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disparity in GRE scores


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I get a lot of test anxiety (especially when it comes to standardized tests like the GRE where there is a lot of emphasis on time constraints). The first time I took the GRE, I of course got really nervous and ran out of time, which resulted in some REALLY low scores, but by the next time I took the GRE I learned tips and tricks and tried not to let my test anxiety get the best of me and I got some good scores. However, after this one, I of course said to myself, "I should take it one more time to see if I can do even better," (not the smartest idea I know!) and of course I freaked out again and got low scores.

I know theoretically schools take your best scores so I should be OK but as they see the entire score report so I'm afraid they will see the varying scores and the disparities will reflect poorly on me.

Any advice/tips for a situation like this?

Should I explain the variances somewhere in my application? Or just leave it be?

Please help!!!

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It is hard to suggest you what to do without knowing your both GRE scores and your intended field of study (and your other credentials). Different adcomms put different weights on GRE, as, you know, the value of GRE is subjective to the field of study, and can mean anywhere from very important to most likely useless. For example, science majors (computers, physics, chemistry, biology, math, etc) might neglect the V and AW and look just at Q scores. This is possibly reversed in fields like english, literature, drama, musicology, etc. And liberal arts majors might consider all scores to be important.

If your other application credentials and materials - GPA, research, SoP, LoRs - are pretty good, then GRE might not be that important. If you decide to retake the GRE (but why man?? don't make the ETS rich!! ;)) and get higher scores this time, you can simply report this score, if you haven't sent the scores already the first two times. If you sent the scores in the past, it is not going to hurt your application... it's just a stupid GRE test. I do not think it is impulsive to explain why you got low GRE.. no one really cares that much on why you got low scores. But again, it is difficult to assess your situation as we have no idea how much you got and what program are applying to and with how strong academic/research record.

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Honestly - its a 50/50 chance thing. Some adcomms want explanations for things because they notice every detail, and want negative things explained. Other adcomms are only going to look at that high test score, dismiss the others, and your explanation will glaringly point out something they would have otherwise missed, and the explanation could annoy them. You really don't know this, unless its something they've specifically asked for in the application (unlikely) or you know that your field puts a lot of emphasis on GRE scores. If the disparity is large (I'm talking hundreds of points) - I would probably make a small note about test anxiety, because otherwise they're going to wonder why someone who seems to get bad scores randomly got a good one in the middle. But do not spend significant amounts of time, or words explaining it!! It will distract from all your positives.

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