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Should I retake the Psyc GRE?


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Hi Everyone,

So I took my psyc subject test in April and found out about the score this morning. It was pretty bad to be honest. I know the percentile is whats it matters, and 68% is still very bad. I also forgot to cancel my free score recipients before the test so some schools (sadly, some of my dream schools), would get this bad score. However, I see that I still have time to retake this test in Oct, but I don't know if I should, given the fact that those schools will receive this first score either way. 

I am planning to apply to clinical psychology programs, and I know the application review is holistic. But I am very worried that having this bad score could negatively impact my application, more so than not sending it entirely. I guess my questions is, for the schools I already sent the score to, should I retake the test to make up for the first test? 

I majored in psychology and statistics in undergrad. My psyc GPA is 3.9. I am working full time as a research assistant right now, with a thesis and some conference presentations listed on my resume. 

I would really like to get some opinions on this. Thank you guys so much in advance!

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If you think you can improve your score and study more for the test, and you can financially afford it, I would retake it. Rarely does retaking a standardized test and improving negatively impact your application packet. 

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What is considered a good percentile score on the Psych GRE? 

I do know that the test is not required for most applications, especially if you majored in psych in undergrad, so they may not even look at the score very seriously as a reflection of your ability in psych. 

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17 hours ago, Applicant4788 said:

What is considered a good percentile score on the Psych GRE? 

I do know that the test is not required for most applications, especially if you majored in psych in undergrad, so they may not even look at the score very seriously as a reflection of your ability in psych. 

Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case. While "good" general GRE scores are subject to individual opinion a lot of the time, subject GRE scores tend to not be because they are completely psych-based. Since you are applying to a psych-oriented graduate program, presumably with an undergraduate psych degree, low scores might cause some red flags to come up. Think about it this way, a lot of what was tested on the subject GRE was information that was taught in first-year psych courses - while there are MANY reasons why someone would score low on this test (test-day anxiety etc), supervisors will look past that and just think it's odd that you scored any lower than 90th percentile. I'm sure you could look it up and find the stats, but I believe most applicants naturally do score within that range given the material that's being tested. Supervisors and grad students have said to me that any score that's lower than that would be considered 'odd'. In the face of stellar grades, extremely comprehensive research experience and a few publications, this may not make that much of a dent. But that's really taking a chance. If I were in your place, and I had time, I would 100% take it again and try to aim within the 90th + region. 

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4 hours ago, ventiamericano said:

Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case. While "good" general GRE scores are subject to individual opinion a lot of the time, subject GRE scores tend to not be because they are completely psych-based. Since you are applying to a psych-oriented graduate program, presumably with an undergraduate psych degree, low scores might cause some red flags to come up. Think about it this way, a lot of what was tested on the subject GRE was information that was taught in first-year psych courses - while there are MANY reasons why someone would score low on this test (test-day anxiety etc), supervisors will look past that and just think it's odd that you scored any lower than 90th percentile. I'm sure you could look it up and find the stats, but I believe most applicants naturally do score within that range given the material that's being tested. Supervisors and grad students have said to me that any score that's lower than that would be considered 'odd'. In the face of stellar grades, extremely comprehensive research experience and a few publications, this may not make that much of a dent. But that's really taking a chance. If I were in your place, and I had time, I would 100% take it again and try to aim within the 90th + region. 

Ditto that 110% ^^ And given that your Psych GPA is so high but your Psych GRE scores are low....it would be a red flag. They might think it's grade inflation at your university and greater scrutinize your application.

I've been told you can honestly just find any Intro to Psych textbook, study hard for a week, and then take the Psych GRE and score within the 90th+ percentile. You want to hit ideally 95th or higher. Its doable--all my friends were able to reach this target no problem. I would just say study harder and now that you know how the test works, you may be less anxious during the test :) Good luck!

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Definitely retake if you can. I’m not sure how you studied last time, but I recommend learning how the test works and taking as many practice tests as you can find. Chances are you already know most of the material, but the test can require really specific response strategies to do well. 

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Just now, snapplebcho said:

Thank you for your advice. I think I will retake the test. I did study very hard for this test, but I also didn't sleep well the night before the test. In fact, I wasn't able to sleep at all, which might be caused by my test anxiety. I def need to work on that as well. Can you suggest some good ways to study for this test? I used the Kaplan prep book and read through my intro to psyc textbook. I also made sure I knew enough of every topic that is listed on the official guide. Although I have to admit that I was a bit rushing a week before the exam. I signed up for the test back in November, and I procrastinated studying for it till 2 weeks before the exam. To be honest, I think this test is completely based on memorization, so would studying in advance really help? 

Thank you for your advice. I think I will retake the test. I did study very hard for this test, but I also didn't sleep well the night before the test. In fact, I wasn't able to sleep at all, which might be caused by my test anxiety. I def need to work on that as well. Can you suggest some good ways to study for this test? I used the Kaplan prep book and read through my intro to psyc textbook. I also made sure I knew enough of every topic that is listed on the official guide. Although I have to admit that I was a bit rushing a week before the exam. I signed up for the test back in November, and I procrastinated studying for it till 2 weeks before the exam. To be honest, I think this test is completely based on memorization, so would studying in advance really help? 

