How to Decide When to Take Your Grad School Exams

How to Decide When to Take Your Grad School Exams

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by David Recine

One of the most important grad school decisions seems like a small one: your test date for your grad school exams.

You ignore this decision at your peril. One poorly chosen test date, and all your other grad school decisions could mean nothing…. at least until several months later, when you’ll have to reapply.

If you choose the wrong test date, your test scores might not be available to your school until after the application deadline. Or you might not have enough time to get the score you need. Avoid deadline doom by asking yourself these 4 big questions:


Question 1: How Long Does it Take to Send Scores?

This is a very important consideration. Remember that most exams don’t arrive at your school until weeks after you take the test.

For example, the GMAT will take up to 20 days to send your scores to your target schools. For the GRE, it takes 10-15 days for your scores to be calculated, before they’re even sent. After that, your school may see the scores in just one or two weekdays, if they receive GRE scores electronically. However, if your school only receives GRE scores by mail, the admissions office may not see your score for days or even weeks. (Mailed scores take a lot longer to reach schools outside of the U.S.)

Timelines for sending scores are not negotiable, so make sure that your test date allows your school to receive your scores in time.


Question 2: What Are Your Application Timelines?

There may be different due dates for different parts of your grad school application. Often, your test scores will be due after you submit your initial application materials. Figuring out the exact due date for your test scores can help you make wise decisions about your test dates. Check your school’s admissions departments for exact timelines.


Question 3: Are You Giving Yourself Enough Time for a Retake?

If you’re a proud perfectionist, you may be offended by this question. Don’t be! I’m not suggesting you’re likely to fail the first time. But even the best of us will sometimes get a disappointing test score. And even a great test score can still be improved upon… if you have time for a retake, that is.

Ideally, you should book your first test date 2 or more months before your scores are due to schools. With luck, your first test will be your only test. But if it’s not, you’ll have at least a month to study for a re-do, with time left over to receive and send your newer scores.


Question 4: How Much Study Time do You Need?

Making the right amount of time for your grad school exams can be tough. The academic content will be challenging. You’ll need to study hard to get everything right. And you’ll need to balance your studies with other responsibilities, such as current schooling, work, and family.

If you’re honestly not sure how to make your study schedule, don’t feel bad. Many students don’t know where to start with their test prep planning. That’s why Magoosh has created study schedules for all the major grad school tests. Check out the plans in their online GMAT study guide. Then look at Magoosh’s tailored study plans for any grad school test you plan on taking! Modify them to suit your personal study needs, or just follow them as is for a structured approach to conquering your upcoming test.

You can read more of David Recine's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog.