for your preferred graduate program, which should be the anchor around which you build your grad school application timeline. Everything you prepare for how to get into grad school (graduate school resume, grad school statement of purpose, etc.) should revolve around the application deadline, since the GRE is either not required or optional. There are some graduate programs that still require it and if you haven’t already taken it, you do need to factor in prep time for the GRE, and even think about enrolling in a GRE test prep course, if you need extra help to prepare. This article will explain more about GRE test dates, when you should take the test, if you should take the test and the best ways to prepare your grad school application.

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Article Contents
12 min read

GRE Test Dates: When Can You Take the GRE? Do You Need to Take the GRE? GRE Test Dates: Graduate School Deadlines GRE Test Dates: Releasing Your GRE Scores and Retakes GRE Test Dates: How Long to Prepare for the GRE? GRE Test Dates: When Should You Take the GRE? GRE Test Dates: What to Do in the Week Before Test Day FAQs

GRE Test Dates: When Can You Take the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is offered throughout the year, but YOU are ultimately responsible for choosing when you take the test. You should base your choice on many factors, including:

  • The application deadline for your particular program
  • How well you did on your diagnostic test
  • How familiar you are with the individual sections
  • Your schedule and other responsibilities and commitments

Want to learn some top tips for your graduate school interview? Watch this video:

You can take the test once every 21 days and no more than 5 times in a rolling 12-month period. The format and location of the test is also your choice, as you can choose to take either the General GRE or a Subject GRE, which we’ll explain more about later. You can also choose to take the online or at a specific testing center. So, you have a lot of options for when you can take the GRE, but there are other things to consider in the lead-up to sending your application, one of the most important being whether you need to take the GRE.

Do You Need to Take the GRE?

The GRE has become more an option more than a requirement for graduate programs in the US and Canada for many reasons. You can now get into the best graduate programs in any field or subject, and for any degree-level (Masters or PhD) without the test and that has proven advantageous to people for whom the GRE was an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure (women and racialized students, according to most studies), especially since now, many argue that it does not prepare you for grad school and is a poor predictor of your success.

Taking all this into account should affect when, and if, you take the GRE. Choosing a program that has no GRE requirement will free up time and resources for you to focus on other aspects of your application, such as writing an excellent research proposal or a compelling personal statement. But since this article is about GRE test dates, we’ll assume that you do have to submit GRE scores and give you a rough idea of when to take the test to make sure you have enough time to meet your grad school’s deadlines.

GRE Test Dates: Graduate School Deadlines

Most graduate schools, have two terms for when to apply: fall (September) and winter (December or January). They may also have a summer term depending on the school, but you usually apply for the term you want to begin your studies. Again, depending on the program, you may have more than one deadline to remember, since schools and programs will have different deadlines, such as:

  • Early admission deadlines
  • Admission deadlines to be considered for scholarships or other financial assistance
  • Dual-degree programs often have different deadlines than single degree ones

Complicating things even more is that some schools may give individual departments and faculties the authority to set their deadlines, so you have to be aware of various dates and make sure you have enough time to prepare you materials, as well as prepare for the GRE. But one more difficulty is based on what type of student you are. Some programs will have separate deadlines for domestic students and international applicants.

While medical schools and other professional schools also have specific deadlines for when you can admit standardized test scores, separate from the final deadline, most grad schools do not have this requirement. You can submit your scores whenever they are available and as long as you submit them before the official deadline, but you should confirm to be sure. However, all this presupposes that you’ve already made a decision on where to apply, but that may not be the case. Figuring out where you want to go to grad school is not easy. It may take time for you to settle on at least four or six different programs that interest you, and it’s only when you have made the decision and have their individual application deadlines that you can start to plan for when to take the GRE.

The next thing you need to consider is whether you’ll need to give yourself time for a retake, should you not get the score you want the first time around.

GRE Test Dates: Releasing Your GRE Scores and Retakes

Remember you can take the GRE at any time of the year, so unlike MCAT test dates, which is also given all year-round but can fill up quickly, you won’t have as much competition to get a GRE test date, which is one benefit of the test becoming less and less used.

But you also have to consider your scores, and whether you will get the score you want after only one test. You’ll have scores for each of the three GRE sections, along with being placed into a percentile based on your performance. Depending on your school, they may ask for:

  • All three individual scores
  • Your combined scores
  • Your percentile scores

If you’re not happy with your score, or, worse, you haven’t met the threshold stated by the program, you’ll have to retake the test. But it’s not simply a matter of taking the test again; you have to redouble your studies to ensure you’ll get at least a satisfactory score, and that can also take up time and resources. The point being that you have to give yourself a cushion of time – anywhere from two to three weeks or two months – to study for the test, again, and retake it.

GRE Test Dates: How Long to Prepare for the GRE?

You have your list of programs. You know the individual deadlines for each of them. Now you have to decide how long you need to prepare for the GRE. The best way to figure this out is by taking a GRE diagnostic test, which you can time, if you're comfortable with it. Once you take a practice test, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to concentrate on, or whether you really need months of preparation to take the test.

