This is a common question with a complicated answer: your score is important, but it’s also not important. That’s because your GRE score is only one factor of your application. If you score in the 97th percentile in Verbal Reasoning, but write an incoherent personal statement, your application is unlikely to be considered. And if the rest of your application is truly stellar but your GRE scores are only mediocre, you still have a really good shot at being accepted into a Master’s or PhD program.
This is all to say that the GRE shouldn’t be overlooked as you work on your applications. But how much time and effort (and money) should you invest?
Your chances of being accepted into a top program and of being given scholarships, teaching assistantships, or other awards are much higher with a higher score. Therefore, it’s important to consider your goals for graduate school as you develop a study plan for the GRE. Are you pursuing a Master’s or PhD solely to acquire new knowledge? If so, perhaps attending a top school is less crucial. But if you are also hoping for networking and career opportunities, a great score could be the key to achieving those goals. It’s a good idea to do your research first. Find out the average GRE scores of the programs you’re applying to. Read up on if the schools look at highest scores or focus on the first test you took. Learn if your target schools use GRE scores to choose teaching assistants. Once you have your own goals set and have a good understanding of the practices of each school when it comes to the GRE, you can focus your study plan to your particular goals. Let’s get you where you want to go!