If you are unsure about whether or not to retest, here are four signs to look for:
1. Your actual score is lower than your practice test scores
Depending on how long and how often you studied for the GRE, you may have completed full-length practice tests as part of your write essay online prep. While these exams are not identical to the GRE on your test date, the concepts are the same - which means they are an excellent indicator of your potential. If your actual score is much lower than your practice test results, consider retaking the exam.
2. Your score is not competitive with those of accepted applicants
Certain graduate schools publish the range of GRE scores that they generally accept. While your GRE score is only one piece of your application, very low numbers can negatively distinguish you from a crowd of applicants. If you can, determine the lowest possible score that you can earn, and then aim to surpass it. Remember - if your application is very similar to another person's, except that his or her GRE score is higher, your application will likely be the one that is overlooked.
3. You ran out of time
Many GRE test-takers run out of time before they complete the exam. The GRE accounts for this reality, and allows you to earn a near-perfect score even if you omit a question or two. However, if you find that you must skip problems or blindly guess several answers in each section, think about retaking the test. Before you do, experiment with time management strategies and become even more familiar with the types of questions you will face. Similarly, if you run out of time on the Analytical Writing portion of the GRE, commit to further practice - for example, familiarize yourself with the structure of the issue and argument tasks.
4. You did poorly on the initial test sections
The computer-delivered GRE is an adaptive exam, which means that how well you do on the first Quantitative and Verbal sections determines the difficulty of the second sections. If you answer most questions correctly, you will receive harder questions later in the GRE - and vice versa. A poor performance on the first section can also limit your score, so if you find yourself struggling early in the exam, you may want to register for a second GRE test.
A successful graduate school application is strong in all of its components. If you are unhappy with the results of your first GRE exam (and you would like to be more competitive with other applicants), do not hesitate to return to your prep routine and to retake the test. You can take the computer-delivered GRE once every 21 days and up to five times within a 12-month period. Good luck!