The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test used for admissions into graduate schools, especially in the United States and Canada. A good GRE score is often a make-or-break factor for applicants hoping to get into competitive programs.
But how long do GRE scores remain valid? Can old scores still be used even after years have passed since the test date?
This comprehensive guide will discuss all key aspects related to GRE score validity periods, from how long scores are reportable to what happens when they expire.
Whether you’re prepping for the GRE currently or planning to take it in the future, it’s crucial to understand the lifespan of your scores. Read on for insights into maximizing the validity of your GRE scores.
What is the GRE and Why Does it Matter for Graduate School?
The GRE is owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It aims to measure applicants’ verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills.
The exam is used by thousands of graduate and business schools to assess candidates’ eligibility and potential for their programs. Strong GRE scores are usually required to get into top universities for master’s or doctoral degrees.
There are two main variants of the test:
- GRE General Test: Measures quantitative, verbal and analytical writing skills. Used by most graduate programs.
- GRE Subject Tests: Focused on specific undergraduate major fields. Less commonly required.
In addition to admissions, good GRE scores may make candidates eligible for grants, scholarships and other financial aid from universities. Hitting the minimum score thresholds is crucial.
But how long do GRE scores stay valid? Graduate school applications often span many months from test date to final admission. Applicants need to understand the longevity of their scores.
GRE Score Validity Period
The validity period or “shelf life” of official GRE scores is 5 years from your test date.
For example, if you take the GRE on November 15, 2022, your scores will remain valid until November 14, 2027.
During this 5-year window, candidates can submit their official score reports to as many graduate programs as they want. Schools will accept the scores for consideration if they are within the validity period.
Once the 5-year limit is crossed, GRE scores expire and can no longer be used for any official purpose. They will be removed from your ETS account as well.
Key Notes About GRE Score Validity
- The 5-year countdown begins on your actual test administration date. The registration date or score reporting date have no bearing on validity.
- For the paper-delivered GRE, scores are valid 5 years from the date you took the exam. For the computer-delivered GRE, they remain valid 5 years from the test date assigned during registration.
- Some schools may have more restrictive policies, only accepting scores that are 3 or 4 years old rather than 5. Check with your desired programs.
- ETS does not extend score validity periods under any circumstances. The 5-year limit is fixed.
Understanding this validity period timeline is crucial for deciding when to take the GRE and properly planning your graduate applications.
Why Do GRE Scores Expire After 5 Years?
ETS limits GRE score validity periods to 5 years for some key reasons:
Test Takers’ Skills Change Over Time
The knowledge and skills students gain in undergraduate education will evolve as they move away from college.
Someone who took the GRE right after graduating may perform very differently if they retake it after a gap of 5 years. Their verbal reasoning, math skills and writing abilities are likely to diminish without continuous practice.
To ensure scores accurately represent current potential, ETS invalidates GRE results after 5 years.
GRE Exam Format and Content is Periodically Updated
ETS regularly reviews and updates the GRE to align with evolving educational standards. Exam pattern, duration and even scoring methodology may change.
If someone gave an older version of the test, their scores would not accurately reflect their skills on the current test specs. Hence scores are voided after 5 years to account for test changes.
Schools Want Current Assessment of Applicants
Graduate programs want to evaluate candidates based on their recent knowledge and credentials.
GRE scores more than 5 years old do not provide an accurate representation of the applicant’s present abilities and qualifications.
Admitting students using outdated scores risks compromising the program’s quality and reputation. Schools prefer scores within the 5-year validity window.
By limiting GRE score validity, ETS ensures a fair and updated assessment of applicants over time.
What Happens When GRE Scores Expire?
When your GRE scores pass the 5-year validity period, some important changes take place:
- ETS removes the expired scores from your account permanently.
- The scores can no longer be accessed even if you previously saved a copy. They are void.
- Programs do not accept or consider expired GRE scores for admission.
- Test takers cannot reuse scores for any official purpose like applications, resumes, etc.
