Once you’ve taken the GRE, you probably don’t ever want to take it again. But unfortunately, GRE scores don’t last forever. So how long are GRE scores good for? What does it mean for scores to expire, and why do they? Get all the answers here.
How Long Are GRE Scores Valid?
The short answer is: about five years. The long answer depends on when you took the test.
Before July 2012
Scores from tests before July 2012 have all expired. Sorry, they are gone forever! You can’t get them back.
July 2012-June 30 2016
If you took the test in this time period, your scores are valid five years from the end of the testing year when you took the test. GRE testing years begin on July 1. This means that a test taken on May 15, 2015, remains valid until June 30, 2020.
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July 1, 2016 and Onward
If you did take or will take the test after July 1, 2016, the GRE score validity period is 5 years after the day your test was administered. For instance, a July 6, 2017 score is valid until July 5, 2022.
What Happens When Your GRE Scores Expire?
When your scores expire, ETS deletes them and you can never get them back. This is not an exaggeration. You won’t be able to access them from your GRE account anymore, and you won’t be able to send them to schools.
What if your scores are on the cusp of expiration and you send the scores to a school right before they are gone forever? Well, once a school has the scores, they have them, and they won’t go away. However, schools may have their own individual guidelines about how recent of scores they want (for example, some actually want scores within 2-3 years). So be sure to double-check on that before you send your older scores and assume you’re in the clear.
Why Do GRE Scores Expire?
There are a couple reasons GRE scores expire. The stated reason is because your knowledge turns over a lot in five years. The competency you had in GRE skills in 2010 isn’t going to be the same level you had in 2015.
This can go both ways. If you take the GRE, do awesome on both sections, and then spend the next five years without even looking at a number, you’d need to do a lot of work to get back up your Quantitative skills. (Although the truth is that if you aren’t using the skills at all, you’ll lose your GRE edge much more quickly than five years.) It’s also possible that you’ve gained new skills in five years that would make you do much better on the GRE if you retook it. If you didn’t do much writing in college when you first took the GRE, but now you work in communications, you would probably have a much easier time with Verbal today than when you first took the test.
But whether your skills have faded or been honed, ETS is right that your skills from five years ago probably aren’t representative of your skills today.
There are a couple of other probable reasons why ETS makes GRE scores expire. One reason is because having scores expire eventually makes it simpler when they decide to revise the test. For example, the test was revised in 2011. Until the scores from the pre-2011 GRE expired, the current test was called “the Revised GRE General Test” to differentiate it from the pre-2011 scores. Once all of those scores expired earlier in 2016, they went back to just calling the test the “GRE General Test” because all released scores were in that format and there was nothing they needed to differentiate the current test from.
Another probable reason that GRE scores expire in five years is because it provides a small bump in demand for GRE tests. This is good for ETS. Most people will probably only need to take the GRE once. But if you find yourself changing career tracks, or returning for another graduate degree later, you may need to take it again if five years have passed since the last time you took the GRE. By making it so that you have to take the test every five years to have current scores, ETS gives themselves a (small) boost in test demand.
How to Plan Around the GRE Score Validity Rules
The truth is that you will probably be taking your GRE the same year you apply to graduate schools programs, or one year earlier at the most. The main situation where planning may be necessary is if you are planning on doing multiple degrees that each require the GRE. In this case, you’ll want to be cognizant of whether or not your scores will expire by the time you apply for the second program. However, this is a rare situation; many programs don’t require the GRE if you already have an advanced degree.
Another situation where you may want to plan ahead is if you are a current undergraduate student who wants to go to graduate school, but you aren’t sure exactly when. You might want to take the GRE while all of your college knowledge is fresh in your mind and you have a more flexible class schedule that makes finding prep time easier. This makes sense. However, you do need to keep in mind that if you don’t apply for graduate school within the next five years after taking the test, you’ll have to retake it.
In this case, the month you’re taking the test actually matters quite a lot. If I took the GRE in April 2016, my score would be valid through the fall application 2020 application cycle. It would expire before the 2021 application cycle began. On the other hand, if I took it in October or November 2016, I could send my scores for the fall 2021 application cycle before they expired.
Key Takeaways: How Long Are GRE Scores Good For?
How long are GRE scores valid? Here’s the breakdown:
- Scores from before August 2011 have all expired.
- August 2011-June 30, 2016 scores are valid through the 5th testing year from when you took the test, which for the GRE ends on June 30.
- Starting July 1, 2016, scores are valid for 5 calendar years from when you took the test.
When your scores expire, they are deleted from the ETS database. They can never be accessed or sent to schools again.
Most people will take the GRE the same year they apply to school. But if you plan on doing multiple programs that require the GRE, you may eventually have to retake the test if your scores expire. However, this is a rare situation. You also need to plan in advance if you are going to take the GRE as an undergrad and you aren’t sure exactly when you’re going to graduate school.
See our comprehensive guide to graduate school for more information on Masters’ and PhD programs.
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