After much deliberation, you have decided that you want to go to graduate school. Now you have questions about timing, essays, letters of recommendation and standardized testing. Start your preparation by conquering the first major hurdle, the GRE.

The good news is that your scores are valid for five years. This means that you can prepare for the test and take it when you have time. Try not to bog yourself down by taking it when you have final exams or other critical admissions requirements to work on. It can be overwhelming to study for the GRE while tracking down letters of recommendation, exploring schools, writing essays and filling out applications.

With computer based testing, you can take the GRE whenever it is convenient for you. All you need to do is schedule a time at a local test administration site. But with this freedom comes some responsibility, as it will be easy to procrastinate and delay the test. Make sure you pick a date and fully commit to it. Keep in mind that scores can take up to 8 weeks to reach schools and your application will not be reviewed until the admissions office receives them.

A good time to take your first GRE is during winter or spring break of your junior year in college. By taking the test early and with little preparation you will get a sense of which areas you need to focus on. If you are happy with your scores, don’t worry about taking it again and move on to the next stages of the application process. However, the majority of students will schedule another test date during the summer. If you do, be sure to give yourself time to prepare by taking a GRE test prep class or studying on your own for a month or two.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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