Learn how much the GRE and vet school go hand-in-hand and how to maximize your score with tips from Loop Abroad alum Amelia Matczak.
Years ago, when you were in high school, you had the joy of sitting in silence for hours and slowly bubbling in a standardized test form with your number two pencil. For those interested in veterinary school, you will get to have the thrill of taking another one of those lengthy exams, but on the bright side, you get to take this one on a computer.
Most veterinary schools require GRE scores, or Graduate Record Examination, to consider your application. Some will consider an MCAT exam in place of a GRE score, while other schools will require a GRE score as well as a GRE Biology subject test for your application. Regardless, your GRE score is taken into consideration as part of the admissions process, and, therefore, achieving high GRE scores for vet school applications can be a valuable asset for your candidacy.
The GRE is a standardized test that evaluates your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and critical thinking skills. Computer-based, the test consists of a one-hour analytical writing block, two 30-minute verbal reasoning blocks, two 35-minute quantitative reasoning blocks, and a randomized block that goes unscored. Overall, the exam takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, though there is a chance for a break partway through the exam.
For the writing section of the exam, your submitted piece is graded as a rough draft, meaning that minor grammatical and syntax errors will not cause you to lose points, though larger errors that lead to lack of reading comprehension will. Therefore, it is recommended that you save a few minutes to reread what you have written before moving on the next portion of the exam. The amount that you write will play a significant portion in your score, so while having a clear, organized essay that answers the prompt is essential, this is a case where writing more will also help your score (as long as it fits into your organized structure).
As for the quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning sections, it is good to remember that answering a question incorrectly does not count against you. So, even if you’re unsure that you are correct, you benefit more from taking an educated guess than leaving the question blank. Additionally, no questions on the exam are weighted more than others, so if you aren’t sure how to answer a question, don’t spend so much time on it that you miss an opportunity to answer a question you know how to solve. Getting used to the timing of the exam is important for maximizing your performance, and it can be achieved with practice.
Of course, the real question is, what constitutes good GRE scores? For vet school applicants, a good GRE score consists of a quantitative reasoning score at or above the 53.5 percentile and a verbal reasoning score at or above the 61.9 percentile as these are the average scores of students admitted to veterinary schools across the United States. That being said, scoring higher than this can only help your application, so you are shooting for these scores at a minimum.
The reality is, not everyone is a great test taker. So, how important are your GRE scores for vet school applications? The short answer is: not as much as you might think. It used to be that veterinary schools had certain GRE, GPA and (a long time ago) MCAT scores they considered acceptable. If you got a score lower than that, your application was immediately placed in the rejection pile. Nowadays, things have changed for the better. With more research being put into the validity of standardized testing, veterinary schools have dropped these all-or-nothing practices in exchange for a much better system of application review.
Today, most vet schools look at your application with, what they call, a ‘holistic approach’. This means that there is no longer a magic equation they plug all of your scores into in order to determine your admission status. Of course, veterinary schools still look at your GRE scores, otherwise they wouldn’t require you to take it. That being said, there is so much more to your application than these standardized testing results. Schools look at your hours of animal experience, your letters of recommendation, any research experience you have had and so on. So, if you aren’t the best test taker in the world, try your best and study hard, but realize that the GRE score you receive is not the end all be all of your veterinary school application.
Aside from being well-rested and having studied for the exam, you also want to make sure that you bring everything you need on exam day in order to be prepared. One thing you should bring with you to the testing site are the names, and even number codes, of the schools you wish to send your GRE scores to. After the exam is complete, you will have the opportunity to send a few scores for free before you leave the testing site. I highly recommend being prepared to do so because once you leave the testing facility, you have to pay for every set of scores you want to send out. Furthermore, keep in mind that schools need to receive your GRE score no later than August 31st of the year you are submitting your VMCAS application. So, it’s wise to sit the exam early. That way, if you choose to resit the GRE to improve your scores, you will have plenty of time to do so before the submission deadline. One great thing about the GRE is that you can retake it almost any day of the year.
Lots of pre-vet students get overwhelmed by the idea of the GRE, but like anything, it helps to take your preparation a little at a time. Here are some sites that can help you to prepare with free materials (some of these sites also offer paid materials):
"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"
Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016
Wright State University, Dayton, OH