How Long Do I Need to Prepare for the GRE?

If you find that you are comfortable with the test, its format and questions, you may only need to spend a few weeks preparing. If you struggled during your diagnostic test, you may need more time. Some have made comparisons between the GRE and the SAT or ACT, the two college admissions tests, for their format, subject matter and length. The comparison is also made because all three tests (GRE, SAT, ACT) test your knowledge of different subjects. This intent is much different than other entrance tests.

For example, the MCAT is comprehensive and aimed at finding out how much you know about many subjects (chemistry, physics, biology, psychology), while the LSAT is an analytical exam directed at testing your thinking, problem-solving, creativity and reasoning skills. These tests require months of preparation because of these unique formats and subject matter.

But the GRE has a familiar format and reviews subject matter you might already know. Throw in the fact that you will most likely know how to prepare, as it is similar to how you prepared for the SAT or ACT, and you might not have to pour months into preparing for the GRE. This is not to say that the SAT and ACT are the same as the GRE, because they are not. But compared to taking the MCAT, which is eight hours long, or the LSAT, where you have to learn new skills to take properly, preparing for the GRE may not be that hard for you, if you’ve done well in undergrad and are experienced on how to study for the GRE.

Here are some tips on how to study for the GRE:

Take a Diagnostic Test

Taking a diagnostic test is usually the first step for anyone preparing for a standardized test, and it applies to the GRE as well. Knowing how well you do on a practice test without any preparation, solely on your inherent knowledge, will show you where you are strongest, and where you might be the weakest. It will also give a starting point to improve your time, as well as your score, as you can compare all your subsequent practice tests with that first one. The test will also help you focus on where you need to focus, and get you used to the GRE test format itself.

Choose a Study Method that Works for You

How much time you need to prepare for the GRE depends on what kind of student and learner you are, and whether you work best with little to no pressure or a lot of pressure. The amount of time you need to prepare depends on how well you do on the practice test, but the way you study can also determine how long it takes. If you do not study well under pressure, you should spread out your preparation over as much time as possible, maybe a few months, and do a little every day, one or two hours. But if you like to feel pressure when you’re studying (some people do well under pressure) then doing as much as possible every day might be best for you (5-10 hours), meaning you can limit your prep time to only a month or even a few weeks.

Get Professional GRE Test Prep

Unfortunately, this option may not be open to everyone, but if you are able to afford professional GRE test prep, you should take advantage. The correlation between using professional test prep services and high test scores have been proven time and again for all major standardized tests, from the MCAT and LSAT to the SAT and ACT, so you should definitely look into getting experts and experienced tutors to help you. A professional graduate school admission consulting firm or a PhD application agency can give you personalized insights about how to take the test based on what kind of student you are, increasing your chances of getting a high score the first time around and preventing you from having to retake the test.

GRE Test Dates: When Should You Take the GRE?

As we mentioned, when you should take the GRE depends on:

  • The results of your diagnostic test
  • Whether you are comfortable with the subject matter
  • If you have enough time to retake the test
  • Your program’s deadline 
  • What term you want to start

We’ll lay out different scenarios that may or may not apply to, but hopefully at least one of them does, so you can have a clearer idea of when you should take the GRE factoring mostly the application deadline of your program and what term you want to start in. You should also remember to create your own GRE schedule based on your own diagnostic test results, and how comfortable you feel with the test. We’ll only give you suggested GRE test dates, but don’t take them as written in stone.

Applying to the Fall Term

Deadline: December 1st

Suggested GRE Test Date: July or August

Amount of Time to Prepare: 2 – 3 months

Difficulty with the Test: High

If this is your final deadline for your program it means you have the entire year to prepare your application. That may seem like a lot of time, but it goes by fast when you have so many things to prepare, including your GRE. Taking the GRE in the summer will give you time to take at least one test and one retake, along with preparation time for your second test. Again, this is mostly based on whether you find the test more difficult. If you take only one test, and are happy with your results, you can then start to focus on other aspects of your application, such as preparing for any potential graduate school interview.

Applying to the Winter Term

Deadline: September 1st

Suggested GRE Test Date: May – June

Amount of Time to Prepare for First Test: 2 – 3 months

Difficulty with the Test: High

If you need more time to prepare, and want to start classes in January, then taking the GRE in the spring is the best option. You can spend the winter previous and the beginning of the year to prepare other parts of your application, and leave the GRE to the end of the cycle during the spring, which still gives you plenty of time to prepare, and do a retake, if necessary. We are giving you a lot of time to prepare, and you can bring that timeline down if you score well on your diagnostic test, but remember to give yourself as much time as possible to prepare your application, but also for your other commitments and responsibilities, which is different for everyone.