 
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8 hours ago, PsycUndergrad said:

Definitely retake if you can. I’m not sure how you studied last time, but I recommend learning how the test works and taking as many practice tests as you can find. Chances are you already know most of the material, but the test can require really specific response strategies to do well. 

Can you maybe share some of your test prep tips? I I used the Kaplan prep book and read through my intro to psyc textbook. I wasn't able to find many studying material for this particular test, and everyone seems to have different opinions about which test prep book out there is the most comprehensive. If you could share your experience with me, I'd very much appreciate it!

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4 hours ago, snapplebcho said:

Can you maybe share some of your test prep tips? I I used the Kaplan prep book and read through my intro to psyc textbook. I wasn't able to find many studying material for this particular test, and everyone seems to have different opinions about which test prep book out there is the most comprehensive. If you could share your experience with me, I'd very much appreciate it!

I used the Princeton Review book and it helped me score in the high 90th percentile. It’s actually much shorter and probably less comprehensive than the Kaplan book, but I found it to include all the necessary information without going into excessive detail. A lot of the information from the book showed up on the test, especially the names of famous psychologists. It also had helpful tips about taking the test since it’s scored strangely (e.g. leaving an answer blank is better than answering incorrectly, etc). I spent about a week memorizing the book content and taking the included practice tests multiple times. There’s also a practice test online from ETS that is almost identical to the real test.

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I’m flabbergasted by some of these replies! Is it really that common/necessary to get high 90th percentile? 

To me, this test was infuriating. I’m someone who has always tested well (SAT, GRE, AP, undergrad courses, I always found it straightforward to study hard and do well). I devoted 2 months of my life to only studying for this test, took all practice tests I could find, made thousands of flash cards, and feel incredibly fortunate with the percentile I got. I feel like this test is unlike any other in terms of my studying having no effect. Very discouraging  

Is this test even *that* important? Do any programs do a hard cut below a certain percentile? 

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1 hour ago, tomatotomahto said:

I’m flabbergasted by some of these replies! Is it really that common/necessary to get high 90th percentile? 

To me, this test was infuriating. I’m someone who has always tested well (SAT, GRE, AP, undergrad courses, I always found it straightforward to study hard and do well). I devoted 2 months of my life to only studying for this test, took all practice tests I could find, made thousands of flash cards, and feel incredibly fortunate with the percentile I got. I feel like this test is unlike any other in terms of my studying having no effect. Very discouraging  

Is this test even *that* important? Do any programs do a hard cut below a certain percentile? 

I don't think it's a make or break to have 90th percentile, and this is mostly based on what my professors on the admissions committee told me. However, I think it's best to have at least 75th-80th percentile given the sheer volume of people applying - they have to start filtering somewhere. The important of the exam all depends on the program itself. Some value it more than others. 

The most helpful thing to study, in my opinion, is the practice exam that the ETS posts on their website. I know a couple questions from that exam showed up when I took it. 

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1 hour ago, Waiting272 said:

I don't think it's a make or break to have 90th percentile, and this is mostly based on what my professors on the admissions committee told me. However, I think it's best to have at least 75th-80th percentile given the sheer volume of people applying - they have to start filtering somewhere. The important of the exam all depends on the program itself. Some value it more than others. 

The most helpful thing to study, in my opinion, is the practice exam that the ETS posts on their website. I know a couple questions from that exam showed up when I took it. 

I second this. I got 79% percentile on the Psych GRE, and I was worried that that was too low. I personally don't think it impacted whether or not I received interview invites--maybe it took me out of the running for the top top tier schools, but who knows. I think as long as you get at least 80%, then you should be okay--especially since your psych GPA is good.

All that being said, if you plan to apply to Clinical Psychology PhD programs, my experience was that most programs do NOT require a Psych GRE score. Some may encourage it, or allow you to send it, but most do not require it. Therefore, if you take the Psych GRE and don't do as well as you would like, then just don't send the score! Best of luck!

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12 hours ago, personallycentered said:

fwiw, i never took the psych gre and ended up getting accepted to a good counseling phd program that "Highly encouraged" the Psych gre test

Yeah, unless it’s specified that you need to take the psychology GRE, it probably isn’t worth it. I only took it because one of my programs required it.

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11 hours ago, PsycUndergrad said:

Yeah, unless it’s specified that you need to take the psychology GRE, it probably isn’t worth it. I only took it because one of my programs required it.

I think the psych GRE is more beneficial for non-psych major undergrads if they want to demonstrate a good foundation of knowledge.

