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When should I set the 1st exam: Oct 10th (with possible retake in ealy Nov) or Nov 7th (+ time to study but no time to retake)


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I am starting today to study for the GRE, aiming at a PHD in Economics or Public policy in a Top 20 US school.  I have a busy schedule: work 40hrs a week and have two kids. 
I have never taken the exam. I will try to study for 2 hrs a day (I don´t think I can release much more time) following the Magoosh materials and Magoosh 2 month preparation schedule. 
Application deadlines for Economics seem to be on Dec 1st and require final official GRE results by that date.
I am now wondering if I should schedule the exam in: 
a) Oct 10th in time for a retake in Nov if necessary
B) Nov 7th 
(I just found out there is no availability at later dates in Oct where I live (Brasilia, Brazil))
Pros and cons: 
Option a) gives me less time to study (8 weeks) but the chance to retake
Option B) gives me more time to study (12 weeks) but not time to retake
what would you advise me?
A more administrative question: If I were to decide, on Oct 10th, to retake the exam, would there be still available examination slots for Nov 7-10 (in time for Oficial results to be included in the Dec 1st application) at major US cities (Boston, Washington-DC, LA)? Or even at those larger evaluation centers there will not be available seats?
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Just remember that you need 3 weeks in between the tests. When I took the test, the good spots filled up months in advance. I had to drive over 100 miles to take the test. You need to start looking at what's available now, because seats fill up very quickly.

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Keep in mind if you don't do well on your first test, it will take 3 weeks till your second test. Best bet is to get a feel about what score you want to aim for, and go for that asap. If you want an average score (around 155ish), then you probably don't need to much study time. Take the practice tests and get a feel about your general knowledge. If your practice tests are good, then just brush up on the material and take the real test. If you need to score higher (say 160ish), and your practice tests aren't all that amazing (low 150s), then take the time to study, but keep in mind the 21 days you need to wait to retake it (if you have to). Finally, keep in mind, GRE isn't the most important factor, its just one factor out of many. Your previous GPA and work experience matter much more than the GRE, so even if you score a little below what you need its fine. There is no rush of course, you'd preferably want to hit your goal on the first try, but these are just some general tips and general info to help you decide. 

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OP here. Tks for the answers! 

minimum scores in Econ are in the 160s... some times 165s... but only for the math part. Verbal either has no minimum scores or minimum scores are lower. I also don´t see any written essay proficiency explicit targets.


Are Toefl official results available? The website says 10 - 15 days. And then they cite additional 15 days for results to arrive by mail. Are official results available online and accepted by schools, or will I need to account for time for the mail to arrive?

So my current plan is: 

a) Take the 1st GRE on Oct 10th

b ) Tke the TOEFEL late Oct (25th to 30th)

c) travel to the US in Nov. Finish applications from the US. Do a "road show", talking to profs about research ideas and a unique dataset I have constructed (I know undergrads aren´t supposed to do this. But bear in mind have worked for 9 years at a policy/research institute and have a Master in Econ from the top school in my country). Hopefully, by then I will not need to worry about GRE anymore. 

d) If GRE is insufficient, then retake it on Nov 10th (assuming I can book that by mid Oct (which is more then 21 days in advance but will depend on availability)


Is it possible to pre-book a 2nd exam date? Will that mean having to pay for two exams? I see that refund policy is that you get 50% back if you cancel 4 days before the exam. 




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I don't exactly know if you can book 2 exam dates, but you definitely will have to pay for both if you do. However, I wouldn't necisarily do that, your first exam might be high enough, in which case you just lost 100 bucks if you cancel the second. 

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Personally, I would recommend only taking the test once, in November. Three weeks, especially with a busy schedule (also my case when I was taking the GRE) is not much time to make a huge difference in score for a retake and not worth the extra hassle! Also, you may not know your Analytical Writing score before the deadline to register for a November date.

November test date is early enough to get your scores in for mid-December deadlines. Should be okay for Dec 1 deadlines too, since it should only take 10 business days to send the scores, at the maximum.

The only real advantage of taking the GRE twice in such a short time is that the October test could be a practice run and to get experience writing the test in real test conditions. However, you can also take advantage of the many free online practice tests / simulated tests available.

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