Students planning to take admission in an American university must have their GRE/GMAT/TOEFL scores in hand at least 9 months in advance. This means that:
- if you are applying for the fall semester, which starts in September, your score must be ready in January of that same year at the latest.
- If you are applying for the spring semester, which starts in January, you should have your score in hand by March or April of the previous year.
Ideally, however, you should take your GRE/GMAT tests 1½-2 years before hand. That is,
- engineering, pharmacy and medical students should take the GRE when they are in their third year
- students pursuing an MA or MSc should take the GRE while they are doing Part 1 of their course.
This is possible since GRE scores are valid for 5 years. Keep in mind, however, that the TOEFL score is valid only for 2 years and therefore should be given only 9 months in advance as stated above.
There are three advantages of taking the test this early:
- You are less burdened in the pre-final year than in the final year and so you will be able to focus more on test preparation
- since you will have your score well in advance, you will not miss out on any of the university deadlines and thus be in a very good position to select the universities which offer you the best kind of courses and research based on your interests and score
- If for some reason your score is low in the first attempt, you still have an opportunity to appear again and improve your score (see blogs on the ETS Free Diagnostic Service and ETS Score Select, which allows you to select which scores you send to the universities and What if I Get a Low Score on the TOEFL/IELTS?)