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I took the Psych GRE and scored in the 30th percentile.  I was not a psych major and it had been over a decade since I took the intro psych course in undergrad by the time I took the test, so I bought several study guides and spent months studying.  The vast majority of my test was names and dates and while I had studied what each person did, I paid little attention to what year things happened in (lots of questions about X person did Y thing which influenced Z person to do their thing, in what years did each person make their breakthrough discovery).  I had taken a dozen practice tests and had gotten in the 90-95th percentile on all of them, so I felt super confident going into the test and was shocked and devastated when I got my scores.  So 3 schools I applied to first round had the terrible scores on record because they were the free score reports that I had to commit to before taking the test.  Two of those schools told me they did not consider the test scores with my application because they only consider the Psych GRE if it helps your application, but I did get rejected from both of those schools - so maybe not having it hurt me or maybe it was just the quality of my application that year (the third school never returned my emails asking for feedback on my application, so I have no idea what they did or did not consider).

If you can afford the time and money to study more and take it again, there's no harm in doing so, but there are lots of other things that will help your application more than re-taking the Psych GRE so if you feel weak in those areas it may be a better use of your time and resources to focus your efforts on adding additional trainings/certifications to your CV, investing in a relationship with a potential LOR writer, finishing a manuscript and submitting for publication, etc.

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1 hour ago, topsailpsych said:

I took the Psych GRE and scored in the 30th percentile.  I was not a psych major and it had been over a decade since I took the intro psych course in undergrad by the time I took the test, so I bought several study guides and spent months studying.  The vast majority of my test was names and dates and while I had studied what each person did, I paid little attention to what year things happened in (lots of questions about X person did Y thing which influenced Z person to do their thing, in what years did each person make their breakthrough discovery).  I had taken a dozen practice tests and had gotten in the 90-95th percentile on all of them, so I felt super confident going into the test and was shocked and devastated when I got my scores.  So 3 schools I applied to first round had the terrible scores on record because they were the free score reports that I had to commit to before taking the test.  Two of those schools told me they did not consider the test scores with my application because they only consider the Psych GRE if it helps your application, but I did get rejected from both of those schools - so maybe not having it hurt me or maybe it was just the quality of my application that year (the third school never returned my emails asking for feedback on my application, so I have no idea what they did or did not consider).

If you can afford the time and money to study more and take it again, there's no harm in doing so, but there are lots of other things that will help your application more than re-taking the Psych GRE so if you feel weak in those areas it may be a better use of your time and resources to focus your efforts on adding additional trainings/certifications to your CV, investing in a relationship with a potential LOR writer, finishing a manuscript and submitting for publication, etc.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think I would be able to arrange a reasonable amount of time to study again for this test and retake it. The two schools that I put on my free recipient list are unfortunately my dream schools so I think it is kind of necessary to show them everything I've got. Even though one of them does not require the test, I think having a bad score would still somewhat weaken my application. That being said, I totally agree with what you said about making a better use of my time, but if I don't fix this potentially harmful component of my application, I will feel somewhat unsettled and might even attribute future losses to this one component. 

Also, how did you get them to tell you if they considered your PSYC GRE score or not? Did that happen after the rejection? 

Again, I truly appreciate your reply.

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5 hours ago, snapplebcho said:

Also, how did you get them to tell you if they considered your PSYC GRE score or not? Did that happen after the rejection?

I was rejected from 15 programs that cycle and after receiving the rejection, emailed the POI with whom I had had communication prior to applying to see if I could receive any feedback.  I eventually heard back from 3 POIs, 2 of which were from the schools which received the score report. 

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Like others have said, you may want to retake the test if you are able to do so. A lot of clinical psych programs don't require it but if you're applying to one that does, you might want to check the admissions statistics for their previous incoming classes to get a feeling of what scores you should be aiming for.

As for study materials, I used the Princeton Review book (don't recommend, uses DSM 4), Kaplan book (better), and a random intro psychology textbook I rented from amazon. I also used the flashcards someone else made on Quizlet (just search GRE Psych), watched the Crash Course Psychology series on YouTube, and listened to the intro psychology podcast from MIT. I probably was more worried about this test that I needed to be but it worked for me. Good luck!

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I did NOT study for the exam and scored 80% percentile purely based on test taking strategies. I second the poster who said that the Psych GRE is a very different beast to other standardized exams. It was the first one I've taken that was purely knowledge recall (as opposed to tests like math and physics, or the general GRE, which incorporate problem-solving strategies). I did buy the PR book but only made it through the first chapter because the information was so. freaking. dense. and I felt super overwhelmed. In hindsight, I should have skimmed it and read a little closer on areas I was not familiar with (my biological and cognitive scores were abysmal).

That said, most PhD programs don't even ask for the psych GRE! I only took it because ONE of my schools required it (damn you Rutgers).

Edited by dancedementia
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  • 2 weeks later...

I would not re-take the test if you have a strong GPA and great research experience. I also got a 68% on the Psych Subject test and still got offers from top programs in the country. My understanding after going on many interviews is that schools care due to APA accreditation. Some schools will use your subject test score to waiver you out of certain APA requirements. I don't believe it's weighed as heavily as any other factor in your application. Some schools don't even require it. 

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