A good GMAT or GRE score is a fundamental element of a successful business school application. If you want to achieve the best score you can, and at the same time not miss the application deadlines set by your target school, you have to pick a date that works best for you.
Tips on scheduling your GRE or GMAT test dates
Some schools accept applications for their MBA programmes on a rolling basis, while others have very specific deadlines for submission. Some schools may have more than one programme start per year (and thus multiple deadlines), while others may have only one. With such variation among programmes, there will be multiple deadlines you must not miss. Make sure you check if the programme of your choice has a single deadline, admission rounds, or rolling admission.
If you are working on the strategy of taking the tests first and then selecting the schools where to apply, be advised that the test scores are valid for five years. However, selecting the best suited programmes for your goals and potential doesn’t happen overnight, so plan for about six months to do that in a worthwhile way.
Once you do that, pick a GRE or GMAT date to ensure your scores are reported prior to application deadlines (more on score reporting below). Find out when the programme you are interested in requires your application and your test score and plan backwards to schedule your exam. Don’t forget that you may need to take the exam more than once, so allow for that possibility.
Another important thing to bear in mind - estimate the time you will need to prepare for the exam. Different people have different learning styles. You know yourself and are the best judge of how much time you need. It may take between four and 18 months of preparation and several tests before you achieve your best competitive score.
One other aspect to consider is the exact day you would like to sit the exam and the specific situation at your chosen testing centre. For example, some centres have their Saturday seats booked rather quickly, so if you want to sit your test on a Saturday, reserve this date as soon as possible.
Check out: 2018 MBA Application Deadlines
Important facts about the GMAT/GRE score reporting
To be able to book your GRE or GMAT test dates, you should be aware of how long it takes for the scores to be sent and how many times you can take the exams. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
How often can I take the exams?
You can take the computer-delivered GRE General Test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days). This applies even if you cancelled your scores on a test taken previously. You may take the paper-delivered GRE General Test as often as it is offered.
You may retake the GMAT exam once every 16 calendar days, but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times in total. This lifetime limit was introduced in December 2016. In the scheduling tool, if you enter a date fewer than 16 days from your last appointment date, you will receive an error message asking you to choose another date.
When and how are score reports sent?
For computer-delivered tests, scores' reports are sent to your chosen schools about 10–15 days after your test date. If your designated school has an automatic feed with ETS, they will see your GRE scores at the same time that you do. However, there are some schools that can only receive GRE scores by mail, which means it may take longer for them to reach their destination. You can send scores to as many as four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors at no additional cost. You will be asked to designate your score recipients at the test centre or you can choose not to report your scores at that time.
With the ScoreSelect option, you can decide which test scores to send to the institutions you designate. You can also send score reports to institutions after test day for a fee.
For the paper-delivered GRE General Test, you will be asked to designate your score recipients during registration or you can choose not to report your scores at that time.
The official score report will be sent within 20 calendar days following completion of the test. This service is covered by the registration fee. Once you have made your selections, you will not be able to change or delete them.
Check out: 6 GMAT Mistakes That Most Candidates Make
Once scores have become reportable (within 20 calendar days after testing), programmes that opt to accept results electronically will receive score reports immediately. Score report delivery time frames for programmes that opt to accept results by standard mail vary. It may take up to eight weeks for your scores to reach some non-US programmes. Each programme decides how to accept the score reports, electronically or via paper copy.
On test day, before you start with the GMAT, you may select up to five GMAT schools to receive your official score report. If you do not select any score recipients on the day of your exam, or if you would like to send your scores to more than the five programmes you selected on your test day, you may order additional score reports to be sent to schools for a fee.
When can I cancel my score?
After completing the computer-delivered GRE, you will be given the opportunity to report or cancel your scores. If you choose to report your scores, you will see your unofficial scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections at the test centre. You will not be able to view your Analytical Writing score at the testing centre because the review of this section is not done automatically.
ETS, the owner of the GRE test, advises test takers to consider very carefully before cancelling scores because with ScoreSelect they can report only their best scores. If a score is cancelled, nobody will ever see it and it will not be part of the student's reportable history.
Immediately after taking the test, students have the option to report or cancel their scores. They will see their unofficial scores — Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal, and Total — and will be given two minutes to decide whether to accept them. If they do not make a choice, their scores will be cancelled. Scores can be cancelled at the test centre immediately at no charge, or within 72 hours of completion of the exam for USD 25.
As you see, you must pay attention to many factors in order to choose the right GRE or GMAT test date. Make sure you put some effort into the selection because picking the right date is an essential step to achieving a good score and therefore an important part of your application.
Visit PrepAdviser.com on 5 January when you will receive advice on how to choose TOEFL and IELTS test dates.