Applying for the Fall Term

Deadline: December 1st

Suggested GRE Test Date: September or October

Amount of Time to Prepare: 1-2 months

Difficulty with the Test: Low

If there is little difference between your diagnostic test score and the score you want to get that means you don’t have to prepare as much for the GRE. You can certainly try to get your GRE score as high as possible, and not just to meet the standard, which ranges among programs. But in the case of the GRE, as long as other parts of your application are strong, such as your GPA, outstanding extracurriculars and letters of recommendation, meeting the minimum GRE score or being within a specific percentile could be enough. Taking the GRE only a few months before the deadline is not uncommon and you still have time to take another, but only with a few weeks to study, so you should consider that if you take this scenario applies to you.

Applying for the Winter Term

Deadline: September 1st

Suggested GRE Test Date: June or July

Amount of Time to Prepare: 1-2 months

Difficulty with the Test: Low

The same applies here as to the other schedule for the fall term, if you don’t find the GRE too difficult. You can leave the GRE as the last step to complete your application, while you use the rest of the time to take care of other elements, such as refining your personal statement, or visiting different programs and schools. You also won’t have to prepare as much but if you’re first GRE score is less than what you need, you will have to wait 21 days, to take it again, so you have to be aware of that rule. If you take the test in the beginning of June, get your test results in between 10-12 days later, you can spend all of July or only a few weeks to study, and then take the test again in August.

GRE Test Dates: What to Do in the Week Before Test Day

If you have your GRE test date set, and you’ve taken as much as time as you needed to prepare, you can do a few things before you first test to help ready you for the actual test day, which you may not have done during your studies.

Take More Practice Tests (Timed and Untimed)

The GRE is timed and you have only 30 minutes to answer each of the three sections, although future GRE tests are supposed to be shorter and only have two sections. The choice on whether to take timed or untimed tests is up to you, but you should do both so you can feel more comfortable with both formats, and they each teach you different skills. You don’t have to take more than one practice test, but you should do one so you keep your concentration, focus, and motivation high when going in for your actual GRE test.

Review Each Section

You should work on your time, but you should also pay attention to the specific areas to make sure you are familiar with them. If you have problems with memorizing vocabulary or are not that confident in your writing skills, you should keep a list of words and their meanings with you, so you can casually look up words while doing something else or have a bit of free time. If math is more an obstacle, you should keep equations on a flashcard for the same reason; to review them whenever you have a chance and try to internalize the information.

Take a Break

You want to be mentally prepared for the test and be in a state of total focus, but if preparing for the GRE, or graduate school applications, in general, has been especially stressful, give yourself some time before the test to do something enjoyable, such as spending time with friends and family, or pursuing a hobby you enjoy, a few days before the actual test. Releasing some tension before the test will make you feel more relaxed, and remove some of the pressure you may be feeling to do well. If you followed any of the above schedules or created your own, you know that you have a second chance to take the test, even though you should try your hardest to do well on the first.


1. Is the GRE worth it?

Whether the GRE is worth it for you depends on whether the program you are interested in requires it or not. If you’re more focused on the quality of the program, or school and they require the GRE, it will definitely be worth it for you. But if you more interested in getting into grad school, regardless of the program or school, then you should choose among the easiest PhD programs to get into so you can get started on your degree right away. 

2. When should I take the GRE?

When you take the GRE should be based on when you have to submit your grad school application, but taking your first GRE at least four months before your deadline should be enough to observe the 21-day rule, study for the test, and take it again. 

3. When is the best GRE test date?

The best GRE test date is the one that gives you enough time to take the test, review your scores, and take another one, if you need it. The best GRE test date also depends on how much you need to prepare for the test.  

4. Is the GRE test hard?

How hard is the GRE? The GRE test is hard compared to the SAT or ACT, but when compared to much more specialized tests such as the MCAT or LSAT, it is not that difficult. 

5. Should I take the GRE?

This article assumed you had to write the GRE as part of your grad school application, and a lot of programs still require it. But many have done away with the GRE requirement and you have to decide for yourself if you want to take the test or not. 

6. How should I prepare for the GRE?

You should first take a diagnostic exam, and then make a study schedule based off that. If your score is low, you should give yourself more time, but if it’s average, you can give yourself less, etc. But you should also use free and paid resources, consult a GRE specialist or tutor, and join study groups with friends and colleagues, if you enjoy studying in groups. If you study better alone, study alone. 

7. Which graduate programs require the GRE and which do not?

There is no rhyme or reason to explain which graduate programs are still accepting or requiring the GRE, but it is more common for interdisciplinary programs where you will have to draw from your knowledge from different fields. Disciplines that combine data analysis, making calculations, and scientific research methods with excellent communication skills and the ability to form arguments (i.e. political science, sociology, economics, etc.) are usually the fields that require the GRE, since the test also combines these various elements. You can also find graduate programs that don't require the GRE but accept scores if you choose to submit them,

8. Is the GRE harder or the same to the LSAT or GMAT?

Should you take the GRE instead of the GMAT or LSAT is only a question that has popped up recently, as many law schools and other professional schools have started to accept the GRE in lieu of the much-harder LSAT or GMAT. But the GRE is not the same as the LSAT or the GMAT, and it is much easier to prepare for and take than the LSAT or GMAT. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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