Essentially, the scores cease to exist as far as ETS, universities and the test taker are concerned. You cannot rely on old scores after they expire.
Can Expired Scores be Reinstated or Extended?
Unfortunately, there is no way to reinstate GRE scores after they expire or extend their validity period.
- ETS will not make exceptions to the 5-year score validity policy.
- Universities will not accept expired scores even if the test taker requests.
Once GRE results expire, the only option is to retake the entire test if you need valid scores. Let’s look at how to do this.
Retaking the GRE After Score Expiry
If your existing GRE scores have expired, you’ll need to retake the exam to obtain valid new scores. Fortunately, ETS imposes no restrictions on retaking the test after expiry.
- Test takers can retake the GRE as many times as needed, even if scores are still valid.
- There are no additional requirements or conditions to retake after expiry.
However, reattempting the GRE after years means you may be out of practice. Here are some tips to prepare effectively:
Refresh Knowledge of GRE Exam Pattern and Content
If you originally took the GRE years back, revitalize your knowledge of the updated test format, sections, time limits and scoring scheme.
- Practice responding to the Analytical Writing tasks.
- Work on your math skills for the Quantitative Reasoning section.
- Build vocabulary and verbal reasoning strategies for the Verbal section.
Take Practice Tests to Diagnose Weak Areas
Take practice exams in timed settings to diagnose areas of weakness. This will guide your study plan.
- Gauge skills in all three sections – writing, quant and verbal.
- Hone speed and accuracy in solving questions within time limits.
Focus on Time Management During Preparation
Many test takers struggle with GRE time limits, especially if out of practice. Rigorously build time management skills.
- Attempt mock tests within exact time limits
- Improve your pacing to finish sections on time
- Learn to budget time smartly per question
With extensive practice and strong time management, you can retake the GRE successfully even after your scores expire.
When Should You Take the GRE for Maximum Validity?
To maximize the longevity of your GRE scores, it is vital to plan the test date wisely. Consider these tips:
Align Test Date with Application Timelines
Find out application deadlines for your target schools and programs.
- Take the GRE early enough so scores can remain valid while applications are evaluated.
- But don’t take it too early either – within 1-2 years of application is ideal.
Allow Time for Retakes
Factor in the possibility of retaking the test to improve scores.
- Schedule your first attempt sufficiently in advance.
- This gives time for reattempts if required within score validity.
Understand ETS Policies on Attempts
You can take the computer-based GRE as often as every 21 days, up to 5 times within a year.
- Schedule attempts strategically to maximize your scores across retries.
- Allow `21 days between each test date.
Careful timing of your test attempts is key to get optimal valid scores for your applications.
What is the Latest News on GRE Updates?
ETS periodically reviews and updates the GRE exam to keep it relevant. Some important updates slated for late 2022 are:
Shorter Exam Duration
- The total test duration is being reduced from around 4 hours currently to about 2 hours only.
- This is to provide a more optimized and candidate-friendly experience.
Faster Score Reporting Timelines
- Candidates will get their official scores back within 10-15 days as opposed to 10-15 days currently.
- Quicker score reporting gives applicants more time to prepare applications.
These upcoming changes will impact all test takers. However, ETS has not announced any changes to the existing GRE score validity policy so far. You can expect your scores to
have a 5-year reportable timeframe going forward as well. Stay updated on the latest GRE developments as you craft your test prep strategy.
Conclusion: Key Takeaways on GRE Score Validity
Understanding GRE score validity periods is critical to maximizing your chances for graduate school admission. Here are the key takeaways:
- GRE scores stay valid for 5 years after your test date.
- ETS and universities will not accept expired scores older than 5 years.
- To reuse old scores, you must retake the GRE before they expire.
- Time your GRE attempts strategically to get valid scores for application deadlines.
- Recent updates are shortening the GRE exam duration and speeding up score reporting.
With proper planning and preparation, you can achieve strong GRE scores with optimal validity for your graduate admissions goals. Use the insights in this guide to make the most of your GRE journey.